02005-03-25 | Uncategorized | 8 comments

Bought Un Segundo Una Vida by Romero. It is a SACD Hybrid, which means it has two layers, one for your regular stereo CD player, and another single-bit surround-sound layer for SACD enabled CD/DVD players. You can find more info on SACD here.

I picked this CD, because DigiDesign had a feature article about this project on their web site and it was up for a new Surround Sound Award. It is my first SACD, but I have about a dozen DTS Surround discs, my favorite being Gaucho by Steely Dan.

I listened on a B&W THX Surround Sound speaker system, using 3 of these, 2 of these and 2 of these speakers, powered by Parasound THX Amplifiers. It is a 5.2 speaker configuration, that is Left Front, Center, Right Front, Right Side, Left Side, Left Subwoofer and Right Subwoofer. Everything was flat, no EQ, all speakers set to neutral output.

Nice guitar playing, but overall I did not like it very much. That is, I liked the sense of space, but not the overall sound… but that could be the mix, I thought, and switched to another room with a Parasound CD Player and Stereo Amp, connected to the Gallo Reference Speakers. Here it was clear that the producer has a mixing style I do not like. Too much bass taking up too much space. Too much low-end everywhere. I prefer to EQ all my reverb returns – a simple roll-off of all frequencies below 150, because I find that it clears up the imaginary room and lets the music breath better. If you use a lot of bass and then leave all that low end in the reverb’s reflections – wow, it gets too rich very fast. And that’s the impression I got from this recording. Too rich, too much.

I will call a high-end audio dealer here in town to hear the CD again on another system, since my surround sound system is almost a decade old and my DVD/SACD player was not very expensive.

I am intrigued by the possibilities, but really there has not been a lot of great product available. People are still finding their legs with it. But since it looks to have a lot of potential, I am going to look into how much a SACD Hybrid costs to manufacture. It is a possibility for up close or Tears in the Rain, but I am still wondering how many people will bother getting a decent surround sound system. Now, if they developed great surround sound headphones for a decent price it would be another story.

PS: I thought about this some more:

1. It seems to me that the microphone and its placement, and the microphone pre-amp are much more important that the bit rate or sampling rate of the recording. La Semana sounds better than most guitar recordings that were done at higher bit and sampling rates.
2. There has to be a trade-off for either investing in surround sound equipment or renting a surround-sound equipped studio for mixing my next album. I don’t see it. Even though I think it is fun to sit in the sweet spot of a nice system and to spend an hour really listening to music, I don’t think that is what most of us do most of the time. I spend more time listening to a simple stereo system playing music in the background – or on my iPod, with earphones. I am sure that there is a certain novelty effect and that some publicity might be gained from releasing a good SACD, but at this point at don’t see that it is worth it – although I will continue researching it.
3. I think the medium to mix for right now is not surround sound, but headphones! And that is exactly what I am doing with the new Holiday album. I find myself using my Stax Ear Speakers a lot when I am making rough mixes.

This is not going to be you regular Christmas CD. It will sound great with headphones and on your regular stereo and you will want to play it long after the Holidays are over.


  1. Matt Callahan

    I guess I just have simple taste. I’ve never been driven to set up a surround system. I use a CD player thats over 15 years old on my main system and have a portable player hooked up to Altec Lansing computer speakers for my bedroom outfit. My TV doesn’t even have a receiver connected to it any longer. When you consider how good La Semana sounds on even the least expensive player, I can’t imagine going to extra trouble recording the new CD’s.

  2. Borya

    This post has been removed by the author.

  3. Borya

    There’s much going on and how should a normal person keep up with the development just for financial reasons?
    What I use is similar to what Matt describes. My CD player is 10 years old and I have a subwoofer system. It’s standing in a larger room and “La Semana” sounds very nice and clear on it.

  4. Matt Callahan

    I’m all over the headphone idea. I think headphones are the best way for me to really enjoy music. I get up at 4 am everyday, Saturday and Sunday. I slip on a pair of headphones and listen without disturbing anyone.

  5. Carol

    I have a surround system as well as i-pod but I’m alone so I don’t feel like I’m being selfish to have it set for my favorite chair:)
    I have to smile about your saying this Christmas Cd will be one we’ll play all year round. I do that with all the others you’ve done. Can you imagine going a whole year without hearing “Michelle’s song” and oh…all the rest?

  6. Curt

    This post has been removed by the author.

  7. Curt

    I wouldn’t be surprised if mixing for headphones became the “norm” in the near future what with more and more people on the go while they listen to their tunes…

    Good move, Ottmar. I don’t think I’ve EVER anticipated an album more than I do your next one!


  8. Carlos Madrigal

    I’d prefer binaural recordings over SACD. I really enjoy the Up Close: The Fritz Files album and am wondered that I have true surround sound within my iPod and earphones… I’d like more OL music though ;-)



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