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Reissue roundup: to SACD or not.

My apologies to you for my regular column's absence these past few issues, but I do have an excuse which, in the course of this installment, and in my staff picks for this year, will become all the more valid to you. I have been very busy in this absence; the reasons will prove a value for those who have been considering one of the new hi-rez digital formats. Explaining the absence begins with a reminder that in my picks for 2000, I had made mention of four letters, two of them all too familiar to the audio enthusiast which are now preceded by the letters, S and A. That's right, when you put SA in front of CD (SA stands for Super Audio, Sony's nomenclature for its new Direct Stream Digital process), you get one of the latest buzzwords in high resolution digital audio. Super Audio CD has been around for a bit more than two years now, but I was taken by surprise when last year one reader e-mailed me to ask what it is, and where he could hear it. For those of you who have not yet seen or heard an SACD, please note that these special discs that look exactly regular CDs require an SACD player.

I had been given the opportunity to audition Sony's flagship SACD player, the SCD-1, for more than a week almost two years ago, and was immediately taken by its sense of ease and musical rightness, no matter what kind of music it played. But, at $5,000, I thought it was a bit expensive for me, and waited for lower priced players to be introduced. There are now more than a dozen models to choose from for as little as $300 or as much as $16,000, and this includes several multi-channel models.

I was prompted by an e-mail from one of our subscribers to go ahead and take the SACD plunge as he had, and I must say that this decision has been one of the best I've made in recent years, so, thanks, KBA, for helping to make this happen. These past several months have been spent listening to a number of the great titles from the past that have appeared in this new format, and investigating some new artists that might have escaped my notice otherwise. Great sound forever is no longer just a marketing slogan, but a reality, despite the naysayers who claim this to be just another gimmick. Five months' exposure to SACD makes this quite obvious to me.

There are several record companies now actively remastering their recordings in the SACD format, and more are signing on every month; the largest of these is Universal, which owns such labels as Decca, DGG and MCA. Of course, Sony being the creator of the format, it is no surprise that the company has the largest number of reissues available -- about 400 to date. Unlike the other labels who are offering SACD reissues (among them are Telarc, Vanguard, Audioquest and Virgin), Sony's current releases are single layer SACD-only discs, while the others offer hybrid, dual layered recordings that you can play in any CD player. Whatever your musical tastes are, you are sure to find something to your liking: Classical, Jazz, Blues, Pop/Rock and New Age are among the musical styles that are available now; more will be available anon. For my staff picks article appearing elsewhere in this issue I have selected a total of seven releases from the Classical, Jazz and Pop/Categories that I think are the cream of the crop, and fully deserving of your attention. And, as this is a special time of year for all of us at T$S, I can take the opportunity to mention a few items there that are not reissues.

Of course, not all of the SACD recordings I've bought have met with my standards or expectations. It is impossible to make a poor recording sound good, so a few of the very old recordings I've sampled just can't sound good no matter what recording medium is used. Here I'll briefly discuss those hits that were just a notch below the seven that made it into the staff picks, and I'll pass along my caveats on the ones that I'd just as soon have left in the bins.

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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sony Super Audio CD
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:The Best of ... So Far. (Carousel Corner).
Next Article:The Hits. (Reissue roundup: to SACD or not).

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