Anyone else getting the new Esoteric London/Solti Ring Cycle SACD/CD boxset?

Suteetat -- Thu, 01/21/2010 - 05:07

After contemplating the cost for awhile, I decided to get the new Esoteric 14 SACD boxset of Solti Ring Cycle.
Considering that it cost almost twice as much as Testament's recent release of the original London/Bayreuth recording and
that I already own the original London CD release of the set plus 30% import tax, I was rather worried that this was
bad investment. The boxset came with SACD in DVD type box, 4 books, I believe 2 were libretto in German and Japanese translation, John Culshaw's Ring Resounding in Japanese and one book I assume on discussion of the Ring cycle or perhaps the remaster or whatever that only has 2 pages in English and the rest in Japanese.
I understand that London remastered this set sometimes in the late 1990's with some sonic improvement over the first release that I have but I have not heard the remastered set so I don't know how it compares to Esoteric. Comparing to the first London CD set, playing CD layer of the new set it is quite easy to hear the improvement especially in Nilsson's voice. Her voice is much smoother and less edgy than it was in the original CD.
Currently I don't have a good SACD playback system since I changed my DAC to Berkeley but looks like I now have the excuse to do get something better than my old Pioneer DVD/SACD player :)
Has anyone heard this set or other Esoteric SACD remasters?

gerard french (not verified) -- Thu, 01/21/2010 - 08:38

I wish in the future you have a great S A C D system ;so you will en joy the most interesting novelty in recorded music :the d s d recording edited in s a c d .YOU will hear instrument captured in a way never performed before .Try by yourself with s a c d from channel classic or pentatone but recorded in D S D .

Fredric Einstein (not verified) -- Thu, 01/21/2010 - 09:56

Here's what I posted on some other forums....
 
I received the Esoteric SACD version of the Solti Ring and have listened to the first scene of Das Rheingold. I have compared it against my first-pressing on Decca (not London) as well as an early '70's Decca U.K. pressing included in the deluxe box set that Decca issued (the one with the metal-engraved artwork on it). Both LP sets are in "new" playing condition.

I did the comparison in two ways, first of all, by doing a switch back-and forth between the closely synchronized playing between the SACD and the LP and secondly, by listening to the SACD first scene completely and then listening to the two LP versions' side ones in their entirety.

Equipment used was a ELP laser turntable, a Sony SCD-1 SACD player played through the VAC 1995 reissues of the Marantz 7c preamps and Marantz 9 amps. Speakers are FMI "J" loudspeakers.

The SACD has a wonderful stereo image, just as every Decca Estoteric SACD has. The instruments, although recorded with gimmicky multi-miking at Vienna's Soffensiel (in order to use the stereo effect the dramatize the action), really coalesced into an incredible 3D effect in ways that the LP versions didn't do. The orchestra layout was intimitely reproduced when listening to the SACD. The LP versions, although impressive, didn't approach the three-dimensionality of stereo image of the SACD. It was like comparing a live performance to a flat wall.

Both LP versions have an incredible warmth to them. The SACD had a wonderful fullness to it, but lacked some of the warmth. I suspect that it's just a physical characteristic of LP's, especially from that era, to "dull" the highs a bit. This manifests itself in the LP's sounding "warm". On the SACD, the highs were not painful at all (the soprano Rhinemaidens didn't shriek at me), but they were more defined than on the SACD than the LP. The LP's had some blattyness to Alberich's voice which was much more sharply focused on the SACD. You could actually hear his growling on the SACD (the LP's just sounded like a "low baritone" voice).

Being a semi-pro tuba player, I have always been enamoured by the brass choir of Rheingold's first scene (featuring a choir of 16 "Wagner tubas" that range from French Horn pitch down to contra-bass tuba pitch). The LP's made the high Wagner tubas sound kind of like mellow French Horns (and that's what I always thought that Wagner tubas sounded like). The SACD version was a revelation in that it revealed the fact that these Wagner tubas are conical-bore sounding instruments rather than cylindrical-bore instruments like French Horns are! The "mellow fullness" of the Wagner tubas could be "felt" on the SACD version and one could easily differentiate between the sound of the French Horns and the Wagner tubas on the SACD. One cannot discern the difference on the LP's.

All-in-all, the SACD's are absolutely incredible. Just to re-live the stereo image in exciting as hell! Knowing the Solti Ring intimately (I used to check it out from the library when I was 12 years old), I have never heard the life and the genius of Culshaw's team's engineering more acutely than on this SACD issue. A definite "must-have" for anyone who loves Wagner and Solti.

WARNING: DON'T PAY ANY MORE THAN $719 for this! Elusive Disc had a sale before New Year's that discounted this set by 10%. Wait until they have another sale or call them up and ask them for the same sale!
 
 
I Later wrote:
I restricted my listening to the first scene of Rheingold tonight. It definitely is worth the price of admission, just due to the improvement over any issue that's come before (even surpassing the first-press Decca that I have). The SACD's analytic ability to separate the massed orchestra sound was incredible, something which I noticed especially during the "Rheingold!! Rheingold!!" refrain sung by the Rhinemaidens. I did not bother comparing to the shrill mid-80's London CD issue that I have (I don't have the noise-reduced 1995 remaster on CD, so I can't compare that) since I can't stand the shrieking caterwaulling sound of the Rhinemaidens on that one.
 
I lastly wrote about Die Walkure:
More comparison listening between the SACD's and the original first-pressing Decca LP's, some likes and dislikes...

