Positive Feedback ISSUE 68
july/august 2013

 

Opus 3 DSD Downloads
by Teresa Goodwin

 

Opus 3 is now offering their wonderful catalog of naturally recorded high quality analog recordings as high resolution DSD downloads in both standard DSD64 rate of 2.8MHz (same as SACD) and double DSD128 rate of 5.6MHz (double the rate of SACD) at very attractive prices. Below are my reviews of their first five offerings. For the full albums I reviewed the 5.6MHz DSD versions and for the two samplers I got to compare the 2.8MHz versions to the 5.6MHz DSD versions.

Tomas Örnberg’s Blue Five featuring Kenny Cavern

"The New Orleans Stomp, Black Beauty, Too Busy (take one), Rocky Mountain Blues, Tain’t nobodys buizness if I do, Sweet Substitute, Too Busy (take two), At the Christmas Ball, Rent Party Blues, Bienville Blues, Skid Dat-de-dat, Lets Sow some Oats, Mood Indigo" DSD64 (2.8MHz) $17.99 and DSD128 (5.6MHz) $19.99

An original analog recording from 1982, it's just like a Dixieland jazz concert in my living room! This is my favorite Opus 3 recording so far both musically and sonically. It starts with "The New Orleans Stomp" a very lively 1920's style Dixieland piece. I Love the tuba playing the bass part and the very authentic banjo.

Next up is "Black Beauty" which sounds like what I imagine being in the Cotton Club would have sounded like. The one in the movie of the same name? No I'm not quite that old. The rhythm in this one is so perfect if your feet aren't tapping, check your pulse, you might be dead.

There are two versions of "Too Busy" on this download, take one (track 3) and take two (track 7), take one is played a little slower and is 46 seconds longer. I still haven't decided which version I like best so I'll keep both. It ends with Mood Indigo, a really saucy dreamy version of this popular jazz standard, the perfect choice to top off this very enjoyable jazz program

Besides the basic Blue Five group which includes Tomas Örnberg on clarinet and saxophone, Bent Persson on trumpet and Bo Juhlin on sousaphone, this album download also includes the American clarinetist Kenny Davern who is featured in six tracks. Other musicians featured are Kaj Sifvert on trombone, Tommy Gertoft on banjo, Michael Selander on guitar, Görsn Lind on bass, Ulf Lindberg on the piano, and Holger Gross playing both the Banjo and Tuba. Together they play their way through their own very inspired versions from the Blue Five era repertoire. This album was awarded with the 1982 Swedish Gramophone Prize for the best jazz production of the year.

 

The Lars Erstrand Sessions featuring Bob Barnard, Danny Moss & Roy Williams

"Don’t take your love from Me, Afternoon in Paris, Christmas Song, One morning in May, Jubilee, Small Fry, Fascinating Rhythm, Struttin’ with some Barbeque, Stuffy, Talk of the Town, A Tisket a Tasket, Lester Leaps In, Easter Parade. DSD64 (2.8MHz) $17.99 and DSD128 (5.6MHz) $19.99

Lars Erstrand was asked to choose three of his favorite musicians as soloists for this album. He chose Roy Williams on trombone, Bob Barnard on trumpet, and Danny Moss playing the tenor sax; each a world class luminary of their instrument.

Roy Williams has long been one of Britain's best known and most successful jazz musicians. Because of his sound and the ease with which he commands his instrument, many consider him perhaps today's top trombonist in any category. Bob Barnard is by far the biggest name in Australian jazz and the country's internationally best-known and most sought after jazz musician. Roy Williams and Bob Barnard are among the very few musicians today that have a real feeling for both twenties, swing and mainstream.

Danny Moss is one of Britain's best known jazz musicians and for many years has ranked as Europe's leading Swing tenor player. With his vigorous playing and unusually big sound, he has become the heir of the classic American swing tenor players.

