How important are digital outputs on an SACD or DVD-Audio player?

How important are digital outputs on an SACD or DVD-Audio player?
Won't buy without 'em
44% (105 votes)
Extremely important
16% (38 votes)
Very important
10% (23 votes)
Kinda important
6% (15 votes)
Not very important
10% (24 votes)
Not important at all
5% (11 votes)
Don't care
10% (23 votes)
Total votes: 239

Sony has finally released SACD hardware, and DVD-Audio is promised for sometime next year, but none of the first players have digital outputs. Is this a problem for you?

Joe Murphy, Jr.'s picture

Outboard D/A converters have always sounded better to me than the converters in one-piece gear. Allow for a better converter, please.'s picture

Not going to buy either until the industry forces me to. As a matter of fact, I am considering buying a turntable and getting back into albums to some degree.

Gene's picture

ANY copy protection is a joke for a determined pirate. As such, an ownest consumer (desiring to use his outboard DACs, etc.) will be hurt, not the bad guy. Stupid situation, provided what giants participate... As for garage copying, nearest time is not about to bring dust-cheap DVD-burners (not to speak of the double layer SACD). Even if there were cheap ones, why not copy-protect them, instead?! Politics is the reason for apocalipsis.

Rob Nelson's picture

The focus of your site and magazine to this war of new audio formats is really overdone and starting to become annoying...yes cover it, but not in such a detailed and overblown way...every month I get my Stereophile and am disappointed to see so much space and words devoted to this issue...the high degree of people who answer in the "don't care" category on these types of polls should give you the message -- give us something else to read and ponder, lord knows there is enough out there. Please cut down your coverage on subjects related to this audio format issue...most of us have so much invested in the old format software and will not budge until the winner is clear and prices more reasonable!!

John Crossett's picture

Right now, who cares? Until I see A) Software prices go down, B) either/both formats gain market place acceptance or C) Hardware prices go down, I don't see myself (and yes Virginia, I'm an audiophile of the first order) adopting either format. So a digital out on todays machines is a non-issue.

Woody Battle's picture

These new formats are just getting started. Anyone who assumes that they will get the very best performance possible from any player produced in the next few years is fooling themselves. Without a digital output, you have no reasonable upgrade path as the designers learn how to really take advantage of these new formats.

Patrick M.'s picture

I have a Meridian digital system. Don't want to have to reconvert to digital.

Chris S.'s picture

What are the manufacturers thinking? Why create a new digital medium and then not let the end-user choose his or her own method of conversion? I'm sure the built-in DACs will be adequate, but who among us settles for "adequate"?

allen's picture

It's very important, but not critical. As long as the analog section is good, I could live with a all-in-one player. Big question is, when are manufacturers going to come out with 5 channel analog preamps?!?

Donald Tu's picture

I just bought the Delius D/A converter, which dCS claims to be easily upgradeable to interface with any digital formats, including DSD. So yes, I am ready for SACD and/or DVD-Audio. I will only buy the one with digital outputs, though. I'd definitely refuse to accept just an analog output with whichever player, SACD or DVD-Audio.

Dave Kaplan's picture

We no not want inferior built-in DACs from the manufacturers.

alex's picture

It is a big time problem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike Toto's picture

At that price I want an upgrade path!

avi wolf's picture

from norway

David Laloum's picture

Half the point is to bypass all analog circuits, use digital pre, and soon digital power, either as a separate or built into the speakers. Forcing analog stages between player and speaker is shortsighted and won't last long!

Jim Simon's picture

I expect there will be differences in DACs onboard the various playback machines. A digital output affords the choice of using the DAC you prefer. As with any electronic device, a component configuration allows the most flexibility, and often offers the best performance/feature value. Can you imagine buying a computer with a CD-rom player (not DVD-rom), a 28.8 kb modem, and a basic video card, and not having the ability to upgrade each system component? In many cases, choice is a good thing. (Although I still think ALL movies should be available ONLY in their original aspect ratio, though that is more for SGHT readers.)

