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Wagner: The Golden Ring - Solti

Wagner: The Golden Ring - Solti

Decca Classics  4853364

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Opera


Highlights from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen

Soloists
Wiener Philharmoniker
Sir Georg Solti (conductor)


Commemorating the 25th anniversary of Sir Georg Solti’s death (5 September), Decca Classics is proud to announce a new high-definition transfer of the original master tapes of his most celebrated recording: the first stereo studio production of Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle, twice voted “The greatest recording of all time”.
Recorded in Vienna between 1958 and 1965, and masterminded by Decca’s pioneering producer John Culshaw, this recording has always been regarded as the perfect marriage of art and technology and boasted a cast including Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter and Kirsten Flagstad. These new transfers of the 38 original stereo master tapes have been made at 24 bit/192kHz resolution, allowing greater detail and dynamic range than ever before.

The transfers have allowed the original recording to be remastered for Dolby Atmos; the spatial audio technology which recreates a multi-dimensional experience true to Culshaw’s vision of a “theatre of the mind”.
Dominic Fyfe, Decca Classics Label Director and Audio Producer of this reissue, says: “Back in 1966 producer John Culshaw expressed the hope that this Ring would set a benchmark for years to come. Half a century later it is still the artistic and technical gold standard. Culshaw was above all an iconoclast and a visionary who rejoiced in new technology. I have no doubt he would approve of our efforts to utilise Dolby Atmos and the latest suite of remastering tools to make this new HD transfer the most immersive and vivid yet.”

The remastered Ring will be available in the most extensive suite ever of deluxe physical and digital products including:
• The first vinyl releases of the recording in 30 years. Half-speed mastered at Abbey Road Studios and pressed on 180g audiophile vinyl.
• The first international release of the recording on Hybrid SACDs, allowing listeners to hear the enhanced resolution of these new transfers and playable on all CD players
• The first and only complete Wagner Ring cycle available in Dolby Atmos
The physical products will be accompanied by lavish booklets including facsimiles of the original conductor and producer scores, rare session photographs, newly discovered curios and full libretti.
The four operas of the Ring cycle will be released in instalments between November 2022 and May 2023, with The Golden Ring, a selection of the greatest scenes from the cycle, released on 30 September 2022.

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Comment by Contrapunctus - November 10, 2022 (21 of 34)

So, here are my impressions about the comparison between this new 2022 transfer (= 2022) and the StereoSound compilation 'The golden Ring' (= SS).

The volume level is higher on this new transfer compared to SS, so it's a bit tricky and challenging to adjust the volume with every listening between 2022 and SS. Tape hiss on 2022 is completely removed and in silent passages inaudible - unlike SS, which is quite tape hiss-heavy. Unfortunately, the remove of tape hiss results in a somehow artifical, blown-up sound with pronounced treble. The sound on SS is warmer, more full-bodied with pronounced bass, albeit a bit short in treble, the overall impression on SS is more natural and relaxed. Soundstage appears to me a bit deeper on SS than 2022. Reverb: to my ears there's a hint of additional reverb or some kind of applied atmospheric/ambience accoustics on 2022, compared to SS it feels a bit like photoshop/technicolor.

It's obvious to me that there has been done a lot of sound-work and processing in connection with 2022, whereas SS is more or less a simple/plain DSD-transfer of the 2nd generation tapes. - According to my preferences, SS is the preferable transfer - even with tape hiss. The overall impression - feeling - is in my experience and observation more convincing.

Don't get me wrong: 2022 sounds fabulous and it's the most clean and brilliant remastering of these recordings. So, nothing wrong with this and definitely no reason for bashing. If you don't want/like tape hiss this new edition is arguably the way to go.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 11, 2022 (22 of 34)

Thank you Contrapunctus, Breydon Music and Ferndgg for your comments. They're very helpful for those of us who are hesitating. For my part, I don't think I'm going to purchase Universal's new releases. I'll stick to my RBCDs and hope Stereo Sound reissue their Ring SACDs one day.

