Saturday, 3 September 2016

Sundry Surround Sound Recordings

Planned Obsolescence

At the time of purchase in May 2015, my current universal (DTS/SACD/DVD-A/Blu-ray) player, a Pioneer BDP450, cost me a featherweight £159. Just over a year later it's "unavailable", unless I'm willing to settle for a refurbished model from Ebay. Reasonably priced multichannel DTS/SACD and DVD-Audio players are becoming really hard to find, even from the manufacturers who invented these formats. At present the best available options appear to be:
  • PIONEER BDPLX58 (£449 at Richer Sounds)
  • CAMBRIDGE CXU (£799.95)
  • OPPO BDP105D (£1,099)
  • PIONEER BDPLX88 (£1,099)
No wonder then that collectors of surround sound DVD-Audio recordings, and even more so those of multichannel DTS media or SACDs, are feeling increasingly under siege these days. For how much longer will we be able to play these purchases? How many more times will we be able to afford a new player, when the last one packs in and its perishing rubber wheels and belts and lasers can't be replaced?

This is a partial list of my surround sound recordings by format. It will let me sit and grieve as first DTS, then SACD, then DVD-A, and finally (sooner than you'd think!) Blu-ray playback become impossible. Then I will at least be able to see at a glance each month, exactly what fraction of my collection has now become permanently unavailable to me. It's also a work in progress, since I have no intention of losing the bad habit of buying these wonderful recordings; currently I'm looking forward to the much-delayed Steven Wilson remixes of the early Roxy Music albums.

Top 100+ Speciality Multichannel Studio Mixes

This first table lists recordings where a studio engineer (usually Steven Wilson or Jakko Jakszyk ;-) has carefully pored over the source material, and arranged things in space to produce a curated, meticulously arranged, surround sound experience.

Artist or ComposerAlbum TitleYearPhysical Media
Ian Anderson Homo Erraticus2014
Bach Bach Classics 17xx
Bass CommunionLoss2006
The Beatles Love 2006
Beethoven Beethoven Classics 18xx
Symphony No. 6 "Pastorale" 1808
BlackfieldBlackfield V2017
David BowieThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust...1972
CaravanIn the Land of Grey and Pink 1971
Eagles Hotel California 1976
Hell Freezes Over 1994
ELP Tarkus 1971
Trilogy 1972
Brain Salad Surgery1973
Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 2002
Fleetwood Mac Rumours 1977
Genesis Trespass 1970
Nursery Cryme 1971
Foxtrot 1972
Selling England By The Pound 1973
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway 1974
A Trick of the Tail 1976
Wind & Wuthering
...And Then There Were Three... 1978
Invisible Touch 1986
We Can't Dance1991
Gentle Giant Three Piece Suite 1970-2
Octopus 1972
The Power and the Glory 1974
Handel Handel's Water Garden 17xx
Gavin Harrison Cheating the Polygraph 2015
Jethro Tull Stand Up (The Elevated Edition) 1969
Benefit (A Collector's Edition) 1970
Aqualung 1971
Thick as a Brick1972
A Passion Play 1973
War Child 1974
Minstrel in the Gallery 1975
Too Old to Rock'n'Roll: Too Young to Die! 1976
Songs from the Wood 1977
Heavy Horses 1978
King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King1969
In the Wake of Poseidon 1970
Larks' Tongues in Aspic1973
Starless and Bible Black 1974
Three of a Perfect Pair1984
Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold...) 2016
Marillion Misplaced Childhood1985
The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed 1967
On the Threshold of a Dream 1969
To Our Children's Children's Children
Seventh Sojourn 1972
Mozart Mozart Classics17xx
Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells 1973
Hergest Ridge 1974
Ommadawn 1975
Five Miles Out 1982
OpethStill Life 1999
Deliverance & Damnation 2002/3
Watershed 2008
Heritage 2011
Anthony PhillipsThe Geese & the Ghost 1977
Wise After the Event 1978
Slow Dance 1990
Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother (Devi/Ation, quad) 1970
Echoes (Reverber/Ation, quad) 1971
Meddle (Reverber/Ation, 5.1) 1971
The Dark Side of the Moon 1973
Wish You Were Here 1975
Porcupine Tree Stupid Dream 1999
Lightbulb Sun 2000
Deadwing (2 copies, 1 signed) 2005
Fear of a Blank Planet2007
The Incident2009
Riverside Love, Fear and the Time Machine 2015
Roxy Music Roxy Music 1972
Avalon 1982
Schubert Schubert Classics18xx
Simple Minds New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) 1982
Sparkle in the Rain 1984
Once Upon a Time 1985
Steely Dan Gaucho 1980
Everything Must Go 2003
T. RexElectric Warrior1971
Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky Classics 18xx
The Nutcracker 1892
Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair 1985
Trondheim Solistene Divertimenti 2008
In Folk Style 2010
Rick Wakeman The Six Wives of Henry VIII 1973
The Myths and Legends of King Arthur... 1975
The Who Tommy 1969
Quadrophenia 1973
Steven Wilson Insurgentes 2009
Grace for Drowning 2011
The Raven that Refused to Sing 2013
Drive Home
Hand. Cannot. Erase. 2015
To The Bone 2017
XTC Drums and Wires 1979
Skylarking 1986
Oranges & Lemons 1989
Nonsuch 1992
Yes The Yes Album 1971
Fragile (2002 - Rhino)
Fragile (2015 - Panegyric)
Close to the Edge 1972
Tales from Topographic Oceans 1973
Relayer 1974

