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Noam Eitan (Brooklyn, NY)

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Manon Lescaut: Royal Opera House (Pappano) [Blu-ray] [2015]
Manon Lescaut: Royal Opera House (Pappano) [Blu-ray] [2015]
Dvd ~ Jonathan Kent
Price: £17.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The usual ROH Problem with orchestra/singers balance, 17 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These comments are not a review of this release, but relate only to the sound on the stereo LPCM audio format only.

In Puccini you expect visceral satisfaction from the singing, which is excellent here. However, when I turn the volume loud enough to get my dose of visceral satisfaction from the voices, particularly Der Jonas, the orchestra blasts way too much. This is a common problem with blu-rays from the ROH. I understand this is a natural representation of the house acoustic, and Der Jonas' voice (gorgeous though it is) does not have much ping (squillo). However, if he can ride over the orchestra easily in blu-rays from the huge MET, then the sound engineers or the set designers should be able to find a solution for the ROH.

One comment about the singing - am I the only one who hears that Der Jonas sounds here at the upper limit of what is advisable vocally? He barely makes it through "Guardate, Pazzo Io Son" and sounds over-parted in that piece (frankly, he shouts it).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2016 6:53 PM GMT


Verdi:Macbeth [Giuseppe Sabbatini, Various] [DYNAMIC: BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Verdi:Macbeth [Giuseppe Sabbatini, Various] [DYNAMIC: BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Dvd ~ Dario Argento
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sound Engineers Rino Trasi & Giuseppe Famularo: The Death of Body Mics?, 11 Oct. 2015
These comments are not a review of this release, which I enjoyed, but relate only to the sound. This is one of the first blu-rays from Italy in years that does not use body mics, and the first to forgo them successfully. If you listen with a sound-bar or such it doesn't matter. But if you have gear that can reproduce the sound with good imaging, you will notice the improvement - the singers sound better. Many blu-rays using body mics have all the voices come from the same spot somewhere in the center, practically overlapping. The voices do not have any sense of emanating from any space, and they are often deprived of bloom and ambiance. Not so here - at last. I hope it's a sign sound engineers have finally relearned the basics. Dynamic's sound engineer Rino Trasi is joined here by sound engineer Giuseppe Famularo. They are both responsible for past auditory monstrosities, like Dynamic's Teatro Regio Torino Adriana Lecouvreur which has the dead sound characteristics described above. I suspect it was budgetary issues that made them relinquish body mics this time, rather than their ears, but I want to hope there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.


Otello - Margaret Price / Giuseppe Giacomini (2CD)
Otello - Margaret Price / Giuseppe Giacomini (2CD)
Price: £16.49

5.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind, 4 Oct. 2015
I agree with almost every word of the other 2 reviewers who recommend this set. Giacomini has an unusual voice, to say the least. It is not only baritonal but is also extremely covered almost to the point that it sounds bottled up and has little overtones - it never opens up or blooms. It's not a s-xy voice but it has reserves of power and it is a rare genuine Otello voice. All the others are excellent. I like the conductor and the recording sounds stunning on my speakers - lots of detail, ambiance, color, depth and power. A mesmerizing experience.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2015 8:41 PM BST


Aida
Aida
Price: £20.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Get this Opera Fanatic transfer or the Naxos?, 7 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Aida (Audio CD)
This recording has been issued on multiple labels. The Naxos is widely available now. The Naxos sound restoration was done by the highly esteemed Ward Marston. As soon As I played the Naxos release I was bothered by the high dynamic range between the singers' voices and the orchestra. When I try to set the volume in Celeste Aida to levels that will enable me to hear Gigli loud and clear, the trumpets sound too loud for comfort. It is almost heresy to question Marston's judgement, but I'm sorry, I could never listen to the Naxos release.

