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.