Comment by Ramesh Nair - November 12, 2022 (23 of 34)

I returned this morning from 2 weeks in Japan, where I purchased this single SACD. [ The Stereosound complete transfers are unavailable in Tower Records Tokyo branches, alas. ]
Though I am groggy from lack of sleep, my first listening impressions concur with Contrapunctus' recent comment. I too was disconcerted by the high volume level of the SACD, but the dynamic range of this transfer is enormous. The sound of the brass at full tilt is certainly brilliant, even brash, but it sounds like the Vienna Philharmonic brass I recall from a London Proms concert in 2019 with Haitink conducting the VPO in Bruckner 7, when I queued for hours to get a second row standing place behind the conductor's podium. My point here is that this compilation disc presents a Wagnerian sound which has not been 'ruined' by a botched remastering process, but sounds like a full symphony orchestra in a front stalls listening position in a modern but not overly resonant concert hall. To my ears, this is the sound one would hear in the front stalls of the Paris Philharmonie. It is not the Bayreuth Festival Hall acoustic for the simple reason that the Decca Ring was not conceived as take-home version of what one would hear in this unique setting. I too wondered where all the tape hiss went, along with the absence of any tape drop-outs. Presumably this is the latest Cedar re-touch software, which I first encountered for vocal works in the latest digital remaster [ download only, not on SACD ] of the late 1950's Beecham Carmen studio recording. I have the Esoteric SACD set of the Solti Ring, and eventually I shall get around to comparing the two versions, at least for what appears on this highlights disc.

Comment by Jan Arell - November 12, 2022 (24 of 34)

"The mere fact that this is going to be streamed on Spotify definitely seems to indicate that they have most likely mastered for that medium.", somebody wrote a few days ago.

Of course that is not the case; I'd even want to call it rubbish. Of course it's mastered for the best possible medium which, for a few more months, is SACD.
If you want streaming in much better sound quality than Spotify, go to Apple Music (I have no experience of Qobuz and others.) I listened to The Golden Ring, streamed from Apple with good quality Sennheiser earphones (PCX 550) but without the Atmos ability and it was definitely clearer, I think, than the blu-ray disc in the big box from 2012, was it?
Then I listened again from Apple Music with the latest generation of Air Pods Pro in simulated (I suppose) Atmos. And boy, what an improvement of the soundscape!
I can't make comparisons to the real discs, since I don't have them. I merely want to point out the advantages of streaming in Atmos. It works quite well in my loudspeakers as well, with Apple Music files transferred from a Mac Mini to my Marantz receiver and my 5.1 Monitor Audio set up.

So I may be content with the Ring releases at Apple's subscription service. Preferably I'll buy the complete box, with a blu-ray Atmos disc, when it is released in May, unfortunately including 14 SACD discs I don't need (offers may be considered :-). The decisive factor is our bank account.

Comment by AOS - November 14, 2022 (25 of 34)

I think there is a misunderstanding of compression. In general there is almost no compression used in mixing or mastering classical music. In the past during the mastering process they were cautious to use the full range because of digital distortions. That´s why older disc are not that loud. They always left a headroom of a few dB, compared to the actual mastering where it´s possible to go to digital 0 dB. But this has nothing to do with compression, where the signal when it reaches a defined threshold will be compressed by a certain ratio. Sometimes the engineers are using limiters. I am not aware if they use any compression or limiter during the original mixing and mastering process. Since the new edition is not a remix, but just a new master, there will certainly have been a lot of processing, but due to the dynamic limitations of the original tapes it is very unlikely that compressors were used.

For streamming it is sometimes nescessary to use compression, because they offer a lot of different qualities which could be chosen by the users. Here is an example how Apple is doing it, but it will be not much differnt on other platforms: Apple’s latest encoding methodology is a two-step process. The first step in the encoding path is to use state-of-the-art mastering-quality Sample Rate Conversion (SRC) to resample the master file to a production sample rate.This SRC outputs a 32-bit floating-point file which can preserve values that might otherwise fall outside of the permitted amplitude range. This file is saved in a CAFcontainer. This critical intermediary step prevents any aliasing or clipping that couldotherwise occur in SRC. It is this 32-bit floating file that’s used as the input to the encoder—this is one key reason we can achieve superior results. Our encoders then use every bit of resolution available, preserving all the dynamic range of the 24-bit source file and eliminating the need for adding dither. The advantage ofthis is twofold. Not only does it obviate the need of adding dither noise, it also lets the encoders work more efficiently as they don’t need to waste resources encoding this unwanted and unnecessary noise. By using this highly accurate file directly from our SRC and taking advantage of its clean signal, our encoder can deliver the final product exactly as the artist and sound
engineers intended it to sound.

