The Secret Life Of Super Audio Compact Discs (SACDs)

Once lauded as a beacon of the future for physical music, Super Audio Compact Discs (SACDs) offer improved sound quality over their non-super counterparts. Officially announced in 1999, SACDs were a major upgrade to the revolutionary Compact Disc that hit stores and home consoles 16 years before.

SACDs offer tangible improvements over the original CD, including:

  • Up to 6 audio channels (compared to 2 for regular CDs) for a more comprehensive sound stage
  • Better audio encoding
  • Higher sampling frequency
  • Up to 30 minutes more play time on each disc

There are a lot of other upgrades that I encourage you to explore if you are interested in learning more about the technical aspects of the format before diving into its history and representation in the Discogs Database.

The Early Days of SACDs

Like all fledging formats, the first few years were awkward. The first SACD player, the Sony SCD-1, weighed 57 pounds and cost roughly $5,000 in 1999.

A still-expensive SCD-1

To add salt to the wound, Super Audio CDs could not be played on Mac or PC without special programs. Sure, there are now Hybrid SACDs that can be played in a wide variety of listening setups, albeit with less of the playback benefit of the format, but these were not common in the early days.

The Downsides of SACDs

Now, for the average listener, it can be argued that SACDs are probably not worth it. Indeed, a study found that many casual listeners could not discern a difference between CDs and SACDs in a blind test. The SACD was perhaps doomed to fail with less-attuned listeners, as the majority of consumers happily flocked toward the cheap, convenient and low-quality MP3 format.

SACD Releases by Year
SACDs by release year in the Discogs Database, with a noticeable decline as MP3’s gain popularity

SACDs are also read-only, so there was no making of mixtapes for a high-school crush with ripped MP3s off of Napster or Limewire (and, yes, I’m aware that this would be a travesty to the format.) They also had copy protection, making it harder to share music with friends.

In a sense, Sony and Philips misjudged common consumers’ priorities – it turns out many folks were not craving better-sounding playback. Instead, they desired convenience and affordability. This is a primary reason the format did not find lasting commercial success in the dawn of the digital music age.

Success in a Niche

Despite SACDs’ shortcomings, audiophiles and recording engineers clearly appreciated the technical upgrades. And the benefits of more audio channels, when done right, is clear to almost anyone. Because of these reasons, there are many highly-prized and sought after SACDS, even more than a decade after their short-lived peak. Indeed, the SACD format largely found success within a niche: Classical music.

SACDs by genre
SACDs by genre in the Discogs Database

Looking at the distribution of SACD releases in the Discogs Database, we can see their higher numbers in the Classical genre. This is also evident when looking at SACDs tagged with a style.

SACDs by sub-genre in the Discogs Database
SACDs by style in the Discogs Database

Most Expensive SACDs Sold on Discogs

Many SACDs are worth more than comparable CDs, especially the boxsets. Of the top 50 most expensive SACD sales on Discogs all were one of the following eight releases, six of which are boxsets. Lo and behold, a Classical release is the most expensive SACD ever sold on Discogs.


The Rolling Stones - Remastered Series SACD album cover

The Rolling Stones – Remastered Series

Highest Sale Price: $824.18

Dead Can Dance - SACD Box Set SACD album cover

Dead Can Dance – SACD Box Set

Highest Sale Price: $769.22

Al Di Meola - Elegant Gypsy SACD album cover

Al Di Meola – Elegant Gypsy

Highest Sale Price: $671.78

Yes - High Vibration - SACD Box SACD album cover

Yes – High Vibration – SACD Box

Highest Sale Price: $464.25

Genesis - 1970 - 1975 SACD album cover

Genesis – 1970 – 1975

Highest Sale Price: $454.53

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road SACD album cover

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Highest Sale Price: $439.56

The Doors - Infinite SACD album cover

The Doors – Infinite

Highest Sale Price: $439.45

Most Collected SACDs on Discogs

The most collected is a different story. Dark Side of the Moon makes a not-so-surprising appearance (considering its collection numbers on other formats) near the top of the list. But then we find a considerable amount of Depeche Mode in the mix. There are fewer boxsets, probably because of their high prices.


Depeche Mode - Playing The Angel album cover

Depeche Mode – Playing The Angel

Released: 2005

Collected: 2,086


Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon album cover

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon

Released: 2003

Collected: 1,974


Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms album cover

Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

Released: 2005

Collected: 1,799


Depeche Mode - Music For The Masses album cover

Depeche Mode – Music For The Masses

Released: 2006

Collected: 1,579


Depeche Mode - Violator album cover

Depeche Mode – Violator

Released: 2006

Collected: 1,534


Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward album cover

Depeche Mode – Some Great Reward

Released: 2006

Collected: 1,351


Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here album cover

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Released: 2011

Collected: 1,281


Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral album cover

Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

Released: 2004

Collected: 1,271


Depeche Mode - Songs Of Faith And Devotion album cover

Depeche Mode – Songs Of Faith And Devotion

Released: 2006

Collected: 1,227


Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell album cover

Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell

Released: 2006

Collected: 1,219

The Most Desired SACDs on Discogs

For fun, here is a look at SACDs by my favorite sort, Most Desired. By dividing the Total Haves by the Total Wants (Haves / Wants), we can get a glimpse at some SACDs that are on many collectors’ radars. SACDs from countries outside the US seem to be more highly-sought-after.


Marvin Gaye - What

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Want/Have Index: 13.68

Japan


Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon album cover

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon

Want/Have Index: 12.80

Brazil


Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters album cover

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Want/Have Index: 12.77

US


Michael Jackson - Thriller album cover

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Want/Have Index: 12.50

Japan


Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters album cover

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Want/Have Index: 12.48

Europe


Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue album cover

Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue

Want/Have Index: 12.02

Japan


Queen - A Night At The Opera album cover

Queen – A Night At The Opera

Want/Have Index: 10.23

Japan


The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds album cover

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

Want/Have Index: 10.06

Japan


Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters album cover

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Want/Have Index: 9.85

Europe


Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue album cover

Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue

Want/Have Index: 8.72

US


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Steven Williams
Steven is a Discogs super fan who lucked out in landing his dream gig. If he's not making cocktails and listening to records to escape the COVID-doldrums, he's likely somwhere deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

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