I don’t listen to enough music. I used to. But these days, life has become so busy that it’s actually difficult for me to find the time to do some quality listening. Sure, I listen to the radio in my car (a 2005 Acura TL with the ELS DVD-Audio surround sound system factory installed) on my way to the university and back but it’s rare for me to sit in the studio or at home for an extended listening session. But I did this morning. And it was wonderful.
In preparation for the “High-Resolution Audio Demystified” event on April 4, 2015 here at the AIX Studios (Click here for more information…I have only a couple of slots still available. Thanks for the support!), I decided to go through the High-Resolution Surround Music demonstration discs that I’ve collected over the years. I have most of them as well as a reasonable number of the DVD-Audio releases from around 10 years ago. Some of these discs have become collectors items and sell for premium prices on eBay…and I understand why after listening to a bunch of tracks this morning.
When I purchased my 2005 Acura TL, it came with a DVD-Audio sampler disc called the “ELS DVD-Audio Demonstration Disc”. I still have a copy. And AIX Records contributed a track from Zephyr: Voices Unbound to the collection. It sounds great in through the car system but the music reaches new heights when played in a proper surround music playback system…like my studio.
The folks at Warner Special Products assembled some really great tracks for this demonstration disc. And they put the very best track at the front of the disc. “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” is also the first track on Donald Fagen’s 1982 solo album “Nightfly” and a very familiar tune to fans of Steely Dan (Fagen and Becker split ways in 1981). The 5.1 surround mixed by Elliot Scheiner (a prime mover in the ELS Acura system…ELS are his initials) is fabulous. Listening to the stereo version and then switching to the surround mix is a very dramatic way to show surround music doubters that 5.1 music rocks. There’s just no comparison. Everything is so easy to hear and place. The counterpoint of all of the parts and vocals is laid out aggressively through all of the speakers and simply envelopes you.
The next track was “Ventura Highway” by one of my favorite groups America. The very memorable opening guitar motive is split between the left and right surrounds while the main rhythm part and vocals occupy the center and front of the speaker array. Like the Fagen track this tune is also very familiar and makes a profound impression when presented in full 5.1 surround…at least for a guy that was pounding out pizza dough at the Ann Street Dominos pizza shop in 1971 when I first heard the band’s first hit “A Horse With No Name”).
My listening session included all of the other tracks on the Acura DVD-Audio demo disc. My favorites include “Long Train Runnin'” by the Doobie Brothers, “Your Precious Love” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (mixed by my friend Robert Margouleff), and “When I’m Gone” by 3 Doors Down.
I also listened to a JVC DVD-Audio demonstration disc that includes: “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young, “Lucky Man” by ELP, the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (which strangely lacks any sound in the LFE channel), “Love Her Madly” by the Doors and a great pop tune and 5.1 surround mix called “Breathless” by the Corrs.
My plan is to pull a number of these tracks from the discs, play a bunch of them and talk about the fidelity and mixes for the HRA Demystified event. Of course, I’ll be playing a bunch of my own tracks including some tracks from the album that shall not be mentioned.
This is what it is all about.