Cutting Up: Stereophile's Liszt Piano Sonata LP 20-bits vs 16-bits

Sidebar 2: 20-bits vs 16-bits

Our Sonata CD is a very good recording, I feel, with terrific dynamics and a great sense of the actual Steinway D I heard during the recording sessions I was privileged to be a part of. It doesn't, however, capture the hall in which the sessions took place as well as the master tape does, and it also has a sense of congestion and unwanted brightness that aren't on the master tape, particularly during high-level passages. The master tape is effortless—the sound just happens, without trying hard, ineffably.

That's what I hear from every good master tape I've heard, whether analog or digital. The medium is up to its job. If you give it something tough to handle, it delivers, without in any obvious way changing the nature of what you sent its way.

And the LP? For me, on my home playback system, the CD comes closer to the master tape—but, as described above, not so very close. The LP has greater warmth, but it's less clean. However, it's the best LP Stereophile has released.—Larry Archibald