Octave Records' New System Setup Disc and Book

Octave Records' New System Setup Disc and Book

Written by Frank Doris

Octave Records has two new announcements this time out. The Audiophile Reference Disc SACD was created to help listeners get the best out of their stereo systems, by providing reference-quality music and test tracks.

The release of the disc coincides with the debut of the book Audiophile’s Guide: The Stereo, a comprehensive guide to system setup by PS Audio CEO Paul McGowan, and a companion to the disc.

The Audiophile Reference Disc is playable on any SACD, CD, DVD, or Blu-ray player. It also comes with a second DVD data disc containing DSD, high-resolution and standard-resolution PCM files, available for ripping to a hard drive or playing in a player. In addition, when used with PS Audio transports and DACs, the SACD DSD layer will be sent from the transport to the DAC for playback.

The Audiophile Reference Disc and Audiophile's Guide: The Stereo Book.

The master DSD and PCM files are also available for purchase and download from psaudio.com at this link.

As Paul points out, “For years I have wanted to put together a step-by-step instruction book with specific recordings tuned to each instructional step. After nearly 50 years of setting up and adjusting 2-channel audio systems, a pattern began to develop. In nearly every case, owners of high-end audio systems were making the same basic setup errors: speakers too close to the front wall, with too much toe-in; or with the soundstage forward of the speakers. The speakers didn’t ‘disappear’ as they should when set up properly.

What I discovered is that in setting up their system, listeners all had their favorite tracks where their system sounded right – but those tracks weren’t themselves right. At the back of my mind I kept wishing for a set of known reference recordings that were specific to setup instructions. Former setup discs were great for many things, but they were not specific to the basics of setup and they didn’t have an accompanying guide book.”

The Audiophile Reference Disc begins with a series of tracks for system setup starting points, including left, right and phantom center channel identification, and checking for correct phase (polarity). Subsequent music tracks facilitate more sophisticated evaluations like in-room bass response, soundstage width and depth, resolution, a system burn-in track and more.

The Audiophile Reference Disc was designed to be used in conjunction with The Audiophile’s Guide book. The Guide details each step in the stereo setup instructional process, and a corresponding reference audio track is designated to check and verify the results. The disc and book go over every aspect of getting the most out of stereo system reproduction, from a single voice to the most complex and dynamic musical passages.

Recorded and mastered using Octave Records’ exclusive DSDDirect Mastered 192kHz/24-bit process and 96kHz/24-bit and 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM, The Audiophile Reference Disc was produced using state-of-the-art high-resolution audio technology and was created for use as a true reference-quality system-evaluation tool. The disc was produced by Octave Records’ Giselle Collazo and Jessica Carson and mastered and mixed by Octave engineer Gus Skinas and Giselle. Over many weeks of mixing, each track was brought into PS Audio’s Music Room Two and auditioned on the reference system, based around Infinity IRS V loudspeakers. Paul notes, “I had the final say on what got accepted and what had to go back for additional tuning and tweaking. It was a long, long process of back and forth until we were satisfied.”

Audiophile’s Guide: The Stereo Book is subtitled “Unlock the Secrets to Great Sound” and the book explains how to achieve this. The Guide begins with a history of stereophonic sound and moves into chapters on what to listen for and how to achieve the best from an audio system, covering topics like establishing a budget, what to buy and what not to, analog vs. digital, tubes vs. solid-state, achieving a spacious “3-D” sound from loudspeakers, tuning the system to the listening room, system tweaking and fine-tuning and much more. The book can be read as a standalone reference, or used in conjunction with The Audiophile Reference Disc.

Paul adds, “The types of tracks we needed on the disc were obvious from what was required in the Guide. For example, ‘Dualities’ (a previously unreleased track by Octave Records artist Clandestine Amigo) was an obvious choice, because once you get the soundstage and imaging depth working correctly on your system, you need a way to verify you have it right.

Jessica Carson of Clandestine Amigo.
Jessica Carson of Clandestine Amigo.

During the recording of this song, we came up with the idea of measuring the distance from the singers to the microphones. Jessica and Giselle sing the first verse from three feet away, then six and nine feet away on the second and third verses. On a good system, you can hear the difference in their distances from the Tim de Paravicini-modified AKG C24 Blumlein stereo mic. Some listeners who have highly resolving systems will notice a distinct rumble on that particular track. It’s the air conditioning unit atop the roof of our warehouse where this was recorded. I consider it an Easter egg of sorts—which is why we left it in.”

Other tracks include solo acoustic and electric piano, solo acoustic guitar, live studio recordings of small and medium-sized groups, and other musical variety. “Slow Moving Ferns” delivers sonic fireworks via 32 tracks of analog and digital synthesizers recorded in pure DSD directly into Octave’s Sonoma multitrack recorder. The disc also features an all-out system-workout drum track, “Transmogrification.” It was recorded by Banshee Tree drummer Michelle Pietrafitta in PS Audio’s warehouse using the Tim de Paravicini-modified Blumlein stereo C24, along with Shure Beta 52, and SM7B Soundelux U195, beyerdynamic M201, Telefunken M80 and Audix D4 mics. This track has serious dynamic impact and if your system is up to the task, you’ll feel the bass drum hit you in the chest. Play it loud!

Chris Brunhaver and Giselle Collazo in the studio. Chris Brunhaver and Giselle Collazo in the studio.
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