In "The Lars Erstrand Sessions" we also hear two different quartet forces with a number of musicians from Sweden's swing jazz elite: Jan Lundgren and Kjell Öhman tickling the piano keys, Leif "Gus" Dahlberg and Ronnie Gardiner on the drums, and Tommy Johnson and Arne Wilhelmsson thumping the bass.

The album starts with "Don’t take your love from Me" a really cool swinging piece with exciting vibes. Followed by a nice take on that famous standard "Afternoon in Paris", then a beautiful take on "Christmas Song" which will become my Christmas favorite. "One morning in May" is a fast jazzy number, "Jubilee" has lots of great vibe and piano playing, "Small Fry" is a really cool piece with a very nice bouncy rhythm, I find "Fascinating Rhythm" fascinating indeed and rhythmically a charmer, great take on the classic "Struttin’ with some Barbeque", "Stuffy" is a nice bouncy piece, Talk of the Town is a slow romantic piece, A "Tisket a Tasket" is a nice jazzy turn on this children's favorite, Lester Leaps In is a swinging number with a walking bass line and drum solo, lastly is "Easter Parade" which is an exquisite piece to end this wonderful album.

 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C Major Op. 21; Symphony No. 2 in D Major Op. 36

Okko Kamu, Stockholm Sinfonietta . SD64 (2.8MHz) $17.99 and DSD128 (5.6MHz) $19.99

Just a little short note on the sound quality of this DSD download as nowadays I don't listen to classical music since losing my interest and appreciation of classical music's many forms over a year ago. The orchestra sounds very realistic and pleasing, the first one I've heard at 5.6MHz DSD. The tonal quality of all the string instruments is smooth and beautiful without a touch of stridency as too often happens with PCM, more like how strings sound live.

The Stockholm Sinfonietta is one of the most respected Scandinavian orchestras of its kind, with an exciting repertoire and a high standard of musicianship which has earned it the best of international reputations.

 

Opus 3 DSD Showcase 1

Joakim Milder "Here’s that rainy day" / Knud Jörgensen "Teach me Tonight" / Black Beauty "Thomas Örnberg’s Blue Five and the Swedish Jazz Kings" / Eric Bibb "Where the green grass grows" / Tiny Island "Vaquero" / Stockholm Guitar Quartet "La Maja de Goya" / The Erik Westberg Vocal Ensemble & Mattias Wager "Nun kommt der Heiden Heiland" / Okko Kamu, Stockholm Sinfonietta "Beethoven: Scherzo from Symphony No. 2 in D Major / The Omnibus Wind Ensemble "Bizet: Overture to Carmen". DSD64 (2.8MHz) $9.99 and DSD128 (5.6MHz) $12.99

This wonderful sampler starts off with Joakim Milder's "Here’s that rainy day", a mellow jazz selection with saxophone, piano, bass, and drums; recorded in a medium size jazz club. It's so sultry, sexy, and real. This is great jazz and clearly shows off how much of the sonic realism that we have been missing with lower resolution digital and proves to me that well recorded analog is the yardstick to measure against.

Next up is Knud Jörgensen's "Teach me Tonight", a classic piano/bass/drums jazz trio from the swing era of the 40s and a nice rendition of this famous standard. This followed by Black Beauty "Thomas Örnberg’s Blue Five and the Swedish Jazz Kings", please see my review of the complete recording above.

Eric Bibb's "Where the green grass grows" is the next selection. Eric Bibb is one of my favorites singers, his gospel-folk-blues is so down-home and the sentiments feel so real. He's a great acoustic guitar player too. I would love to have this entire album and indeed all the albums of Eric Bibb in 5.6MHz DSD.

Followed by Tiny Island's "Vaquero" which is my favorite song on this sampler and I hope we get a separate release of it. It's one of my all-time favorite SACDs, however as usual the 5.6MHz DSD version is sonically superior to my memory of the SACD version as heard from my modified Yamaha SACD/DVD-Audio player. I'm hoping for a double DSD release of this, it's hard to describe but the music is moving, beautiful and powerful all at the same time.

