The Ultimate Surround Sampler and 5.1 Setup Disc 
Music Disc Reviews DVD-Audio
Written by Richard Elen   
Tuesday, 22 January 2002

The Ultimate Surround Sampler and 5.1 Setup Disc

format: DVD-A
label: Chesky Records
release year: 2002
performance: 8
sound 9
reviewed by: Richard Elen

In addition to helping you set up your DVD-A or DVD-V sound replay system in more depth than any other disc I have seen so far, Chesky Records’ "Ultimate Surround Sampler and 5.1 Setup Disc” also includes eight diverse selections from the Chesky high resolution audio catalogue in 24-bit 96 kHz surround and stereo. With this combination, you really can’t lose: it would be worth it for either part.

This DVD is what Chesky calls a “2/4/6” disc, offering 6.0 at 24/96 with height (center front and LFE are used for height information, designed to be replayed via speakers essentially midway between the front and rear and 30 degrees up – and well worth a listen if you can do it!); 5.1, 24/96; and stereo, 24/96 on the DVD-A section plus Dolby 4.0 and stereo on the DVD-V area.

The test section offers both 5.1 and 6.0 set-up tests – 48 of each of ’em! – including obvious things like checking channel assignments, to the less obvious, like examining how a sound pans around the room and whether anything in your room rattles (be careful, this is a good way of ensuring that your Significant Other believes that you don’t love them any more). There are helpful phase tests including subwoofer phasing, and some very useful tests for bass management. These are important because some DVD-A players don’t do it at all. You need to know if yours does, and if it doesn't, you may need a separate device to do it. You can also test the delays that compensate for speakers being too close or too far away. Finally, the test section contains a recording of a New York subway ride, which is very nicely reproduced with a great deal of realism.

The music section of the disc includes a great deal of variety, with something of a bias towards jazz, and includes some seminal recordings that will convince you that you did the right thing when you bought that DVD-Audio player. “Lime House Blues,” from the award-winning Bucky Pizzarelli Swing Live album, shows you just what is possible in terms of surround localization as a New York jazz club is conjured up in your very listening room. There’s an excerpt from “Tannhäuser” with the Bruckner Orchestra, Linz and the Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno. There’s the Persuasions singing the Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week” and the Conga Kings. You’ll hear Ana Caram, David Johanssen and the Harry Smiths, and Carla Lother, and there is an extract from David Chesky’s own modern orchestral work, “The Agnostic,” from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.

If you feel like arguing that you are only going to use this disc once and then put it away, don’t. Not only will you want to check your system whenever you change it (which in my case is often), but you will also want to listen more than once to the music selections – until you have bought all the discs you have been turned on to by this sampler. Just take it from me: all of Chesky’s recordings are ultra-cool, and include some of the very best surround that’s out there on disc. Play the track from Swing Live, for example, and you’ll wonder why none of your other surround recordings can put things between the speakers like that except at the front. The only question is whether it’s your kind of music or not – why not buy it and find out?

Just lean back in your favorite listening position, feel yourself relaxing deeper and deeper, and listen to my voice gently telling you, “You need this disc… you need this disc… you need this disc…”

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