Is the Rolling Stones disc in your hand a hybrid SACD or just an old Compact Disc? How do you tell the two apart? Many consumers have been confused by the Rolling Stones’ re-mastered packaging, as are the members of staff in countless record stores around the world.
On August 5th, some time after the release of the Rolling Stones re-masters, I was in the Tower Records superstore (their flagship Sherman Oaks store, with the dedicated SACD listening room, no less), and thought I’d pick up a couple of Rolling Stones re-mastered discs.
In the upstairs “audiophile” section where all the SACDs are displayed, the Stones were nowhere to be found. Downstairs, in the mainstream ‘Rock’ section were a fair number of the Stones re-masters, but there was absolutely nothing anywhere on them indicating they were SACD discs. Not even the circular DSD logo. As we know from previous High Fidelity Review news stories, all the re-mastered releases are hybrid CD/SACD, but no one that worked there could tell me for sure – so I left the store empty handed.
Now, I can understand that the SACD ‘marketeers’ might want to downplay the SACD aspect to avoid confusing the unwashed masses who might be leery (for good reason) of incompatible/unplayable new disc formats. But given that there are also a fair number of SACD-savvy buyers who are interested in these releases specifically for their better sound quality, what is the logic in making it almost impossible to determine whether the product they’re holding in their hands is an SACD disc at all?
This bone-headed decision to withhold information from customers cost them a sale in my case, and even if I do eventually get the discs there will always be lingering annoyance that it was all a lot more trouble than it need have been.
So how do you know whether the disc on the shelf is indeed an SACD re-master or just one of countless other Stones releases? Well, the first thing not to do is look for separate CD-DA and SACD releases, the ABKCO titles are hybrids and therefore are both Compact Disc and SACD compatible. Next, pay close attention to the packaging used, the ABKCO discs are presented in cardboard ‘digipacks’, not standard Jewel boxes (see first image). Finally, look for a black ‘Re-mastered’ sticker on the packaging and most importantly, the words ‘© 2002 ABKCO Records’ (see below).
Each disc does include a detailed explanation of the CD and SACD layers, but only inside the digipack sleeve. Thanks to HFR’s Nigel Pond for the images.