Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

The Joy of SACD

Recently I’ve been listening for the first time to 5.1 surround sound mixes as featured on SACD. As has been said, the effect is more immersive than stereo. On classical SACD recordings the two rear speakers are used to add subtle ambient sound, so if you’re sitting roughly in the central position it feels as though the sound from the front three speakers is being pulled behind you. It’s three-dimensional. On the couple of rock SACDs I’ve heard individual instruments are positioned in those rear speakers, allowing more access to the texture of the music.

It is a tragedy that SACD never became a mass-market success when it was launched about 12 years ago. It offers much better sound quality than standard CDs, let alone mp3 files (I’ve read one account which said that mp3 files contain only 10% (!) of the information contained on the equivalent CD track.) There are some blu-ray players that will also play SACDs, so that’s hopeful, and classical labels are still issuing them. Other high-resolution formats such as so-called ‘studio master’ downloads also promise better quality music reproduction.

The essay on ‘Stairway To Heaven’ I mentioned in the previous blog is now done. It turned into something of an epic. I had anticipated writing 3-4,000 words, and it is over 10,000. I’ll post details of where it will be published when I have them. For many years I thought I would write a book on Led Zeppelin but the time for that has gone now. So I’m pleased at least to share some thoughts on what makes this legendary song exert its particular magic. This year would be a fitting moment to see Led Zeppelin’s fourth album released as an SACD.

I shall end with a brief note for readers who play guitar, which is to recommend the solo guitar works of the Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos, which I’ve re-visited over the past six months. They can be found on a single Naxos label CD (among others). His Preludes and Etudes are recognized cornerstones of the classical guitar repertoire. They are a delightful mix of rhythm, lyricism and dissonance.

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