Over the past year I have learned almost to an incontrovertible conclusion that two channels for classical music are hopelessly inadequate (when there is a multi-channel alternative of the same performance). But it is not always so clear-cut for jazz. But I have found that rear channel intrusion, most of which I don’t particularly care for, that is found in some jazz music is simply because the artist or the engineers or both simply want it that way. An aggressive mix found in some jazz releases, such as Telarc’s “Monte Meets Sly and Robbie” (which I love to death) is an artistic choice, not an insoluble mix of the genre and the technology.
And over the past few years it is clear to me that sound engineers are learning (and it is a learning process) to better exploit the special virtues of multichannel. To be sure, Joe McQueen’s “Ten at 86”, is the quintessential utilization of multichannel in jazz. There is no center channel utilized here, although you would never suspect it by listening. And the surround channels are utilized to an effective perfection. As with the best multichannel SACDs in my collection, to the listener who is not aware that a multichannel source is being played it simply sounds like the best “stereo” presentation that a two-channel system could muster. That is, until you switch to stereo and the acoustic space significantly flattens. In listening to this SACD the first couple of times I don’t recall being aware, even sub-consciously, of the rear channels unless I was intent on making a two-channel/multichannel comparison (which I rarely do anymore because it’s rudely disruptive and almost always a waste of time).
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