Editorial for November 2014

by | Nov 1, 2014 | Editorial

DGGlogoThis month our drawing/giveaway is for two 45-CD boxed sets of The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon by famed conductor Ferenc Fricsay. It includes his probing recordings of such works at the Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 & 9 plus the Piano Concerto No. 3; Bartok’s three Piano Concertos, Concerto for Orchestra, Dance Suite and Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta; Brahms’ Symphony No 2 & Haydn Variations; Dvorak & Bruch’s Violin Concertos; two versions of Dvorak’s New World Symphony; six Haydn symphonies; seven Mozart symphonies; Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring & Petrouchka; ballet music from Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and the Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky; opera instrumentals by Verdi, Ponchielli, & Tchaikovsky; plus the works of many others. The two winners will be chosen from those AUDIOPHILE AUDITION readers who register this month using our simple form. (When you register we don’t share any information except your address of mailing of the discs.) The winners’ names will be listed here next month.

Here are the six lucky winners of the Complete Beethoven String Quartets by the Tokyo Quartet on eight Harmonia mundi hybrid SACDs, our October drawing.: David Sims, Simsbury CT; James Kreh, Hoschton GA; Hudson Fair, Chicago IL; Bret Mitchell, Stockton CA; Ted Shelly, Clearwater FL; Seth Warner, Portland ME.


by Dr. AIX, Mark Waldrep of AIX Records:

It strikes me as odd that the only labels that are actively producing and releasing surround music are focused primarily on classical repertoire. This was brought to fore when all of the participants in the AES panel on DXD and DSD played classical music during their demonstrations. Morten Lynberg is well known for his recordings that employ an array of microphones in the center of an ensemble. Robert Friedrich (Five Four Productions), Jared Sachs (Channel Classics), John Newton (Soundmirror), and others (Pentatone) are all recording and delivering multichannel surround productions. And I’m with them. All of my productions have multiple surround sound mixes too.

I don’t know if my recording of the Zdenek Macal and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony and Respighi’s The Pines Of Rome was the first classical DVD-Audio title but I can tell you that it was the first with multiple mixes AND the first to use the LFE channel (the subwoofer). Classical music benefits from using more speakers. And some months prior to that we released the Brahms Piano Quintet in f minor in DVD-Audio.

But why are most of the surround recordings being produced these days in the classical genre? Why aren’t the pop/commercial engineers being asked to provide surround mixes as part of their deliverables to the major labels? The reason is the additional cost associated with making a mix in 5.1 surround and the fact that there is no demand for the end product. Additionally, the type of productions that 2L, Five Four, Channel Classics, Pentatone, and AIX release are recorded in live performance spaces with everyone present at the same time. Capturing the ambiance of the recording venue is easy under these circumstances and mixing a surround version of the session is as simple as putting the ambiance in the left and right surround channels.

Things are not so easy when it comes to the pop/rock releases. The added costs, format issues, lack of demand, and delivery challenges have taken surround music off of the table for virtually all major record labels. The recent Tom Petty Hypnotic Eye is a notable exception. I’d like to find out why Reprise Records decided to make a Blu-ray version of this title available. Perhaps Tom and his engineer were the catalyst behind this high-resolution, surround BD disc that exists. Tom certainly has the clout to make it happen. But the disc disappoints.

It’s not really high-resolution and the surround mix is basically a 2.0 channel stereo mix played through more speakers. If you’re hoping that there would be guitars and drums and vocals spread all around you, you’ll be disappointed.

The cost of mixing a single track by a respected mixing engineer can range from $500 to $5000 per track. The number of hours isn’t taken into consideration. The track is done when the artist and producer given their approval. It would make the most sense to have a surround mix done at the same time as the stereo version, but rarely is this done. I spoke to Bob Clearmountain and he told me that he does a 5.1 mix to every album project that comes his way. He doesn’t charge for them and he doesn’t deliver them. I guess he’s hoping that the labels will come back sometime in the “surround music” future and want them…for an additional charge.

Don’t hold your breath.



AUDIOPHILE AUDITION began as a local program in San Francisco and then in 1985 as a weekly national radio series hosted by John Sunier, and aired for 13½ years on up to 200 public radio and commercial stations. In September 1998 its web site for program listings was expanded to this free Internet publication. November 2014 is our 188th issue. All disc reviews are added thru the month as they are written and received, usually daily. 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, and the Archive goes back to January 2001. The Disc Index lists all past reviews.  Vinyls and Pure Audio Blu-rays (and some DVD-As) are included in the SACD/Hi-Res Section, as well as exceptional xrcds.

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