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Positive Feedback ISSUE 39
september/october 2008


SHM-CD: New and improved CD format from Japan!
by Robert H. Levi


With all the work being done to upgrade CD materials these days, it’s no wonder Universal/JVC would actually discover a new material that really does something…a big something at that! SHM-CD, or Super High Material CD, is an improved version of the Compact Disc material that uses super quality, enhanced transparency polycarbonate material developed for use in LCD screens. They will play in any CD player. Universal Music Japan and JVC co-developed the SHM-CD. They report that the new material allows the pits to be formed more precisely plus eliminates laser splatter. The signal characteristics are improved as a result with overall lower distortion and better musicality. Universal Japan is reissuing a ton of albums in their catalog in all genres as SHM-CDs and this is the first report of their CDs to reach these shores!

Eastwind Imports sent me a two disc Jazz Sampler with one CD made of regular aluminum and the other an SHM-CD. Made from the same masters (newly re-mastered in Japan without any use of equalizers or compressors) and pressed with the same stamper, they sound very different. Taken from the vast catalog of Universal which includes Verve and Impulse labels, each CD contains 13 famous jazz numbers recorded in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The artists include John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, and Anita O'Day.

I first listened to the regular CD supplied, focusing on Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto "Corcovado." It sounded quite smooth and focused with very good definition and depth. I then played the Verve 20 Bit CD Reissue from 1997 which sounded a tad brighter, but that’s about it. I then listened to the SACD Verve Reissue from 2002 on my ModWright 9100 with tube power supply …it was improved in every way. It was SACD of course, but it had substantially more definition and air …better depth, too. It was then I played the SHM-CD of this cut. Oh boy, it sounds like the SACD!

What? How could this be? A CD formulation that actually works? I tried the SHM-CD on all my CD sources: ModWright Sony 9100, 999, E.A.R. Acute Tube CD Player, and Alesis Masterlink. I heard improvement on ALL players with the SHM-CD versus the regular editions.

I heard more definition, more air, smoother textures and nuances, a lot more depth, reduced digititus of all types, more of an analog sound and feel, bigger dynamics micro and macro …the whole ball of wax. I put some L’Art du Son on the SHM-CD for even better results.

Will I replace all my CDs with SHM-CDs? Probably not. But, I will look for Universal releases I don’t have in this format for sure! It closes the gap by 80-90% between CDs and SACDs on top audiophile machines and this is quite an achievement. Compatibility appears perfect, too. The sound just pops with a sense of reality I rarely hear from CDs or SACDs for that matter. Harmonious sounding CDs…how very nice!

Here’s whats available in SHM-CD so far in the USA from Eastwind Import:

SHM-CD page:

Six SHM-CD reissues of Chet Baker (trumpet, vocal)

Chet Baker & NDR Big Band - The Legacy, Vol. 1

I Remember You - The Legacy, Vol. 2

Why Shouldn't You Cry - The Legacy, Vol. 3

Oh You Crazy Moon - The Legacy, Vol. 4

My Favorite Things - The Last Great Concert Vol. 1

Straight From The Heart - The Last Great Concert Vol. 2

Four SHM-CD reissues of Bennie Wallace (tenor sax)

The Nearness Of You
*Excellent analog recording produced by Joe Harley and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

Someone To Watch Over Me
*Very good analog recording produced by Joe Harley and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

In Berlin
*Very good live recording and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

The Talk Of The Town

I am very impressed with this achievement and wish Universal well in their reissue project with SHM-CDs. I don’t think you will ever hear this kind of quality CD by ripping low res stuff off the internet. Universal has a giant catalogue and I look forward to a ton of goodies to buy.

The SHM-CD Jazz Reissue Sampler UCCU9626/7 is a honey …you get both a regular CD and a new SHM-CD of the same material to compare. Be ready to be surprised in the best ways. With almost the definition of SACD, the SHM sounds like real music and is superior to normal CD sound in every way I know. The leap of mellifluousness increases in top CD playback machines. This is a great achievement and may signal the resurgence of CDs …who knows? It makes sense that better pits is better sound. This is a new kind of pressing material so don’t look for SHM on blanks at the store. My highest recommendation for those that maintain and grow your CD collections and want the best of the best.