Audio Fidelity Releases Its First 4 SACDs [HFR]

Audio Fidelity, the new audiophile record label formed by the founder of DCC Compact Classics has released its first 4 SACD discs. As we reported earlier, the initial releases feature recordings by the Zombies, Mel Torme with Symphony Orchestra, Buddy Rich and his Band and the Cal Tjader Quintet.

Along with the initial 4 SACD releases, Audio Fidelity also announced more information on the next 4 SACD releases and unveiled new artwork that will be used on their SACD releases, starting after the first of the year.

Here’s an update on what’s going on at Audio Fidelity and their SACD program.

The Initial SACD Releases from Audio Fidelity
All 4 of the initial SACD albums announced by Audio Fidelity in September are now available. The albums are:

  • The Zombies Greatest Hits (Audio Fidelity AFZ 001)
  • The London Sessions by Mel Torme with Symphony Orchestra (Audio Fidelity AFZ 002)
  • The Best Band I Ever Had by Buddy Rich and His Band (Audio Fidelity AFZ 003)
  • Latin + Jazz by the Cal Tjader Quintet (Audio Fidelity AFZ 004)

    These discs are single inventory, Hybrid Stereo SACDs. The discs are playable on both SACD and CD equipment.

    Taking A Listen to the Audio Fidelity SACDs
    Just before the release of these SACDs, I was able to sit down and listen to test pressings of the SACDs direct from the Sonopress SACD pressing plant.

    What you’ll find with this first set of Audio Fidelity SACD releases is a high quality, dedicated Stereo CD mastering of each album on the CD layer of the disc and a separate Stereo SACD mastering – both done by audiophile mastering engineer Steve Hoffman. Audio Fidelity says they took this approach to be sure that both the CD layer and the SACD layer were optimized for the best possible sound.

    Greatest Hits - The Zombies (Audio Fidelity AFZ 001)Greatest Hits – The Zombies (Audio Fidelity AFZ 001)

    A listen to the discs confirmed that what was promised was indeed delivered. The Stereo CD layers feature the highly defined and detailed sound you would expect from an audiophile disc mastered by Hoffman.

    Moving on to the Stereo SACD layer, the listener gets even higher quality sonics. The Hoffman mastered SACDs are a bit warmer and have more bass and low end than I’ve heard from some earlier SACD discs.

    The standout among the 4 discs is the Zombies Greatest Hits album with the Stereo versions of “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No”, “I Love You” and “Time of the Season” offering crisp vocals, excellent stereo separation and a nice sense of dimension and space – especially on the first track. Given that these discs are selling for $15.98 list price, they are a bargain to my ears.

    Audio Fidelity Moves to a New Cover Design for Future SACD Releases
    Based on early feedback on the cover artwork of the first 4 SACD releases, Audio Fidelity has redesigned the artwork on their SACDs. The change will take effect in January with the release of the next 3 Audio Fidelity SACDs.

    According to Marshall Blonstein, President of Audio Fidelity, “We’re always looking to improve and I feel that this new design has a cleaner look, yet retains the high-end feel and will be easily distinguished from a traditional CD.”

    I’ve included a copy of the new cover art for the new SACDs so you can have a look. I’d say it’s a definite upgrade from the original design.

    Boogie Chillen' - John Lee Hooker (Audio Fidelity AFZ 005)Boogie Chillen’ – John Lee Hooker (Audio Fidelity AFZ 005)

    John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillen’ Replaces Showboat
    One change in the next release is that the planned release of “Showboat” by the Kenny Dorham Quintet has been cancelled.

    According to Audio Fidelity, the condition of the tapes for that album were not up to the standards for an audiophile SACD release. In its place, Audio Fidelity will be releasing a Hybrid Stereo SACD of “Boogie Chillen'” by John Lee Hooker.

    For Boogie Chillen’, Audio Fidelity went back to the original 1948-1954 recording session tapes of these “Detroit Blues Masterpieces” for the upcoming SACD edition. The only exception will be the title track since recording tape was not in use in 1948 at the United Sound recording studio in Detroit when it was recorded. In that case, “Boogie Chillen'” was transferred from the surviving 78 RPM acetate record. The SACD compilation and remastering work for the album was done by Steve Hoffman at Kevin Gray’s AcousTech Mastering Studio with Lon Neumann serving as the DSD Technician on the remastering session.

    Album Selections on Boogie Chillen’
    The track line up for the album will be as follows:
    1. Hey, ‘S The House Rent Boogie (Hooker-Besman) – 1950
    2. I’m In The Mood (Hooker-Josea) – 1951
    3. Gonna Boogie (Hooker) – 1953
    4. Down Child (Hooker-Taub) – 1953
    5. Baby, I’m Gonna Miss You (Hooker) – 1954
    6. Half A Stranger (R. Sykes) – 1954
    7. Rock House Boogie (Hooker-Taub) – 1952
    8. Baby, You Ain’t No Ugly Good (Hooker) – 1954
    9. Do My Baby Think Of Me? (Hooker-Besman) – 1951
    10. I’m Gonna Git Me A Woman (Hooker-Besman) – 1951
    11. Four Women In My Life (Hooker) – 1951
    12. Yes, Baby, Baby (Hooker) – 1952
    13. Let’s Talk It Over (One More Time) (Hooker) – 1951
    14. Baby, How Can You Do It? (Hooker) – 1951
    15. Bluebird, Take A Letter Down South (Arr: Hooker) – 1952
    16. Boogie Chillen’ (Hooker) – 1948
    17. It Hurts Me So (Hooker-Besman) – 1952
    18. The Syndicator (Hooker-Josea) – 1954

    The Release List for the Next Group of SACD Releases
    As you can see, the next 4 Audio Fidelity SACD releases are well underway and are slated for early next year. Three of the discs will be available in January 2003 and the fourth will be available in February 2003. The release list looks like this:

    January 2003 SACD Releases

  • Boogie Chillen’ by John Lee Hooker (Audio Fidelity AFZ 005)
  • A Session with the Sonny Clark Trio by the Sonny Clark Trio (Audio Fidelity AFZ 006)
  • Greatest Hits by Ritchie Valens (Audio Fidelity AFZ 008)

    February 2003 SACD Release

  • Tommy Turrentine Plus The Max Roach Quintet by Tommy Turrentine, Stanley Turrentine & the Max Roach Quintet (Audio Fidelity AFZ 007)

    The first 4 SACDs from Audio Fidelity have been released and are now available through several of the web sites that carry SACDs including Acoustic Sounds, Elusive Disc, Music Direct and Red Trumpet. The discs are expected to arrive on record store shelves in the coming weeks.

    One note – while the Audio Fidelity SACDs carry a list price of $15.99, the web stores mentioned above have taken $1 off the price of these SACDs. So you can pick them up at $14.99 each – a very nice deal indeed !