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Organ Treasures - Wager

Organ Treasures - Wager

Opus 3  CD 22031

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


"Organ Treasures" Bach, Pierné, Elert, Ives, Widor

Mattias Wager (organ)

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Comment by Cesar Caro - January 19, 2022 (1 of 1)

I will begin by saying that I am fond of organ music, and I have several SACD recordings in multichannel. I was drawn to this recording based on reviews of the sonics, as well on the promise of DSD recording with the minimalist Opus 3 approach.

In all, it's a good set of performances on standard repertoire with very competent interpretation and great playing, very satisfied in that area. The ambience and spaciousness in multichannel are definitely superb, and noticeably better than the very good stereo. I know it is a bit reductive to focus on bass reproduction in organ recordings, but that is what stood out to me on this disc. Other than that, which I'll describe below, it is excellent.

Unfortunately, the usage of a crossover network to filter and condense the bass into the .1 LFE channel mars what would otherwise be a sonically legendary disc. I was initially intrigued by the LFE channel since I appreciate my subwoofer's ability to hit hard below ~40Hz, which my four main and surround speakers cannot match. However, there really is a lot lost here, with such a high crossover at 60Hz. The subwoofer does pack a punch that is felt when called for, but it doesn't feel satisfying or natural to me.

I understand why the choice was made, but it's just unfortunate for those with full-range fronts and rears. I have heard other discs, such as the 5.0 Philadelphia Orchestra on Ondine or 4.0 E. Power Biggs as reissued by Dutton, where the bass from four sides of the room joins and blends to give an incredibly smooth, realistic, pleasurable sense of depth and space that dives deep. I wish I could experience that with this recording, as the DSD recording and microphone arrangement would have been perfectly suited to the task. Instead, I can only imagine it.

In stereo the situation is a little better, but I'm a little unclear on how the stereo mix was derived. The bass coming from the mains in 2.0 does feel powerful and intense, but it doesn't feel natural. It sounds like it's coming from dead center, rather than blending from left and right, very similar to how a rock album would be mixed for a vinyl release to prevent tracking issues. Comparing to the 2.0 Digital Fox CD that I have, it sounds rather unnatural. I suspect that for the stereo mix, the LFE channel was put back into the left and right channels, based on how the pure DSD recording process was described in the booklet. I am not sure, but regardless, it definitely sounds that way.

There is something incredibly special about the king of the instruments, and it's largely the complex harmonics and time decay behavior of the space. The beauty of multichannel, whether with two, three, four, five, or six, is the ability to add as much phase information as possible to capture (or at least approximate) that dynamism. I'm sad the choice was made to lose that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to keep the disc and will enjoy it; it's worth having. I'm just annoyed and disappointed that every time I listen I'll be wondering, "What if?"