Again with the witty titles, sorry it’s a bad habit. Well in my last article, I promised to go in to more depth on components that can help you enjoy multi-channel music and so I will.
But first I wanted to make a short comment about the release last week of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here Immersion Box Set. I personally own several different formats of the album WYWH including a rare DVD Audio version and a Quad Audio version. I have listened to this album literally hundreds of times. So when the latest release of WYWH came last week. I had high hopes that it was better mastered and would sound better than any of my current copies, but in the end I was surprised to find that at least the Blu-ray disc, which is 96kHz/24bit, well let’s just say I was totally blown away. Again I have listened to this album hundreds of times.
But with the Blu-ray disc, I heard music coming from directly above my head. I had some passages affect my breathing and other passages that momentarily scared me. I really didn’t think that WYWH would surpass Dark Side of The Moon, but it is as least as good and maybe better. I will need to go back and experience both albums multiple times to tell for sure. And that as they say is something you don’t hear……I mean see every day.
Back to the components that can make the multichannel experience a better experience. First I should explain that I have been at this since 1970s when I bought my first Dynaco SCA80Q which was my first multichannel amp. I have progressed on over the years with many different multi-channel amps and components. And when I say many, I mean lots of dollars “Chasing the Dragon”. As some of you already know, when you are in to multichannel everything becomes a little more complex than with Stereo. That is not a dig on Stereo, because you can spend lots of dollars on a high end stereo system, but with multichannel, all things being equal and a do mean equal, then you have to spend quite a bit more to get the same level of performance as a two channel system.
Now most multichannel guys are in to movies and that is certainly a good use of multichannel technology, but when listening to Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend in 5.1 surround sound using a SACD high resolution disc, well the level and number of components that you can use to get the best out of the SACD music disc is astonishing. That is to say, movies in general are set up to use multichannel technology to allow the audience to experience the same spatial sound qualities that the characters on the screen are experiencing. Action movies are made acoustically famous for big explosions and sound coming from all around the listener. In experiencing multichannel music the issues are much more complex.
With many formats there is no visual aspect to the multichannel experience. So how the music is mixed and mastered becomes more about what the artist wants you to experience by hearing spatially what the music can do to you. I am not talking about simulating sitting in the front row of a concert, which by the way is also a good use of multichannel music, but rather by breaking the music up in to multiple channels you can hear more of the music. Okay, that sounds goofy I know.
But at least for me, the first time I heard a quad album back in the 70s, I was hooked on the multichannel experience.
That is not to say that all multichannel music is great, or even good. It is not. But if you listen to something that is mixed and mastered by Steve Wilson, then you are pretty much rest assured that he will give you a unique multichannel music experience. And there are others, actually quite a few others that are good at multichannel music, but we can get in to a list like that at a later time.
Now going back to the issue of multichannel music and components. As I said, I have been at this for a long time and by definition the music reproduction chain is significantly longer when you compare multichannel to stereo or mono music reproduction chains. With that said, I have been upgrading my multichannel systems for many years. I have been cycling through the chain, upgrading components and speakers as technology changed and became available.
Chasing the dragon is more than a saying, it is almost a life style. I have been lucky enough to be successful in business and this has fueled my passions for cars, motorcycles, golf, and multichannel music. I always keep my ear to the ground when it comes to technology but recently I have noticed that I have been listening more and the desire to upgrade has slowed way down. This is probably a result of the last round of upgrades.
My system as it stands now includes a SimAudio Moon Titan Multichannel amp, a custom built McCormack MAP-1 multichannel Pre-amp that was upgraded by Steve McCormack himself. The MAP-1 is in my opinion one of the best multichannel analogue preamps out there and with Steve’s Ambiance Recovery Mode (ARM) you can turn any two channel source in to a multichannel experience that rivals the real thing. I have a Moon Orbiter multichannel universal disc player and an extremely modded Oppo BDP-83se universal disc player for Blu-ray music discs.
Now for two channel sources I have a PS Audio Digilink III that has been modded and when you combine a two channel CD or vinyl record with the PS Audio Digilink III and the Ambiance Recovery Mode (ARM) on the McCormack MAP-1 you get as close to 5.1 Hi-Res audio as possible. Steve’s ARM circuit is both unique and in my opinion the best 2-channel to multichannel matrix that I have heard to date and I have heard most of them. For vinyl, I have a modded Technics SL1200M5 Gold. I run all my 2 channel discs thru the Moon Orbiter and the PS Audio Digilink III. When combining a 2-channel source with a the PS Audio Digilink III and the MAP-1, well let’s just say for the money it is the best 2-channel to multichannel combination that I have found to date.
For speakers, I have four Martin Logan CLXs, a Martin Logan Stage for the center channel and a JL Audio Gotham for the sub. I am running MIT cables and have Running Springs Audio Maxim and Dmitri for power conditioning. I also have a flat screen monitor for on screen menus and video output when desired.
The bottom line is that I have continued to invest in my multichannel system for some 40 years and today it isn’t the best it can be but it is currently the best I can afford it to be. And more important to me is that with the last round of upgrades, I now find myself experiencing multichannel music now more than ever. And with the new 5.1 Blu-ray releases, it is a lot of fun to listen to these very special albums and bands. So if you take anything away from this article hopefully it’s that you can mix and match many components and for many years in to the future you can upgrade your system and maybe you can actually catch the dragon and find multichannel nirvana.