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In the Forum: Didital Things
In the Thread: The High Resolution PCM files business, where?
Post Subject: The Linn recordings: listeningPosted by Romy the Cat on: 10/2/2009

 Romy the Cat wrote:
I bought a few Linn Records own recordings of Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Dunedin Consort. They pushed them as “Studio Master” but they are WMA files – means the re-rendered compressed files – very sad.

I was playing last night the Mahler’s 6th, Mozart’s 41st  and Beethoven’s 4th  concerto. In fact I was not able to “pay” any of them but was forced to play just fragments – it was so bad that it was not listenable as music. I do not know if I need to go into details.  I asked Linn if it possible to return the files back. I know it is kind of silly to ask to return the downloaded files but if they accept it as return and issue a refund then I will delete them from my DAW.  The reason I asked for return is not so much about the   money but to send them a message that their “Masters” are not up to the acceptable level and the artistic/sonic quality. I will listen more of it but my first reaction was very negative.

I got today an email from Linn:

“I think we're going to need a bigger awards cabinet! We are hugely pleased that Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have been awarded a Blue Moon Award by for their recording "Mozart Symphonies 38 - 41".   "Sir Charles Mackerras' vision with the SCO is one of the very finest of the modern era - one that will move you emotionally and at the same time reward with insights that none of the others provides. The fact that the superb recording quality supports the artistic performance so perfectly makes this set a must own and a Blue Moon Award without any reserve."

Yes, the award list of big, so the comments in the “Reviews” tab in the link above. I felt kind stage: am I so off the wall that I failed to recognize the “glory” of the Linn’s Mozart. I do clearly remember that I did not like what I heard and I do remember my intention to hear it more today, so I did. This time, in response to the email I concentrated on the Mozart files.

First I need to resolve the problem with quality.  It was bad, I mean really bad, very sub-acceptable.  My software decompresses the files and play them from intermittent 88/24 WAV files. The sound is truly CD level – even worst: the MP3 level. I need to get from those WMA file the “original” files I figured. I need to say that I hate to compresses/decompress files it as no one knows how much sound is lost during digital compression. Anyhow, I have a few decompressors and I tried them. The result they produced virtually identical (with negligible but existing sonic difference). However, the difference between playing the WMA files and the WAV extracts from WMA files was huge.  The sound went from being “it is garbage, take the files back” to something that is possible to deal with. Again, Linn did not inform in what format the files were recorded originally, so when I decompress them from WMA then in what format shall I convert them to? To the WAV? How about if they were recorded in .W64 or AIFF? The conversion .W64 those formats does kill a LOT of sound, any format conversion does!!! You must not sell files promoting them as “masters” without referencing what was the format and rate of the original recorded files. It will be my decision to decide how much “masters” they are not the Linn’s decision.

So, I fire my cigar and decided to listen what Linn offers. 

Since I have expressed some negative comments above about Linn sound I felt that I have an obligation to follow it up. The 88/24 files were played via WaveLab 6, Linx16, Lavry 924 (I tried the Pacific Microsonics as well) and then to Milq/Macondo. It will not be a “review” but rather a feedback, so I will be short. Surely playing the WAV instead of WMA files completely evaporated my “give me refund” attitude. The files were usable and I would say as they were “good buy”. However, I do not buy or sell the files but I defend the interests of better sound. Did the Mozart symphonies deserve the jillion awards? I do not think so. I do have a number of problems with the files. Was anything else expected? I will try to briefly describe what my problems with the Linn files are.

Audio:  The Mozart symphonies have a very light glaze of HF “air” that I feel is inappropriate. It gives a sense of faulty quality but it what I call “Quality for Morons” – the prominent HF most frequently understood by audio fool as “quality”. Milq/Macondo is very accurately calibrated for HF and no accidents are possible in there. I did rolled off a bit HF but it was NOT the amount of HF 0 it was not “bright”, but it was some kind of HF mist, sort of superstructure that enveloped sound.  This strange HF haze made sound to be like a view from window through a mosquito screen- you might discard it but why it need to be there in a first place? BTW, Pacific slightly veiled the haze a bit but it was still there.

