This Is K2 HD Sound! – Sampler with various artists – First Impression Music

by | Oct 18, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

This Is K2 HD Sound! – Sampler with various artists – First Impression Music K2HD xrcd 078, 76:09 *****:

The Digital Compact Disc, introduced in 1982 by Philips and Sony, was promoted as Perfect Sound Forever.  Audiophiles soon realized it wasn’t. Piano music was the most impressive, due to the solid clocking which prevented any flutter and wow which afflicted vinyl reproduction.  But big climaxes in orchestral works became opaque and constricted, and the higher frequencies of strings were often filling-shaking. CDs have improved greatly in the last several years, plus there have been higher-res alternatives introduced – though those require special players and decoding. JVC’s xrcd technology seeks to squeeze the ultimate resolution into the standard 44.1K/16-bit compact disc format.  Improvements in the mastering process have achieved exceptional quality with various versions of xrcd technology, the latest of which has been xrcd24.

Victor Entertainment, a division of JVC, has now come up with a further enhancement – K2 HD. The harmonic structure and emotional communication of the original masters, whether analog tape or digital, is now preserved to a greater degree than ever dreamed, even when funneled down to the standard 44.1K/16-bit CD format. FIM’s Winston Ma was so captivated by the enhancements that he has scheduled a new series of reissues of his previous recordings using the new K2 HD process – which is not considered part of the xrcd family. He attributes the improvements to the area of feelings and emotion, which were somehow reduced in previous processes.

The 16 selections chosen by Ma for this introductory sampler are clearly exceptional audio demo tracks, and even more interesting and exciting than some of the selections he has made for previous FIM samplers. I couldn’t find my original Reference Recordings HDCD for the excerpt from Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances which is the initial track, but I did find the War Dance from Respighi’s Queen of Sheba Suite (Reference Recordings RR-95CD wth Dance of the Gnomes and The Pines of Rome).  Some of the subtle differences between the two are probably due to my not having an HDCD decoder on my best CD deck, but actually this is such a smashing audiophile demo that I heard little difference between the two.  Perhaps a bit more clarity and less “fuzz” on the K2 HD disc. The Tchaikovsky track from the original Decca LP of the Swan Lake score has the rich analog soundstage obtained back in 1959 in London’s Kingsway Hall with the Decca Tree mike system. One would never guess you are listening to a digital source. Bruce Stark’s sax is right in your lap in the track from his Tale of Foreign Lands CD, and the doublebass in the Hot Club of San Francisco comes thru with gusto in the Stardust track from another Reference Recordings album. 

The Tokyo jazz label Three Blind Mice has released many audiophile jazz masterpieces, but I doubt if the track selected from pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto’s album Autumn in Seattle could sound appreciably better on the most expensive analog turntable system.  Ever heard Amazing Grace on the Chinese erhu?  Well, you will here. The closing track of the Pachelbel Canon as done by Harold Farberman’s percussion ensemble made it sound actually enjoyable, which that overplayed work has never sounded to me before.

While retailing at even a slightly higher price than most xrcds, the new K2 HD series should deliver even more pleasure than the previous iterations. The clarity and transparency of the tracks is truly impressive.  I’m looking forward with great excitement to hearing the re-dos of: El Amor Brujo (from Decca), Swan Lake (from Decca), Cantate Domino (from Proprius), Antiphone Blues (Proprius), Jazz at the Pawnshop (Proprius), and John Neptune’s Bamboo. Notice that this one is aluminum – not gold. The JVC engineers tested various materials for the final pressings and found out early on that the standard aluminum sounded better than gold. (I never did grok that gold CD business, and notice Mo-Fi is still doing them. Have you ever held up a gold CD to the light?)

Rachmaninoff: Sym. Dance No. 1, excerpt
Pepe Romero / Zapateado, excerpts
Jian Jianhua / Left Alone
Respighi: Queen of Sheba Suite: War Dance
Christopher Hardy / Touch
Lift Your Veil / A Rose for Me
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Duo
Nah Youn Sun / Heart of Glass
Bruce Stark / Blue Dream
Star Dust – Hot Club of SF
Vivaldi / Four Seasons: Spring
Wei Li / Amazing Grace
Esther / Kinderpiele
Habanera Fantasia from Carmen
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto / Autumn in Seattle
Pachelbel / Canon in D

 – John Sunier

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