Classic Records Lining Up First DVD-Audio Releases

Back when DVD players were first released in the US, Classic Records was among the first companies to exploit the fact that early machines, though intended for the video enthusiast, could play a 24-bit/96kHz audio recording as well as movies (see previous story). These early high-resolution discs, which Classic called DADs, were intended to hold us over until DVD-Audio (then thought to be just around the corner) would finally hit the market. More than two years later we're still waiting for DVD-A, but Classic intends to be ready when it finally appears.

Working with recordings of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, Classic's Michael Hobson and session engineer Eric Bickel report that they have remixed two major pieces for release later this year on DVD-A. According to Hobson, the project began last October at two Austrian concert venues, in Graz and Salzburg. "We recorded a series of performances with the world-famous Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Kogan, including Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade."

Hobson says he secured high-quality recordings using a six-microphone array. "We had a main pair of left and right microphones on the stage, in rear of the conductor, plus spot microphones located to the left and right. Plus a rear stereo pair to pick up reverberation and ambience in the concert halls." Hobson says that these six microphones were connected via high-precision mike preamplifiers to 24-bit A/D converters that fed a PC-based hard-disk recording system comprising three two-channel cards controlled by Samplitude software from SEKD.

At Emerald Sound Studios in Nashville, the edited 24/96 data tracks were transferred directly within the digital domain to six open tracks on the facility's Euphonix R-1 digital multitrack recorder. Outputs from the R-1 were routed directly to the facility's digital console for remix to the final 5.1-channel DVD-A format. Hobson says that "in addition to the 5.1-channel DVD-A mix, we also recorded a 24/96 stereo two-channel mix for compatibility with DVD-Video decks."

Hobson explains that "we routed the main left and right microphones from the stage to the DVD-Audio left and right channels and added the output from the far-right spot microphone, favoring the celli and bass, to the right channel only. The left-side spot microphone, which was aimed at the concertmaster and first violin, was routed and level-balanced to both the left and right buses for the DVD-Audio mix. We blended the various onstage sources to produce a center-channel output." Hobson adds that the pair of ambience mikes were routed directly to the surround-left and surround-right outputs, while a bandwidth-limited mix of all six channels fed the "0.1," or low-frequency extension (LFE), DVD-A output.

According to Eric Bickel, who engineered the remix, "the sound quality at 24/96 blew my mind. I've never heard anything like it. We worked for over 50 hours on the remix session; working 24-bit at 96kHz makes a major difference to the sound of a mix—it has a clarity and an openness that is superior to lower sampling rates. When I mix, I liken the process to painting on canvas—the more 'sonic colors' I have, the more creative I can be. At 96kHz, you can hear a new level of hues and textures that just isn't there at 48kHz. You can place sounds in exactly the position you want within the 5.1-channel soundfield, and they are highly realistic; you have more control over frequency range, dynamics, and sonic detailing."