I recently posted this as a comment to an article on San Francisco Classical Voice entitled Sound Matters: Classical Into the Download Era:
Though most welcome, this article really glossed over the advantages of Super Audio CD, in my opinion. Some journalists like to write off SACD as a format that failed — and hi-fi magazines and their advertisers would love to sell you trendy, high-priced downloads and digital-to-analog converters for your computer — but I’ve seen no one convincingly say that the quality SACD derives from “old-fashioned” optical discs has been surpassed by any downloadable format.
As I pointed out in a recent review of the Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 100 (http://www.angel.org/gadgetsense/?p=87) — one of the more affordable DACs for anyone who wants to experiment with high-res — the vast majority of the material that’s available from sources such as Linn and HDTracks is already available on SACD. Much more affordably, and offering an equal level of quality.
Not mentioned, for example, was the fact that the San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler Cycle and other records are all on SACD. (So, too, are the Chandos, Harmonia Mundi, and LSO recordings that this story touted in the HDTracks context.)
Meanwhile RCA offers various Living Stereo recordings on SACD, some in an original three-channel format that it would otherwise be impossible to hear. And EMI, long an SACD holdout in favor of the rival (and yes, pretty much dead) DVD-A format, just announced a number of new archival SACD reissues (most not very well chosen, but that’s another story).
I believe the article also glossed over the serious metadata issues with computer-stored classical music (not to mention libretti and other such materials). The Sonata software (which costs $99) sounds as though it might assist with this, and I’m downloading it as I write, but this is yet another issue and expense not faced by anyone who buys classical high-res tracks via CD instead of downloads.
I’m hardly a luddite when it comes to downloaded or streamed music, or I wouldn’t have purchased the Cambridge Audio DAC, nor would I have a Spotify Premium account, a MacBook in my stereo rack, etc. etc. But, probably most SFCV readers do not want to spend as disproportionate a part of their income on music and audio.
For anyone who wants an economically sensible way of experiencing classical high-res, therefore, SACD remains the way to go. Used players range from $30 up on eBay, and decent new offerings (from Oppo, for example) can be had for $500.