CES 2004: Marshall Blonstein, owner of the Audio Fidelity label arrived at the show on Friday with a limited number of copies of the label’s two newest SACD releases – Deep Purple Live at the BBC and The Searchers: The Collection. Blonstein also took time from his schedule at the show to sit down and talk about the latest developments at the label, including his new Audio Fidelity web site discussion forum.
Two New Audio Fidelity SACD Releases
The highlight of the Audio Fidelity presence at CES was the release of the new Super Audio CDs by Deep Purple and The Searchers. Blonstein noted that both of the new SACDs were mastered by Steve Hoffman who he refers to as “the maestro of mastering” with the DSD Engineering being handled by Lon Neumann from the Sony SACD Project’s Suite in Hollywood.
Deep Purple: Live on the BBC
The new Deep Purple disc features 7 selections from their role in the BBC concert series “Sounds of the Seventies” at the Paris Cinema in London on March 9, 1972. The Super Audio CD also includes two bonus tracks (“Hush” and “River Deep, Mountain High”) that were recorded in the studio and charted as singles in 1968. The disc also has a track from the BBC concert (“Lucille”) that does not appear on the CD redbook layer of the disc “due to time constraints”.
The liner notes by Deep Purple expert Dave Hodgkinson of thehighwaystar.com say that “The Paris Cinema in Regent Street had been hosting concerts since the early sixties and had some of the best engineers in the business. The recording is effectively Machine Head live, with six out of seven of the tracks from that album, followed by an encore of Little Richard’s rock and roll standard “Lucille”. For those coming from Machine Head, this is the ultimate live version of Deep Purple, Mk. II. For those whose late night FM stations played one or other side of Made in Japan, this is what 1972 should have sounded like.”
‘Deep Purple – Live at the BBC‘ (Audio Fidelity AFZ 017)
The Searchers – The Collection
Turing to the Searchers disc, it is a collection of 17 “true stereo tracks” of the group’s “greatest hits” from 1963 to 1966. The album includes some real favorites from that era including “Love Potion Number 9”, “Needles and Pins” and “Don’t Throw Your Love Away.” Each song was taken from the original stereo master tapes obtained by license from Pye Records in the U.K.
According to the liner notes of the disc “Steve Hoffman remastered the 17 songs on this new SACD from the 15 ips Pye Studios original stereo master mixes by Robert Auger and Eddie Kramer. A vintage (1964) vacuum tube Ampex MX-35 line mixer was restored especially for this project and was used exclusively in the mastering process. The analog output was mastered directly to High Resolution DSD without any other processing steps, PCM or otherwise.”
From my listening to the two new titles, while the Deep Purple disc will probably garner the most sales, the fidelity on the new Searchers SACD is the real standout here. In particular, you’ll want to listen to the three dimensional, almost holographic vocals on tracks 2 (I Pretend I’m With You) and 6 (Don’t Throw Your Love Away) of the Searchers disc. It’s an outstanding transfer to Super Audio CD. For ’60s music fans, the Searchers SACD will be a must have.
SACD Title Suggestions Wanted
Marshall Blonstein tells me that he is excited about the response to the discussion forum on the Audio Fidelity web site (click on the link below for a look). Apparently high resolution audio fans have been visiting there and suggesting titles they would like to see on SACD from the label.
Blonstein says he makes a point of trying to visit the web forum once a week and personally respond to the comments and suggestions about his label’s releases there. In particular, he says he “loves” the suggestions for future SACD and Vinyl LP releases which in some cases even include track by track listings!
Blonstein finds the feedback to be a helpful guide as he negotiates with record labels about potential future audiophile releases. He is hopeful that more music fans will take advantage of the web forum to drop by and let him know what they would like the label to reissue on Super Audio CD and is actively inviting them to do so. Clearly he is an engaged and enthusiastic player in the audiophile disc market.