The remainder of the download is filled out with classical pieces: Stockholm Guitar Quartet Enriqué Granados' "La Maja de Goya". This guitar quartet covers 6.5 octaves and thus transcribe many classical orchestral masterpieces for guitar. The Erik Westberg vocal ensemble and Mattias Wager "Nun kommt der Heiden Heiland", Scherzo from Beethoven's "Symphony No. 2 in D Major" by Okko Kamu, Stockholm Sinfonietta and Bizet's "Overture to Carmen" by the The Omnibus Wind Ensemble.

 

Opus 3 DSD Showcase 2

Eric Bibb "Needed Time" / Johan Dielemans Trio "My Heart Stood Still" / Kjell Öhman "Blues Opus 3" - organ / Sören Hermansson & Per-Ove Larsson "Gammal Fäbopsalm". Peder Riis "Fantasie" - classical guitar. Wager-Åstrand "Fasten Seat Belts" - really super cool, lots of wild percussion and other instruments. Kenneth Arnström "Stealin’ Away" - 30's style jazz. Lars Erstrand "Easter Parade". DSD64 (2.8MHz) $9.99 and DSD128 (5.6MHz) $12.99

DSD Showcase 2 starts off with Eric Bibb's "Needed Time", a beautiful emotional blues/spiritual from Eric Bibb's album "Spirit & The Blues". Then Johan Dielemans Trio's "My Heart Stood Still" a straight ahead jazz trio. Followed by Kjell Öhman's "Blues Opus 3", an improvised Hammond organ piece with Kjell Öhman leading the way. Very jazzy blues with excellent musicians having fun. When the musicians thought that the recording was done, Jan-Eric said, "I am sorry, but you're not..!" I want you to play a blues for me! In about 10 minutes, "Blues Opus 3″ was born.

Sören Hermansson & Per-Ove Larsson "Gammal Fäbopsalm" is an old pastoral Hymn rumored to have been played by a blind man traveling the countryside with his daughter making a living playing violin. Arranged and transcribed for organ and horn.

Peder Riis "Fantasie" The leader and founder of the Stockholm Guitar Quartet, Peder Riis, plays here on the 11-stringed Georg Bolin guitar. Recorded in the same church from the 11th century with it´s wonderful acoustics, where also the Quartet was recorded.

Next is my favorite piece on this sampler Wager-Åstrand's "Fasten Seat Belts" A bit avant-garde music, with mallets, percussion and organ, recorded in the huge Hallgrims Church in Reykjavik, Iceland, with it´s very impressive acoustics! "Fasten Seat Belts" is from "Live at Vattnajökull". This is the track I used the most in my comparisons between 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz DSD, as good as the 2.8MHz DSD sounds the 5.6MHz DSD version takes the music to another level of reality. It's the coolest and most exciting piece of music I've ever heard in my life!

Followed by Kenneth Arnström's "Stealin’ Away", traditional Jazz from the 1920s, very much inspired by Louis Armstrong. Featuring the horn genius, Kenneth Arnström, with the famous Swedish Jazz Kings behind him playing superbly in excellent sound. This sampler ends with Lars Erstrand's "Easter Parade" see my review of "The Lars Erstrand Sessions" above.

These Opus 3 DSD recordings through my Teac DSD DAC are among the most realistic and beautiful sounding recordings in my collection so far, especially from the 5.6MHz "double DSD" versions.

The sonic differences in the 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz Opus 3 samplers, which are from purist analog recordings, proves to me that many analog masters are superior to even highest resolution digital masters, this should add more fuel to the analog-digital debate. High resolution digital has been getting me closer to the magic of analog realism, perhaps with 5.6MHz double DSD we may finally be there, can't wait to try more.

The price of these DSD samplers are so inexpensive you can buy both the 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz versions for less than what others charge for a single high resolution recording and hear for yourself the advantage of 5.6MHz is to well made analog recordings. Once you hear that difference in your own system, I believe you too will want more 5.6MHz DSD recordings.

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