Technics DVD-A10 DVD-Audio player Page 5
Track 2 featured Natalie Merchant, an artist I respect more than love. She was quite nicely rendered, though with some bloat in the upper-midrange/lower-treble that made her sound positively epiglottal! Swollen glands, I reckoned. Still, there was a welcome smoothness in her voice, even if the recording wasn't the most transparent I'd ever heard.
Track 4, Miles Davis' horn on "Tutu" sounded nicely burnished and the soundstage was somewhat ambient, with satisfyingly tight bass, a nice midrange. The cut featured those piercing highs with which Miles' later recordings were afflicted, but around 2:20, when the backing vocals come in, it all sounded very smooth, attractive, and midrangey. Again, it was 24/96's midband liquidity that was most immediately noticeable.
I wound up preferring the overall sound of track 11's 24/48 recording of Béla Fleck's "Katmandu" more than the 24/96 material! But don't forget—every track on the sampler is a Smart Content multichannel mixdown. In any case, massed strings sounded pretty good on works by Chabrier and Strauss, but that's about as enthusiastic as I got.
The second sampler, which mainly featured Japanese ensembles, sounded significantly better, and, interestingly, none of the selections on this disc were mixed down to two-channel. The first movement of Dvorak's Symphony 9 is a 20/96 five-channel recording, which, according to my notes, "sounds damn good, a lot of dynamic bombast for the buck." As with almost everything I heard through the DVD-A10, there was a touch of chaff and grain in the high frequencies—a bit piercing, even at this enhanced resolution. The timpani sounded stunning, though.
Track 2, Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, also 20/96 five-channel, whipped up impressive dynamics and earned a "not bad" in my notes. But for a new format, "not bad" ain't great.
Track 3, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d, was impressive, with good overall scale and fullness, but the highs were enough to kill a mockingbird at 40 paces. Considering the fact that I was only listening to the front two channels, it was nicely ambient, with an attractive midrange and a big, impressive bottom end.
Track 4, the Handel harp concerto again—a 16/48 six-channel recording—surprised the hell out of me with its transparency, tonal color, and sheer musicality. It was positively beguiling. Could it be that the simple jump from 44.1 to 48kHz had that much of an effect on the sound? Is it all in the math? More questions than answers at this point, alas. Notes: "Just a touch less transparent than 24/96, but seemingly more extended highs, definitely more attractive upper mids and midrange, with something of a mushier bottom end than 24/96 offers. It's about the best-sounding recording I've heard on the 'A10! Well, slap me silly and call me crazy."
I can hear my Editor now: "Okay, J-10. [Whap!] You're crazy!"
Track 5, Debussy's Clair de lune, is a two-channel 24/192 piano recording. Notes: "Haunting and lovely, with ease, elegance, and style. Finally I can feel my lumpy body relax into the music, finally something lyrical and pastoral, a recording to wrap my mind around. High-speed sampling makes all the difference, although the 16/48 Handel shows how good it can be at lower sampling rates and bit depths."
Color, body, fullness, and a big soundstage—kinda like that discovery.com TV commercial with the asteroids, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh, the atmosphere . . . " The recorded presentation of the piano was expressive, linear, and again—like most recordings in comparison to the Linn and Accuphase—a touch dark on top. There was an essential musical expressiveness at 24/192 that was lacking in the other, lower-rez tracks.
Notes: "I'm finding an attachment to the music that other rates and bit depths don't quite get but that 24/192 just nails. I can almost see the pianist move his hands elegantly above the keyboard—I feel like getting up and turning the page for him! And there's a greater sense of rhythm, perhaps as a result of better leading-edge definition at this level of oversampling. Really, it's very palpable. We begin crossing over into really first-rate sound now. Even though the lower midrange is a touch bloated and the highs aren't very sweet, the overall information level is high enough that I feel the music, to put it simply." The finesse of the acoustic fadeout at track's end said a lot to me about DVD-Audio's potential for great sound.
Track 11, "Dancin' Cymbals," was impressive for its transient sheen and projection of high frequencies, even though I found it a bit brassier than I'd like. This is the demo track with frequencies out to 45kHz [confirmed by spectral analysis in the January 2001 Stereophile (p.178)—Ed.] and it sounded amazingly fast, zingy, and open. As intended, it showcased the abilities of DVD-Audio, but lacked the sophistication of the more costly upsamplers like the Accuphase and the dCS.