SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Rafael Fruhbeck De Burgos Conducts The National Orchestra of Spain – El Tambor de Granaderos, Cadriz, El Baile de Luis Alonso, Benamor, La Revolsta, Las Golondrinas, El Bateo, La Tempranica, Bohemio, La Venta de los Gatos – London/HDTT DVD-R & HQCD
Published on December 16, 2008
First, the music: Spanish-German conductor Fruhbeck De Burgos currently leads the Dresden Philharmonic and the RAI Symphony Orchestra in Turin, Italy. He has been associated with the Montreal, Vienna, Berlin Radio, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestras, as well as the National Orchestra of Spain. He is known for his colorful orchestration of Albeniz’ Suite Espanola, issued on another audiophile reissue, from F.I.M., which we have reviewed.
These snappy and exciting Spanish overtures and melodies – aside from Las Golondrinas mostly unfamiliar to our ears - were released on a London 4-track prerecorded commercial tape in the early 1960s. This was before Dolby B processing became widespread on tapes, yet the sonics are crystal clear without any annoying hiss. Previously it seemed to those of us with open reel collections that only 2-track tapes had enough level and resolution to overcome serious hiss. But Robert Witrak of HDDT employs the very finest and most expensive playback and digitizing gear plus all the audiophile tweaking possible, and is able to realize clean and transparent sonics from these 7 1/2ips tapes – which after all were usually duplicated in real time rather than at high speed – ensuring they were very close to the 15ips masters. He also uses the Weiss digital components for A-to-D processing, finding them the most accurate electronics available for digital conversion.
All the HDTT discs have been available in two formats – either CD-R or DVD-R. Our reviewer Gary Lemco has been reviewing the CD-R versions since his DVD deck lacks 96K/24bit playback to take advantage of the higher resolution possible with DVD. I’ve been covering the DVD-R versions, with their enhanced resolution signals further upscaled to 110K by my Benchmark D-A processor. The improvement in fidelity over standard 44.1K/16bit is quite audible.
Now HDTT has begun to offer a premium CD they call HQCD – for High Quality Compact Disc. Retailing at $35, they use Taiyo Yuden media discs which were specially engineered for the high end DVD burner Witrak uses in making these custom CDs. The special materials and dyes used in these blanks results in the best possible data transfer rates during the disc burning. The slowest 1X rate is used in the burner and each disc is custom-burned from the digital master.
Robert was good enough to furnish me both the DVD-R and HQCD versions of the Fruhbeck De Burgos album for comparison. There is no doubt that the DVD-Rs are greatly enhanced over the CD-R versions. Even if your DVD player downsamples to 48K, you will hear an improvement over the CD, just as the 48K sampling option with DAT tapes sounded superior to the 44.1K which commercial DAT tapes used. However, the 96K is a major step in clarity and dimensionality.
So imagine my surprise when the HQCD version sounded even cleaner and more transparent than the 96/24 DVD-R! The enhancement is subtle but definitely hearable. It demonstrates that perhaps the actual resolution of the final format is less important than the tweaking that can be done in processing the original recording – whether analog or digital – for transfer to optical disc. I didn’t have the standard CD-R version of this disc for comparison, but the DVD-R had a slight edge fuzziness to the brass in the orchestra, which was erased by the HQCD version. There was a blacker silence between the notes as well. The result was similar to the recent K2 HD CDs from F.I.M., almost scary two-channel fidelity! One would never suspect that the source for this recording was a commercial quarter-track tape. If you don’t have a quality DVD player that outputs 96K, by all means go the additional cost for the HQCD versions!
- John Sunier