The DALI CD Vol. 3
Oh please, why another demo CD?
Perhaps that question should be split in two: “Why another demo music compilation?” and “Why a CD?” Let’s take them one at a time.
Why another demo music compilation?
Frankly, we’re fed up with the handful of demo tracks in heavy rotation at audio shows and shops. The same tired, uninspiring four or five usual suspects (none named, none shamed) are repeated ad nauseum. Typically, tracks are selected solely for technical quality, despite a mediocre musical performance that grows old fast.
An industry grapevine somehow elevates tracks to reference status to show off specific sonic traits but surely this is an anti-musical pursuit. Shouldn’t our goal as music lovers be versatility, the ability to reproduce anything, whether the source is good, bad or indifferent?
Is it fair – or even meaningful - to evaluate a good audio system based on one narrow parameter at a time? And should our choice of music be dictated by technology?
Our answer is a resounding “NO!” in both cases, yet still we release demo compilations… DALI CD1 and CD2 were well received in terms of sales and worldwide “collector’s item” status. The two discs led to a wider “discovery” by the audio world of many of the artists involved and, in all humility, we accept that we have a heritage to maintain.
DALI CD3 is our latest effort to present new music (if you haven’t heard it before, any music is “new”) for the inspiration and listening pleasure of music lovers. Inevitably, not every track will be to your taste, but we believe that everyone will find something new and worthwhile. Give it a few spins and see.
It is our intention that each selection will demonstrate various aspects of what it is that makes listening to music on a quality system such a rewarding experience, something most people can’t imagine, until they actually try it!
Why a CD?
Some will question the seriousness of CD as a demo medium at all. Isn’t CD so last millennium in comparison with newer high resolution formats? Technically, the question may be relevant and deserves a considered response. CD quality, (stereo, 44.1 kHz sampling rate and 16-bit constant bit depth) has been criticised since the early 1980’s for limited bandwidth, restricted bit resolution and dynamic range of “only” 96 dB.
Many early CD releases were irrefutably bad; cold, aggressive, anaemic bass, harsh top end, perhaps because the best recording and mastering engineers still focused on the LP. CD required a new skill set, continued development of digital recording technologies and new techniques for transferring and mixing analogue tapes. With a steep learning curve, CD quality is now much improved. 96 dB dynamic range, properly captured, 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency bandwidth, properly rolled off, etc., are more than up to the task of handling demanding performances with surprising verisimilitude.
One could argue that the main value of high resolution formats is that they allow engineers and manufacturers of digital recording equipment more leeway in exploring the dynamics and extended frequency response of hi-rez media. Extracting outstanding sound from CD is altogether more demanding.
It should also be noted that many recordings come nowhere near testing the technical limits of CD. Extreme dynamic compression is applied in pop genres for CD and download to boost levels to a constant high “loudness” to make music more “exciting” on cheap headphones, portable players or in a car. The sound of many modern performances and even remasterings of older recordings is compressed to a narrow 10 – 15 dB dynamic range, by turning down dynamic peaks and boosting quiet passages so that the track’s high uniform loudness grabs and holds the listener’s attention. This is quite a departure from the hi-fi goal of natural, engaging musicality.
In this context, 96 dB of dynamic range is more than adequate and, properly deployed, can offer near perfection. The day may well come when audiophiles look back in nostalgic gratitude that we were ever allowed to experience a widespread high quality medium like CD, before the mainstream consumer was steered towards MP3 and other heavily compressed formats vastly inferior to CD.
Let us enjoy the wealth of musical treasures available to us now – Long live the CD!
Lars Worre, managing director, Dali