I couple weeks ago I described my visit to Doug Sax’s the Mastering Lab in Ojai, California to listen the live-to-DVD-Rom demo recordings made by engineer Bill Schnee in concert with the ultra hi-rez JCF Audio 24-bit/192kHz DACs. The demonstration while not conclusive (I'll need to hear this at home!) was stunning in terms of space and depth, and layering. There were silky piano harmonics and a dynamic envelope that stretched the boundaries between bone-crushing explosiveness and poignant delicacy. This was beyond any prior digital format that I’ve listened to. In fact it wasn’t immediately clear whether it was digital or analog–it was just, well, music. It also spoke to me about the traditional divide between pro audio and the high end as if the two worlds never dovetail. True, each universe has its own imperatives but this was an instance when a pro system could challenge in every criteria the finest I’ve heard in the high-end world.
Sax still argues that analog direct-to-disc is the best sonic format he’s ever heard, including master tapes. Yet he feels that this two-track process is the closest thing to that standard he has yet heard, and a clear step beyond DVD-A and DSD formats. I have to agree. It won’t be easy introducing a new format in these hard economic times. SACD and DVD-Audio disappeared without a whimper as we all recollect. But I’d sure like to see this format reinvigorate the high rez sector. But at the moment I have to admit it seems like a tough sell. By the way-For those who haven't heard a Direct to Disc recording plenty of used mint Sheffield recordings are readily availabe online. Check 'em out and hear what you're missing.