SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

JAN GUNNAR HOFF, solo piano – Living -2L (audiophile vinyl)
OLA GJEILO, solo piano – Piano Improvisations – 2L (audiophile vinyl)

Audiophile vinyl versions from two of 2L’s recent Pure Audio Blu-ray piano albums.

Published on July 15, 2013

JAN GUNNAR HOFF, solo piano – Living [TrackList follows] – 2L 180g metal master audiophile vinyl 33⅓ 2L092-LP *****: 

OLA GJEILO, solo piano – Piano Improvisations [TrackList follows] – 2L 180g metal master audiophile vinyl 33⅓ 2L082-LP *****: 

2L’s Morten Lindberg covers all the bases with his super-hi-res recordings. First he released these two solo piano efforts in packages that included both audio-only (“Purist Audio”) Blu-rays plus multichannel SACDs of exactly the same tracks. Now he has selected ten tracks from the first album and a dozen from the second (due to the per-side time limits of LPs) to release on direct metal mastered audiophile vinyl. He used the DXD stereo master, provided as the 2-channel option on the Blu-rays, for the source.  It is a 352.8K/24-bit file and was converted directly to analog to feed the vinyl cutting lathe, with no lossless compression as with the DTS-HD tracks on the Blu-rays. Both sessions were recorded in the Softenberg Church in Oslo, not in a studio.

I won’t repeat very much about the two albums since I reviewed the first Blu-ray here, and the second one here. (Tracks are also included on the second vinyl from an earlier SACD-only disc by Gjeilo which I reviewed here.)  Hoff is an arranger and composer in addition to being a jazz pianist, but for this album he wanted to perform his distinctive musical style solo on a grand piano. Although the LP opens and ends with the same works as the Blu-ray, in between there are number of shifts of tracks, as well as the omission of some.

Ola Gjeilo (pronounced YAY-low) studied at Juilliard and is currently based in the U.S. The first three tracks on his LP are fantasies around three of his own choral compositions, which have been recorded in their entirety on the album Northern Lights on Chandos. Notice that none of the tracks have titles in Norwegian. The album also has a few tracks where he recorded overlays, adding a second and even a third piano.  Of course the surround effect of these tracks is mostly lost on the stereo LP, but you can discern the addition of more piano voices. In general I liked the tracks by Hoff better than those by Gjeilo. There seemed to be more variety and a stronger rhythmic pulse in many, though by no means would anyone call either of these albums mainstream jazz.

In comparison with the PCM stereo tracks on the Blu-ray versions, I must say I was surprised to find the two more identical than any such A/B comparison I have done in the past. If pushed to find a subtle difference I might say that there was a very slight increased warmth about the vinyl version, but the enhancement was so subtle that most listener wouldn’t notice it. Perhaps with a super-high-end turntable system instead of the mid-high-end one I have the vinyl version would pull ahead, but then with a yet more high-end Blu-ray deck than my Oppo, the Blu-ray version might perhaps pull slightly ahead instead.  There was absolutely no surface noise to reveal the vinyl playback. Some adjustment of levels was required, since my Grado moving magnet cartridge has rather high output and the turntable level comes in higher than the Blu-ray audio level, altho in most vinyl/SACD comparisons the levels are nearly identical.

TrackList – Hoff:  Living, Coming My Way, Brytning, Valse de Decembre, Fly North, Mountain High, Sommernat, Feberdigte, A eg veit meg eit land, Sacrifice

TrackList – Gjeilo:  Ubi Caritas, Heribel, Dark Blue, Santa Monica, The Great Plains, Tota Pulchra Es, Madison, Snow in New York, North Country II, The Hudson, The Line, January.

—John Sunier




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