If you are interested in all the details follow the link:
https://www.apple.com/apple-music/apple-digital-masters/docs/apple-digital-masters.pdf

Comment by Ferndgg - November 14, 2022 (26 of 34)

I invite all of you to check on youtube any of the restoration paintings released by el Prado Museum. It is very simple to understand what restoration means.
I would like to have the same as an audiophile in music. An engineer understanding that it is dealing with a recording from 1958-64 and by any mean it has not to sound better than it was recorded. I have been whatching all the videos released by DG and Warner showing how good it is Dolby Atmos but I do not want any conversion applied to old recordings. The sound of this new releases are clearly biased with lot of technology and in my opinion they do not sound properly.
I have played with pluggins like Waves Ultramaximizer and the result is bright, roomy, powerful but this is not right, I do not want new colours on the paintings.
All releases made by Warner of Furtwangler in PCM format (2021-2022) are useless and they do not even try to hide what they did. You can see the video of the engineer using Cedar and at the end, the shape of the wave it is rock and roll.
Finally, A friend of mine bought the PCM version 24/192 and we could make some tests of DR and LUFS and definitely in my opinion DR is not better. They have increase the average volume around 6 dB but not flat.
As a I said in my last comment, the problem comes when someone pays 100-150 euro for LP's mastered like this.

Comment by Gordon Lilley - November 21, 2022 (27 of 34)

This single SACD of highlights from the whole cycle sounded quite nice to me on its own. I was compelled to go back to my Blu-ray audio to make some comparisons. I believe the latter Blu-ray disc sounded slightly more spacious with even a touch more dynamic range. With this in mind, I see no reason to acquire any of the new sacd re-issues, no matter how lovely the presentation might be. If you have the Decca Classics 478 6748 BD you are just fine. However, it may be a little hard to find now or just expensive.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 22, 2022 (28 of 34)

I am very disgusted with this release as this release has the highest compression so far. The waveform shows definite clipping and horns are very harsh. It is loud, loud, loud. I am going to be very suspiciaous of any future Decca release. Here is the log file for the Dynamic Range of this release.


foobar2000 1.6.13 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2022-11-22 22:17:56

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Analyzed: Richard Wagner (1813-1883) / The Golden Ring
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DR8 0.00 dB -13.54 dB 2:50 01-Das Rheingold: Scene 4 - Heda! Heda! Hedo! Zu mir, du Gedüft! (edit)
DR11 -0.31 dB -15.06 dB 4:51 02-Das Rheingold: Scene 4 - Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge
DR8 -0.21 dB -13.74 dB 3:42 03-Das Rheingold: Scene 4 - Rheingold! Rheingold!
DR8 -0.31 dB -11.03 dB 6:24 04-Die Walküre: Act 3 - Hojotoho! Heiaha! (Ride of the Valkyries) (edit)
DR8 -0.31 dB -12.58 dB 2:18 05-Die Walküre: Act 3 - Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind
DR10 -0.29 dB -15.86 dB 10:12 06-Die Walküre: Act 3 - Denn einer nur freie die Braut
DR7 -0.30 dB -12.09 dB 4:43 07-Die Walküre: Act 3 - Loge, hör! Lausche hieher!
DR8 -0.19 dB -11.97 dB 5:47 08-Siegfried: Act 1 - Hoho! Hoho! Hohei! Schmiede, mein Hammer, ein hartes Schwert!
DR13 -0.28 dB -19.34 dB 5:26 09-Siegfried: Act 2 - Meine Mutter, ein Menschenweib!
DR9 -0.31 dB -15.89 dB 2:12 10-Siegfried: Act 2 - Siegfried's Hornruf (edit)
DR7 0.00 dB -13.26 dB 7:53 11-Götterdämmerung: Act 3 - Trauermarsch (edit)
DR12 -0.32 dB -17.09 dB 9:13 12-Götterdämmerung: Act 3 - Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort
DR12 -0.39 dB -19.19 dB 2:32 13-Götterdämmerung: Act 3 - Mein nun nehm' ich zu eigen
DR7 0.00 dB -10.72 dB 8:46 14-Götterdämmerung: Act 3 - Fliegt heim, ihr
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Number of tracks: 14
Official DR value: DR9

