Hi-Res Downloads, December 2020

hfnalbumClandestine Amigo
Temporary Circumstances (44.1kHz-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC; DSD64)
www.psaudio.com; Octave Records OCT 002

The idea of a hi-fi company having its own record label is nothing new: Linn's has won multiple awards, and many other firms from high-end to mass-market have had a go from time to time. But Octave, an offshoot of PS Audio, is rather different: yes, it too is committed to paying its artists fairly and recording them in the highest possible quality, but it also makes its releases available in strictly limited editions. This album, the debut by singer/songwriter Jessica Carson and her band, is offered in a run of just 1300 SACDs, 500 45rpm 2LP sets, plus this DSD/PCM download bundle. Recorded using a stack of high-end studio equipment, it's musically interesting in a small-scale way, but most impressive for its extraordinary sound, with the kind of presence that redefines the word 'intimate'. If you like that sense of a band being in the room with you, then you'll love this! AE

Sound Quality: 95%


Lab Report
Best auditioned as the native DSD64 file [RMS, blue; Peak, red] which shows a good dynamic range <30kHz. The 192kHz [orange] and 96kHz [green] downsamples filter out much DSD noise. Note spurious 18kHz tone on the vocal feed [grey]. PM


Berliner Philharmoniker/Kirill Petrenko
Symphonies by Beethoven (Nos 7 & 9), Schmidt (No 4) and Tchaikovsky (Nos 5 & 6); Stephan: Music for Orchestra in One Movement (96Hz/24-bit, FLAC)*
www.highresaudio.com; Berliner Philharmoniker BPHR200351

A substantial saving over the 'Deluxe' physical presentation, the downloads still come with one of the most elaborate of PDFs – inordinately long musicological essays, a foreword by Petrenko and colour photos. The music section reflects a new Berlin start under Petrenko, with composers he wants to promote: Franz Schmidt and Rudi Stephan. Readers will remember the thrilling Proms Beethoven Seventh: the one here is similar – the finale too fast in parts – but a respectful 'Choral' is marred by a poor bass and even worse soprano soloist. The Pathétique was our 2019 Yearbook Album Choice, and No 5 is no less fine. Petrenko does tend to exaggerate – rests, pianissimi, etc – but on the whole a recommended set (particularly for the Schmidt). CB

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
There are short sequences in trk 2 [black] (No 7, II. Allegretto) and trk 9 (No. 9, IVb. Presto) where the 96kHz sample rate collapses to 48kHz. Some spuriae too at 33kHz, but otherwise this offers a fine bandwidth and dynamic range. PM


Lady A
On This Winter's Night (Deluxe) (96kHz/24-bit)
www.hdtracks.com; Capitol Records Nashville 509994 04818 2 1

With a title like that, one might expect a cosy, huddled round the fire album like the many festive offerings to have appeared in recent years, complete with folksy instrumentation and ethereal vocals seemingly designed for a John Lewis ad. But that's not what you get here from the outfit formerly known as Lady Antebellum – latterly rebranded despite the existence of a blues singer of the same name. Lady A's take on a seasonal album, originally released in 2012 as an expansion of an earlier six-track EP, is big, blowsy and bold. This good-time country take on familiar tunes, with lush arrangements and instrumentation, sounds suitably punchy and dynamic in its 'Deluxe' guise. The saving grace in this good ol' sentimentifest is the quality of the harmonies the trio produce, at least when they manage to soar above the glossy production. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Recorded loud – every track peaks within just 0.1dB of digital clipping (0dBFs) – the effective dynamic range of this seasonal blast is limited to the top 1-2 of its 24-bits. But, no doubt, every 'Hz' of its ~48kHz bandwidth is filled with song! PM


Francesco Piemontesi, SCO/Andrew Manze
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 19 and 27, Rondo K386 (192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.linnrecords.com; Linn CKD622

Mozart's K459 (No 19) is a wholly extrovert work well suited to this young Swiss pianist's manner, whereas K595, the composer's last piano concerto, brings one or two doubts. Whether or not you feel this is an 'autumnal' piece (and the booklet note suggests Mozart was just looking for a new approach) there is an underlying inwardness. The little flourishes Piemontesi gives the finale add exuberance, but in the Larghetto he cannot leave the writing alone, and I do find his interventionist decorations – however justified in historical terms – excessive. In these clean, well-balanced recordings the Scottish winds really shine, Manze's bold accompaniments keeping pace with the soloist yet rather lacking individuality. The cadenzas all have an improvisatory feel: excellent. CB

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Another Philip Hobbs production for Linn, this 192kHz file shows the slight rise in ultrasonic noise and spuriae at 86-94kHz seen before [HFN Jun '20] but the bandwidth is well used (strings to 40kHz) and peaks do not exceed –0.2dBFs. PM


Olive Brown
Empress Of The Blues (DSD64/128/256/512/DXD)
www.nativedsd.com; 2xHD JA1184

No, me neither – but not having discovered Olive Brown until now is definitely my loss, as is clear from a listen to this latest restoration project from the wonderful 2xHD label. Drawing on three of Brown's 1970s albums for the Jazzology label, this compilation has been put together by converting the original analogue tapes via a custom-tubed Nagra and the label's in-house-designed ADC, and pretty special it sounds. Yes, the tracks are definitely period pieces, but it's clear that Brown, who died almost 40 years ago at just 60, both had serious pipes on her and could make even familiar music by the blues greats her own. She's aided here by a band made up of old-school battle-hardened jazzers – listen to them delivering 'How Come You Do Me Like You Do', and I defy you not to smile. However, be aware that there's some confusion in the track-listing here. AE

Sound Quality: 80%


Lab Report
Brown's '70s tapes are captured in DXD and resampled to DSD64-512. Encoding leaves the MSB untouched so peaks are –6dBFs or lower. Limited ~20kHz range means there's no difference in content from DSD64 to DSD128 [black]. PM