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Journeyman on Hybrid SACD... now with added Snap, Crackle & Pop.
on 6 June 2014
The good news:
This remastered Journeyman SACD now has a balanced EQ. Gone is the boosted treble and the mix sounds more relaxed and open. It has an improved dynamic range and there's an increase in detail with individual instruments sounding clearer with better separation.
The bad news:
Oh dear. Tracks 1 to 3 are quite a mess and track 10 has some different problems of its own.
There are audible clicks, tics & crackles on the first 3 tracks. This noise occurs on both CD and SACD stream at identical points and is present on the 2 copies of this SACD I've received from Amazon. I've since revisited the original 1989 CD release and found these same tracks are clear and free from any suggestion that these new extraneous digital noises were already 'in the mix' somehow.
I must point out at this stage, tracks 4-9, 11-12 are absolutely perfect, free from any audible defect and sound utterly lovely.
Track 10 (Breaking Point) exhibits crackle & tics accompanying the lead guitar in the left channel. Again this is not present on the 1989 CD. Though more significantly, the left and right channels appear to be reversed.
I'm pretty surprised no mainstream review has highlighted this issue so far. I admit, it's not immediately obvious and you'd be forgiven for rattling through tracks 1 - 3 with the volume cranked up high, remembering just how brilliant Journeyman is, without even noticing. Though as soon as you hear the clicks and crackles through the guitar solos in Anything for Your Love & Bad Love, you may want to go back to the beginning and listen again. Then you'll discover the problem is endemic through the first 3 tracks.
So we've gone from a 1980s lovely, clean digital master mix to a 2014 digital remaster with some tracks sounding worse for the presence of extraneous digital noise. Quite staggering, surprising & very disappointing.
I've reached out to Audio Fidelity twice to highlight the issue and so far have had no response. So until Audio Fidelity acknowledges this issue and rectifies the problem, I cannot recommend this remastered disc over the original CD at all. This is not the definitive edition, it's the defective edition.
My advice... if you have the original CD, dig it out and dust it off. Push play, sit back, enjoy and feel smug that you've saved yourself quite a bit of money by not buying this SACD in its current condition. If this SACD is fixed and reissued, then I'll gladly revisit my review and rating. Until then, it's a 2/5.
I have extensively tested this disc on a variety of kit, both CD, SACD & on PC with different speakers and headphones - this issue consistently occurs in all scenarios.
The discs present no read errors.
I've also run the first 3 tracks from the CD layer through SpectraLayer Pro on the PC and can see the noise in between the beats. I can even isolate the problem and listen to an entire track of crackle. Bad Love is perhaps the worst affected.
Amazon - great as ever at dealing with both returns.