We introduced "MAonSA" at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the attendees that I spoke to that many of them own SACD capable players. I suppose that some listeners do not know however, that a number of the (perhaps less expensive) Universal players, while they do play SACD, do not actually output DSD sound as the DSD signal is first converted to high-sampled PCM before being output in the analog domain. Sound like a farce? With THAT in mind, should MA have released a DVD-Audio sampler? Well, since SACD is much more popular than DVD-A, we are sort of stuck, I guess. But, it still is true that the dedicated, truly HI-END SACD players really do output pure DSD sound.
In any case, I thought that, if the SACD format sounded as good as many people think it does, that there should be enough listeners out there that may want to hear MA in a supposedly "better sounding format" than normal Redbook CD. There could also be some people out there not yet aware of MA, but who may develop interest because of this sampler. So, rather than just release a single album in the SACD format, I thought that the sampler would be the way to go and I would hear from many of you as to your thoughts on the music, the quality of this disc, etc. AND, I thought the novelty of being more than three hours long, would be enticing as well.
I should perhaps convey however, what I feel has "happened" to the newly remastered music on the SACD layer of this disc. As far as my aging ears can tell, the music is expressed more delicately, with increased transparency and finesse. The low end is still there, while the presentation is more elegant. There are little things which I noticed for the first time upon listening to this SACD. This is encouraging, to say the least. Of course, the presentation will vary, depending on the machine on which it is heard, as well as the other audio components. I first auditioned this disc on an EMM Labs/Ed Meitner modified Philips 1000 Universal player which does output true DSD sonics, with STAX 404 headphones and a discontinued vacuum tube driver unit.
I have to admit that since the original recordings were all done in the PCM format, this is not a true representation of pure DSD sound. We did however, use what we think is the best gear available, including a DCS 974 Digital to Digital converter, the Rolls Royce (both being from the UK!) of conversion and digital audio in general. We used a SADIE Digital Audio Work Station (also from the UK) which both I and mastering engineer Atsuo Fujita feel does little if anything to alter the original sonics of the master source and is therefore the best out there. We were also blessed with the full cooperation of Gabi van der Kley, the brains behind and owner of CYRSTAL CABLE in The Netherlands. She sent us handcrafted, digital cables to enable us to transfer data from the original master recorders, such as the "D-07A" 96 kHz Pioneer DAT and/or Fostex DV40 DVD-Ram Recorder, thru the DCS 974 and into the SADIE. Of paramount importance to us was the Stereo BNC to 25 D-SUB connector cable linking the DCS 974 to the SADIE. Unfortunately, digital audio workstations can be rather large and there is not much room to include true BNC connections on the rear panels; therefore the less than perfect 25 D-SUB connection. All computer workstations, are supplied with, at best, cabling that leaves much to be desired. We, on the other hand, had CRYSTAL! In any case, we went for "quality" throughout, using the best cables and the best gear we could get our hands on. I should emphasize that the "elegance" in the presentation of the music is very likely due to our use of CRYSTAL CABLE throughout the preparation of this disc.
As for the tracks themselves, I have chosen not to write here in detail about each one, there being 32 complete tracks in total! Rather, the listener will find all the info she or he needs on the MA site, including all the covers, as well as data, etc. If there are any of you out there who require more information and input from us, please feel free to inquire via:
The microphones shown on the cover of this disc, designed and hand constructed by Japanese audiophile and designer Junichi Yonetani, are unique to MA Recordings. Mr. Yonetani has been, over the years, a very enthusiastic supporter of MA, for which I thank him dearly.
The microphones are DC powered, running on four 9 volt batteries. Differentiating them from the common, low level, phantom power variety of microphone, they are line level. Traditional low level microphone cables are done away with completely as they are no longer necessary. The outputs of the MA microphones are fed directly to the recording device, or Analog to Digital converter, in the case of digital recording.
Of utmost importance are the diaphragms utilized to capture sound waves. The MA microphones feature the same diaphragms used in the famous DPA 4003 and DPA 4006 series microphones from Denmark. (www.dpamicrophones.com)
The body of each MA microphone was machined from a solid piece of brass, then plated with rhodium. Each microphone weighs 701 grams with the standard DPA silver grid. The microphones in the photo are shown with the DPA "Nose Cone" which may be used in place of the silver grid to render the microphones slightly more omnidirectional in character than with the silver grid.
Being as heavy as they are, the MA microphones require custom made holders, made from steel pipe. In order to make fine adjustments in positioning, the holders are fastened onto miniature balljoints designed for professional photography. The ball joints are in turn, placed on an aluminum "stereo bar" which is supported by a professional tripod designed for still photography.
The original sampling rates on the DSD layer tracks are as follows:
Track 1) M070A/Gitana, from "llama" by Silvia Perez Cruz & Ravid Goldschmidt: 88.2 kHz
Track 2) M071A/Improvisation on a Love Song, from "A Night in Budapest" by Kalman Olah and Friends: 88.2 kHz
Track 3) M071A/Improvisation on a Love Song, from "A Night in Budapest" by Kalman Olah and Friends: 88.2 kHz
Track 4) M062A/Taquito Militar, from "La Segunda" by Sera Una Noche: 176.4 kHz
Track 5) M069A/Prelude - Allemande - Sarabande, from Suite en La mineur, by Marin Marais, performed by Andrea De Carlo: 176.4 kHz
Track 6) M068A/Variaciones sobre el "Carnaval de Venecia" de Niccolo Paganini by F. Tarrega, performed by Gzegorz Krawiez: 96 kHz
Track 7) M049A/Passos, from "Almas" by Joao Paolo: 96 kHz
Track 8) M044A/Ajde da li znaes pametis Milice, from "Krushevo" by Vlatko Stefanovski & Miroslav Tadic: 96 kHz
Track 9) M052A/Malena, from "Sera una Noche" by Sera Una Noche: 96 kHz
Track 10) M045A/Certeza, from "O Exilio" by Joao Paolo: 96 kHz
Track 11) M046A/Meu Amor deu um Lenco, from "Senhora da Lapa" by Maria Ana Bobone: 96 kHz
Track 12) M026A/Murakkaz Ah Ya Muddasin, from "The Splendour of Al Andalus" by Calamus: 96 kHz
Track 13) M025A/Noche Maravillosa, from "Salterio" by Begona Olavide: 96 kHz
Track 14) M043A/Terra Da Esperanca Perdida, from "Sete Ondas" by Mauro Refosco: 96 kHz
Track 15) M058A/Vitamin C, from "Old School" by Peter Epstein: 96 kHz
Track 16) M029A/Jovano Jovanke, from "Old Country" by Miroslav Tadic & Howard Levy: 96 kHz
Track 17) M057A/Esquina, from "Esquina" by Joao Paolo & Peter Epstein: 96 kHz
Track 18) M047A/Solace from "Solus" by Peter Epstein: 96 kHz
Track 19) Chopin's Berceuse, performed by Gabriella Kafer at Belvarosi Szent Mihaly Templom, Budapest: 88.2 kHz (no release date for this recording)
For information about Crystal Cable: www.crystalcable.com
For information about DCS: www.dcsltd.co.uk
For information about SADIE: www.sadie.com
For information about the Hang, the mysterious metallic instrument heard on the first track on the DSD layer: www.hangfan.co.uk