August 1998

Chesky Records - The Super Audio Collection and Professional Test Disc
Chesky Records CHDVD171
Released: 1998
24/96 Technology

by Steven R. Rochlin

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality *****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on 24/96 DVD]At WCES '98, I first heard the new 24-bit/96kHz format, and Classic Records was kind enough to supply us lowly music reviewers with four shiny new digital audio disc (DAD) recordings as well as a compilation 16-bit/44.1kHz CD counterpart plus 33 1/3 and also 45rpm vinyl of the same recordings. The differences weren't too subtle between CD and DAD. The 24/96 DAD was leagues ahead in terms of macro and micro dynamics and had better soundscaping. Soundstaging seems to refer too much to a simple frontal perspective, whereas a good recording can capture much more than just the front stage of the venue. Hence the term "soundscape."

Many folks are now familiar with 24/96, but most haven't had the pleasure of enjoying the music contained on these recordings. So a brief comparison between a $1,000 DVD player (Pioneer) playing a DAD and my friend’s Levinson top-of-the-line rig playing the standard CD was in order. In the end, the much less expensive DVD player with DAD seemed to reproduce music to a higher level than the Levinson rig. Now this was with a Classic Records DAD reissue (which are great remasters of great music). Chesky Music, on the other hand, recorded quite a few of their new releases using 24/96 technology. This means that the original was recorded using the 24/96 technology and not from original analog master tapes. Let's see -- er, um, hear -- what's possible. Chesky refers to their 24/96 as a Super Audio Disc (SAD).

Readers of SoundStage! will remember how in my review of Sara K’s Hobo I highly praised the sound quality. The first music selection on the Chesky SAD is Sara K’s "Brick House." As much as the recording quality of the regular CD version was impressive, the SAD sounds even more natural and dynamic. The SAD sounds much more like a master tape than a CD does. The acoustic bass has more inner resolution Sara's voice is more natural, and even the recording venue's acoustics are more apparent and more naturally rendered. Time and time again as I went back between my CD and the Chesky SAD, I was amazed how much seemed to be missing from the CD.

Other tracks on the sampler include: Livingston Taylor "Isn’t She Lovely," Jon Fadis "Naima," Rebbeca Pidgeon "MacDougall's Men" and also "Fheare A Bhata," Babatunde Olatunji "Mother Give Me Love," Dave's True Stories "Daddy-O," The John Basile Quartet "Desmond Blue," and lastly David Chesky himself playing "Psalm II" In each and every instance, the SAD's music was superior -- just as I subjectively described the Sara K selection. I challenge all SoundStage! readers to do their own subjective listening to whichever Chesky CDs they have that also offer the same cuts as is those on the SAD compilation recording and e-mail the results to Feedback. It's truly amazing when a $1,000 DVD player can subjectively sound better than an over-$20,000 Levinson transport/DAC.

We are now at the beginnings of what is a higher-quality storage device (DVD) where music can be played back at 24-bit depth and 96kHz sampling rate. As an added bonus on this SAD are various test tones for those of you measurement geeks out there. Sure, some folks will still say that CD is "perfect sound forever" and show you measurements and whatnot meant to "prove" that bits are bits. Of course you can either choose to love measurements and specifications or to...enjoy the music.