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Holst, Gustav: The Planets. DTS music video. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yoel Levi. Originally recorded in 1997; DTS remastering ca. 1998.49+ minutes long. Telarc 80466.

Holst, Gustav: The Planets. DTS music video. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yoel Levi. Originally recorded in 1997; DTS remastering ca. 1998.49+ minutes long. Telarc 80466.

Note that this release is a compact disc that does not require the user to have a TV monitor to access a menu. However, you do need a CD player or DVD player with a digital output, and you also need a surround processor that is able to decode the DTS datastream. If you do not have such a player and processor combination and you attempt to play this release, all you will hear is a steady, loud random-noise signal.

When I reviewed the Telarc The Big Picture DTS compact-disc recording in Issue 71 (stock number 80437), I noted that the insert booklet that came with the presentation made no mention of the DTS technology used at all. The enclosed packaging was identical to what we get with standard two-channel compact discs, and the only way you could tell by looking that the disc was special was the DTS sticker on the jewel box and the labeling on the disc itself.

The accompanying booklet in this newer release is also a standard Telarc, two-channel compact-disc item. It has the usual long list of recording hardware employed during the production process, right down to the connectors used on the cables, but makes no mention of any DTS hardware or processing whatsoever. In addition, it notes that the release is in surround sound and is "compatible with all surround sound systems, and will play properly with total fidelity through a standard stereo system." However, let's be realistic here and note that while the original CD version of this disc may have been compatible, this DTS release is in no way whatsoever able to play on a standard stereo system.

Obviously, this recording was originally done with surround sound in mind, and although the DTS version goes the original matrixed CD one better, it is unfortunate that the enclosed literature does not reflect the improvement.

This is a fine sounding recording, in any case. It exhibits terrific dynamic contrasts, and it also has a wonderful soundstage and realistic imaging. The bass is impressive when impressive bass is required. However, it is also impressive when not required, and I can clearly hear the usual background rumble that seems to be a fixed characteristic with nearly any recordings made in Atlanta's Symphony Hall. (Those who do not have super subwoofers do not have to sweat this detail.)

Another interesting thing about the bass is that while the Eagles disc reviewed at the beginning of this column required that the DTS LFE be adjusted a full +10 dB above the zero reference level to sound as balanced as what I got with the compact-disc version, this one balanced much more effectively at the factory-default, zero setting. I have no idea why this disc balanced so nicely and why the Eagles disc required the boost that it did.

In addition, this disc also exhibited another similarity to The Big Picture disc: it has a center channel that is nearly non-existent. In spite of this supposedly being a 5.1-channel recording, the fact is that it and that other Telarc disc are basically 4.1-channel items. The center level is so low that it might as well not be in operation at all.

Now, while this is no big deal if the listener is seated at the sweet-spot location, it can mean a lot if they are sitting anywhere else. As with the other Telarc recording, I find it odd that the Telarc master tapes did not have a center-microphone feed that could have been adapted to work with three discrete channels across the front. (In the old days, three spaced omni microphones across the front were a Telarc technical trademark.) Indeed, because the CD version of this release was produced for surround-sound playback with a variety of decoding systems, it seems odd that they did not have a center-channel track on the original master tapes. Only the people involved with the production of this DTS version know for sure, but it seems strange indeed that they opted to forget about making use of a hard center.

In any case, this is still a fine sounding disc. The soundstaging, imaging, depth, and clarity are as good as you will get with any two-channel transcription, and the delivery of the hall ambiance to the surround speakers was spot on.

I could not help but compare this disc to the Delos-produced, 448 kbps, Dolby Digital version, featuring the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by Andrew Litton. (The actual title of this release is DVD Space Spectacular, and it also includes Also Sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss.) The Dallas release is also available in two-channel CD form, and I had a chance to compare the Telarc DTS release to that item also, with the two-channel item given straightforward treatment and also run through the Yamaha DSP-A1's signal-processor embellishments.

For the most part, the two 5-channel versions were equal. Neither had a distinct edge in any technical category, and I think that a typical enthusiast could pick either, simply based upon which performance or orchestra happened to be preferred. I will note that the Delos release did not exhibit the kind of background-noise hall rumble that the Telarc version did, but of course that has nothing to do with the digital technologies.

The interesting thing was the performance of the two-channel Delos CD version after I ran it through the "Classical/Opera." DSP mode available from my new Yamaha DSP-A1. With the center-channel level temporarily backed off -3dB below the standard reference level, I honestly do believe that the DSP manipulated CD was in many ways better sounding than either the DD and DTS versions. The Yamaha-processed CD's center had better focus (you could actually hear significant imaging-related signals coming from it), and the fact that the DSP mode made use of all four surround channels allowed the CD to easily match the hall-reverb simulation that the two discrete surround channels could deliver with DTS or DD processing. For me, this proves that a good DSP surround processor can convert an entire collection of two-channel compact discs into a new and more realistic sounding series of experiences. -- HF
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Ferstler, Howard
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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