I made an investment in music and musicians today. A reader alerted me to the first audiophile release from PS Audio’s collaborative recording project with Steven Vidaic of Immersive Records and Gus Skinas of Boulder’s Super Audio Center. I remember talking with Paul McGowan during my visit to Boulder over a year ago about this project. It’s a collection of 10 tunes in a variety of musical styles and titled “ONE”. The artists are a mix of new talent and a few further along in their careers. I paid my $35 for the digital download version of the album and have been enjoying the music through my system at 176.4 kHz/24-bit PCM. There is some really nice music on this album.

And I applaud Paul, Steven, and Gus for pulling together a project that focuses on providing a financial payback to the people that actually conceive and perform the music. The physical album is priced at $45, which is pretty pricey by my standards. AIX Records sells Blu-ray albums with three high-resolution mixes (source recordings at 96 kHz/24-bits), HD-Video, and a whole bunch of bonus features for $35 AND provide customers with the digital files free of charge — so perhaps the value proposition isn’t as good as it might be. But I wanted to support the effort and the musicians.

The tunes range from instrumental acoustic to solo piano to jazz and even an experimental piece for “prepared guitar”. Like the AIX Records catalog, the artists and repertoire on ONE are not mainstream names. Think of this disc as an attempt to group some audiophile recordings into a nice demo compilation and you’ll understand the concept.

All but two of selections were recorded at Immersive Studios in Boulder and mastered by Gus at the Super Audio Center. Fiona Joy’s track “Ceremony” was recorded on analog tape by Cookie Marenco and Ron Miles’ track “Darken My Door” was recorded at Wind Over the Earth, which is also in Boulder.

I like to read technical notes about recordings but the booklet doesn’t supply much more than the basics. No mention of microphone types, signal path, or post processing (compressors or artificial reverberation), or monitoring specifications are included. It is clear that Immersive has a multichannel Sonoma DSD recording system, which operates at DSD 64. The engineering credits are also not uniformly mentioned.

This album is promoted as an audiophile quality project but it seems more like a collection of some of the best projects produced at Immersive over the past 6-7 years grouped together. Gus Skinas, one of the oldest and biggest supporters of Sony’s DSD initiative, mastered them and PS Audio is making them available at 176.4 khZ/24-bit PCM and DSD files and as a hybrid SACD (with CD layer).

Here’s how the PS Audio site describes their long awaited project:

“Finally, after nearly a year in the works, the limited edition PS Audio Sonoma Master Series release is shipping. A project to help musicians and further the state of the art in musical reproduction, this collection of pure DSD recorded music is nothing short of stunning, both musically and sonically. Hand mastered and curated by Gus Skinas, each of the 10 tracks is a sonic masterpiece you have to have in your collection. This two-disc set includes a dual-layer SACD with pure DSD as well as a uniquely mastered CD layer, playable in any CD transport (more on this in the further description), and a DVD data disc with high resolution 176 kHz 24 PCM as well as DSD. Also included is a beautiful 20 page color booklet. A true collector’s item. Get one in your hands before they’re gone. Ships worldwide.”

The reader that alerted me to this collection asked what I thought of the sound of the project. The music wasn’t really to his taste but he wrote and asked what I thought of the fidelity. Are these hand-mastered tracks “nothing short of stunning”? Do they qualify as high-resolution music? What about the 176.4 kHz 24-bit PCM versions? Do the tunes benefit from having that very high sample rate?

As you might have guessed, I’ve analyzed each track. I listened to the music, looked at the spectra, calculated the dynamic range or each tune, and compared the productions with respect to consistency, reverb levels, use of compressors, etc. I’ll provide my assessment over the next couple of posts.

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