I'm glad you brought up the RCA "Living Stereo" series. I think this was one of the most successful SACD projects which was undertaken - in fact, I believe that this series alone brought the whole SACD phenomenon to the attention of most collectors. Not only were they expertly transferred to SACD but, at least here in Toronto, they sold for around $10 each so compared to Sony's single layer $40 offerings, they were a bargain. Up until 2004 I was a confirmed sceptic on high definition recording; I felt that the CD could reproduce everything audible on a recording. When I went to buy a new CD player in that year, I told my dealer that I wanted a good high-end CD player without any SACD or DVD audio capability. He told me that I could only buy a high definition player at that point. So I purchased a top of the line SACD player and a few SACDs and sat down to smugly say, (although nobody was in the room with me to hear), that there was
absolutely no audible improvement with SACDs. The first disc I put on was a 1954 Boston Symphony recording of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony. Even during the opening bassoon solo my jaw dropped; I couldn't believe the quality of the sound coming from my speakers, (as I've said elsewhere, I believe SACDs particularly shine in quiet passages). I called my daughter to the room, (who, of course, has much younger ears), and played for her the same recording on regular CD and SACD. She didn't know what she was supposed to be listening for but as soon as the SACD started she exclaimed, "Wow! What a difference!". I became an immediate convert and have since acquired hundreds of SACDs - in fact, my dealer puts aside every SACD which comes in for me.
As far as the RCA "Living Stereo" series was concerned, as I said, the majority were superb. There were some exceptions, I think the least successful was Morton Gould's "Brass and Percussion". This recording appears to have a lot of over modulation distortion. Another curiosity was the Boston Pops recording of Gaite Parisienne from 1954. The mastering of this was competent enough but the next recording he made a few years later was superior in every respect - better stereo imaging, broader frequency response, better editing and a superior performance. I wish they had chosen to issue that one instead. Also, strangely like many of the "Living Stereo" SACD releases, (although probably not as a result of the SACD process), the absolute phase of this recording is reversed from that of most recordings. One SACD which was a real surprise was the Virgil Fox Organ recording. This recording suddenly had a rich bass which was totally absent on the
original LP. I think the best RCA "Living Stereo" SACD release in every respect was Fritz Reiner's Pines and Fountains of Rome, but I have the entire series and derive great pleasure out of every one of them. My only regret is that the series was put to rest while there were still so many recordings which could have benefitted from the process; one particular one which comes to mind, (and there are many), is Beecham's 1959 "Messiah", a legendary one of a kind recording which sounded much better on the original LPs than on the subsequent CD reissue.
Anyway, sincere congratulations to Mark for your work on these releases!
> From: Mark Donahue <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 9:44:21 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence
>I just want to make one quick comment about this idea that playing back 60
>year old tapes is best realized through playing them back on 60 year old
>The reality here is that the ability to get the signal on to tape is a much
>easier task than getting it back off and the recorders of the day were much
>better at recording than
playback. I remastered the entire Living Stereo
>series and was stunned as to how much information I could get off these
>tapes using state of the art modern analog playback. I then compared these
>to the transfers that were made with an Ampex 300 that was restored for the
>CD reissue project at RCA in the late 1980's and the differences were
>nothing less than astounding. Modern playback with low wow and flutter and
>an order of magnitude better performance in frequency response, noise and
>distortion revealed information that was on the tapes that had never
>actually been heard.
>As always, YMMV.
>All the best,
>On Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 1:21 PM, DAVID BURNHAM <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> One more point, a lot is said about the problems with not using the
>> original playback equipment. I would just like to
comment that I think
>> anyone would admit that a Studer A-80, (a popular mastering machine), has
>> far better flutter and speed consistency specs than an Ampex 300. I think
>> ideal mastering will occur if the electronics with the original specs,
>> (which may mean using the original heads), are fitted onto a modern
>> machine. In the notes of the SACD I'm listening to it says that the
>> mastered SACD was compared with the original tape played on Wilma Cozart
>> Fine's personal Ampex 300. That should be fairly accurate. I agree with
>> Tom Fine that if the SACDs had been made using the original sources on the
>> original playback situations, the final product would have been that much
>Chief Mastering Engineer
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