Searching for SACDs

By

Ralph Graves

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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Marantz SA-11S1 Super Audio CD"So what's the deal with SACDs?" a friend asked recently. "I'm looking for a new disc player, but I never see SACDs in the stores. Should I even bother getting an SACD player?"

He had a lot of questions, and I answered them as best I could. I told him that the SACD format is still around and doing well. They aren't well-stocked at retail, but they're certainly available online. And in my friend's case, since he had a high-end surround sound system, I thought an SACD player would be a good investment.

An SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) can store much more digital information than regular CD, and labels have used that to good advantage. SACD releases generally have much higher sound resolution than the comparable CD versions. And they often have discrete 5.1 mixing (as opposed to 2-channel stereo), so what you hear in the left rear channel (for example) was meant to be heard there, not filled in by default settings on your receiver.

Most SACDs currently available are hybrid discs, which mean they have two layers of information: an SACD layer, and a regular CD layer. So you can play an SACD on most CD players until you're ready to upgrade.

So what's available on SACD? Not everything. Most SACD releases are those that take advantage of the increased audio quality the format makes possible, and therefore the music is generally that which would appeal to the audiophile. Classical and jazz recordings make up the bulk of the new releases, and remastered classic albums from other genres account for a large percentage, too. Live albums also benefit from the expanded soundstage SACDs offer.

So where to start? Here are some suggestions:

SA-CD.net

This is great reference site that is probably the best single source for SACD release information. You can search through almost 6,000 titles and reviews, and view lists such as top recommendations, recent additions, top sellers and more.

ArkivMusic.com

This superstore of classical recordings has a dedicated SACD section where you can find over 2,000 classical titles.

PentaTone Classics

Speaking of classical music, whenever someone opines that SACDs are finished, I cite PentaTone Classics. They record specifically for and only release in the SACD format. Since their founding in 2001, Pentatone has been doing quite well, thank you, with over 170 active titles and more scheduled for release.

Concord Jazz and Telarc

Concord, a respected independent jazz label, has several SACD remasters, including classical albums by Ray Charles, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Poncho Sanchez, and others. Recently, Concord purchased the classical and jazz audiophile label Telarc, and currently has almost 200 of their titles available in SACD format.

Chesky Records

This audiophile label has been producing remarkable recordings and lovingly remastering classic albums since 1979. Their multi-channel SACD releases are equally stunning.

Universal Music Group

Universal offers SACDs of key classic titles from their Deutsche Grammophon, Mercury Living Presence and Phillips catalogs. They also feature SACD releases of Peter Gabriel, Sheryl Crow, Stan Getz, Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald & Louie Armstrong, The Who, Lee Ann Womack and other popular artists.

The other major labels and the larger independent labels also have SACD releases, although many aren't searchable by format on the labels' websites. But a quick search on a store site such as Amazon.com will pull up most of the SACDS currently available (a little over 4,000 titles when we wrote this post).

Need to know more? Crutchfield's Learning Center has some helpful articles.

SACD & DVD-Audio: Ultra-High-Resolution Music

CD and SACD Players: How to Choose

CD, CD-R, and SACD: Frequently Asked Questions

CD, CD-R, SACD, and DVD-Audio Glossary

And, of course, a nice selection of SACD players to choose from!