Arcam, Denon, and NAD Multi-Format Disc Players

Multi-format disc players
Arcam DV135,
Denon DVD-2930,
NAD T 585,
Pioneer PD-D6 CD/SACD Player
Arcam, Denon, and NAD Multi-Format Disc Players

orchestral instruments – an effect that was both impressive yet not wholly to my liking. The heavy brass sounded a shade gruff and dry, and (confusingly) seemed to sit slightly forward of the violins. The bass drum and cymbals had considerable impact and power, but didn’t sound as though they were at the back of the stage. The acoustic felt a shade cramped. Although the sound was very dynamic, the music didn’t ‘expand’ as it got louder – and there was not much sense of the orchestra playing in a defined acoustic space.

Technically, the sound was good in terms of tone colours and dynamic contrasts, but the soundstage seemed a bit disjointed and lacking in cohesion, The CD gave a more integrated albeit rather more generalised sound. It reduced contrasts and made the balance between instruments appear more even. In a superficial way this was preferable, but there was no doubt that the SACD sounded more truthful and realistic. I felt the SACD version - even if it wasn’t perfect - was getting much closer to the actual sound the microphones had picked up. It had a very truthful, believable quality. What I’m saying here is that some of the ‘faults’ were to do with where the music had been recorded, and how the microphones had been placed. Recording live, it’s harder to get a perfect studio type balance. Had the engineers been able to, they’d almost certainly have moved the brass and percussion further back from the microphones – but in a live environment that’s not always possible or desirable, at lest for the audience on the night! The stage in Vienna’s Musikverein hall (where the recording was made) is fairly wide but not very deep. It’s quite a narrow stage, and with an audience present the acoustic would have become slightly cramped and dry, without much ambience or air: hence the apparent ‘closeness’ of the heavy brass and percussion.

Playing other SACDs confirmed these general findings. The SACD always had greater individuality and better separation compared to CD. With SACD, dynamics, clarity, and separation are enhanced over CD. From a recording engineer’s standpoint, there’s far less need to close-mike voices or instruments for them to be heard.

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