New SACD's on the way

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  • 11-09-2008, 05:11 AM
    emaidel
    New SACD's on the way
    I've posted before that I believe the SACD to be the ultimate playback medium, though not all SACD's live up to that capability. This really isn't anything new: even in the 60's, when record labels ("Command," in particular) realized that using 35mm film resulted in far superior recording capabilities than 1/2" magnetic tape, some labels still produced some horrible sounding records made from 35mm film.

    While the SACD layer on all of my SACD's sounds better than the CD layer, not all of the SACD's sound better than some of my redbook CD's. Even Telarc, my favorite label, has some SACD's that sound decidedly inferior to much older, "ordinary" CD's. That, I discovered, is the result of someone at Telarc depending too heavily on a particular microphone that provides lush, sonorous qualities of certain instruments, but which lacks high frequency detail, resulting in recordings that sound flat out dull.

    I recently ordered 5 new SACD's from ArkivMusic.com, a wonderful site for classical discs. While one is a Telarc (another recording of "Pictures at an Exhibition"), all of the others are on varied labels. Two recordings, one of the famous Saint Saen's "Organ" Symphony, and the other of Beethoven's 9th, are editor's picks as the best of their lots, so they should be pretty exciting to hear.

    The discs were shipped from three different locations (for reasons unknown to me), and will start arriving at my house tomorrow. I'll listen to, and report on all of them once they're all here. Hopefully, it will be another rousing endorsement for the SACD medium. Then again, who knows?
  • 11-09-2008, 12:45 PM
    Feanor
    Enjoy!
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by emaidel
    ...
    I recently ordered 5 new SACD's from ArkivMusic.com, a wonderful site for classical discs. While one is a Telarc (another recording of "Pictures at an Exhibition"), all of the others are on varied labels. Two recordings, one of the famous Saint Saen's "Organ" Symphony, and the other of Beethoven's 9th, are editor's picks as the best of their lots, so they should be pretty exciting to hear.

    The discs were shipped from three different locations (for reasons unknown to me), and will start arriving at my house tomorrow. I'll listen to, and report on all of them once they're all here. Hopefully, it will be another rousing endorsement for the SACD medium. Then again, who knows?

    I'll look forward to your recommendations from amongst you SACD collection.

    When I look for a performance of a given work, or when I choose among reviewers' recommendations, I tend to favor the SACD is performance if there is one. On average SACD performance are better soncially than CD, although I totally agree that this is not always the case. In my case I liketo invest in multi-channel recordings though I listen to stereo far more often.

    I'm not sure that I hear much difference between the CD and stereo SACD layers, but that could just be my old ears that don't hear above 10kHz, or it could be that my old Sony SCD-CE775 just isn't close to the state of the art.
  • 11-09-2008, 03:29 PM
    blackraven
    You should look at www.eastwindimport.com and cduniverse.com for SACD's and other enhanced cd's such as XRCD's, HDCD and SHM-CD. I own several XRCD24's and they are all excellent recordings. Most are better than redbook cd's. The only problem is that they sell for $30 which I'm willing to pay for an excellent recording.
  • 11-10-2008, 04:55 AM
    emaidel
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor
    .

    I'm not sure that I hear much difference between the CD and stereo SACD layers, but that could just be my old ears that don't hear above 10kHz, or it could be that my old Sony SCD-CE775 just isn't close to the state of the art.


    When comparing the CD and SACD layers of a hybrid disc, the differences in favor of the SACD are not usually in the high frequencies alone. What I hear is a definite increase in the depth and spaciousness of the soundstage, and a smoother overall sound across the board. Strings are more pleasing and less strident, brass is more "throaty," and percussion doesn't have the "spitting" quality some overbright CD's have, but a far more natural glow. All in all, it is the more lifelike sound of an SACD that impresses me the most, though, unless one's system is a revealing one, the differences may not be so noticeable.

    My Dahlquist DQ-10's (especially now that they're fitted with the amazing "Hi-Fi Tuning" fuses) are quite revealing, and detailed loudspeakers. But then, so too are Maggies, so the fact that you don't hear much difference would seem to me to be more a function of your player. I'm totally nuts about my Marantz SA-8001, which has since been replaced by the 8003 model. It does a spectacular job of making formerly lousy sounding CD's sound pretty good, and its SACD playback is exemplary.

