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DVD-Audio vs. SACD vs. CD

by Dan Banquer August 30, 2004
SACD disc

SACD disc

This article was originally published back in 2002.  Some of the content is now obsolete but left in tact for historical purposes.

As the format war continues between DVD-A, SACD and CD, we need to take a close look at not only the pros and cons but what this new marketing push is really all about.  Do these higher resolution formats really offer an edge over CD?  will they have the staying power to prove it?  Only time will tell and consumers will dictate whether or not high resolution audio beyond CD is something they want to embrace.  Tabulated below is a comparison of the formats so you can see what the differences are.





Sampling Rate

2.8224 MHz

(64 x 44.1 kHz)

Up to 192 kHz

44.1 kHz

Amount of Bits

1 bit

16 to 24 bits

16 bits

Dynamic Range


104 to 108 dB

104 to 108 dB

96 to 98 dB

Copy Protection



No; at time of writing

Multi Channel Capability



Yes; but with very lossy compression

Brick Wall Digital Filter

No; analog filter



Video / Multimedia

No; audio only


Yes, but limited by storage capability

Sampling Rates: One of the major arguments against the CD is that the sampling rate is too low, and a higher sampling rate is needed to extend bandwidth and ease filter slopes. There is evidence supporting this. How high is enough, however, is still hotly debated.

Amount of Bits:  Adding more bits certainly gives more dynamic range and less distortion, but the best D/A converters can realistically only reproduce about 18 - 19 bits of resolution.  This is not about to change unless there is a major paradigm shift in the laws of physics.  Is 24 bits better than 20 bits? Not if all those other bits are lost in noise. SACD uses 1 bit at a very high sampling rate giving it an effective 120 db SNR in the audio band.

Copy Protection: At time of writing the CD has no copy protection, some have been adopted but withdrawn from the market due to major problems. New attempts appear to be made monthly. SACD and DVD-A both have copy protection schemes.


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