Ella & Louis/Ella & Louis Again
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Blu-ray Pure Audio Discs: No Compression, No Compromise. Blu-ray Pure Audio Discs Offer True High-Resolution 24-bit/96kHz Audiophile Sound. Universal Music Group has gone back to the original master tapes to deliver fully uncompressed, high-resolution versions of many of your favorite albums on Blu-ray Pure Audio Disc. Mastered at 24bit/96kHz, Blu-ray Pure Audio Discs deliver the sound the artists originally heard in the studio when these classic albums were recorded. These discs provide all the recorded musical information. While convenient due to their small file size, today's heavily compressed music files do not represent the true fidelity of the original album. Recordings are transferred from the original master tapes and delivered in high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz audio. No compression is utilized, and the sound quality is vastly superior to MP3 or standard CD. Three separate choices of audio file format for playback: PCM 2.0, Dolby True HD, or DTS-HD Master Audio (5.1 available where noted). Your preferred audio format is chosen either by pressing the "Audio" button on your Blu-ray remote or via your onscreen menu display.
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The bluray disc contains both "albums" recorded within I think 2 years of each other. The higher sampling rate comes from the PCM track according to my very basic Sony bluray player.
Worth a purchase for under $25
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
So if I had reached audio nirvana, why bother buying this blu-ray? Good question. First, and most importantly, it contains all 19 songs from Again compared to just 9 songs on the SACD. (Many versions of Again are similarly truncated.) So the ability to have both albums complete on one disc was very appealing, especially at a price under $30. The SACDs, by comparison, are $30 each and contain 10 fewer songs. Second, there was the possibility that UMG had managed to wring even higher sound quality from the original master tapes, though I wasn't sure how that would be possible. Nevertheless, it seemed worth checking out.
Well, enough with the preamble, let me get to the conclusion and explain from there: it didn't take much comparison to realize that, in terms of sound quality, the APO SACDs blow this Pure Audio Blu-ray away. The Blu-ray is a very nice recording. The SACDs are the unmistakable sound of real singers and real instruments in a live space. The difference is just that simple, and is not subtle or nuanced at all.
Some caveats about this conclusion: if you only owned this Pure Audio Blu-Ray, you might be perfectly happy with it, unaware of its shortcomings without a clearly superior remastering against which to compare it. That said, I'm still happy that I purchased it for the 10 additional songs on Again.
Also keep in mind that the superiority of the SACDs isn't going to matter if you're not set-up for SACD playback of the pure DSD stream. Otherwise you're left with the CD layer of this hybrid disc, which is simply not as good. Finally, I wanted to mention the playback system used for this comparison:
For the Analogue Productions SACDs, it's an Oppo BDP-95 feeding the pure DSD signal via analog XLR to the passive pre-amp section of a Theta Gen VIII processor, then out via XLR to a Spectron Musician III Amp and Gallo Reference 3.5 speakers. All cables and interconnects are Cardas Golden Reference. For the blu-ray, it's much the same, except the Oppo is feeding a lossless, 24/96 PCM 2.0 signal into the Theta Gen VIII for decoding, then out via balanced XLR to the amp and speakers.
Thanks for taking the time to read my review and I hope you find it helpful in making a buying decision.
Regarding the audio choices: it should be noted that you need a blu-ray player or a receiver that can decode these audio codecs. Most units manufactured in the last 5 years or so should be able to decode them. HDMI cables are also needed, otherwise you won't be hearing the full uncompressed tracks. Listeners should also let their receiver decode the audio (if they have one) as opposed to the blu-ray player. Most receivers now show the audio on the front of unit itself when it is decoding the audio, so you'll see either PCM, DTS-HD MA or Dolby True HD on the front of your receiver depending on which audio you choose. This will ensure you're hearing the full, uncompressed version of the tracks in all their Pure Audio glory.