Then I did not really like the entire LF region.  I understand that it is a Mozart-type orchestra with no forceful bass section. Still, in the way how Scotts played Mozart it was VERY much contemporary interpretation and very much form the period reading and sounding. Look what our James Leven does with Mozart’s symphonies: they are bass-balanced and his contemporary Mozart with small chamber group sound very full and with good power at lower rigion. The sound of Scottish Chamber Orchestra was not. It was in a way “Skinny Mozart”. Shall I blame Linn or Scottish Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras for the thin sound? Well, played a few seconds of Mahler and Bach. It was instantly audible that they all have the SAME SIGNATURE - overlay fast decaying bass and with lower region harmonic texture very wrong - something that I might expect from the “absolute sound” lovers. The Linn LF is smother that Linn need to work on – it is not the bass itself but the harmonics and dynamics of bass – something that Linn does in there is very wrong.

So, the lean, bass-underdeveloped sound with some odd HF varnish, do I need to say more? Yes I do.

I know that they wanted to make the sound “impressive” for the Morons-Audiophiles but God, save me from those stupid up-closed microphones! I do not want to hear the saliva dripping from horns and the air passing from the trumpets valves.  Put the microphones further up and let the sound and the ensemble’s sound to be mixed naturally. I know that then the audio-idiots would give you less medals but you will get more Musical Sound. Then the sound of the recording Hall - I am sorry - it was very bad. It was so overly-dead acoustically that Mozart’s sounded like salted pickles marinated in distil water. Please, record more ambient sound. I do not need music played in anechoic chamber – this Sound exists only in sick minds suffering from audio hallucination.

Music: Not bad but….  Each single note of the Mozart symphonies sound like well-brewed studio recording and it make the people who play it … boring. They try to play “exiting” but it was fake excitement. There was not necessary “sparks” and enthusiasm and this celebrated “something” in music that I call “the accent for the next note”. It was a good group of musicians very nicely rendering the notes and rhythm but it was no “music rebirth event”.  I would not call it boring or soporific but rather not eventful.  The Mr. Mackerras interpretation was also very orthodox with no personal kink in it. His players tried “do not play bad” and they play it “secure” instead of playing “interesting”. It was not the performance that shall get medals. The medals shall be given in my view for a performance that pushed the boundaries of the pieces confines. The Linn recording did not have it. I would call it as blended performance but the sound of Scottish Chamber Orchestra did not blend.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has very wrong for Mozart tone. It was Bartok of Shostakovich tune not Mozart, even I would prefer in Bartok to have more texture. The texture of the Orchestra sound was something that I would describe “digital”. It was kind of binary sound with not a lot of going on between the states so sonic Booleans. The woodwinds were absolutely bleached out and sound with no colors at all. With all tremendous Macondo capacity it sounded like it was playing a pair of Kharma or Magico in my room. The color of the whole ensemble was very week. Yes, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is not Winner Philharmonic but it was still a bit cold-cut sound and I blame Linn in it.  I heard many contemporary orchestra – they do not sound so brutal and cold. The Scottish Chamber sound more like Scandinavian jazz –I do not think they shell sound like this.

The barbaric up-closed microphones positioning by Linn did not help to the Scotts:  their strings were thin and overly bity, the sections were played in virtual isolation and there was not a lot of actions between sections. In all together it was not the performance but rather an illustration of performance - I would call it the perfect rehearsal. Now, the musicians need to dress up, the conductor need to say an arousing speech and they need to re-record it. To re-rerecord by sound specialists who do not record the stupid individual audiophile sounds but rather would record the whole musical event.

Anyhow. Do not take my criticism of Linn’s Mozart as my dis-invitation to buy it. It is a good recording but in my view it does not live to the hype and far from where I think it needs to be. Linn needs to learn how to USE recording space, how record more ambiance and with less microphones, how to deliver better preservation of “master files” and how to address the problems that I described in the “sound” section. Linn is certainly in the right direction to make high-res file available. I just wish to hear more critical and more sober view of the actual results. Somebody shall take a stand…

The Cat

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