2L – The Nordic Sound, Blu-ray audio-only sampler (2009) – [TrackList below] – 2L-RR1-SABD multichannel hi-res, 2 discs: Blu-ray with 5.1 DTS-HD tracks, 5.1 PCM tracks, or 2.0 PCM (all three 192K/24) + 5.1 SACD disc with optional 2.0 ***** [Release date: Mar. 20, 09]:

This is the third or fourth audio-only Blu-ray from the Norwegian audiophile label, and it includes mostly complete tracks from various previous 2L releases that are available only on SACD – though a few are from the first three Blu-ray releases.  Some are sourced from original digital recordings made using the advanced DXD format of 352.8K/24bit, while others are 96K/24, 88.2K/24, and one just 44.1K/24.  There is a video display, but it is only an enhanced menu, with cover images of all the albums sourced – the one being heard coming to the fore with each track. However, the Blu-ray can be played without any video display if you prefer.

Mr. 2L – Morten Lindberg – says in the note booklet that all the audio formats on the disc are sample rate converted from DXD masters at 352.8K, and comparing them in their studio they find only the most subtle differences going from DXD down to 192K and 96K. He feels the real degradation is going from 96K down to 48K (DAT and many DVDs) or 44.1K (CDs).  (Exactly what I have heard.) He finds DSD – the standard technology used in mastering SACDs – to be mysteriously softer and more beautiful but slightly less detailed than hi-res multichannel PCM.  He further observes that Blu-ray is the first domestic format in history to unite movies and music sound in equally high quality.  Most people purchase surround systems for film entertainment, but with them they have access to the unique musical experience of hi-res surround sound. The penetration of Blu-ray players has already well surpassed that of SACD players, and will undoubtedly increase as more entry-level Blu-ray/DVD/CD players come on the market.  This is the reason for 2L’s pioneering audio-only Blu-ray series. [There is also the advantage of Blu-ray’s 50GB storage capacity, allowing much longer audio-only lengths than SACD’s 80-minute maximum.]  Other labels will probably follow, and I’ll have to eat my earlier words about not needing another hi-res surround format for music.  I must say I love Lindberg’s statement that “…resistance towards surround is mostly based on ignorance. People just don’t know what they are missing out on.”

The 19 selections on the discs (the two discs are identical) all feature Norwegian composers and performers and an international repertory.  In addition to the classical European art music there are albums delving into traditional folk music, such as the Slattar pa tunga selection – imitations of fiddle music using only voices.  Another departure is the avant excerpt by the Cicada Duo of percussion and keyboard/synthesizer.  The initial track is the longest on the disc at over nine minutes. For the first movement of the Mozart Violin Concerto in D Major, the soloist and chamber orchestra sat in a large circle, with the five microphones arrayed in the center.  Like the alternate micing approaches of the German label Tacet, 2L is not averse to experimenting a bit to enhance the surround sound experience for the listener.

The presence and naturalness of the Gregorian Chant excerpt from the Consortium Vocale is a sonic standout, so is the musical mix of Americana found in the Charles Ives Overture and March from the Kristiansand Brass Ensemble.  There is a paragraph in the note booklet on each of the tracks.  One may be stimulated to pick up the complete SACD release of certain of the albums in the compilation which have not so far been released as audio-only Blu-rays.  As with the other 2L double albums, I heard no appreciable difference between the SACD and Blu-ray discs.

TrackList:

Mozart: Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major KV 218 – Allegro
Mozart: Sonate in D-Dur für zwei Klaviere KV 448: Allegro con spirito
Nordheim: Colorazione (excerpt)
Åm: Vere Meininga (excerpt)
Gregorian Chant – Crux Fidelis
Islandsmoen: Requiem – Lacrymosa
Islandsmoen: Requiem – Confutatis
Gjeilo: North Country II
Plagge: Duels for 2 violins
Slåttetrall: Springar etter Gudmund Eide
Carter: Sonata for Violoncello and Piano – moderato
Bartók: Sonata for solo violin – fuga
Vivaldi: Recitative and Aria from Cantata RV 679, Che giova il sospirar, povero core
Schönberg: Sechs kleine klavierstücke op. 19 (1 and 2 excerpt)
Haydn: String Quartet In D, Op. 76, No. 5 – Finale – Presto
Ives: Overture & March 1776
Britten: Simple Symphony, op 4 – Boisterous Bourree
Sandvold: Orgelimprovisata over Deilig Er Jorden
Nystedt: Immortal Bach

 – John Sunier