The Art of HiFi

January 15, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

One of the great joys of having our own state-of-the-art recording studio includes the ability to record and release the kinds of recordings rarely ever done. Recordings that are specific to those of us interested in High-End audio.

When I first proposed the idea of launching a new series that celebrated the art of HiFi to Octave Record’s Director, Jessica Carson, she had plenty of questions. What kinds of music? What aspects of High-End Audio would we be focusing on? Would we focus on just making greater recordings, or would they be specific to a genre? What would make these recordings different than the ones we’ve done before?

Great questions.

As an Audiophile, I very much wanted to focus on different aspects of my passion: bottom end, top end, depth, soundstage, harmonic richness, lifelike, dynamic, delicate, powerful.

Looking over my list, we decided to start right at the top. Bass.

Around PS Audio and Octave, it is well known I am somewhat of a bass freak (understatement). My many videos and blogs on using subwoofers, my spine-tingling listening sessions when the system reaches down into the basement and lifts you out of the seat, and the uncontrollable smile that comes across my face when that perfect low-end note is just right made an easy decision to go with bass as the obvious first choice. (Plus, Octave’s recording chain is flat to 3Hz).

And for the making of this series I wanted to be personally responsible for every aspect of it. Making sure it fits exactly the way I want it to sound. I was the recording and mixing engineer on all tracks. Gus Skinas was the mastering engineer.

No compromises.

The Art of HiFi Series, Volume 01: Bass, is the first in this new series from Octave Records.

It is a must-have album for audiophiles who enjoy rattling the rafters.

The first choice for a recording had to be a full-on pipe organ. Oh yeah. Live and in person. The idea of setting up a full DSD256 capture of the power and majesty of a pipe organ was a dream come true. I first detailed this awesome experience in this post.  I then posted a YouTube video of organist Kendrick Mervine’s performance here.

There are 3 amazing tracks of this live performance on The Art of Bass, and 7 more very different bass gems I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

Go here to grab a copy or download the master files.

I am guessing the limited run of SACDs will go quickly.

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17 comments on “The Art of HiFi”

  1. Have been trying to post this morning but think there could be a problem with the link.
    It’s off topic (maybe that’s the reason) but to find the article search for ‘Did the music business just kill the vinyl revival’ from The Honest Broker, Ted Gioia. I’m sure it will be of interest to some.

    While I’m already off topic, why not also try this.

    Smart appliances could stop working after two years, says Which?

    To get on topic. It’s great there will be a set of reference discs to demonstrate a systems capabilities, or otherwise, but I can’t lose the uneasy feeling that the music content will be an issue. We all want great demo discs, but of the music we love.
    Suggestion for future release. Take the best one or two tracks from each and combine them on one disc, a ‘Best of Octave’ demo disc.

    1. If, by our age, we haven’t found at least half a dozen reference tracks that
      tell us what’s going on with the bass, with the dynamics, with the air, with
      the depth, with the soundstage, etc…. 😮

      Reference tracks, be they on vinyl, CD or download, come out at regular intervals down through the decades & will continue to do so into the future.

  2. The most interesting aspect for Octave imo would have been to show the difference DSD makes to what we’re used to from PCM. But the longer I think about it, the more difficult it gets. Demonstrate more room ambiance than a Chesky or Reference Recordings PCM, more holographic imaging than a Stockfisch PCM, better tonal balance than a Sound Liaison PCM, better large orchestral string tone than a Northstar/Turtle Records PCM, better realism than a Naim, XLO or MA Recordings or Windham Hill or Unamas PCM? Or show that now all can be combined? It seems more a question of different recording techniques to me.

    What’s most sensible to PCM/DSD differences? Not necessarily bass I’d say. Mids, string tone, ambiance, top end (although the latter only seems to begin to stand out with DSD256, not that much before)?

    Finally I think the advantage of DSD unfortunately can’t be easily shown. Too many well recorded counterexamples available. It would need the best DSD and the best PCM recording/mixing/mastering equipment placed aside, used by the same recording/mixing/mastering engineer and then put on a file/disc. Otherwise we can just compare the different and differently recorded audiophile show discs of Chesky, Octave etc. among each other and/or enjoy, that all of them sound somehow spectacular.

    I’m keen to hear some more Octave recordings as soon as my musical taste got hit again 😉

  3. 1. Choose your favourite artist.
    2. Choose your favourite song.
    3. Choose your favourite recording, in most cases from a field of one.
    4. Accept, listen and enjoy.
    This is the reality regarding much of the music we listen to.
    Lovers of classical should have more choice at 3.

    1. There should be nothing wrong with the posting services. The website is running slow today, probably because a lot of people are on it. Sigh. Working on a solution to that problem which plagues us as we grow.

      1. The site is running extremely slowly. It took multiple attempts (Captcha kept logging out because it was taking too long to complete the purchase) but I was ultimately able to purchase and download the DSD256 files. The bigger problem to me was that the files have zero metadata. I was able to fill in some of the artists from the webpage description but not all of them. At a minimum the files should have been tagged (track title, artist, album name, track number, etc.) and a PDF of the booklet would have been nice.

        1. Speed good now. Meta Data not!, that’s not good. Pay a premium and then have to input all the data in manually. I’ll be holding off on any future recordings from Octave until I hear that issue is resolved.

  4. I like the idea of knowing to what extremes a system can reach, or limited to, even if those ranges are seldom reached. I am wondering if information on the music, and notes, will be included with The Art of Bass release. Something like ‘at one minute in the pipe organ hits a sustained 22hz note.’ Then we would know what we are hearing, or not, and decide how to proceed. Some may be getting all the notes, some will be close enough and some may be missing out.

  5. When my speakers were being set up one of the key things was to get good bass without masking the midrange vocals. I’ve heard expensive systems where the bass overwhelms everything else.

    There are quite a few of these sampler discs. Linn used to do them annually on SACD before they gave up on DSD.

    There are at least two audiophile record labels devoted to DSD recordings of famous large pipe organs. One is a UK label called Base 2 Music, which has a connection to Laurence Dickie, designer and owner of Vivid audio, the recordings are uncompressed DSD and mastered using Vivid G1 Spirit speakers.

    1. I’d be interested in what you decide Tony…
      … my stereo speakers each have twin 8” speakers that go very low for me, my room and music. Paul agrees he likes his bass too much, like so he gets thumped in the stomach, which is not what I like. I do like deep bass – but my music tends to be kick drums, guitar bass and double bass – not so much Octobass and organs 🙂

      I like, but don’t tend to listen to organs much, so that should be interesting. Also the synth and natural drum demo tracks I also listened to using Apple AirPods. Keen to hear if they overrun the voices and other instruments.

      I’ll go for the DSD128, as that’s as high as my high end AVC can do with its decent DACs. The few Octave Records SACD and downloads I have sound amazing – just intrigued how low Paul’s new recording/mixing takes it – and how Gus mastered it…
      … will wait a bit for the website to get back up to speed.

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