So I am not huge into professing about stuff—invariably you can get too wound up on any one subject and you run the risk of boring people into oblivion. This is true of the analog verses digital debate in the audio world—blah, blah, blah!!! Most people just want to listen to their music.
So still NOT professing, I grabbed an SACD copy of Synchronicity by The Police (1983 release) and sat down to take in this classic that I hadn’t immersed myself in for quite awhile. The SACD track list is the same as the LP except the SACD adds an 11th song—Murder By Numbers.
Right out of the gate I was perplexed—the sound was un-engaging, lifeless, really thin in the bass, but clear and detailed. I made it through Every Breath You Take and I began to wonder—was the original recording really this awful? I hit pause on my NAD Master Series player and headed for my LP copy (a 180-gram reissue) to test the comparison.
Now I am professing. Nowhere on my LP did it say that it was remastered. Bob Ludwig mastered the SACD version in December, 2002—and he certainly knows his business. The LP was so far drastically better than the SACD in so many ways. Let’s start with staging, which was much wider and deeper on the LP. Sting’s bass guitar was forward, with each attack of the string clearly audible and with lower bass extension on the LP verses the SACD. And the decay of effects seemed to hang in space on the vinyl whereas the SACD offered a vague facsimile of the actual recording at best. The overall dimensionality comparison between the two shocked me.
It’s no wonder people get all sorts of passionate about this subject. No question that LP’s have a higher noise floor, take up more space—and who wants to get up and switch sides let alone clean a needle and dust a record??? But the sound is to die for—it is just much better than the SACD, DVD-A and CD I can compare it to in my system. Now if skeptics want to “hate” on my NAD player, I have no problem with that—I have really never compared it sonically to other players, premium or otherwise. But I would be shocked if there was an SACD player out there that could top the performance of the LP in this instance. And Synchronicity is a nice record, but certainly not the “end-all” reference recording ever made. Yet still, the difference between the SACD playback and the LP was staggering. No doubt!!
And when it comes down to it—and why I take time for this BLOG in the first place—it’s all about the musical experience. Sure, in the Caprice I use a CD player as my source, but car audio is vastly different from good home audio—you want great staging, tonality and detail in a car but you also want visceral impact—a good throttling. At least I do. At home, I am looking for the ultimate playback experience—it throws me off if anything is out of whack.
Synchronicity is a fun record—I like a lot of it. But if you want to sit down and listen to the definition of a timeless hit pop song, you can’t find many that out-smooth “Every Breath You Take.” It is the tailored Armani suit of its era. Just remember that it only really shines the way The Police meant it to shine—on LP.