Various Artists

2L: Nordic Sound - 2L Audiophile Reference Record

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2L's two-disc set includes materials over which audiophiles could sit and argue for hours, if not longer. Each disc contains the same 19 musical selections taken from their growing, broad selection of recordings ranging from Mozart and Vivaldi to Schoenberg and Carter and beyond. The goal, presumably, is to make an argument for the superiority surround sound not just for movies, but for music as well. Disc 1 is a hybrid SACD with three separate audio tracks: DSD Stereo, DSD 5.1 channel surround, and standard 16-bit stereo. The second disc is a Blu-ray disc again presenting three audio formats: 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 channel 24-bit Linear PCM, and two-channel 24-bit Linear PCM. Two discs, 19 tracks, and six different audio formats to choose from; what's an audiophile to do? There can be little question that three surround options, whether on Blu-ray or SACD, offer a far more pleasing listening experience; the level of detail and realism offered in these formats vastly exceeds the stereo tracks. But even between the surround options, there are differences. There are some tracks, such as the excerpts from Britten's "Simple" Symphony and Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin, where the SACD surround track offers a much cleaner, more detailed accounting. However, the sense of truly being in the center of a live performance of Islandmoen's Requiem or Haydn's Op. 76/5, String Quartet that is achieved on the Blu-ray with DTS-HD cannot be improved upon. The decision, then, comes down to the preference of individual listeners. Maybe even more than that, however, is the practicality of using Blu-ray as an audio-only format. Sure, there's a sharp-looking menu that listeners can use to navigate the disc, but that still seems like a bit of a waste of Blu-ray's vast storage capacity. DVD-audio was a format that was even less popular and accepted than SACD, so it will be interesting to see if Blu-ray Audio catches on.

blue highlight denotes track pick