Notice that most of the Yes titles are double entries (in fact Fragile is a triple): the DVD-Audio and Blu-ray editions of these are of course equally essential.

The Loneliness of the Long Interval Musicologist

The Year column is problematic. Every recording has its place on multiple chronologies; for example, the life and development of its composer, its conductor, and its performing artist(s). The difficulty is that different performances naturally emphasise disparate chronologies, and a single date field in a table or database struggles to accommodate these variations.

For the historical study of musical development, the time stamp of primary interest is the date of composition. Sadly this is not recorded in typical media metadata, such as the ID3 tags on MP3 files. The "Year" recorded there represents the release date - when the particular edition was issued. Now, for most "popular" music (in the strict sense of "anything non-classical"), this is close enough to the date of composition; but for all of the recordings listed here, without exception, the release date for the multichannel edition is many years later than that of first publication of the original material, and the problem is only worse in the case of classical works.

Generally I've tried to get as close as possible to the date of composition. That means for popular works using the year of first issue, and for classical, the historical year (or century, for compilations) of composition. Still there remain intractable inconsistencies. For example, all of the material on the Beatles' "Love" album was recorded and issued long before Cirque du Soleil went shopping for a soundtrack in 2006. Finally, there's Daniel Barenboim. When the focus of a classical recording is neither composer nor performer, but instead a famous conductor, then I use the performance date.

Live Surround Sound Music Videos

This second table lists live video recordings of musical performances that just happen to have a surround sound component, often limited to a feeling of ambience in the hall where the recording was made. These are the second class citizens of the surround sound community, and this collection listing will be incomplete.

Artist or ComposerAlbum TitleYearPhysical Media
AshTokyo Blitz2001
Daniel Barenboim Knowledge is the Beginning / The Ramallah Concert 2008
Neujahrskoncert 2009 2009
Europakonzert 10 2010
Mahler Symphony No. 9
The Salzburg Concerts 2011
BlackfieldNYC - Blackfield Live In New York City2007
Dream TheaterLive at Budokan2004
David GilmourRemember That Night 2007
Led Zeppelin The Song Remains the Same1999
Led Zeppelin2003
OpethLamentations 2006
The Roundhouse Tapes 2007
Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2010
Orphaned Land The Road to Or Shalem 2011
Porcupine Tree Arriving Somewhere... 2006
Anesthetize 2010
Steven WilsonGet All You Deserve 2012
Yes Symphonic Live2002
Live at Montreux 20032007
Youssou N'DourLive at Montreux 19892005


  1. John,

    I recommend you go the route of getting your music into computer file form to deal with the surround sound physical disk problem. Foobar2000 as a player, multichannel flac files. Inexpensive pc with HDMI into your receiver. Good to go.


    1. Good shout Tim. Just not sure I know enough to rip & replay successfully, things like hybrid SACDs, or dts on CD. Not to mention that the entire enterprise is strictly illegal, at least here in UK, even for simple format shifts like DVD-A or Blu-ray audio! A wally named David Cameron tried to fix that aspect a year or two ago, but like everything else he ever tried to do, he never had a scoobie & made a pig's arse of it.

  2. John,

    Should you ever be allowed back up the music you have paid for in the UK, again foobar2000 is your friend. It has plugins to read just about anything. You may need to install the open source flac encoder (can't remember if foobar already includes it) and tell foobar2000 where it is. Then select the tracks you want to convert, right click, choose convert, choose the format you want and you are away. Once you have the files, tag them with foobar2000 and you are done. About the only thing foobar can't read properly are higher resolution dts (ie dts 96/24, dts-hd), but plain dts is fine.

    Just saying,