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 867 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

And which release has the best Dynamic Range? The 1996 version on CD.

This is for the first disc of Das Rheingold and you can compare the numbers.

foobar2000 1.6.13 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2022-11-22 22:38:58

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Analyzed: Richard Wagner (1813-1883) / Das Rheingold
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DR11 -6.66 dB -22.86 dB 4:13 01-Prelude
DR12 -6.29 dB -22.52 dB 2:25 02-Scene 1 - Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle!
DR14 -1.52 dB -22.12 dB 4:55 03-Scene 1 - Garstig glatter glitschriger Glimmer!
DR13 -4.12 dB -22.47 dB 2:24 04-Scene 1 - Wallala! Lalaleia!
DR13 -1.75 dB -21.02 dB 5:49 05-Scene 1 - Lugt, Schwestern!
DR14 -0.66 dB -21.70 dB 4:25 06-Scene 1 - Der Welt Erbe gewänn' ich zu eigen durch dich?
DR14 -2.70 dB -22.42 dB 10:53 07-Scene 2 - Wotan! Gemahl! Erwache!
DR14 -0.71 dB -20.80 dB 7:28 08-Scene 2 - Sanft schloß Schlaf dein Aug'
DR13 -2.48 dB -20.06 dB 1:40 09-Scene 2 - Zu mir, Freia! Meide sie, Frecher!
DR14 -4.40 dB -25.01 dB 3:45 10-Scene 2 - Endlich Loge!
DR17 -4.08 dB -26.42 dB 7:01 11-Scene 2 - Immer ist Undank Loges Lohn!
DR14 -4.69 dB -24.88 dB 3:07 12-Scene 2 - Ein Runenzauber zwingt das Gold zum Reif
DR13 -2.50 dB -22.20 dB 2:47 13-Scene 2 - Hör', Wotan, der Harrenden Wort!
DR15 -6.50 dB -29.93 dB 5:10 14-Scene 2 - Was sinnt nun Wotan so wild?
DR13 -0.88 dB -20.29 dB 4:30 15-Scene 2 - Auf, Loge, hinab mit mir!
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Number of tracks: 15
Official DR value: DR14

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 715 kbps
Codec: FLAC
================================================================================

The dynamic range of the new remaster is around a 9, which is in the red basically. The old James Locke? About 15. Very excellent DR. Same as on the Blu-ray Audio.

There is also something else I would like to mention... the pages, yes are indeed in the wrong order, but something else....? The tracks are not really labeled correctly. I had to go to spotify to see the correct track listings... wait a moment... the booklet has incomplete track information, but the spotify website has the accurate track information? Interesting.

Comment by Aastroem - November 23, 2022 (29 of 34)

I found this text on another site and the writer is anonymous: "This release has the highest compression so far. The waveform shows definite clipping and horns are very harsh. It is loud, loud, loud. I am going to be very suspiciaous of any future Decca release. Here is the log file for the Dynamic Range of this release.

The dynamic range of the new remaster is around a 9, which is in the red basically. The old James Locke? About 15. Very excellent DR. Same as on the Blu-ray Audio.

There is also something else I would like to mention... the pages, yes are indeed in the wrong order, but something else....? The tracks are not really labeled correctly. I had to go to spotify to see the correct track listings... wait a moment... the booklet has incomplete track information, but the spotify website has the accurate track information? Interesting."

