CES 2003: High End Firms Show SACD Players

CES: On Thursday, several high end audio firms showed their new and upcoming SACD players at the Alexis Park. Interestingly, some firms introduced players with both SACD and DVD-A playback while others showed players with SACD and CD or SACD, CD and DVD Video features only.

I also noticed that there is no consensus among the high end players on the question of multichannel sound. Some of the high end SACD players offer Stereo only playback, while others offer Multichannel playback. Here are the highlights from today’s visit to the Alexis Park exhibit area at CES 2003:

Bel Canto
Last year, Bel Canto used CES to introduce their Pre6 preamp which offers analog inputs for high resolution players like SACD and DVD Audio – or they can also be used in a multi-zone/room set up instead. This year, Bel Canto showed a prototype of an upcoming “multifunction” player that can handle DVD Video, Super Audio CD and DVD Audio media in both Stereo and Multichannel modes.

According to the Bel Canto folks, their aim is to deliver a product that offers very high video and audio performance. They also expect the product to fit in visually and quality wise with the rest of their product line. I was able to hear the player perform on CD and SACD discs in the demo room. It sounds good – especially for a product that Bel Canto’s staff says “came out of the development lab” just 16 hours ago. Now that is early in the development cycle!

Bel Canto expects the yet unnamed player product to be on the market sometime this summer. While there was no pricing given, it sounds like the player’s price will be in the neighborhood of their new “PrePro” unit which sells for around $8,000.

Lindemann & AudioSonix
While it has been out for 3 months now, many people in the U.S. are still not familiar with the Lindemann D680 SACD player.

Lindemann is a German high end audio firm based in a small town near Munich. The D680 is a stereo SACD and CD player that also includes a HDCD processing section. The player uses a Sony SACD transport to which Lindemann mounts on an aluminum base with multiple polymer isolation devices.

Since its release, the D680 has received several very positive reviews in the European market, including one magazine that said the D680 not only surpassed the performance of Lindemann’s previous top of the line Stereo CD player (the CD1 SE) but that the player merited a 100% sound quality score. The D680 sells for $8,900 in the U.S. market.

MSB Technologies
A surprise entrant into the SACD player market was MSB Technologies. In the early days of the SACD format, MSB was rather critical of the DSD technology used in SACD and said so on the MSB web site.

Today at CES, MSB announced their new “Super DVD Audio Player”. The product combines three different functions in one box.

It’s a home theater processor with built in DTS and Dolby Digital decoding, it’s an 8 channel preamp with an 8 channel analog input and 8 channel analog output (unbalanced) and a 2 channel balanced analog output and it’s a optical disc player that handles Multichannel and Stereo CD, MP3, DVD Video, Super Audio CD and DVD Audio discs.

Other features of the player include 24 bit, 192k DACs, 192k MSB upsampling, analog pass through to allow other devices to connect to the player as a preamp or direct to the amp through the unit, 2 firewire outputs, 3 MSB network outputs and a coaxial and optical digital output. The unit has 2 remote controls – one for volume and play and a second, “more complex” remote for programming and “total control”.

The new MSB Technologies Super DVD Audio Player will sell for $7,995 and orders are being taken for the unit now. The first units are expected to hit the market in 3 to 4 weeks.

Music Hall and Shanling
Roy Hall of Music Hall was on hand to talk about his firm’s decision to pick up and distribute the Shanling SCD-7200 SACD player from China in the U.S. market. The SCD-7200 is similar in appearance to the space age looking Shanling CDT-100 CD player. Both players are Stereo players and feature tube output stages.

According to Hall, the SCD-7200 uses a Sony KHM-2334AAA drive and the Sony CXD2752R SACD decoding chip. The player is a top loading unit. The DAC in the player is a Burr Brown PCM 1738 that is custom made for SACD reproduction. The line output is tubed and the headphone output is tube amplified. The unit’s volume control is electronic. The SCD-7200 will sell for a list price of $2,695 when it is released next month.

Also on display in the Music Hall room was a new Stereo SACD player the MMF CD-50. This is a new SACD player that will include CD upsampling as well as Stereo SACD playback. Hall wasn’t sure that the player prototype would make it to the show. But since it did, he promised more information on the MMF CD-50 later this week during the CES show. The player’s projected list price is $1,495 and is scheduled for a March release.

Hall also said that several prospective buyers asked him about a Music Hall Multichannel SACD player. If the interest continues, Hall may pursue that opportunity as well.