Dr. Perry Alexander

The University of Kansas

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Hearing Voices

I just downloaded a remastered 192/24 version of Waltz for Debbie by the great Bill Evans Trio featuring Bill Evans, Scott LaFarro, and Paul Motian from my friends at HDTracks. This is of course the first great live jazz trio album and maybe the best ever. I’ve used it in stereo auditions since I bought it because of the phenomenal sound stage and the subtle artifacts - voices and sounds of people eating and drinking - that remain from the live show.

My earlier forays into high-definition remasters have all been positive. Subtle differences, but positive. Cymbals are clearer (no more frying bacon to quote Chuck Chiles), attacks and releases crisper, more room sounds and natural reverb, a general cleanness to the sound. Mind you, this may be because of remastering and not higher resolution, but it is noticeable on my rig.

Waltz for Debbie takes this to a whole new place for me. All of the things I love about the recording are amplified by the higher sampling rate and remastering. I’m hearing voices - not the kind in my head - new voices and sounds of the room in the album I never heard before. I didn’t realize how much I love those sounds. If I was there I would be shushing the idiots talking during a Bill Evans show, but on the recording they put you in the room in a rather serious and sometimes startling way.

The music has the same good properties that are enhanced in other high definition recordings I’ve listened to. Probably the biggest changes are drums, reverb, and the piano. I think drum sounds are exceptionally hard to reproduce. Particularly snare and cymbals. Lo-res cymbals can kill a recording. Here, the cymbals are bright and ring like cymbals should. Reverb is harder to describe. There is a sound that continues after a release that is a reflection of the room the recording is in. Listen to Kind of Blue for a particularly good example of this. The reverb of the club this recording is in stands out. Again, you feel like you’re in the front row. Finally, a piano is a percussion instrument. You hit the strings with hammers. The piano is also a resonator - not a point source of sound. The whole piano produces and amplifies the sound. Attacks should be clear an crisp. Releases, particularly with the sustain pedal comes up, should be immediate. All of those things come across fabulously on this remaster.

I would have to say my exploration of high definition music is an unqualified success. I was skeptical to the point of not buying anything for fear of not hearing any differences. I honestly tried not to hear anything. It’s there and I find it wonderful. Your mileage may of course vary. Listen to what you like and don’t pay for anything you can’t hear…