Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Celestial Nonsense

Some pieces of music were written not for music lovers but for audiophile nutcases who spend ten thousand dollars on speakers and a couple grand on interconnects. Don't get me wrong, I spend more than I should on audio equipment, too, but I get what sounds good and I run with it. However, I don't want to talk about equipment. I want to talk about records.

Holst's extended tone-poem, The Planets, is one of those pieces that audiophiles just love. There is plenty of dynamic range, plenty of big moments to ruin the Spode in the cupboard, and plenty of moments that everyone knows by heart or by John Williams' liberal adaptation. Every audiophile label, from JVC's XRCD to the various incarnations of the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL), seems to have a recording.

The Zubin Mehta/Decca recording seems to be the audiophile gold standard, but it is a weird, weird recording. If you must have an audiophile recording, buy Susskind's disc on MFSL. Mehta has spot-miking out the wazoo. It seems like every instrument is miked, and the balance engineer tied one on before he mixed it. This is on the list for the least natural recording of all time. From Decca, no less. This exists on 180 gm vinyl and JVC's stopgap XRCD. It's interesting to listen to, just because bad recordings are as fun as bad movies. The LAPO does a good job, but it doesn't matter.

Audiophiles are to blame. If there weren't a market for this abomination, then it wouldn't get made. I bought it out of morbid curiosity.


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