BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A major; Symphony No. 8 in F major – Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra – Sopot/ Wojciech Rajski – Tacet

by | May 22, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A major; Symphony No. 8 in F major – Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra – Sopot/ Wojciech Rajski – Tacet Multichannel SACD (Stereo = all tubes) S 149, 63:01 ****:

We usually try to list the overall title of discs when they are given one, but in this case I held back. Because this one is billed as “Tacet’s Beethoven Symphonies.”  No sense getting confused with all those other Beethoven Symphonies out there. Tacet wants to promote that their discs are unique. And truly they are.

This one has two features you won’t find on most other Beethoven symphony CDs: It is part of the label’s Tube Only/Transistor Free series – using tube microphones and tube mic preamps (no information is provided on whether the recording medium is also tubed).  (Another useful bit information would be what or where is Sopot?) Only the stereo CD and SACD options on the disc used the tube mics. The other feature is that on the surround sound layer, Tacet uses their Real Surround Sound technique, which seeks to use the entire acoustic space for the musical experience – not just employing the surround channels to convey the ambiance of the venue. In string quartets, one player is placed at each of the four corner speakers, for example. In the case of these two symphonies, the spatial positioning is as though the listener was a member of the orchestra. The woodwinds are directly in front of you close up, the horns and percussion further away in front, the strings close behind the listener and the trumpets at the distant back.

As stated in the note booklet, this approach certainly does extend horizons when listening to Beethoven!  I found the rear horizon definitely too close with my identical front and rear speaker channels all set with a test disc to the same volume level. I had to reduce the surround speakers by 2 dB to get a good balance with the frontal three channels. I hadn’t run into this on previous Tacet Real Surround SACDs. But after balancing I found I really enjoyed the Seventh – my favorite Beethoven symphony anyway.  The dance-like aspect of much of it seemed even more pronounced than usual. This is clearly not the Berlin Philharmonic or BSO, but the playing hews to a high standard throughout. It was difficult to do a comparison between the tube-recorded options and the solid state since the latter was multichannel (and overbalanced towards the rear at that) and the former only 2-channel.  The strings did sound more pleasant in the tube versions – both the CD layer and the SACD layer. There was more bloom on the bass drum whacks. In general, just a bit more of that overused term “musical.”  But the surround presentation – especially due to the excitement of being plopped into the midst of the orchestra – still held my interest, and since my front three channels are powered by tubes, I still listened thru those lovely musical bottles regardless!

– John Sunier

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