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The Absolute Sound is one of the oldest and best known of American high-end audio magazines. Harry Pearson, the magazine’s founder and (for most of its years) its owner and editor, is now the chairman of its advisory board, in addition to regularly contributing music and equipment reviews. (For the record, I contributed some reviews to TAS in its earliest days, but Pearson and I soon agreed to disagree.) Like outstanding individuals in all fields, Pearson has been controversial. This goes with the territory of being forthright in giving one’s opinions. Since the early days of TAS, many readers have been unwilling to buy a new component unless "hp" recommended it, and that situation is guaranteed to generate controversy. Two things that have never been controversial are Pearson’s love of live, un-amplified music and his goal of striving to reproduce it with audio components.
Excellent source material is necessary to achieve that goal, and many believe that that source material has to be multi-channel. That is the thinking behind this disc, which is a collaboration between an extremely knowledgeable music lover and Telarc International Corporation, an acknowledged leader in making high-quality multi-channel recordings. I have all of the recordings used in this outstanding disc. As might be expected, I would have chosen some other examples, but that would not make the disc better, just different.
The disc starts with several tracks that most people will consider audiophile showpieces, but by the end it becomes far more. Nearly all of the tracks are self-contained excerpts that stand on their own. I cannot recall a more interesting and intelligent selection of classical music excerpts, from monaural days to the hi-fi era to the golden age of stereo recording. Pearson also provides a great deal of interesting information.
As Pearson says in his introduction, "…this disc is meant to show that the multichannel concept intelligently applied to the real thing (unamplified music played in real spaces) represents a significant jump toward bringing us closer to the absolute sound, which is, of course, the real thing: music…. My underlying hope is to turn you on to some music you may not have heard, and that the sampler might open the door to new worlds to enrich your senses. To this end, I combed through the Telarc catalog looking for that sometimes elusive blend of great music and sensitive interpretation." In my opinion, he has completely succeeded. Karl Lozier