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  1. #1
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Long, Non-Prog Album Review - Beethoven: Symphonies No.5 and No.7 - (Kleiber)

    I know there's a ton of prog fans here, which means there SHOULD be a good number of classical afficianados too....if you're not into classical and want to know where to start, look no further!!!

    I bought the hybrid CD/SACD of ‘Beethoven: Symphonies No.5 and No.7' by the Vienna Philharmonic (Conducted by: Kleiber) last year...Until this week I've only listened to the excellent CD track on this disc.

    This week I finally bought myself a SACD player. If any of you are sitting on the fence and can't decide whether or not to splurge, DO IT!

    This is by far the single best recording of any classical piece I have ever heard, which means it could very well be the single best recording piece period! (all things considered) It's only fitting that this level of fidelity was given to what is generally accepted as the world's greatest musical composition ever. (being Beethoven's 5th).

    The hi-rez 2-channel track introduces a new level of presence, dynamics, and super-imaging I didn't think was possible. Talk about 3-D...there's a ton of information, particularly at the lower volume levels that seems to have been lost on the CD version, you have to hear it understand what I'm talking about. The bass and midrange are more defined, but the biggest improvement is with the frequencies in my opinion. This isn't just a minor step over CD or even LP (I've bought this very album 4 times now), it's a good leap and bound.

    But that isn't the best part about this disc at all. I've learned by first snooping through some old magazine articles on the Deutsche Grammophone's LP I have that this very recording was actually done during the era of quadrophonics (for those who aren't familiar, a failed 4 channel stereo format from the 70's that didn't catch on). That means legit SURROUND SOUND! Oh baby, this has to be the biggest recording fluke ever...the original quadrophonic release got blasted for a variety of reasons, but basically the transfer to recording wasn't handled right by the people involved...I think everybody just forgot about this, but the original master tapes remained so the SACD multi-channel track actually had a 20 something year old original surround recording to start with!!! That means there's no guessing involved, just the truth!

    I cannot put into words how much "bigger" and more real this sounds in multi-channel than in stereo...the rear speakers are used properly for a hall like ambience effect that just works so well. This isn't like turning on some fake processed DSP mode on your stereo gear, this is as close to real thing as I have ever heard.

    I'm not going to get into the actual music itself, any review I write on Kleiber or the 5th wouldn't be worth the cyber space it occupies, but just trust me when I say this is generally accepted by most as the best recording of the 5th. And the 5th is most widely recognized as the best piece of all time (not by me, but who am I?). This makes for a deadly combo.

    The 7th is done just as well, and makes for a nice bonus, 2 for the price of 1.

    If I can persuade just one person to pick this album up, I'll feel better about myself. This really is the best classical recording I've heard to date!

  2. #2
    Forum Regular BarryL's Avatar
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    I'll Make Your Day

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc

    If I can persuade just one person to pick this album up, I'll feel better about myself. This really is the best classical recording I've heard to date!
    I'm starting to renew my interst in classical music, so I will pick this one up. Even better, any family members who visit this board may want to get this for me for my upcoming birthday (I have one every year!).

    I just picked up a bunch of RCA Living Stereo re-releases in SACD for $10 CDN each from HMV. You may be able to find these bargains on their internet site. Or perhaps they're this cheap everywhere (i.e., Amazon, etc.).

  3. #3
    AR Newbie
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    Would SACD sound better than a CD, on just a 2 channel system, ie. stereo with 2 speakers?

    What were your components?

    It seems to me unlikely that 5 speaker surround systems (with their relatively poor quality speakers) can compare to high performance stereo systems with their excellent high fidelity speakers. Please comment.

  4. #4
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    Buy 5 high quality speakers!! Any speaker can be used in a surround system. If you played an sacd in your 2 channel system, it seems to me you would lose some sound because the sacd player would be sending signals to 5.1 channels. Unless you had an aoption on your receiver to take the 6 analog inputs from the sacd player and mix them down to 2 for your two front speakers. Maybe im wrong, im just an AR newbie!

  5. #5
    it's about the music
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    i'm doing a bit of guesswork here, but i believe there are stereo and multi-channel tracks BOTH encoded onto SACD.
    which means that if you cant afford to spend 6000 only on speakers, u can still listen to it in stereo and enjoy the benefits of hi-resolution. in any case, its still digital
    LONG LIVE VINYL!!!! (kexodusc will have my neck for this...)
    I remember the days when I thought 128kbps sounded great and had never spent more than 10 bucks on cables...

  6. #6
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    ckeemery1: Depending on the recording engineer and mixer, SACD's might sound better in 2-channel or 5.1. I've heard examples of both. Both are much better than CD's...MUCH BETTER.