Pro:
1) The record doesn't begin the let you hear the "bow on string" sound of the string basses during the overture and Siegmund's "run through the forest". The SACD really brings out the overtones and undertones of the string bass in a way that the LP cannot begin to duplicate.

2) The "separation" between the instruments in the orchestra continues to be my favorite revelation on the SACD's. The LP's kind of "blur" the orchestra together whereas the SACD allows you to differentiate between each instrument in the brass and woodwind choirs.

3) The imaging continues to be superb on the SACD finally realizing Culshaw's vision of a 3D picture of a performance. Exceeds the LP version's "3D image" by manyfold.

3a) The incredible dynamic range of the SACD really makes the "thunderous" massed sound of the tympani during the "run through the forest" blow you out of your chair in a way that the LP version could NEVER do. I literally jumped up in shock, even though I've been listening to the same performance of the overture of Walkure for the last 35 years on LP!

Con:
4) I couldn't take the sound of Siegmund's voice on the SACD. I had to turn the volume down. The LP presents James King's Siegmund as a fine, powerful, but infinitely listenable tenor. The SACD's makes his voice go right through you like fingernails on a chalkboard! The is certainly NOT a comment on James King's wonderful performance as Siegmund, but rather the presentation on the SACD.

Is it possible that the original recording engineers miked him with a shrill-sounding mike that the SACD is revealing? Could the SACD remasterers have equalized the master tape to overemphasize the tenor frequency range in some way? All I know is that it's awful hard to listen to the SACD version of Act I because of the "ringing" of James King's voice. Crespin's soprano Sieglinde and Frick's powerful performance of Hundig were perfectly captured by the SACD (and you could really hear Frick growling his hatred and contempt! Much more vivid than on the Decca LP!!!).

Conclusion: The SACD continues to reveal details of Solti's performance that I have never realized before, even though I've been listening to the Solti Ring on Decca LP's for over 35 years. The SACD is a revalation displaying Culshaw's brilliant production and the superb engineering team of Vienna at that time. (Still like the Keilberth 1955 stereo Decca Ring better though!!!).

Suteetat -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 04:03

Thanks for the comment. That makes me feel a bit better about investing in such an expensive set :)
I am looking in to Sony 9000ES SACD player right now. Unfortunately the 5400ES is not available locally here which I
heard is excellent but located on 9000ES for a reasonable price.
I will have to listen to King's voice again but from brief listening last night to the CD, I thought his voice was ok.
I like the performance on Keiberth but does not care much for the sound and the soundstage perspective.
I think Solti's set offer very good balance between sonic quality and performance. As a conductor, he may not add as much to the
performance but at least he did not subtract or ruined the performance either.

Fredric Einstein (not verified) -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 07:13

Suteetat,
Hi again.  My comments on the James King "shriek" on the Esoteric Walkure was on MY system and in MY listening room.  It's very possible that my speakers and my listening room overemphasize the tenor area of James King's voice in that particular area of the spectrum where King's voice is.  The "exact" spectrum of overtones and undertones of King's voice may be revealed by the SACD remaster.  The LP didn't reveal these "shrieks" (the only way I can describe the SACD's sound on King's voice).  When you get the remaster, compare to your CD version.  Remember that the "new" CD mastering from 1995 is high-limited because of the the stupid idiocy of reducing the tape hiss (which is not an issue because of the whale oil tape that they used -- as revealed by the SACD not having lots of hiss at all).  The ONLY CD mastering to have is the mid-80's version since they didn't have the technology to "noise-reduce" it.  When the 1995 version came out, I bought Rheingold, even though I had the mid-80's complete Ring on London.  The 1995 version of Rheingold when straight into the garbage can.  Thank god for the Esoteric SACD!  It's better than the original 1959 Decca LP and the early-70's deluxe  Decca LP sets!!!!!

Fredric Einstein (not verified) -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 07:35

Also,
  My comments on Keilberth being my favorite (favourite??) are based ONLY on the performance (being more emotionally involved and less blow-hardy than Solti's).  The 1955's stereo sound is also amazing for a live performance.  I was at Beyreuth and heard the Ring's there in the mid-70's and the early 90's and from what I recall, the Keilberth Ring is what the soundstage at Beyreuth sounds like!

Fredric Einstein (not verified) -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 07:37

And by the way, the advertisement at the top of the page from Harmon International and especially Lexicon don't impress me.  Lexicon has stolen people's money and should refund the purchase price of their shitty little stolen Blu-Ray disc player.

Suteetat -- Fri, 01/22/2010 - 17:53

I listened again the die Walkure last night (CD layer only, won't have access to decent SACD player till next week). I do think that voices have mor presence. Crespin sounds a bit larger, fuller. King's voice is also more prominent but in my system, never got to the unbearable or shrieky. l have to wait and see how SACD layer sounds like.

Fredric Einstein (not verified) -- Sat, 01/23/2010 - 01:56

Thanks for your comment Suteetat.  I think that the SACD layer will be a revelation to you as it was to me.  Pay particular attention to the remaster's "separation of instruments".  Instead of "Die Walkurenritt" sounding like a marching band blaring at you, you hear the subtlties of the instruments.  Congratulations on your purchase and enjoy the set!

Andre (not verified) -- Mon, 04/05/2010 - 15:00

 Which online store carries this  item, please?

Suteetat -- Mon, 04/12/2010 - 18:46

I got my copy from Elusive Disc.

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