SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

ORFF: Carmina Burana – Soloists/ St. Clement Danes Grammar School Boys Choir/London Sym. Orch. & Chorus/ André Previn (1974 EMI analog recording) Resonance Recording Hi-Q xrcd

Probably the best sound I’ve heard from an xrcd, but $50 for one CD?

Published on November 11, 2012

CARL ORFF: Carmina Burana – Soloists/ St. Clement Danes Grammar School Boys Choir/London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/ André Previn (1974 EMI analog recording) Resonance Recording Ltd. Hi-Q xrcd24 HIQXRCD8 [11/20/12]*****:

xrcds have had an interesting history. The product only of the JVC Mastering Center in Japan, they use highly advanced technology to master and press what are in the end standard 44.1K/16-bit CDs, including their patented K2 technology. Many have been a hearable improvement over the ordinary CD release and sometimes even over the standard vinyl release. But others don’t necessarily sound that enhanced.  It is interesting that all are pressed on the standard aluminum, yet they generally surpass the specialized gold CDs that some audiophile labels have been promoting for decades.

Previously I haven’t heard any that surpass the fidelity of 96K/24-bit DVD-Rs or SACDs. But most of the First Impression Music UltraHD series (which also play on any standard CD player) do equal the higher-res formats. With extraordinary care and I suppose a few tricks in equalizing and processing, both FIM and Resonance Recording have demonstrated that it is possible to get an amazing level of clarity and seemingly extended frequency response out of the standard limited 44.1K/16-bit format.

Both the dynamic and frequency response range of this Hi-Q disc will surprise you. But then when the various soloists come in, they are almost scarily situated spatially around the soundstage, and accompanied by a dead-silent background when that is prescribed in the music. The clarity of the voices is thrilling; it reminded me of playing one of the two pianos in our university performance of the Carmina Burana. Previn’s discing is widely praised as one of the very best recordings of the Carmina, and now you can hear a much closer version of what was heard in the studio in 1974 when the tapes were originally rolling. If you are happy with just two-channel, and don’t mind the cost of about $50 for this single disc, this is it.

However, I still lean toward the fine SACD surround version, made back in 2001 before Telarc was swallowed by Concord Records and forced to drop all future SACD releases. For me this is a work that benefits greatly from having the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus under Donald Runnicles not just on the stage but in the hall with you. Yes, the various solos lack the super-crisp clarity of the Hi-Q disc, but the general acoustic involvement for me makes up for that.  Of course surround aficionados could switch to Dolby ProLogic IIx and with the clarity of the two-channel source achieve an excellent pseudo-surround field.

—John Sunier




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