Regarding Robert von Bahr’s reply to Dan Morgan’s above-referenced review, I’m afraid that Mr. von Bahr has provided some information that is not correct. He says that they locate the loudest “crash” of the whole SACD and put it at “0 dB”, with the rest of the album at a proportionate amplitude, presumably to provide a consistent and uniform listening experience throughout the disk. That would be terrific if they actually did this, but I can provide empirical evidence that they did not, at least in the case of this album.
I do all my SACD listening with a PC computer, so in order to listen to the SACD/Surround layer with my Surround Sound card and speakers, I have to “rip” my SACDs and then convert them to multi-channel .flac files. This is a rather involved process since a PC computer, by itself, cannot read the SACD layer. First, another machine has to be used to read the SACD layer and extract it to an .iso image for the PC computer. Then I take the ripped .iso image and extract all its tracks to .wav files. After this, I open the .wav files in Adobe Audition (a digital sound editor) to convert them to .flac files, and while I have the files open in Audition, I scan the full album for its maximum peak point (Mr. von Bahr’s loudest “crash”), and then use that amplitude to determine how much to uniformly raise the volume/amplitude on the whole SACD, thus providing the strongest possible volume/amplitude without causing any distortion due to over-peaking before I save everything to the converted .flac files.
Every SACD is different, of course, with some of them requiring very little increase in the amplitude, and other requiring quite a bit more - sometimes even to a rather shocking extent.
In the case of the Nezet-Seguin recording of Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, the whole composite SACD yielded a maximum peak reading of -6.59 dB (specifically, at 10:42 on Track 06 in the right-front channel) - meaning that I was able to safely increase the volume/amplitude for every track and every channel on the SACD by 6.59 dB without causing any distortion due to over-peaking.
If Mr. von Bahr’s statement that they set the “loudest crash” to 0 dB was true, then what I have just described should be impossible.
As anybody familiar with sound engineering will undoubtedly realize, 6.59 dB is a HUGE difference in how far one has to turn up the volume knob, especially when we’re considering 6.59 dB multiplied by 5-6 channels in the SACD’s Surround Sound.
As it is, with the disk being 6.59 dB short of the volume/amplitude level BIS could have provided, I would say that Dan Morgan’s complaint about the recording level being “ridiculously low” is entirely apropos.
I should clarify, however, that the standard CD Audio layer of the same disk was set to a peak amplitude of -0.04 dB at the same place (10:42 in Track 6), meaning that the same recording will have far more impact/amplitude when listening with a standard CD player than with an SACD player.
One would think that the exact opposite would be the case, with the more advanced/expensive SACD option providing the greater impact, but sadly, without some serious editing such as I have described above, this is not the case with BIS Records’ Heldenleben recording. Too bad, because it’s not a bad performance, even if not one of the all-time greats. (My favorite is the Järvi recording Mr. Morgan mentioned.)
I hope this helps,
Fort Worth, TX, USA
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