Must apologize for sitting on this one for some time. It is one of six Everest reissues HDADs put out by Classic last summer, which were recently joined by four more. Some technical faults with a couple of the first series caused me to put this one aside, but upon listening again I find it excellent. Classic had quite a challenge in reissuing these because the standard CD reissues of 1994 and 95 by Omega Record Group were so well done. Most of the original recordings were done on 35mm film, with its superior signal-to-noise due to higher recording levels allowed due to the film base being five times thicker than conventional recording tape. The mechanical transport system also had lower wow and flutter artifacts. I feel most of the CD series came close to the quality of the original Everest vinyl releases, in certain respects better than many of the Mercuries which also used 35mm film. Unfortunately, the Everest CDs are now out of print.
The reason for the two discs in the Classic series is that the standard CD provided had to be a separate physical disc rather than one side of a DualDisc, or it could be called a genuine compact disc. Also, Classic wanted to provide both a standard DVD on one side that would play on any video DVD player, plus a DVD-Audio disc on the other side of the second disc for those with a specialized DVD-A or universal player. In addition, since most of the Everests were recorded originally on three channels – as with the Mercuries and many of the RCA Living Stereos – Classic wanted to provide three channel playback for those set up to make use of it. Due to the specs of DVD-Audio the three channels are regarded as the frontal channels of a 5.0 or 5.1 surround setup and thus restricted to a top 96K sampling rate vs. the 192K which can be offered on the two-channel option. The HDADs default to the two-channel option if you don’t have the on-screen display hooked up, and there is no way to switch it without using the remote on the screen. The audio button on my Integra remote would not operate on the discs to change this. (An illustration of the album cover and the track title is listed during playback of each track, but you have to return to the main menu in order to switch from two to three-track.)
The Classic CD was a good match for the original Everest CD. Gayne opens with the famous Sabre Dance and as with most of Khachaturian’s works, is full of the colorful melodic, harmonic and rhythmic qualities that come from his Armenian folk culture background. Some of the 11 sections of the ballet suite may remind one of parts of his other ballet, Spartacus. Gayne’s Adagio will remind most listeners of something else too – Kubrick’s 2001 – since it was one of the existing classical recordings used on the soundtrack of the sci-fi classic. The three-channel 96K option was my reference, and it had a very wide and deep soundstage with excellent balance among the three channels (which not all of the Everest reissue seem to possess). I did hear a slight “wow” at the very beginning of Track 5, but otherwise the transfer was very good. There is not as much enhancement of the hi-res options over the standard CD since the CDs (both of them) are so excellent. There was even less difference of course between the 192K and the 96K DVD-A options. Since the flutes tend to sound a bit shrill on most of the Everest recordings, I actually preferred the 96K choice, and it came with the most noticeable enhancement – the center channel.
– John Sunier