    I have a CD of a remarkable piece of music called, "Too Hot to Handel," which is a gospel version of Handel's "Messiah," conceived, and conducted by Marin Alsop, that I've seen performed live three times while I lived in Colorado. The piece is an absolute blast, and very clever, but when I bought the CD, I thought it sounded flat out awful: brittle, shrill, harsh, and every other such adjective to make listening to it a strain on my ears. On the 8001, it sounds fine, and the soloists, who sounded overly bright and "forward" before, now seem to be more in balance with everything else.

    That speaks for the 8001's CD performance, and its SACD performance, provided the recording engineers took advantage of the SACD medium, is outstanding. Hopefully, when my new discs arrive, they'll all be sonic treasures. One can hope, no?
  • 11-10-2008, 05:20 AM
    emaidel
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by blackraven
    You should look at www.eastwindimport.com and cduniverse.com for SACD's and other enhanced cd's such as XRCD's, HDCD and SHM-CD. I own several XRCD24's and they are all excellent recordings. Most are better than redbook cd's. The only problem is that they sell for $30 which I'm willing to pay for an excellent recording.


    Thanks for the tip on two additional sites for disc selection. I have to admit I've never heard an XRCD, HDCD or an SHM-CD, and am willing to give all of them credit; however, from a purely ideological standpoint, the SACD should outperform all of them. No matter whichever efforts are used in improving CD recording and manufacturing techniques, the end result is still a 44.1KHZ sampling rate. With the SACD, that rate is a staggering 2.8 million times a second, which is something no CD method is capable of duplicating.

    Still, all of this is theory, and as I (and others) have pointed out before, the fact that a disc is an SACD is no guarantee that its sound is the best available. If the recording engineer is asleep at the wheel (or, as is the case with several Telarc SACD's, the engineer favors an especially crummy microphone), using the ultimate sonic medium still results in a mediocre sounding disc.

    Lastly, I'm not using my ears alone in stating that I feel the SACD medium is the best available: I've often communicated with two Telarc engineers who enthusiastically believe in the SACD as the "best available anywhere," and also to a friend (a Grammy-winning recording engineer for Teldec) who feels the same way.
  • 11-10-2008, 06:26 AM
    Feanor
    Audibility
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by emaidel
    When comparing the CD and SACD layers of a hybrid disc, the differences in favor of the SACD are not usually in the high frequencies alone. What I hear is a definite increase in the depth and spaciousness of the soundstage, and a smoother overall sound across the board. Strings are more pleasing and less strident, brass is more "throaty," and percussion doesn't have the "spitting" quality some overbright CD's have, but a far more natural glow. All in all, it is the more lifelike sound of an SACD that impresses me the most, though, unless one's system is a revealing one, the differences may not be so noticeable. ...

    To be sure, better depth and spaciousness are what one would expect from higher resolution. It's certainly true, for example, these qualities improve as you go 128 to 320 kbps MP3 to lossless.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by emaidel
    My Dahlquist DQ-10's (especially now that they're fitted with the amazing "Hi-Fi Tuning" fuses) are quite revealing, and detailed loudspeakers. But then, so too are Maggies, so the fact that you don't hear much difference would seem to me to be more a function of your player. I'm totally nuts about my Marantz SA-8001, which has since been replaced by the 8003 model. ...

    Given the investment is relatively modest, I think I'll try those Hi-Fi Tuning fuses. They make more sense to my intuition in speakers than as power supply fuses. (I'll order my from Parts Connexion here in the Great White North to avoid cross-border hassles. Chris Johnson, the principal, is good to deal with.)

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by emaidel
    I have a CD of a remarkable piece of music called, "Too Hot to Handel," which is a gospel version of Handel's "Messiah," conceived, and conducted by Marin Alsop, that I've seen performed live three times while I lived in Colorado. ...

    I have several recordings of various pieces with Marin Alsop which are very good. However a "gospel" version of Messiah has zero appeal to me. (I'm more of HIP sort of guy.)
  • 11-10-2008, 07:39 AM
    blackraven
    Give XRCD's a try, especially the newer XRCD24's. You will be amazed at how well they sound. I have a few XRCD's of recordings from the 1960's and they sound great. I'm sure that they cant match excellent SACD recordings but XRCD's are remastered and precision made and sound pristine. I havent tried the new SHM-cd's but I'm going to order the test CD from eastwind.