    My components for my home theater are Adcom power amps, a Yamaha RX-V1400 receiver acting as a pre-pro,, and Yamaha DVD player. I have Paradigm Studio 40's for mains, but I've recently replaced them with some the EFE Technology DIY speakers, much better sounding. These aren't your typical cheap home theater cube speakers. I use 5 of these for a complete exact match. They use quality European (Peerless) drivers, and of course my old Paradigm subwoofer (in the process of upgrading).

    When I connected it to my Rotel Integrated and my Vifa/Scan-speak tower speakers in my main 2-channel system, the results are very nice. I'd recommend SACD for stereo systems too, the hi-rez format is the best I've heard, better than good vinyl pressings, etc. The better your system, the better the results.
    If you can add 3 more identical quality speakers later even better, as 2-channel stereo is very limited in presenting a full 3-d soundstage compared to a good quality multichannel system.

    Kaboom: I have a lot of vinyl too (just a basic Technics/Thorens combo for a player for now though), but I like a lot of LP's better than CD's...Some CD's are just better though, too...And most newer releases don't have an LP option (or are just too darn expensive). For me the sound isn't so much better one way or another (in fact, I think I prefer CD's a bit for the decreased noise if their recorded well), but there's something soothing about a record spinning, something you just don't get with the small digital discs.
    I'm glad there's still people keeping vinyl alive.

  7. #7
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Yup, kexo, that's the way I hear it too

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    ...
    I bought the hybrid CD/SACD of ‘Beethoven: Symphonies No.5 and No.7' by the Vienna Philharmonic (Conducted by: Kleiber) last year...Until this week I've only listened to the excellent CD track on this disc.
    ...
    This is by far the single best recording of any classical piece I have ever heard...

    The hi-rez 2-channel track introduces a new level of presence, dynamics, and super-imaging I didn't think was possible. Talk about 3-D...there's a ton of information, particularly at the lower volume levels that seems to have been lost on the CD version, you have to hear it understand what I'm talking about. The bass and midrange are more defined, but the biggest improvement is with the frequencies in my opinion. This isn't just a minor step over CD or even LP (I've bought this very album 4 times now), it's a good leap and bound.
    ...
    As far as I'm concerted this is not the best SACD that I own, but it is better than other versions of the same recording. I should point out that I own the original LP release, a late-edition CD reissue ("Original Image Bit Processing"), and the SACD version. (Great performances of both symphonies in my layman's opinion.)

    To me the CD layer on the hybrid disc sounds like the CD reissue -- maybe it is in fact exactly the same as that older reissue. The 2-channel SACD is a big step up -- as you describe. It's noteworthy that the SACD was mastered using PCM 24/96 (or 192? maybe), so it's not an all-DSD recording.

    On the other hand, my small collection of SACDs includes several that sound better, (technically), than the DG Kleiber/Beethoven 5th & 7th. They includes both new recordings and RCA Living Stereo remasters. I can recommed a couple once I get back home.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular newtrix1's Avatar
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    is this the one?



    Nice review, sounds interesting. I have a cd version of the fifth symphony, but not the one you mention. I often find it difficult to look up classical pieces online, since there are so may versions of certain titles. Is the attached photo the version you're discussing? (a pictures worth a thousand words, right?)

  9. #9
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Took a bit of work to find the picture you are referring too...darn copyrights...but yes, that's EXACTLY it.

    You aren't the only one who has a hard time with selecting the "right" classical albums. The few hints I've received are to know the "good" labels (Deutsche Grammophone is one of the best), know the good conductors/orchestras, and then check some websites for the "generally accepted" better album releases.
    There's some terrible Rachmaninov recordings/performances, which really turned me off of him at first. Same with Gorecki's 3rd, or Holst's "The Planets".
    I'm afraid I don't devote nearly enough time to into familiarizing myself with the "A" lists, I usually get it from my old music teacher or the local independant record store (of all places - they've got this 30 something, 300lb "biker" stereotype employee who knows his classical - incredible).

    Next on the list is a good SACD or DVD-A of "Carmina Burana". I have a feeling hi-rez will do wonders for an orchestra, and multi-channel is right up this piece's alley. Vinyl and CD just haven't been able to do it for me yet.

  10. #10
    In perfect harmony DarrenH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    You aren't the only one who has a hard time with selecting the "right" classical albums. The few hints I've received are to know the "good" labels (Deutsche Grammophone is one of the best), know the good conductors/orchestras, and then check some websites for the "generally accepted" better album releases.
    There's some terrible Rachmaninov recordings/performances, which really turned me off of him at first. Same with Gorecki's 3rd, or Holst's "The Planets".
    I'm afraid I don't devote nearly enough time to into familiarizing myself with the "A" lists, I usually get it from my old music teacher or the local independant record store (of all places - they've got this 30 something, 300lb "biker" stereotype employee who knows his classical - incredible).

    Next on the list is a good SACD or DVD-A of "Carmina Burana". I have a feeling hi-rez will do wonders for an orchestra, and multi-channel is right up this piece's alley. Vinyl and CD just haven't been able to do it for me yet.
    You are so right about that. I've also become interested in classical music and choosing amongst the many different performances and labels and conductors and what not can be very confusing. I'm sorta "learning on the fly".

