Editorial for July 2009

by | Jul 1, 2009 | Editorial | 0 comments

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Our July drawing/giveaway is for one of the enhanced double-CD packages from Columbia/Legacy of The 50th Anniversary Editions of three great jazz classics: Dave Brubeck’s Time Out, Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, or Charles Mingus’ Mungus Ah Um.  All three were landmark recorded jazz statements of 1959 – jazz’s greatest year – and the Brubeck set comes with an exclusive DVD video of Dave, including a piano lesson. Six Audiophile Audition readers who register here on the site this month will receive whichever classic set they select in the Comments field of our site registration. Go Here to register. There is a free podcast produced by Legacy featuring these three jazz luminaries and musicians who were influenced by these albums. Find it at iTunes’ podcast section.
Here are the dozen winners of last month’s drawing/giveaway for the double-CD album The Very Best of Prestige Records. Congrats to all! = Steven Brotemarkle, Tacoma WA; Robert Okeson, Lisle IL; Robert York, Eugene OR; Jamie Burr, Larchmont NY; Edna Meredith, Grand Ledge MI; Bob Keck, Covington KY; Sally Wess, Titusville PA; Nina Wright, Eaton NY; Claudette Flanigan, East Hartford CT; Daniel Dill, Trenton, NJ; Doug Makofka, Willow Grove PA; Larry Feickert, Maple Grove MN.

Guest Editorial

SACD – A New Standard in Recorded Sound

The story of sound recording and reproduction is marked with periodic breakthroughs when new technology renders the old obsolete. The cylinder gave way to the disc; acoustic recording was supplanted by electrical; the 78rpm record yielded to the long playing disc; stereophonic defeated monophonic sound and the Compact Disc, introduced in 1982, brought digital reproduction into the home.

Now the inventors of the Compact Disc, Sony and Philips, have created its successor in the Super Audio Compact Disc.

When Sony and Philips set down the technical parameters for the CD they aimed to produce a 12 cm disc which could fit Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (about 70 minutes) on one side. This was a rare case of artistic ambition guiding technology. However, there had to be compromises. The Compact Disc could contain about 700 megabytes of information in digital form which was not really enough capacity to make a smooth conversion of the analogue source into digital form. The "sampling rate" — the number of times per second that the smooth analogue sound wave is sampled and turned into a number — is quite low, just barely acceptable as an approximation of the "analogue" source. The technology had to involve aural tricks to deceive the ear into thinking that it was hearing a natural sound.

Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) gave the CD partners an opportunity to revisit the digital technology and to improve on their original medium. DVDs have two layers, each of which can contain about 4.5 gigabytes of information. This greater storage capacity means that the sampling rate can be increased 64 times, and together with improvements in digital recording technology, means that the stored digital image of the analogue source can be much closer to the original than is possible with CD. Super Audio CD may be likened to a high definition digital picture, compared with ordinary Compact Disc which is more akin to a medium resolution image. There is simply more detail in SACD which means that the reproduced sound is closer to the experience of being at the performance.

Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) represents a quantum leap in CD technology because not only can it provide the listener with better stereo and multi-channel surround sound, it also uses a new digital recording technology called DSD, Direct Stream Digital, developed by Sony. This is an improvement on PCM (pulse code modulation) technology that has been the standard in the industry since digital recording began. DSD has been designed to give recordings a much more natural or ‘analogue’ sound. It does this by using a much higher sampling frequency for turning the continuous sound wave into numbers and the result is a more accurate, detailed and warm sound than we have experienced on CD.

Comparing the same well engineered recording on CD and SACD it is immediately obvious that there is more of the atmospheric sensation of being in a concert hall with the new discs. CD sounds restricted, harsh and artificial by comparison with SACD.

Super Audio Compact Disc is just that — a superior version of the stereophonic compact disc. Many record companies are re-releasing their classic two channel analogue recordings made in the sixties and seventies on the new format because the SACD can do justice to the quality of the tapes in the archives. However, new SACD recordings are being made in six channel surround sound for those with the equipment to play it. So SACD is both superior stereo and also surround sound on the one disc. And to make the new medium backwards compatible many of the new discs, including those from Melba, are "hybrids", playable both on the new SACD players with the superior sound and also on ordinary Compact Disc players in the form we have been accustomed to for the past 20 years.

Discrete SACD players are quite expensive, but many of the newest and relatively inexpensive DVD players incorporate SACD playback. For people with a home cinema and surround sound system it pays to check that a new DVD player can handle SACD.

Melba Recordings is committed to the highest standards of artistry and technology and the adoption of Super Audio Compact Disc is essential to meeting its objectives.

— from Melba Recordings, Australia

AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began in 1985 as a weekly national radio series hosted by John Sunier, which aired for 13 1/2 years on up to 200 public radio and commercial stations coast to coast. In September 1998 its site for programming information was expanded to the present Net publication.
July 09 is our 125th issue, and we’re publishing more and more disc reviews now. All of them – well over 100 per month – are added throughout the month as they are written and received, usually on a daily basis. We organized the web site to make it easy to navigate and find content. The most recent reviews appear at the top of each Section Index. The Home Page lists the five latest published reviews, the Section Index lists the past two months of reviews, the Archive goes back to June 1, 2005, and for all reviews by month prior to that you need to click on the Old Archive, which goes back to 2001. The Disc Index lists all past reviews.
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We welcome your feedback, and we have a Reader Feedback section. Please send us your comments, and we will review and possibly post them to that section. Check back with us frequently for more reviews and news, and be sure to register for our monthly giveaway! When you do, please give us the few requested facts, and include a working Email and street address – otherwise we can’t send you your winning item!  We don’t ask a lot of financial details, and we don’t share your information with anyone else.


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Geffen, Laurence Vittes, Tom Gibbs,
Lemco, Brian Bloom, Clay Swartz, John Henry, Peter Bates, Ron
Legum, Paul Pelon IV, Calvin Harding Jr.,
Birney Brown, Jeff Krow, Daniel Krow, Hermon Joyner, Bob Moon, Steven Ritter, Randy Haldeman, Max Dudious, Howard Herrnstadt, John Nemaric, Doug Simpson, Peter Joelson, Jan P. Dennis, Michael Birman, Patrick P.L. Lamb, John Sunier.

  © John Sunier 2009 

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