Chesky To Release MQA CDs in May
"The decision to issue these titles as MQA CDs was decided quickly, just 10 days ago, as we were exploring the possibility of working with MQA in our studio," David Chesky explained by phone. "After speaking to Bob Stuart of MQA, we realized we could easily apply MQA to CD. Alan Silverman, whose ARF Mastering is right next door, did the MQA encoding, and both Bob and Spencer Chrislu of MQA double-checked the results."
Once Chesky heard MQA, he was easily convinced of the benefits of MQA CDs. "You get a hi-rez file in the same package as the CD," he said. "It's like listening to the master file on CD. If all goes well, we'll do all our future issues like this."
Chesky also hinted that MQA downloads are in the offing from HDTracks "as soon as the store is ready."
As for the choice of what to issue first, it seems to have been a no-brainer. Thurman, he says, "sounds amazing, like a young Sarah Vaughan, and she plays sax as well." John Atkinson, who was present at one of the concerts where the album was recorded, enthusiastically agrees. "It was an extraordinary experience to hear this young woman channeling Coltrane," he reports.
As for Pidgeon's classic, most audiophiles have already heard it in multiple formats, which will make comparison with the MQA issue easy.
"We needed to press a new batch of The Raven, so issuing it in MQA makes perfect sense," he said. "Now people can play it alongside the other versions and see what they like. The title is also available for download in 176.4/24, which makes for a great comparison."
Chesky feels that MQA sounds a little more analog, relaxed, and organic sounding than other digital issues. When asked to say more about his personal impressions of the format, he opted for language clearly his own.
"Listen, what is real and what is not real? You sit in front of two boxes in your home, and it's a magic trick. But we can't say live is always better, because some halls are over-reverberant, excessively dry, or just plain bad. Sometimes, the recording sounds better than the live experience. MQA addresses digital harshness, and gets the timing and transients right. It's like walking through the woods and smelling the trees vs putting Febreze in your house."
Chesky Records records most of its new titles with an MSB custom converter, specially-designed Crystal Cable, and either B&K microphones or binaural heads. While the label's next title, a 24/48 download-only issue of Chesky's Spanish Poems, featuring soprano Maureen McKay and the Orchestra of the 21st Century, won't be MQA-encoded in its initial offering, most if not all disc releases to follow will be. McKay, whose international career is on the ascendant, came to Chesky by way of Metropolitan Opera conductor Fabio Luisi, who recommended her highly.
Not all labels are following Chesky's position on MQA. Linn Products in Scotland, for example, which was a pioneer in releasing hi-rez recordings, published a strong policy statement on MQA on their website.