Software Review.

November 13, in DVD Audio, Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

No, not the latest digital audio editor, but looks at new DVD-A, DVD-V, and SACD releases you may want to check out.

The Animatrix

Warner Bros.
www.theanimatrix.com
DVD-Video

By now you probably fall into one of two categories:
[1] have had enough of The Matrix and its tremendous promotion machine or
[2] can’t get enough of The Matrix, please send more.
If you are in the latter camp, then you are more than likely familiar with The Animatrix, a DVD-Video containing nine short films that take place in the world of The Matrix. In fact, the first film shows events that lead up to the summer’s first sequel, Matrix Reloaded.

The visuals vary in styles, from complete CG animation to traditional Anime renderings. Each film look like careful attention was paid to the look and visual style. Unfortunately, it seems this comes in expense of the sound design.

There are a few nice surround sound moments on the disc — the best-heavy techno soundtrack on the first film “The Flight of the Osiris,” pounds around the channels. And there are a few other effects thrown in the rears, but the majority of the work is done by the front channels, which is a shame because some very unique worlds were created by the artists, with plenty of opportunities for the sound to enhance the environments and make them more real for the viewer.
Without a doubt, fans of The Matrix will need to see this disc, but their eyes are in for more of a treat than their ears. —Anthony Savona

Mysterious Traveler

Weather Report
Columbia/Legacy
SACD Stereo/Multichannel

This is a reissue of the 1974 original recording of Weather Report’s Mysterious Traveler. Weather Report was formed from some of the best players from Miles Davis’s groundbreaking, sometimes derided, and still debated post-jazz bands. Davis, taking off from his modal soundscapes in “Sketches of Spain,” made choices to take far left turns to “Bitches Brew” and “In a Silent Way.” This music sounds tame today, but it does not sound like what evolved into Fuzak over the next decade.

This surround mix as delivered on the SACD is strictly 4.0, with no center channel or LFE content ever. Seated precisely, with tape measure and laser level in hand, this 4.0 mix is one of the most sumptuous I’ve heard. Percussion instruments, such as in the opening of “American Tango.” are heard from the rear and sides with a presence that just isn’t there in the 2-channel mix (although I’m comparing this to a well-worn LP). Ambience that leaves you cold in the 2-channel mix places you in a wonderful space in the 4.0 mix. The ‘verbs sound like EMT plates in all their glory.

Joe Zawinal’s Moogs and Fender Rhodes weren’t the vintage Holy Grail sounds that we try to duplicate virtually on computers these days; they were just the tools at hand then, and are well served by this SACD presentation. Solo synthesizers carry just as much weight as Wayne Shorter’s majestic sax. The rhythm section of Ishmael Wilburn on drums and Alphonso Johnson on bass float, groove, and swing, but serve as machines. This disc shows this group delivering living, breathing music, not jazz as it was or rock as it was, but certainly its own animal.

The liner notes call this a compact disc…can Sony sue itself? Certainly an SACD disc does not conform to any color-book standards, and this SACD can only be played on an SACD player. This is touted as “24-bit digitally remastered,” so I’m not convinced this was DSD until mastering onto the SACD. The sound is undeniably clean, quiet, warm, and three-dimensional. —Doug Osbourne

Symphony No. 25 KV183
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Europa Philharmonia Budapest
Maximianno Cobra, conductor
Hodie (www.hodie-world.com)
DVD-Audio/DVD-Video Hybrid

The Hodie label is dedicated to producing classical orchestral and choral recordings of the finest quality — both in the performances and the technology used. French/Brazilian conductor Maximianno Cobra takes a somewhat non-traditional approach to tempi (explained in a booklet with the disc), yielding recordings that are significantly longer than conventional approaches. Non-traditional here means contemporary tradition, the concept being that composers like Mozart and Beethoven based their tempi notations on metronome-based timings that, interpreted in that regard would yield timing as much as half slower than conventional mathematical based readings.

In this case, the result is a sweeping and paced rendition of the Symphony 25. The young orchestra (founded in 1999) is excellent and the performance absorbing. The surround mixes effectively convey a deeper sense of being there, placing you in the hall convincingly.

The menu structures are simple, and there are no bonus features (photos, video, etc.) on the disc — the space is saved for music.

The Mozart Symphony No 25 disc is part of their Essentia series of double-sided discs with DVD-Audio content on one side and DVD-Video on the other. The DVD-Audio side contains a 192 kHz, 24-bit stereo track, and a 6.0 96 kHz, 24-bit track. The 192 kHz track itself is gorgeous and spatial, and the surround tracks take it even further. The 6.0 format can prove a challenge to the casual listener, as the 6th channel is meant to be center rear, and would require rerouting the .1/LFE channel out (at least on my DVD-Audio player) and rerouting it for center rear. An additional complication can be that if bass management is being employed, this channel also needs to be included. As in my installation, this will require circuitry external to most players and receivers.

For those not willing or equipped to tackle the 6.0 set up, the disc can be flipped and the DVD-Video side will provide a two-channel, 48 kHz, 16-bit mix and 48 kHz, 24-bit 5.1 tracks encoded in both Dolby Digital and DTS tracks. I was never able to get my system to play back the DTS track, however, the system kept interpreting the track as LPCM (so you get a white noise sounding decode instead of music).

The growing Hodie catalog shares a unified approach, and the fans of this disc will certainly find their additional offerings equally outstanding. —Frank Wells

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