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Which CD format player is currently winning the war?


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Hello. So I recently subscribed to Music Direct Soundbyte, when googling for good recording sources. And it appears I'm way behind the power-curve, because I don't know the difference between the various CD formats that this company (and others) offers. For example, I see formats listed as SACD, HDCD, Gold CD, K2, and XRCD.

I researched CD players over a year ago, and I bought an SACD player. I chose this format player, because I read of how SACD has better sound quality over conventional CD players (two years ago). I had reservations about buying an SACD player in 2008, because there was discussion about SACD falling out of favor for one reason or another. I want to remember one reason being availability of SACD recordings, and possibly also because of unit cost of SACD recordings, but I honestly can't remember. I have yet to listen to my SACD player, but I do know it will sound good with SACD recordings.

Anyway, as far as the other formats listed above, I have no clue about them. Four questions, please:

1. Is the SACD format as popular now as it was two years ago?

2. Of the current CD formats that are being produced, such as the ones I listed above, which one(s) is the most popular and why?

3. Is there an easy way, such as navigating to particular websites, to become familiar with the different CD formats?

4. You need a specific SACD player, in order to get the most out of SACD recordings. Do you also need to buy a specific CD player if you want to get the most out of the other CD formats ... or can today's non-SACD CD players accommodate all the non-SACD CD recordings?

I'm hoping to arrange the purchase of a home theater system for my living room, to include a CD player for music listening, but I'm at a loss on whether one type of CD player will be unable to play all the various types of CD formats. Your advise and your answers to the above four questions would be appreciated. Also of use, would be advice on how to bone up on the new CD format technologies.


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Here is what I know. XRCD is just a regular CD using very high quality mastering and quality control. XRCD was developed by JVC and also uses the K2 timing process. I have several XRCDs and non-XRCDs that use the K2 process. XRCDs are excellent because of the quality control and the mastering. There is a new line of 25 Blue Note XRCDs that are being released and I have Tina Brooks True Blue. The sound is lively and clear. The key is the adherence to process and the mastering by expert engineer Alan Yoshida.

I have many K2s that were part of the 20 bit mastering series that Concord did in the early 2000s. They can be found NOS at really low prices. They also sound fantastic but are not produced in Japan using the entire XRCD process so they can not be called XRCD. They are great values and do use the K2 timing process. Both XRCD and regular K2 play on regular CD players since they are redbook CDs. The XRCDs run $30 about the same as a SACD. The key is any XRCD mastered by Mr. Yoshida is worth the money . Elusive disk stocks many XRCDs. The Concord K2 series is easily found on Amazon and I have Quiet Kenny by Kenny Dorham that I got through Amazon from Newberry Comics for less than $3.00. The standard K2s are value if you can't see dropping $30 on something that you are not sure you will like.

I have one HDCD. These require a proprietary player software (some Dennon machines have this) or a version of Microsoft media player to get the full HDCD sound. You can play it on a standard CD player but you will not get the full sound. Since I do not have the proper player I can not comment on the sound of HDCD. This format seems to be much less popular.

I will let others chime in on SACD. You need a SACD player but SONY makes one that you can get for about $150. I have read that many DVD players in the $100 range can also play these. SACD use an entirely different coding scheme. The hybrid or dual layer ones play the standard CD layer as a redbook CD, but you still need a SACD player to get the full sound. Single layer SACD will only play on a SACD player.

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I have a HDCD player (Shanling T-100), and the difference between a HDCD and a regular CD is that the HDCD sampling rate is 24/96 insted of the regular rate of 16/44. My CD player also upsamples regular CD's to 24/96, so they sound the same as HDCD. There doesn't seem to be a huge difference between a HDCD and a regular one, and I think there are a very limited amount or releases on HDCD. You would be better off buying a deck with upsampling features rather than buying a HDCD capable deck, IMHO. Another one of those formats that didn't quite make it to mainstream. Also, these days it is pretty common to find decks that will upsample to even higher rates than 24/96, thus making the HDCD sample rate even more obsolete.

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Thanks for the information so far, folks.

I am now seeing that there also turf wars from within some of the major CD formats, which helps to muddy the water, as far as selecting formats. I googled "SACD", and one of my first hits was < http://www.sa-cd.net/home >. On their SACD website, they go into the different categories of SACD disks. Their FAQ page helps to give clarification about the different SACD versions, and here is a link to their FAQ: < http://www.sa-cd.net/faq >.

Looking forward to further comments about choosing among the different CD format players, as listed in my OP, so we can compare apples to oranges, and also as described by SACD's FAQ, so we can compare apples to apples.

Thanks again, and appreciate any feedback about the newer technology CD players. - Steve

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