In 1990, this legendary work finally received the golden-gloved CD- remastering treatment. That disc is quite satisfying, with a clean, mostly relaxed sound that makes Brian Wilson’s handiwork easy to appreciate. In keeping with the style of the day, the balance is quite lean. On occasion, this version’s vocals get irritatingly edgy, but the problem isn’t pervasive.
As for the 96/24 download, this is a case where hi-res really lives up to its moniker. Compared to the CD, the download more faithfully captures difficult instruments like the sleigh bells in “God Only Knows.” Strings invariably sound more realistic, too, and vocals lose some of that grating edge. The 192/24 version offers even more resolving power, so realism is amped up still further. Additionally, this version offers a greater sense of space and more solid rhythms than the 96/24 edition. Most significantly, vocals at this resolution achieve a heretofore elusive purity. Indeed, the 192/24 download is a surprisingly big jump up from the 96/24. It’s well worth the extra coin, especially for such a classic, archive-worthy album.