    I have Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 2 on Deutsche Grammophone that I think is very good. It's coupled with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 1 and both are performed by Sviatoslav Richter which explains why these concertos are together. I have other works on the DG label and everything thus far has been quite to my liking.

    I also have Carmina Burana on Telarc. Again, I think it's a good recording and a good performance. I'm sure the hi-rez stuff is better though.

    Darren
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  11. #11
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Carmina Burana's best most widely accepted reference recording is the DG performance from the late 60's or so (though I've heard many better version of "O Fortuna")...but it hasn't been mastered to hi-rez yet...I'm debating whether to hold off in anticipation, or just spring for one of the 2 versions that are available...I think it would be well suited for multi-channel.

    Decca is another label that's fairly respected, though they've got a few duds here and there.
    Come to think of it, most of the so-called good labels for classical I can think of are European...that might be a good general rule - when in doubt don't pick the domestic label?

    Hey guys, we'll have to start putting together classical comps!

  12. #12
    Dubgazer -Jar-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Hey guys, we'll have to start putting together classical comps!
    I have a couple :-)

    Let me see if I can find the track lists... I'll post 'em here later.

    Just about all "orchestral fireworks" sort of pieces.. lots of shorter things. Some old recordings, some new recordings..

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  13. #13
    In perfect harmony DarrenH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Carmina Burana's best most widely accepted reference recording is the DG performance from the late 60's or so (though I've heard many better version of "O Fortuna")...but it hasn't been mastered to hi-rez yet...I'm debating whether to hold off in anticipation, or just spring for one of the 2 versions that are available...I think it would be well suited for multi-channel.

    Decca is another label that's fairly respected, though they've got a few duds here and there.
    Come to think of it, most of the so-called good labels for classical I can think of are European...that might be a good general rule - when in doubt don't pick the domestic label?
    Yeah, the bulk of my classical collection is on the Decca/London label. In fact, most everything I own in the classical world (30 cd's lol) is either that or on DG or Telarc.
    Let the midnight special shine a light on me.

  14. #14
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Kex -

    Congrats on the find. Beethoven's 7th IMO is his most underrated symphony, and probably my second favorite piece of his (after the incomparable 9th Symphony).

    Actually, one of the major reasons why quadrophonic died in the market was because lo and behold, quad had a format war! My recollection is that there were four different quad formats that got introduced around the same time, at least one format was discrete while the others were matrixed. The discrete format involved placing some of the information above the audible frequencies, and then using those high inaudible frequencies during the decoding process. No idea how it all worked, but I know that it required much more refined stylus cutting than normal to extract that information. One of the purported side benefits to quad was that it forced the creation of tighter manufacturing tolerances with the stylii/cartridges, which remained in place even after quad's demise.

    I'd read that several discrete mixes were created around the time of quad, and with obviously a discrete surround SACD, you're actually hearing the music the way it was intended to be played. With older analog equipment, every mixdown that occurs adds another layer or noise and signal loss.

    Another intriguing set of SACDs is the RCA Red Seal Living Stereo series. Those performances were originally recorded live to three-track, so this is really the first opportunity to hear those recordings in their original state with no downmixing. The early Bell Labs research found that three channels were needed to adequately reproduce the front soundstage. From what I understand, a lot of performances were recorded this way, but ultimately had to be downmixed into two-channel because no three-channel playback was readily available to consumers. Stereo was a compromise necessitated by the limitations of vinyl playback, not because of its inherent superiority.

    As far as Carmina Burana goes, I'm partial to the SF Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall recording from 1990. But, that might be because I've seen them perform that piece at that venue three times, and it's most reminiscent to what I saw live. Even in two-channel though, that recording has some of the best phantom center mixing that I've ever heard.

  15. #15
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    Actually, one of the major reasons why quadrophonic died in the market was because lo and behold, quad had a format war! .
    I remember seeing an interview with the Carpenters that took place in Richard's new home quadrophonic studio. Richard gave a fairly detailed description of this "new" technology.

  16. #16
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Registered Member Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    This is a really good reading:



    Thielemann, Oelze, Keenlyside, et al on DG

    I didn't "get" the piece until I heard this one -- only liked the "O Fortuna" sections -- this was the first rendition where I actually wanted to hear the whole thing.
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  17. #17
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Wooch: Thanks for the heads-up on the RCA Red series...

    Dusty: I'm not sure if the other pieces you heard had english translations of all the poems and prose that the Carmina Burana was derived from...That stuff wouldbring today's ultra-conservative right to their knees, forget that it's centuries old...I think that helps in "getting" the Carmina Burana.
    As for this recording...I've heard from several sources that this is the best multi-track version to date (guess there's only 1 or 2 others though), so I pulled the trigger and can't wait.

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