The text above already implies that SACD hasn't made it, commercially speaking. And indeed I think we can safely say that it failed to catch on. There is a catalogue available but it is mostly classical and pop-remasters. Nowhere near as comprehensive as the CD catalogue. Which isn't the only reason why it failed as a format. Strangely enough, nobody I asked a few years ago, knew what SACD meant. The format was simply not known, in spite of Sony's efforts. Maybe the audience wasn't looking for a CD replacement at all. After all, mp3 had become the defacto standard for many and only us audiophiles needed more. Let's face it: we are a niche. As a market, we're simply not significant enough for the SACD manufacturers.
The sound really was in many ways better than CD. But of course it matters what kind of player you use to listen to them. For example, I am used to listening to Mark Levinsons, Wadia's and DCS equipment for CD sources. These players were state of the art in many ways in which the cheaper SACD machines were lacking. The affordable SACD players I tried, like a Denon DVD2910 universal player and a Linn Unidisk, were simply no match for many aspects of the sound. Sure, SACD's trademark airy highs and more relaxed nature came across, but I was missing body, colour, dynamics. If I were to really be convinced of the SACD format, I'd have to obtain an SACD player in the same league as my CD equipment. Sadly,m until today, this never happened. The best SACD player that I heard to date, was the Audio Aero Prestige. This was really no ordinairy player, in fact it was quite expensive, but if you ask me, for this particular player at least, this is more market-driven than anything else. The Audio Aero looks like a tank but is in fact lightweight. Inside is a very flimsy transport and uses standard associated circuitry. The DAC is from Anagram which is decent but not great and the power supply was also a little on the small side. Now I know that all this doesn't neccesarily mean anything. But I mention it anyway, because the Audio Aero disappointed me heavily. Its sound was thin and gray. If you ask me, when playing an SACD, it sounded like a CD. When playing a CD... don't ask. So, you see, my experience with SACD is not so much limited, but not profound enough to be able to pronounce it a clear winner over CD. Yet. I have yet to hear the top class Accuphases, the DCS and the latest Wadias in SACD mode. I suspect that once I hear SACD at its best that I will be mightily impressed. But still there is a caveat that everybody should be aware of: the software. Ideally, the disk should contain native SACD. But in many cases it is actually upsampled PCM. Sure, it should still sound better than the CD because studio's often master at higher bitrates and samplerates than CD's allow but still, good PCM is not equal to DSD. This is something to keep in mind when you're ready to buy that remastered SACD. In the best case it is a remaster from the original analog tapes, or copies thereof. But in the worst cases you will have in your hand a copy of a DAT master, which is 16/48. Only slightly better than CD. In many cases the master will be recorded in 24/96 which really is a lot better than CD's standard 16/44 but still a long way from native DSD.
Don't get me wrong - I love the SACD format. I only wish that it really had replaced cd. Now it seems that SACD and CD altogether aren't in for a very bright future. All is not lost though. SACD as a format is not limited to the disk itself. The technology behind it, DSD, is also available for computeruse. In therory record companies could distribute musicfiles online in DSD format which should sound very close to a real SACD, provided your computer has got a good soundcard or a digital output into a good DA converter. At the moment (july 2010) not many computer products are available for the DSD format. Korg is one of the few companies offering DSD digital recording solutions. And the PC use for it is still severly limited. But this could change as soon as computerpart makers decide to add DSD functionality to their chips. It needn't be any more expensive either. Let's hope for the best!
Update feb 2012:
As part of my ongoing experience with DSD, here is an excerpt from the Mytek 192DSD review: I had quite a big collection of high sample rate WAV's and FLAC's, as well as native DSD files to play with and spent two evenings doing so. Rather quickly I established a preference for one of the formats and no, it isn't DSD. Quite consistently, I heard the same good things and bad things with the DSD files: smooth, extended, finely detailed treble, a free-flowing midrange and a complete lack of digitalness as good points. While resolution also improved a notch, it wasn't that much better. I've heard better resolution with the Linn Klimax DS and the dCS Delius/Purcell. It seems that the Mytek just inherently has limited resolution because I experienced the same when playing my 24/96 LP recordings. Going back to DSD, what also struck me in a negative manner was the bass. It was a bit soft and wooly and had less dynamic impact than with any of the other formats. It was this last aspect that annoyed me most, especially since I knew that the Mytek was capable of splendid bass. Well, not so much with DSD. There was less power, less articulation and less fullness. Also, transients seemed more rounded and small dynamic changes less obvious. 96kHz FLAC sounded as good as I have heard it, which is almost as good as WAV, but not quite. There a subtle rounding on the transients and less obvious dynamic attack. 192kHz FLAC had the same sound signature, but had a bigger, wider soundstage portrayal, smoother, more fluid treble but also less focused center phantom imaging. The same differences applied to WAV. Where 96kHz was an obvious improvement over 44.1kHz in all areas, 192kHz again seemed like one step too with the bass and lower midrange becoming a little wooly, just like with FLAC. The more files I played, the more obvious became my preference for 24/96 WAV. It pushed all the right buttons: powerful, deep, articulate bass, a lively and live-sounding midrange and smooth, open, extended treble. Still, there is something very magical about DSD in that it doesn't sound like PCM anymore. No matter how high the samplerate, PCM will always sound as such. DSD is different in that there's no perceived square-ness. It's like looking at an Apple iPhone with Retina display, ie the pixels are so small that you can't see them anymore. I still have hope for the format, but would probably need a better DAC to bring out the most of it.
My experience with DSD is still somewhat undernourished, but I grab every chance to explore it further. When new experiences come along, I will update this article.