Comment by IvanR - November 23, 2022 (30 of 34)

Hi,
I am also following close this new edition and have mixed emotions too, however I believe that if we truly compared the SACD layer (not the CD one), compression would not be that bad, I explain:

I just compared 2012 (24/44) vs 2022 (24/192) in Qobuz and I am pretty confident to the point of having ordered the vinyl by now.

2022 sounds slightly louder, but really not that much as the suggested DR levels. Specially, when you compare both during low volume passages (whispers), both sound very close, only when volume rises it is when 2022 seems a bit louder, but also crispier in the good sense (either by mastering compression or reaching higher dynamics. ¿?)

Due to the slight brighter sound of 2022, I would say it is compression due to the remastering choices reviving old tapes, however the tone (specially voices) seems to be quite more correct than in 2012.
2012 edition has a common Digital colour that affects every voice, instrument, etc. and in 2022 this is quite gone and tone seems truer to the nature of the voices and instruments, maybe due to closer fidelity at 24/192 on original tapes). Been using Sennheiser HD800 headphones for this.

I believe however this certain brightness may well be tamed down in the vinyl edition, getting the best of both worlds: detail but also certain warmth.

I admit 2012 sounds more relaxed and pleasant sometimes, but also loses detail we never thought it was there until listening new 2022.

The best way to compare both versions is Bluray vs SACD, not their cd reductions as then 2022 will be for sure more compressed.
I think that may have been the mastering used for Spotify, however Qobuz uses the 24/192 mastered version.
You can try for free 1month and listen by yourself.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 23, 2022 (31 of 34)

Several years ago, HI-FI equipment become less and less popular, and that continues to happen today. Not that many people have floor-standing speakers like they did at one time. Many folks also prefer to listen to their music through streaming services. Even more popular now, are small earbuds. Not that these earbuds can't create decent sound, the difference is that they simply will not perform as well as high quality audiophile speakers. This new set, being so much louder, does indicate mastering for devices like small earbuds. Your results are not just based on the recording, but on your playback equipment as well.

Comment by IvanR - November 24, 2022 (32 of 34)

Yes, I couldn’t agree more, today true audiophiles who invest in HI-FI equipment are less and less popular. However, I am still one of them with anything but a modest setup (Tube McIntosh with high stress on the analogue arena with top models SME and Clearaudio).

Due to ongoing changes on the speakers, I can only test with headphones (hopefully moving from Dynaudio studio monitors to Tannoy Canterbury GR (current version of the same GoldReference speakers used by Culsaw when recording the ring)).

I rarely use streaming, but precisely I registered to Qobuz for the 1 month trial to test both Solti versions in their best HighRes files, played under same streaming device to test real differences.

Using headphones is not always the best option, but bear in mind that I used Sennheiser HD800, which is an Open-Over the ear Headphone with a neutral Frequency response of 6Hz–51kHz; I assure you that to match the sound of these in high quality audiophile speakers, you should devote no less than 30-50K€.
The only advantage here is that with headphones you can really listen the recording and not the room, as even with good speakers they will sound proper only with the right acoustics.

I admit this new set is a bit louder and more compressed, (I wish it was not) but only wanted to highlight that the HighRes files of both options are not so so different, in some areas I prefer the former and in others the latter.

Most probably I will not go for the SACD unless they really drop the price in time. I just received the vinyl Rheingold today and I am quite convinced this will surpass the max. DSD64 quality delivered by SACD.

Comment by Hade - November 25, 2022 (33 of 34)

I cannot better say what Contrapunctus already did.
I owe the 1980's/1990's/2010's CDs, the Esoteric and the SS SACDs both from Japan, the BR audio with highres'. But I have no lps at all!
I've recently purchased the 2022 highlights to get an idea of the latest improvements.
Its sounds louder and more atmospheric at the same time, sounding a little artificial, very little indeed, while the SS should be labelled "the originals" (from historical analog master tapes).
For this new version, I wish they had corrected the saturations which sometime appear in the voice tones (they have always been there), why not after all if that were possible in 2022?!

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - Yesterday 07:00 pm (34 of 34)

Compression is killing your music

Dynamic range compression is ruining music.

https://www.cnet.com/culture/compression-is-killing-your-music/

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