Saturday, April 23, 2011

Santana Abraxas SACD (updated, fixed by supertweeters)

Update: Just discovered that supertweeter amplifier was turned off in earlier testing on this disc.  Turned it back on, and voila Abraxas is now a fairly listenable disc.  Still might hesitate to play for friends, and a MoFi might sound better, but it now has the liquidity that makes the full package work for me.  Still has a sharp edge, but much less harshness.  Another proof how supertweeters make music sweeter and less harsh (strange but commonly reported).  This disc puts out considerable energy in the supertweeter range, I'm getting 1 LED for the supertweets vs 3 for the midrange amp.  My supertweeter is lowpassed at 18.4kHz BU24, but there is still some output below 16kHz (though not much). [end Update]

I intended to check out Supernatural SACD now that my system has no boom enhancing EQ.  Actually I think I have already done that before in the last two months, but wanted to hear it again now with the state of the art Oppo/Lavry/balanced front end combination.

But instead I reached for the Santana Abraxas SACD.  In the right mood, as I was about 2-4am Saturday morning, it was awesome rhythm in space.  But come the morning light, it's clear this is a troubled recording.  Others have said far worse in online reviews.  It was one of the first SACD's, released by Sony during the introduction of SACD.  Rumor has it that Sony used a low rez PCM master for this one, rather than tracking down the original 1970 analog master tapes.  Whatever, it mostly has an annoying glare that makes the artfully used distortion (in the music itself, I especially dig that raspy B3) just awful.  Well, in the right mood, I can take it, but I wouldn't play it for friends.

Oye Como Va fares better than most tracks.  At slightly reduced level, I could play this for friends. The first track is also OK if played at very low level.  The rest of the hard driving music demands you to crank it up, but when you it sounds like crushed styrofoam.

It will be interesting to pull out the Denon 5900 sometime, this disc might be good for comparison.  Certainly on CD's, with it's AL24, I recall the 5900 has an incredibly sweet sound.  A friend said so too, unprompted.  Sweeter than real.  That might salvage this recording.  OTOH, the Oppo seems straight up, what's there is exactly what you get, total transparency, good or bad, and I've never heard such transparency in any source, though sometimes I might prefer a more pleasant sound than was actually there.

The Mobile Fidelity version is supposed to be good.  Last year, the MoFi Gold version of Pink Floyd Meddle blew me away, totally wonderful, and very different from the grungy standard release.  And, BTW, it had nothing to do with the gold backing.  I've played it mostly through my server.  I think one of the main glories of the MoFi Meddle is the lack of compression.  It sounds like (and is alleged to be) a straight up encoding of the original mastertape.  So background tinkles are not converted into hashy clangs.

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