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Bruckner: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 - Karajan

Bruckner: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 - Karajan

Universal (Japan)  UCGG-9112/4 (3 discs)

Stereo Single Layer

Classical - Orchestral


Bruckner: Symphonies 4-6

Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

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5 of 6 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

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Comment by Tony Reif - January 21, 2019 (1 of 10)

Would anyone care to comment on the sound quality of the 4th symphony, is it inferior to the other two? Note to Contrapunctus: Rainer Maillard confirms all 3 were transferred the same way from analog multi-track masters by the same engineer at the same time using the same equipment.

Comment by Contrapunctus - January 22, 2019 (2 of 10)

I hope that you're not disappointed if I try to answer your question, Tony.

In contrast to symphonies 5&6 on this set, the 4th symphony didn't sound better compared to regular CD releases. The overall sound is remarkably diffuse and distorted (reverb!). Perhaps the original recording of this symphony was not a masterpiece - I don't know. But there is one thing I don't understand: the CD of the 'Karajan complete 70's recordings' offers a cleaner sound with less (!) reverberation. For me, this CD sounds indeed 'better' than the SACD.

You've seen my corresponding review on JPC and that I don't recommend the whole set - mainly because of the price. On the other side: for lovers of Karajan's account (like me) of symphonies no. 5 & 6 this set is a must-have. Especially no. 5 is in my opinion a masterpiece - in terms of conducting, orchestral playing and recording.

Comment by Tony Reif - January 22, 2019 (3 of 10)

Very mysterious - the mastering chain is apparently the same as the other two but the result is different. Contrapunctus, you listen on headphones (as I do), so you're certainly hearing what's there. The credits for 7-9 just say "DSD mastering by EBS" - is it the same for 4-6? Herr Maillard mentions that the latter were mastered from the analogue multitracks. This implies that the mastering would have involved remixing. But these people know what they're doing, it's hard to believe that they would have made things worse than the original CD mastering, which probably used the analog 2-track master or even a duplicate - though the Karajan 70s box was supposedly completely remastered (by who?).

Comment by Contrapunctus - January 23, 2019 (4 of 10)

Tony, 'mysterious' is the appropriate word! - I'm really fond of many SHM-SACDs remastered by EBS and I honestly appreciate their (EBS) work. (Sadly and oddly Universal don't.)

Symphony No. 4: There's no doubt for me that EBS used analog tapes for the remastering and I also would believe in Rainer Maillard's statements. But I'm not sure if they really had the ORIGINAL tapes (and not a copy) available in their archives. Maybe I'm wrong. I can only repeat what I hear: this SACD sounds somehow different.

Remastering chain/working flow: after my knowledge EBS is doing the remastering for Universal Japan SHM-SACD always in the same way. Although indicated as 'DSD remastered by EBS' it's not a genuine DSD remastering. EBS first samples the tapes in PCM (24/192). After remixing they convert the PCM files to DSD for SACD production.

Karajan 70's box (CD): another 'mystery'. I don't know who the remastering did. But I highly doubt that EBS was involved. It's important to say that only CD with Bruckner 4 sounds 'better' compared to the SHM-SACD. In ALL other cases of this box the corresponding SHM-SACDs are worlds apart. So is also the SHM-SACD set of Bruckner 7-9 outstanding and very rewarding.

Comment by Tony Reif - January 23, 2019 (5 of 10)

Well, here's an inconsistency - Maillard says they used the multi-tracks in all cases, and by definition that almost certainly means they had access to the originals, because multi-tracks would not usually be duplicated once the record was mixed. And anyway I think a 1-generation loss would not account for the severity of what you hear (I mean, the diffuseness and additional reverberation). Maybe Rainer M. was not directly involved in this project and never heard the results. Perhaps you could contact him about this.

Anyone else want to comment on what they hear?

Btw, for those who reject PCM recordings and only support DSD, I would approve of EBS's approach, at least when they are working with multi-tracks, because it's a lot easier to mix in PCM, with more and better options for processing (EQ etc.) - though I guess DXD would be preferable to 24/192. The main problems with PCM are at the d/a stage (digital filters) but this is less of an issue with 192. I've heard lots of high-res PCM recordings that sound great, and not just on headphones but on a high-end 2-channel speaker system I'm familiar with. (And generally speaking, whatever the original HR release format is sounds the best, whether that's DSD, DXD or even 24/192.)

Comment by james_joyce - January 28, 2019 (6 of 10)

I've had this set for a few months and I really like it. I think all 3 symphonies sound better compared to the original RBCD releases that I've had for decades in all the ways you'd expect a hirez remastering to sound. And while I do a agree the 4th does sound a little more "difuse" and "reverberent" than then other two, I felt the same way about the RBCD version. Perhaps more interesting to me I find the 5th, esp. in the coda of the final movement, which is one of my favorite bits in the entire repertorie, is mixed much more in favor of the low brass at the expense of the trumpets, which I do not think is an improvement.

Comment by Contrapunctus - September 12, 2019 (7 of 10)

After listening with my new Marantz SA-10 it's necessary to correct my earlier comment regarding the 4th symphony. It's astonishing how much better and clearer this SACD sounds now. I wouldn't go so far saying that this is one of the best-sounding recordings ever, but there's no doubt for me, that EBS used the original tapes for remastering. Conclusion: recommendable set.

Comment by laotzu225 - September 12, 2019 (8 of 10)

Contrapunctus, I have just recently acquired the Marantz SA-10 and I saw two references of yours to listening to pieces through it and re-evaluating your opinion about the recordings. Do you really feel it is that good?
Also, have you used it only as a disc player or have you also used it as a DAC for downloads? I have not done much of the latter because I need a better renderer for the download storage.
Thank you.

Comment by Contrapunctus - September 13, 2019 (9 of 10)

Yes, Laotzu, if I compare the differences between my old player (Marantz SA-15S2) and the new SA-10, I'm still very impressed. I wouldn't have expected such an immense difference in sound quality, because my old player was not a low-budget player. Even RBCDs (or PCM16/44.1flacs) via SA10 do sound more detailed for me now. I'm going to explore my music library again with new experience! On the other side I also think, that there are probably other players on the market surpassing the SA-10 (e.g. Esoteric?). For me, the SA-10 reaches my financial limit and I won't/can't look further.

I'm listening with headphones Sennheiser HD800 (modified with Cardas cable) connected directly to the SA-10.

Using the SA-10 as DAC is indeed also very important for me. I already have quite a lot of hires-downloads on usb sticks. And it's quite convenient to plug them into the back of the SA-10. Depending on the size of the usb stick you can listen for hours without interruption.

Looking back over more than 30 years of listening to classical music via headphones, I can say, that every change of a cd-player or headphone caused a small or big step of improvement in sound quality. Changing to the SA10 was a big step (for me).

Comment by hiredfox - September 24, 2019 (10 of 10)

Welcome chaps to the Marantz SA-10 Owner's Club!

This player is almost unique in keeping the DSD signal from the disc intact throughout the processing chain to the audio outputs with no conversion to PCM at any stage. The results speak for themselves. This is by far the best sounding SACD player on the planet, no 'ifs' no 'buts" and not by a small margin. Of course the music & audio industries are far too busy gazing at their own navels to have noticed SA-CD yet alone the sheer brilliance of the SA-10 sound and its closeness to reality.

Our household has revelled in the sound of this most enjoyable of players for over three years now.