Ideal Qualities of a CD/SACD Transport

There are many discussions regarding the relative performances of DAC but, comparatively, very few address the capabilities and performances of CD/SACD transports. Having decided on the Bricasti M21 DAC, I now have decided to upgrade my system further with a new "shiny disc" transport. At present, I have a Wadia 8 (30 years old and CD-only) and a Theta Digital Compli (20 years old and two-channel SACD as well as CD -- it also has an excellent internal DAC based on Theta Digital’s highly-regarded Generation VII DAC). As best I can tell, both function perfectly. However, in the past couple of decades, transport technologies have improved, and I want to get the highest performance (within reason) that my new digital system can provide.

Thus, I propose the question: what factors, qualifications, capabilities, etc. are most important for a high-end CD/SACD transport to provide? There is no question that they are pricey. The "bargain" of the group is the PS Audio Datastream, and it lists for $7,000. The prices move up steeply from there, with, for example, Playback Design’s MPT-8 at $20,000 and the "entry-level" dCS Rossini one at $26,500. Others are even more expensive.

I have three additional questions: (1) at what price point does diminishing returns really start to become apparent; (2) several companies that manufacture both a DAC and a transport highlight their proprietary I2S connectivity -- thereby permitting the direct transmission of an SACD’s DSD layer (instead of first converting it to PCM) from the transport to the DAC. Sonically, how big a difference does this make?; and (3) also, is there a sonic difference from a CD’s datastream being transmitted to the DAC via I2S versus AES/EBU or coaxial?

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xjmeyers

If SACD isn’t a must have I’d put Jay’s CDT Mk3 on your list — built like a brick crap house and it’s “only” $5k.  Best of luck.

Iam very familiar with your theta gen  DAC VII Its a heck of a good DAC , it will compete with new DAC sound wise. SACD are amazing when they work.I think they are sensitive with their lens. If you don’t have sacd collections? I go DAC and transport .

I previously owned a modified CD Museatex Melior CD-D transport, it was heavily modded by  Steve Sank and was the best I had heard for many years. Until my dealer brought over the new Bricasti M19 CD transport to audition, I found its performance to be substantially better in terms of  transparency, clarity, and  musicality compared to my modified Museatex unit. Yes this all thru the I2S connection.

Despite the high cost I decided the Bricasti M19 was worth purchasing because of its superior sound quality and my sizable CD collection that I wanted to get the best playback from.

While I find streaming audio to sound good, I think the Bricasti transport provides a noticeably higher level of performance when playing CDs.



You have a nice system as viewed in Virtual Systems. The Theta Digital and Wadia are still excellent players. Gear like this was built to last. No doubt, that a newer DAC/Transport combo or Reference Spinner will extract and unlock more goodness from those silver discs (CD and SACD).  I look forward in reading more about the Bricasti M21 DAC and supporting Transport.


Happy Listening!

Post removed 

I would look for the least expensive model with DSD out from a reputable brand.

I'm not sure, but I seem to recall that my old Sony xa5400es has two lasers, one for CD, one for SACD. That is a refinement I do not think all have. I could be wrong.

If you consider used, find one with low hours of use because the lasers do get weak with age, and the 1st to go is the ability to read the SACD layer.

I chose the Sony xa5400es for many reasons, one of which is the availability of used laser assembly.

oem laser assembly

you might see if/what parts are available for any unit you are considering, especially if a rare/pricey brand. Ask maker: can you buy a spare laser assembly now? Ought to tell you something.

I can’t play in a $26K sandbox for a transport so I probably won’t be able to give you a great answer.

I use an Oppo 105 for SACD .  The Oppo can be set to output the DSD layer of SACD over HDMI.  My Bryston DAC has 4 HDMI inputs.  My SACDs sound fantastic.  With chamber music I have had several times where I thought the ensemble was in my room.

  Years ago I had a Pioneer Elite receiver that had a proprietary FireWire link to a Pioneer Elite DVD/SACD player.  While otherwise the AVR sounded like an unremarkable AVR, when paired with the SACD player magic happened.

  I have never had anI2S in my system.  My bias, based on the above experiences, is that it will beat the pants off of any thing that converts DSD back to PCM.

  As to what cable to use, my bias is AES.

I would also consider a SACD player at least five yrs warranty. Who has a good support technically speaking.With parts accessibility after five yrs. My marantz sa10 has only 3yrs warranty, too short for a 7k unit.It is not a good warranty.