“Universal players” vs separate DVD-A, CD and SACD [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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David T
10-19-2004, 02:49 PM
I am using a Lexicon MC-8 as the processor / pre-amp in a 5.1 system (with Bryston 9B amp and JM Labs Utopia Be speakers) which aims to reproduce good two-channel results as well.

How high a quality of DVD-A, DVD-V, and/or SACD player do you need to get good quality audio, particularly since I wish to avoid the unfortunate ‘attribute’ of such systems in exposing poor sources?

DVD-equipped machines often appear to be compromised in CD replay at least compared with stand-alone CD or CD/SACD players, so the point at which a “universal player” achieves acceptable quality appears to be a pretty high in terms of price at least.

Without spending unreasonable amounts of money, which universal players exceed the minimum quality level?

Is it better, therefore, to use two or three machines? i.e. a predominately DVD-A / DVD-V-oriented player separate from a CD and/or SACD-oriented player (even if each device plays other formats as well)...

What would be your suggestion for a DVD-V player and a CD / SACD player – or even separate CD and SACD players – that would again meet or exceed the minimum quality bar?

Many thanks in advance for any constructive thoughts.



PS – until someone wins the current multi-channel format wars, I must acknowledge that the music I want to play is only going to be available in one format or another, but not both, so I would very much appreciate it if this question could avoid inflaming any nascent criticism of either DVD-A or SACD.

10-19-2004, 05:29 PM
Well, first off the DACs that inside of the better DVD-A players are often every bit as good as the ones used in the better CD players. Also, if you playback your CDs using a digital link, then it doesn't matter one bit how well the DVD player handles CD audio since in that configuration it only functions as a transport.

In the past, it has been less expensive to buy separate SACD and DVD-A players. That's largely because the first batch of universal players had to build entirely separate playback circuit assemblies with different sets of DACs and processors for the SACD and DVD-A formats. It was like having two separate players under the cover. Then some less expensive universal players from the likes of Pioneer and Toshiba came along that cost under $200. Those were cheaper because they converted the DSD signal from SACDs into a PCM format (which is what DVD-As and CDs use).

Now, you're starting to see DACs that are capable of handling both the PCM and DSD signals in their native format. Denon has put out a few players with this design, and other players are following suit. The main thing to watch out for with the universal players is with the bass management. You need to make sure that the crossover applies to both formats. Some universal players would implement the bass management for the DVD-A, but not with SACD playback.

The main impediment to buying two players is that most receivers/processors can only handle one multichannel analog input.

N. Abstentia
10-19-2004, 05:59 PM
I would put the Marantz DV-6400 at the top of the list for 'budget' universal players. I see no reason to buy three seperate players unless you just have thousands of dollars to blow.

10-20-2004, 11:21 AM
That's a nice two channel rig you've got. Today's universal players are becoming quite competent in all formats, but there's usually a tradeoff somewhere. For example, Sony's units seem to be better at SACD (big surprise) than DVD-A and RBCD. Denon's units are better at the latter two but not quite up to Sony levels on SACD. Yammie's fall somewhere in the middle. Linn's Unidisk is purported to be one of the best, but is the difference worth 4-5 times the price of the very good Denon 2200 or 2900? Personally, I don't thinks so and I've always liked the way Denon does RBCD playback, which at this point is more important than either hi-rez format.