After Sony announcing a new high end Walkman at CES 2015 and Neil Young officially launching the PonoPlayer and Pono store out of its beta phase, we can say that 2015 starts strongly for High Definition audio.
I must admit I’m new to all of this and my home theater gear is definitively not targeted toward listening to music in high definition formats. I also understand there are huge debates about if those formats are really making an audible difference for listeners and I will not try to be the judge of this.
Debate aside, I’m a fan of new technologies and when I saw that Universal had released some audio albums in high quality audio (24-bit/96 kHz sampling) in the Blu-ray format, I could not resist the urge to get some of them and try it out in the home theater. I imagine that trying with jazz or classical music would have been a better approach, but I’m a classic rock fan and it’s what I wanted to try.
Yesterday I finally received my order from Amazon of two High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray discs, Bryan Adams’ Reckless, which was remastered for it’s 30th anniversary and my favorite album from Supertramp, Crime of the Century. I’ll get back to the Supertramp disc in a follow up article.
The format is pretty simple, as soon as you start the disc, music starts by default on the first song with the PCM soundtrack selected. A static menu is displayed with the current song information and offers quick options to select tracks and audio formats among PCM, TrueHD and DTS Master Audio, all in lossless 24-bit/96 kHz quality.
I cannot count the number of times I listened to those songs, since receiving the Reckless tape more than twenty years ago from a late friend of mine and then through various greatest hits albums of the singer. Being able to listen again to this new remaster of the album is really interesting and I must admit I noticed some sonorities I did not hear before on some of the tracks. Is the audio really better than the CD version of the tracks ? It is up to debate with audio experts, but I did appreciate the album in this format.
Reckless also comes with seven extra tracks that were recorded in studio at the same time of the album but did not make it finally on the recording. The Blu-ray audio also includes a 5.1 mix created specifically for this release, which is interesting and adds dimension to the listening experience.
The album finally comes with a download code for the songs that are available in mp3 format at 320kbps. It’s an interesting idea, but as long as purchasing a high definition audio disc, I would have preferred getting access to 24-bit/96 kHz FLAC files instead. It’s a bit like buying a Blu-ray and getting a download code for the film in standard definition.
I’ve been burned before by new generation audio formats (DVD Audio anyone ?) and what I like about the so called Blu-ray Audio is that its not really a format, but a clever usage of the already existing standards of the Blu-ray format. This means that as long as I have a Blu-ray player available, I’ll be able to use those discs in their intended quality.
If you are Bryan Adams fans, Reckless is needless to say the most important album of his career and this is definitively a great way to listen to it.