The Stereophile Test CD Tracks 14-18

Track information, Tracks 14-18

[14] Robert Schumann: Romance, Op.94 No.1 (AAD) 3:04
Gary Woodward (flute), Brooks Smith (New York Steinway piano)

[15] Robert Schumann: Romance, Op.94 No.2 (AAD) 3:42
Gary Woodward (flute), Brooks Smith (New York Steinway piano)

[16] Robert Schumann: Romance, Op.94 No.3 (AAD) 4:09
Gary Woodward (flute), Brooks Smith (New York Steinway piano)

[17] Robert Schumann: Romance, Op.94 No.3 (AAD) 4:13
Gary Woodward (flute), Brooks Smith (New York Steinway piano)

[18] Robert Schumann: Romance No.3 (ADC Comparison Test) (AAD) 4:07
Gary Woodward (flute), Brooks Smith (New York Steinway piano)

Recording Venue: Allan Hancock Foundation Auditorium, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Recording Date: June 7, 1989
Recording Engineer: Kavichandran Alexander (Water Lily Acoustics)
Producers: John Atkinson, Richard Lehnert
Analog tape editor: Hugh Davies
Microphones: two EAR The Mics (prototypes), set to figure-8 pattern, coincident at 90 degrees
Microphone preamplifier: EAR 824M
Recorder: Ampex MR70 ½" open-reel recorder at 15ips (CCIR EQ)
Transfer to digital: 128x-oversampling A/D (Tracks 14-16); Sony PCM 1630 (Track 17); 128x-oversampling A/D and Sony PCM 1630 (Track 18) (10 edit points)
Digital Transfer Engineer, Tracks 14-18: Bob Katz

These three lyrical Romances, composed by Schumann in 1849, were captured on Kavi Alexander's vintage tube Ampex tape recorder during the same sessions during which the works featured on Stereophile's first LP, Poem, were recorded (footnote 5). The tube microphones were approximately 9' back from the flute, with the piano (its lid on the short stick) around 5' further back. Again, the use of a "purist" microphone technique means that on a good system, the image of the musicians should "float" free of the loudspeakers, with the space between and behind them suffused with the sound of the hall. The flute image should be both very narrow and very stable. If it "wobbles," then possibly strong sidewall reflections of the sound from the loudspeakers, or reflections of that sound from a centrally placed equipment cabinet, are interfering with the way the direct sounds from the loudspeakers reach the listener's ears.

The piano should have a slightly "boxy" character compared with the similar Steinway on Track 10, due to the rear wall of the stage, which was 3' or so behind the instrument. The piano image should extend from half-left (which is where the keyboard is) to half-right.

Tracks 14-16 were all transferred to DAT by Bob Katz using the 128x-oversampling analog/digital converter co-developed by Chesky Records. For comparison purposes, we repeated Romance No.3 using the industry-standard Sony PCM 1630 A/D converter. If you think that Track 17 has a different sonic signature than the previous three tracks, stop a moment to reflect that the initial A/D conversion for nine out of every ten CDs is made with this Sony converter.

If you feel that there is a large sonic difference between Track 17 and Tracks 14-16, Track 18 will enable you to put that feeling to a double-blind A/B test. Robert Harley and John Atkinson assembled this track by switching between the DAT transfers of Romance No.3 made with the oversampling and Sony ADCs ten times. Can you hear the edit points? You can? You truly have "Golden" ears. You can't? Even though the differences between Tracks 16 and 17 seem large? Perhaps A/B tests obscure the very differences you are trying to hear. Does this one?

In a future issue of the magazine, we will publish the score to this Romance with the edit points clearly indicated. Until then, happy listening!

Footnote 5: For the full story behind the recording of Poem, see Stereophile Vol.12 No.9, September 1989. The LP includes Prokofiev's Flute Sonata in D, Reinecke's Flute Sonata in E ("Undine"), and the title work, Poem, by the 20th-century American composer Charles Griffes. Poem is available on both LP and CD: it can be ordered from the secure Recordings page on this website.