HDCD vs the Newer SHM-CD, BluSpec, UHQCD, etc

Has anyone directly compared the early 1990s 20 bit HDCD format to todays 16 bit SHM, BluSpec, UHQCD, etc, improvements of Redbook?

I’ve been very happy with the audio quality improvements I’ve heard on the recent generations of CD improvements, via improved surface materials, internal materials and cutting/forming of the reflective mirrors which the laser reads. I’ve tried them all (I think? lol), but have been particularly disappointed with HDCD, an early ’90s format. Theoretically HDCD should be better, despite lacking the improved materials and manufacturing techniques of today’s SHM and similar CDs. Then I realized my Oppo 205 doesn’t decode HDCD, and I’ve only been listening to the standard Redbook 16 bit signal of the HDCDs I’ve bought (5 over the past few years).

Looking around I’ve noticed that there is a vast array of music titles available on the used HDCD market. So I’m wondering if I should get a second disc spinner from the used market just for HDCD’s, with the intent of dipping into the array of music in that format.

I’d greatly appreciate anyone’s thoughts, who has compared these source materials, before I just go out and spring for an HDCD player to find out if it’s worth it to buy more HDCD discs, rather than just stick with the improved 16 Bit formulas available today. With that, yes, I also have a decent library of DVD-A, SACD & Hybrid SACD... but that field is limited, and generally pricy. Thanks!


I bought the top ARCAM FMJ 23-T cdp specifically for its HDCD playback capabilities, It was a top player in its time ( emphasis added);in brief, it’s novel HDCD audio performance uptick from ordinary red book CD’s  ranged from very minimal (if any) , to nominal ( kinda a vert small bit ,,,,. at best ). It’s a failed experiment for good reasons IMO.

Now, contrast it with my current REGA ISIS VALVE cdp / DAC playing any and all  CD discs including ordinary redbook and U name-it ….. it simply smokes every HDCD option  ….. not even close.

All the other CD permutations with their hopeful audio improvements played on a top shelf player are also an audio improvement mirage ranging from minimal to nil ,,,,and entirely dependent on the mastering or remastering skills of the recording engineer. I’ve purchased SHM discs from Japan that are a wide range of quality, with more than a few that suck.

if you want good Japanese discs,,,,,think XRCD instead.


TAKEAWAY: Choose wisely.

IMO HDCD is a legacy product that should remain in the past. 

I bought several Blu Spec CDs, thought they were revelatory but realized that remasterings were involved in the familiar recordings and when I heard the same remastering on subsequently released Red Book CD the difference between them and the Blu Spec seemed to vanish 

I hear better audio with most of my Japanese SHM, blue spec, hqcd, etc

  now that I’m older , I try to get Japanese CDs if released. 

most u.s. made CDs and records are tripe. 

I have the Anthem S/T from I think mid late 80’s, has lasted me 30+ years, 

still has more depth and sounds better then subsequent lps, and remastered cd versions.