While DVD-A and SACD supposedly battle for the future of digital sound, especially in terms of multichannel recording, audiophiles overlook the fact that 24/96 DVDs have been around longer than either of the more publicized formats. Hi-Res Music is the latest company to begin selling high-resolution two-channel recordings on DVD, and their dozen-release catalog is eclectic, as any list of artists that includes Wayne Horvitz is. Forever was originally released on CD in 2000, and Hi-Res's DVD is remastered from the 20-bit/48kHz digital master, which is reportedly played back on "a calibrated tape machine electrically and physically identical to the deck used to make it in the first place." Hi-Res then relies on "impedance-matched custom tube amplification, mastering equalizers and dynamic processors" during mastering "to ensure that all of the sound is transferred to the digital domain." Each disc is then produced in limited quantities.
Jazz is but a starting point for pianist Horvitz, and here he performs with his band Zony Mash (Keith Lowe on acoustic bass, Andy Roth on drums, and Timothy Young on guitars) acoustically, which only enhances the uniformly terrific sound of this recording. There is great space and an overall smooth, inviting sound that let you know you're listening to something other than a CD. If you are familiar with similar Chesky and Classic Records releases, you know that not much as come from these two labels in the 24/96 DVD format recently. Hi-Res Music's commitment is worthy of applause as it gives new life to the notion of a two-channel digital format of audiophile quality. I can only hope that sales are brisk enough to keep things going; the discs being playable on DVD-V decks, a juggernaut in terms of consumer-electronics sales, is certainly no hindrance.
Hi-Res Music's catalog includes releases from Leon Russell, Herb Ellis and Joe Pass, and Charlie Byrd. But none of the discs I've sampled is as musically challenging as Forever, which is a good starting point if you want to hear something better than CD now.
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