Some audiophiles lament the release of back-catalog chestnuts on SACD, thinking that this somehow means less new music will appear in the high-rez format. However, when done right, remastered SACDs bring us closer to the sound on the master tapes -- and thus the music -- than ever before, and they are valuable for this reason. If you are a jazz aficionado, you know all about the music on Relaxin' and Kelly Blue, which were recorded in 1956 and 1959 respectively. These are hard-bop classics. What you may not know is how the Fantasy Jazz stereo SACDs -- a collection that includes original Prestige, Riverside, Pablo, New Jazz and Contemporary recordings -- compare to the same titles in the JVC XRCD and DCC CD catalogs. This is important information for audiophiles considering replacing existing CDs with SACDs.
First, all of these discs sound superb. Overall, the DCC titles sound slightly warmer, and perhaps more analog-like, than the JVC XRCDs or Fantasy SACDs. Resolution is high with all three, but seems highest with the SACDs, which also sound a bit more clean and clear. Cymbals, for instance, have a touch more steeliness and splashiness, perhaps due to greater leading-edge definition. This is not digital glare or crispiness here, but rather greater detail, the instruments sounding more nimble, energetic and real. The JVC XRCD has some of the warmth of the DCC CD and most of the energy of the SACD. It walks the line between both very well.
Which of the three would I choose? DCC is long out of business, and although just about every DCC title is available on eBay, the prices are escalating, putting them at or above the cost of the JVC XRCDs and Fantasy SACDs. Thus, the newer discs are the better choice. If I already owned the JVC XRCD, I would stick with it. These are premium recordings with premium prices, and because their sound is uniformly satisfying, I would continue to enjoy the titles I have. On pure sonic grounds, however, the Fantasy Jazz SACDs are the best. When played back on very good equipment, Relaxin' and Kelly Blue will surprise you, especially if you're very familiar with them. They are also less expensive than XRCDs, often by $10 or more.
With its SACDs and K2-remastered CDs, Fantasy Jazz does music lovers a great favor by archiving important music in stellar sound. I can give no higher praise than to say that after hearing these SACDs for the first time, I went out and bought a half-dozen other Fantasy Jazz titles.
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