Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Nordic Sound: 2L Audiophile Reference Recordings Blu-ray

The Nordic Sound: 2L Audiophile Reference Recordings


(2009)

Music









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1305_5_tn.jpg1305_1_tn.jpgFrom combined musical and audiophile criteria we have compiled the most excellent recordings 2L have to offer. Two of the tracks included in this collection were nominated for the American Grammy Awards "Best Surround Sound Album" and "Best Performance".
Discover what the unique Nordic Sound is all about!

DXD recording, Blu-ray audio only disc + Hybrid SACD.

For more details about The Nordic Sound: 2L Audiophile Reference Recordings on Blu-ray, see The Nordic Sound: 2L Audiophile Reference Recordings Blu-ray Review


The Nordic Sound: 2L Audiophile Reference Recordings Blu-ray, Audio Quality



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One of the great advantages of reference-caliber samplers is that they serve as system stretchers to gauge the performance of your gear and any tweaks made to your system. As fate would have it, I had just received a pair of Electra Glide "State of the Union" (SOTU) power cords from manufacturer Scott Hall. Nearly 10 years ago, I found that Electra Glide cords had a significant impact on my system, fleshing out tones from top to bottom and allowing my components to perform optimally. After auditioning several cables, I first settled on the Electra Glide Fatman, which optimized the reproduction of bass as well as the stereo soundstage--an indication of higher frequency performance--showing advantages throughout the dynamic range. Over the years, Hall perfected his cords, moving from the Fatman to the Ultra Khan to the Ultra Kahn II to the Statement, finally evolving to the new SOTU design. The new cords feature many new processes and components, including natural unbleached cotton casing and organic dielectric materials (see photo above).

Evaluating 2L's fantastic recording, Britten's Boisterous Bourree of his "Simple Symphony", using a stock cord powering my Classe Omega SACD2 player, and then using the new SOTU cord, it became apparent that Scott Hall has created an amazing audiophile product. The imaging opened up across the soundstage, delivering more high end detail in addition to midbass presence. The presentation of massed strings was optimized with the SOTU, essentially allowing the digital front end to help the speakers disappear, throwing images effortlessly. Sounds that were stuck to the speakers with the stock cord imaged freely with the SOTU, allowing the recording to shine.

Optimizing one's system is very rewarding when evaluating 2L's recordings. One key to the label's success is that all its engineers have a deep affinity for music and all play instruments themselves. Their ears are developed, their attention to detail is excellent and 2L succeeds where many recording engineers fail--in microphone selection and placement. 2L uses DPA microphones, Millennia Media amplifiers and SPHYNX2 converters to a PYRAMIX station. The label credits Digital eXtreme Definition (DXD) as the digital tool behind its recordings: "a professional audio format that brings 'analogue' qualities in 32-bit floating point at 352.8 kHz." The technology delivers an unprecedented 11.2896 Mbit/s per channel (that's four times the data rate of DSD--the technology behind SACD). According to 2L, this leaves headroom for editing and balancing before quantizing to DSD for SACD or PCM for Blu-ray.

Standout tracks for evaluating one's system include the Arne Nordheim "Colorazione" excerpt, the tracks fromTrondheimSolistene: Divertimenti and for vocal performance, the "Gregorian Chants". So how do the various BD codecs compare to each other and to SACD? First I listened to the 24- bit/192 kHz 5.1 PCM track. I was quickly seduced by the heft of the strings, pianos and voices, and palpability of individual instruments. Nowhere was this more impressive than in Bartók's composition, featuring dramatic shifts of volume, tone and tempi, all imaging gorgeously with the improvements afforded by the SOTU. The midrange liquidity was good, perhaps a touch too sweet and not analytic enough for my taste, but that is the result of the recording venue. I tend to like my recordings a touch drier. But this is a minor quibble and some of the tracks on the sampler provided more reverb than others. Strictly from the perspective of the surround mix, I can't help but feel it is an opportunity lost for the label, but hopefully a 7.1 mix from 2L will be forthcoming. Although 2L engineered Sonar for more conventional five channel surround sound, the mix is anything but conventional.

Though I expected the multichannel SACD content to sound the best of all, it actually performed no better than the lossless PCM content. Perhaps that's because the DSD is converted to PCM and output via HDMI, thereby eliminating any practical advantages of SACD's 2.8 MHz sampling. The DTS-HD MA track was defined, but I noticed it gave up a modicum of tonal realism compared to the PCM track. Overall there was a slightly different tonal character to the aural landscape and less extension on the highs, but it was an almost imperceptible difference. I know the theory that DTS-HD MA is the same as PCM, but I did hear a difference. Perhaps it is attributable to a digital watermark that DTS engineered to ensure the music can be tracked when illegally copied. On the caboose, of course, was the CD layer included on the SACD. Not horrible, but I cannot understand listening to this content when 24/192 PCM is included. Maybe in the car?

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