John Hsu's picture

In my case, I think that digital outputs are absolutely essential for both SACD and DVD-A players. With the current advances in digital technology, I strongly believe that the common design objectives of "high-end" systems of the near future will be the following: 1) ability to "process" raw digital data for both DSD and DVD-A (as well as Dolby 5.1 and DTS); 2) multichannel decoding + equalization in the time/frequency domains done through digital DSP processing; 3) preservation of musical fidelity through elimination of analog signals in the source and preamplification stages (I predict the swift demise of "traditional" preamps, power amps, and outboard D/A converters). "Digital" amplifiers such as the TacT Audio Millennium or the Wadia PowerDAC will perform the primary duty of converting digital signals into voltage needed to drive loudspeakers. Digital "preamps" (such as the upcoming TacT Audio TCS) loaded with high-speed DSPs will perform all decoding/processing of the digital data, with software-driven features limited only by the imagination and resourcefullness of programmers. For compatibility with analog devices, the "digital" preamp will also have both A/D and D/A conversion to interface with components like tuners, cartridge head-amps, and self-powered subwoofers. Recently, I sold all of my multi-kilobuck analog amplification equipment (preamp, analog interconects, power amp), as well as my Mark Levinson D/A, in preparation for the inevitable migration to an "all-digital" system. The only "high-end" component I've kept is the Levinson No.31.5 CD transport. I am satisfied with the use of borrowed budget components for the time being, until the choice becomes clearer. I predict that by the end of 2000 there will be "universal" DVD players offering progressive-scanning video, plus digital ouput of both DVD-A and SACD digital data.

Mike Marcellas's picture

I purchased the SCD-1 with the knowledge that the Meitner electronics are to follow. I will live with what is now available. I have, however, found that when separates are offered, the vast majority of the time they tend to sound better than their single-box counterparts. Perhaps this is due to a component being optimized for one specific task, or because less electromagnetic radiation is present, which can affect everything from analog to discrete circuitry.

Arvind Kohli's picture

Would you buy a Ferrari if you could not drive it on existing roads? What if you had to build your own track to drive it on? This is just another built-in-obsolescence ploy by the manufacturers. Well, they can just kiss my rear panel. In my mind, all sources ought to be digital with such outputs. All D/A conversions should be as far downstream as possible, preferably right before amplification. And one set of DACs should suffice in a system. There is no need for redundant DACs in every component. That money could be saved and put toward better parts, etc. It is time manufacturers stopped trying to waste our time and money. Consumers are getting much too savvy for this BS. If nothing else, learn from Divx, DAT, DCC, etc., etc.

Dexter M.  Price's picture

Spending $5000 (or $3500) for a CD player that cannot be used as a transport when there is significant evolution in SACD D/A converter technology is MADNESS! D/A converters have been in a constant state of evolvution since they were introduced. Is there ANY reason to believe that the same thing will not happen with SACD? I don't think so. No, I will not buy a box that could be out of date within months of purchase.

Nick Fulford's picture

For DVD-Audio, a digital out is essential. It would enable a state-of-the-art DAC with an asynchoronous memory buffer to plug into any old transport and produce low-jitter, high-resolution playback. While I would like to see a DSD output, I will live with the limitation of lower-resolution digital outputs on SACD machines for the interim. Ultimately, though, there is no substitute for a standalone universal DAC with an asynchronous memory buffer.

KRB's picture

With the proliferation of DSP devices, I expect outboard room correction, speaker correction, and digital crossover devices to become available. You can't use any of these without a digital output.

Craig Ellsworh's picture

I want a sub 1500 dollar (preferably between 500 and 1k) SACD stand alone player. Make it and I will come; maybe twice.

Don Herring's picture

Copy protection should be limited to a single digital copy like SCMS.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

In one sense, it doesn't matter as SCCA racing will swallow all my excess dollars next year. But it does matter overall, because a digital out allows for growth in a first generation player. It does no good to drop kilobucks inot a player and discover it was obsoleted in a year.

Jose Garcia , P.R.'s picture

As long as the sound is better than my actual set-up , it is not very important. But if the universal gear happens to have and average performance and require a DAC -like my MSB Link + modifications- them it is other history.

Greg M.'s picture

The less the signal stays digital, the better as far as I'm concerned. And I'll take a player without digital filtering too, if possible.

Mannie Smith's picture

Theta assures me that my DAC is upgradeable to any new software system, so I'm not going to buy anything but a transport.

Norm Strong's picture

It's not important to me, because I have no intention of buying into either format--with or without digital output.

John Atkinson's picture

With the rise of digital control units like the Z-systems rdp-1, digital active speakers like the Meridians, digital room-correction units like the Sigtech and the Perceptual Technologies, not having digital outs makes these worthwhile technologies worthless. It's a case of music-industry politics winning out over ultimate sound quality.