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Why am I humming "Dinosaur"?....
on 15 October 2009
The quality and significance of the music presented here is undeniable, and the desirability of hearing it in the best sound current technology has to offer is obvious.
The idea to present the original mix, as well as a new stereo mix of these albums in high resolution audio, and, at last, a surround sound mix as well in high resolution is wonderful.
King Crimson is to be commended for trying to do just that.
Trying? Yes, trying, but not achieving. The PCM based DVD-A failed dismally in competition with DSD based SACD, which has been the fundamental basis on which people such as I have collected high resolution music over the last eight years. The PCM based Blu-ray has been the successor to the failed DVD-A since 2006, and its success assured for nearly two years now, since the competing format's sponsors gracefully retired. The result was that I purchased the highest quality audio BR player I could find, and already have many more high resolution music Blu-ray discs than DVD-As. Blu-ray PCM can be higher quality than DVD-A, indeed it can reproduce digital master audio quality.
So what do I, as an experienced, enthusiastic supporter of high resolution sound get out of these King Crimson releases? Blu-ray players are back compatible neither with DVD-A or SACD, and all I hear from these King Crimson discs in surround is DTS (the same as from a DVD-V). That's worse than standard resolution CD. DTS has a distinctive sonic signature, which I would describe as over trebly, but without any true high frequency extension. It simply does not compare with true high resolution sound.
Even in the stereo mixes, I only get 24/48 PCM from the DVD-A, which is only pseudo-high resolution. The native DVD-A stereo tracks are true high resolution 24/96 PCM. Why this is so, I don't know, since DVD-V is capable of supporting full 24/96 PCM stereo.
It's not rocket science to know where the market is at. Neil Young offered his recent 10 disc "Archives Volume 1 1963-1972" (2009) on BD, mastered in 24/192 PCM stereo, and including video. His motto: "Because Sound Matters". And Genesis remastered their entire catalogue in 2007-8 on SACD/DVD-V pairs for each album. The SACD is for those equipped for high resolution sound (and for CD players; yes, in the car too!), and the DVD-V for those without, and for video.
The numbers tell the story: SA-CD.net lists 5563 of 6100 SACDs currently available from major vendors: Acoustic Sounds (an audiophile shop) has 3025 SACDs available with 104 in limited stock, but only 212 DVD-As available with 92 of these in limited stock!
And yet all DGM can say (admittedly this is from the "front desk"; my endeavours to get through to Mr Fripp or anyone directly involved have either failed or been ignored) is "I do not have the technical expertise to address your quality concerns about DVD A but I do know much thought was put into which format to use."!!
So for the moment, the intention of these high resolution King Crimson remasters is worth ten stars out of five, but the achievable sound for me, and so many others, including most high resolution veterans, warrants only two, until they are sensibly issued. That means either Blu-ray, which will make the full quality of these remasters available to all, or SACD, which is the current stronghold for those who prefer high resolution with the option of surround sound in music.