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SACD Player w/ digital inputs

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Doing some noodling on a possible next step and I'm wondering if it wouldn't make more sense to kill two birds with one stone. I have three sources -- computer, SACDs and LPs that I'm unwilling to part with, so I want to accommodate all three. The problem? Well, my Ars Sonum tube amp has no tape out, so I have nowhere to link my Super-BAM to drive my Merlins prior to the amp. I sprung for a second input on the Super-BAM (a pricey and unique AFAIK upgrade), but that means that I'm restricted to two inputs. Yes, I can get yet another device like the Manley Labs Skipjack, but I'd rather that only as a last resort (two many devices potentially degrading the signal on the input chain and all that).


Ok, so, there are some SACD players on the market with digital ins, but very little comparisons of those devices versus stand-alone DACs like an Ayre or Weiss. So, let's catalog some options:


Cary Audio 303t Pro: $6500 MSRP. Inputs: USB, AES/RCA/Optical S/PDIF.

Cary Audio 306 Pro: $8000 MSRP. Inputs: AES/RCA/Optical S/PDIF.

Ayre D5-xeMP: ~$10,000 MSRP (TBD). Inputs: USB.

Esoteric SA-50: ~$5000 MSRP. Inputs: USB, RCA/Optical S/PDIF.

McIntosh MCD500: $6500 MSRP. Inputs: RCA/Optical S/PDIF.


Anyone have any thoughts on which of these might actually provide a better-than-good computer-based audio solution (that also happens to have amazing SACD performance)? I'm thinking of using an M2Tech hiFace to get RCA-S/PDIF out, or maybe a Lynx, if the USB interface isn't all it could be (ie, everything other the Ayre).



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I've compared the Cary 306/200 to the Bryston BDA-1. To my ears, it offered a superior sound in terms of both warmth and detail, a very nice combination.


The main thing is that these players with digital inputs can sound as good as a dedicated DAC. Out of the list above, I'd say that they all would provide a "better than good" computer based solution comparable to their cd-based performance.


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At the bottom end can add the Marantz Pearl edition.

At the top end add the dCS Puccini CD/SACD player.






...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I can offer some, if not complete info as I did the exact same thing. Unfortunately some of my model comparisons were done prior to getting computer audio set up but I've not experienced any problems with crackle etc.


I own the Cary 306 Pro and compared it to the Esoteric SA50 before purchase. The Cary was a real step up from the SA50 on both redbook and SACD. Esoteric has other models that are as good as the Cary but at greater cost and none have the digi input.


I have it from a very good source, that the Cary 303t Pro is more comparable to the previous 303 and not a direct competitor for the 306 Pro. The Pro designation and the similar design has produced some confusion that they are directly comparable in quality but a tube vs. solid state option. They are not.


The Ayre is very interesting to me as well, we will see. I had the option to try/buy their players but passed due to no digi input.


Hope that may be of some small help.


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I've been experimenting with different solutions (Apple TV, Mac TosLink) over the last year. Nothing comes close to the performance of the Wadia with an M2Tech HiFace via BNC in my system. Those other solutions are great convenience options, but I wanted something that was the equal of the internal transport if I was going to jump ship to mostly computer-based audio. And it's a great SACD player! BTW, there are a total of four digital inputs; the newest units have a USB input, which I don't have so I can't speak to it. I just use the volume control in the Wadia to run straight into the power amps.


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The new Cary looks interesting especially with it's USB input. They show this as being a 24/192 USB input. I had the Cary 303/300 for awhile and really like this unit. I did however step up to the Ayre C5xe. Love the Ayre products and am seriously considering the QB-9. The only thing that keeps holding me back is the limiited input capability.


Now my question....Chris, I believe you are going to CES. Perhaps you could pick up some info for all of us on the new Cary 303T. How does their new 24/192 USB input operate? Jitter? They so very low, true or not?


In addition, the new Esoteric D-07 has the same high USB capability and if I remember correctly, a filter that minimizes preringing. Is their USB input new technology similar to Async USB?


Iknow there are some new things coming out at CES. Are these units the start of things to come in 2010. Any input would very helpful and appreciated.




Ed[br]So much music, so little time![br]Mac Mini Itunes - Ayre QB-9 or Ayre C5xe into Ayre K5xe - Ayre V5xe - ZU Definitions

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Simaudio MOON Evolution 750D Digital-to-Analog Converter / CD Transport




From their page: " The first true 32-bit fully asynchronous digital audio playback system to reach the marketplace. Intended to fulfill the demands of the most discerning music connoisseur, the 750D is a fully balanced design featuring our new M-AJiC32 circuitry (an asynchronous jitter elimination system) built around the ESS SABRE32 Reference Audio DAC. The conversion process uses 8 DAC’s per channel working in 32-bit Hyperstream™. The final result is previously unattainable musical reproduction from digital media, be it a CD, computer, music server, etc."


MSRP: ~$12k.


FWIW, Chris, I recommend this or the Cary 303t over the Wadia.


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