Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Welcome Holiday Respite Courtesy of 2L Recordings

Last week was a rough, troubling week. Monday started off with a health scare that put me into a foul yet unstable frame of mind. The ongoing debate over the political correctness of the term "Wife Acceptance factor" became quite heated and I found myself being criticized on both sides of the argument. All of this happened in the middle of our seasonal rush, with international shipping avenues completely clogged up for the holidays, resulting in delayed shipments and angry customers. And people ask me why I don't celebrate Christmas. Maybe two decades of retail management has something to do with that.

I did receive another welcome package from Norway. Morten Lindberg sent me several 2L recordings to review, and those should appear shortly. In that care package, however, I found two discs that I've already reviewed--TrondheimSolistene's Souvenir and Flint Juventino Beppe's Remote Galaxy. I did notice that the packaging was slightly different--traditional jewel cases had replaced the older clamshell case. When I opened them I discovered that these were merely Blu-Ray audio discs--not the usual two disc set with both Blu-ray and a CD/SACD hybrid. I wasn't quite sure why Morten wanted to send these to me--I already have both of these titles in LP, CD and Blu-ray. Perhaps he wanted to emphasize a more affordable way to own these groundbreaking recordings. I put them aside for a couple of weeks and almost forgot about them.

When I noticed them once again, sitting in my stack or review materials, I suddenly remembered the strengths of each recording and how that would translate to listening on my new high-quality headphone rig. First up was Souvenir, the Grammy-nominated recording that really put 2L on the map in the US. If you remember my original reviews of this recording, you'll know that these are small orchestra performances of pieces from Nielson and Tchaikovsky that are arranged in a way so that no musician sits next to another musician with the same instrument. The result is a blended sound that will challenge what you think you know about classical recording.

With my headphone rig, which consists of a prototype of the upcoming Unison Research SH headphone amplifier, Furutech H128 headphones, a cheap Samsung Blu-ray player and Cardas Audio Clear Light cabling, it was far easier to discern these unique orchestral arrangements and pinpoint the differences in sound. With Remote Galaxy, a wildly dynamic and exciting recording, that different perspective, residing entirely within my noggin, was startling and made my heart race with anticipation more than once. (You can read my original review of Remote Galaxy here.)

Yesterday, I had an idea. I've just received the new high-efficiency (94 dB, 8 ohms) Unison Research Max loudspeakers, which were designed for low-powered tube amps such as Unison's own Simply Italy (12wpc) and Triode 25 (22 wpc triode/45wpc pentode). Needless to say, the Max goes very loud with very little power. These 2L recordings were downright ideal for such a set-up, with plenty of delicacy during the quieter moments and plenty of gusto during crescendos.

Before you know it, my troubles vanished and I starting thinking about how much I've come to love the music coming out of Norway these days. I just submitted my ten top albums for 2014 to Perfect Sound Forever, and three out of the ten are Norwegian recordings. Something tells me that if I visited Norway, even for a week, I'd come back refreshed and ready to write about controversial issues in audio once again.

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