So I got this Stefan Zucker's transfer on Opera Fanatic in the hope that it has a more convenient dynamic range. Indeed it does. On Marston's Naxos restoration the "Ce" in the tenor's "Celeste Aida" is at -26.5 dB; the first trumpet blast is at -1.3 dB. On Zucker's transfer it is -19.9 dB and -4.6 dB respectively. So Zucker's transfer has indeed a smaller dynamic range.

The question is whether Zucker applied dynamic compression or whether Marston applied the opposite, dynamic decompression (i.e., increased the dynamic range to make it sound more natural). An old (used) 78 has a dynamic range of about 30 dB and Marston exceeds that. That may be due to the fact that his transfer is much quieter, and at any rate why should a dynamic range of about 40 dB be a problem when modern recordings easily exceed that? Because modern recordings have much more detail and clarity. So if this recording was made today, the dynamic range between the singers and orchestra could be even larger than on the Marston but I would still be able to hear the singers clearly.

The Zucker transfer is on burnt CD-R's, not pressed CD's like the Naxos. Marston lists the Matrices he used, Zucker doesn't (so Zucker could have just copied someone else's transfer). The Zucker sounds like a 78, warts and all, with some surface noise, clicks and crackles, and a tiny bit of echoey distortion in the background. It sounds as if it was transferred at a higher level - The RMS level of the Celeste Aida track on the Zucker is -20.989 dB - on the Marston it is -24.055; but it's an illusion - the Zucker sounds louder because it has a smaller dynamic range; the loudest parts are louder on the Marston as described above. The Marston is engineered to sound closer to a modern recording. The Zucker sounds like it wasn't engineered at all, just transferred.

The bottom line is that on my large speakers I can't listen to the Marston but enjoyed the more crudely transferred Zucker. YMMV depending on your setup.


Shostakovich:Complete Symphonies & Concertos [Valery Gergiev, Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre] [ARTHAUS : BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Shostakovich:Complete Symphonies & Concertos [Valery Gergiev, Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre] [ARTHAUS : BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Dvd ~ Shostakovich
Price: £132.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shostakovich castrated - the dynamic range of the louder works is squeezed., 17 May 2015
This could have been the best release of concerts on video ever. The performances and camera work are first rate, and the timbral palette is rich and often spectacular. But, alas, anyone who listens to Shostakovich knows that in many of the symphonies the dynamic range is huge. The quiet parts can be very quiet and the loud ones are very loud. This has been compressed here so the quiet parts are not so quiet and the neighbors would not complain about the climaxes. (The 14th and the concertos are spared.) As a result the louder symphonies don't feel like Shostakovich.

The sound engineers' job is to ruin the sound and they did a good job here. Like most sound engineers they probably listen more to rock or metal than to classical music, and are hearing impaired. Would they care to apply the same audio-massacre to other staples of the repertoire in need of taming? Mahler? Richard Strauss? Wagner? The neighbors need to sleep.

I would still recommend this release because the camera work is so gorgeous that you can really see how these works are performed - you can't get this visual experience from any seat in a concert hall. I've never seen better video on any concert on blu-ray.

Update July 19, 2015: replaying these blu-rays has left me even more dismayed at the disaster inflicted by the sound engineers. What is the role of dynamics (degrees of loudness) in musical expression? Whatever it is, it is more important in Haydn than in Bach, more so in Beethoven, much more so in Mahler, and then there is Shostakovitch. I can’t think of another composer where dynamic extremes and contrasts play a greater role in musical expression. The dynamic compression employed by the sound engineers doesn’t rob the listener only of the satisfaction of explosive climaxes - it also kills the quiet passages, since they are boosted (made louder). Take the 6th, for example. Normally it starts loud enough, then the second half of the 1st movement should become hushed. The middle movement is an ironic scherzo and the Presto finale is pure low comedy. Its second half should be muffled - Shostakovitch says something here; that under Soviet censorship no one is allowed to express grief? Whatever it is, the dynamic extremes are an especially important ingredient in the composer’s arsenal of musical devices of expression, and is part of this work’s passionate language, that spans from the tragic to the comic. The compression employed by the sound engineers (not to mention other bizarre choices and odd instrument balances - why can't I hear the piano clearly in the 7th?) completely distorts this work, as nothing is ever hushed. You can reconstruct Gergiev’s insights into this work from what the engineers give us, but it remains a disaster - this just isn’t Shostakovitch's 6th. It’s clear these engineers are completely deaf to this musical landscape and most likely to classical music in general.
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"Dynamic compression is like s-x, absolutely necessary for reproduction, pleasurable between consenting adults, and can get you in serious trouble when used inappropriately" —Grammy winning engineer
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2015 7:04 PM BST


Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tale Of Tsar Saltan [I.Petrov, E. Smolenskaya, L. Nikitina, E. Shumilova] [Melodia: MELCD 1002199]
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tale Of Tsar Saltan [I.Petrov, E. Smolenskaya, L. Nikitina, E. Shumilova] [Melodia: MELCD 1002199]
Price: £17.91

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars get the Aquarius-Classic release instead, 29 Mar. 2015
I just finished comparing this new Melodiya to the Aquarius-Classic release (Aquarius-Classic is a tiny Russian label). I have this recording on Monopole, Le Chant du Monde, this Melodiya and Aquarius-Classic. The Monopole is terrible - shrill, metallic. The Chant du Monde is bad - it is transferred too loud and has clipping in climaxes. The Melodiya is OK but the Aquarius-Classic is far superior to the Melodiya: it has a more pleasant, warmer timbre; it has far more depth and perspective, a stronger bass response and a far smoother treble; the voices have far more presence and impact - they leap at you and they just sound better; the chorus has more impact and the male chorus sounds more virile in a very Russian way: night and day.


Janacek: The Makropulos Case [Blu-ray] [2014]
Janacek: The Makropulos Case [Blu-ray] [2014]
Offered by zoreno-uk
Price: £9.10

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars defective - mono sound, 18 May 2014
The original DVD version was in stereo but this is in mono. This is a manufacturing problem by Kultur/Warner (they are identical). I had the exact same problem with their blu-ray issues of the 1995 Don Carlos and The new 1997 Vick Manon Lescaut Blu-ray from Glyndebourne - mono sound. I gave it one star to draw attention to Kultur's abysmal standards. Beware of any future Kultur/Warner re-releases in blu-ray.


Makropulos Case [Blu-ray] [Region A & B & C] [US Import]
Makropulos Case [Blu-ray] [Region A & B & C] [US Import]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £25.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars defective - mono sound, 18 May 2014
The original DVD version was in stereo but this is in mono. This is a manufacturing problem by Kultur/Warner (they are identical). I had the exact same problem with their blu-ray issues of the 1995 Don Carlos and The new 1997 Vick Manon Lescaut Blu-ray from Glyndebourne - mono sound. I gave it one star to draw attention to Kultur's abysmal standards. Beware of any future Kultur/Warner re-releases in blu-ray.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2015 12:15 PM BST


Manon Lescaut: Puccini [Blu-ray] [Region A & B & C] [US Import]
Manon Lescaut: Puccini [Blu-ray] [Region A & B & C] [US Import]
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £24.08

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars defective - mono sound, 18 May 2014
The original DVD version was in stereo but this is in mono. This is a manufacturing problem by Kultur/Warner (they are identical). I had the exact same problem with their blue-ray issues of Don Carlos and The Makropulos Case - mono sound.


Puccini: Manon Lescaut [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free] [NTSC]
Puccini: Manon Lescaut [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ John Eliot Gardiner
Price: £6.79

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars defective - mono sound, 18 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The original DVD version was in stereo but this is in mono. This is a manufacturing problem by Kultur/Warner (they are identical). I had the exact same problem with their blue-ray issues of Don Carlos and The Makropulos Case - mono sound.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2014 11:04 AM BST


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