Monday, 30 September 2013

Yes - High Vibration SACD Box Set Sound Quality

Of course the main reason for buying this massive box set of Yes recordings is the prospect of superior sound which SACD should offer. That is partially down to the mastering from the tapes. Here, these were done in Japan of course, by Isao Kikuchi who was responsible for the 2009 rematers for the SHM Yes titles and I believe the previous HDCD catalogue releases. Plenty on the Steve Hoffman forum don't rate his work at all. On the SHM masters I actually, for the most part found them to be really good. As far as this SACD box set goes I think he has done an excellent job.

The highlights for me are Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer and Drama. The sound is very clear, particularly on Relayer. The bass is very distinct, without overwhelming everything else. TFTO now has a bit of life about it which makes it a much more exciting listen. It has always been one of my favourite Yes albums, but I always thought of it having a very lacklustre sound. Relayer always sounded murky and over busy. Here the murkiness is gone, the detail and layers of instrumentation coming through very distinct. Drama is very punchy with Whites drumming never better recorded.

The poorest sounding discs are those for Fragile and Close to the Edge. On South Side of the Sky, Wakemans piano distorts and on CTTE, the organ solo also crackles a bit. However, what was side 2 of Fragile on the original LP sounds stunning. Long Distance Runaround/The Fish is sublime and actually gave me goosebumps. I have never heard this sound so good. My feeling is the distortion I am hearing may be more down to the tapes than the mastering as the other discs in the set sound so good. Hoffmans recent CTTE SACD master didn't suffer the same problem during the organ solo, maybe he used different tapes.

Overall this is a fine sounding set. What Kikuchi has done is enable the SACD masters to let the natural sound of these recordings shine through. For me he has not added too much EQ or overwhelmingly compressed them. Of course many will disagree with me. I am not an audiophile, I am just using my ears and I like what I hear which is good enough for me.


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