A short while back I wrote a shoot out style review about John Coltrane's jazz classic A Love Supreme, where I took a look at how an old vinyl pressing stood up to more modern options such as streaming via the Tidal music service or on an SACD (click here if you missed it!). Several have asked about whether I also knew that a Pure Audio series Blu-ray edition of the album existed -- which I did, but did not own at the time I wrote the review. I figured that I would write a follow-on once I got my hands on a copy -- curiously enough, that time came much sooner than expected as I found a one recently at Amoeba Music.
And I am really very pleased with it. Playing at 24-bit, 96 kHz resolution in either PCM, DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD Stereo, all three versions of the album sound quite excellent overall. The biggest thing I noticed is that it sounds more like the vinyl version of A Love Supreme, a richer, warmer overall presentation of the music than other format I've heard.
Were there differences between the formats? When I switched from PCM to DTS, there was a noticeably brighter sound, particularly on the ride cymbals. The Dolby track was significantly lower volume than the other versions on the disc but sounded good when I turned up the volume... curiously, this was my least favorite version on the disc, perhaps because it felt somehow flatter and more compressed. Both the PCM and DTS versions felt more open and air-y, which is important for a recording like this -- when it exists, you really do want to hear the sound of the instruments resonating and interacting with one another in the studio itself. This is especially true for a recording made by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder at his studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
How did these Blu-ray Pure Audio versions compare to the SACD? Well... the SACD sounds really quite nice, but the Blu-ray had just that hair more joy resonating within and around it. Joy? Why, yes I think that is a fair term. Perhaps it was less of that sense of listening to something that has been digitized and more about just hearing the music. The cymbals sound particularly more realistic and I preferred the resonance of Coltrane's saxophone more on the Blu-ray Disc. This is a spiritually rich recording so being able to connect with the joyousness within the music is essential. So... yes... joy!
But... you know folks... I've said this before: this is not a hard science review folks I am doing here so please don't get bent out of shape if you are a fan of one particular format over another. I am simply reporting purely on my gut instincts and what I am hearing in the moment. To your ear, the SACD might sound just ducky. And, again per my earlier review, some of you might well find the high resolution MQA stream available on Tidal more than satisfactory, especially if you are listening in "Exclusive Mode" with maximum "Force Volume" and passthrough of the MQA to be decoded by your favorite DAC (I am currently using a Mytek Brooklyn model and this is what I was told was the optimum way to set up myTidal stream for MQA playback) .
The Blu-ray Audio disc also comes with a nice added value: Alternate takes and a download. The only drag was that the download was only in MP3 quality but overall this package is still over a very high quality caliber. Nothing to complain about -- in fact, I have been enjoying this Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc much more than some of the others I've purchased (especially ones without any bonuses!)
The good news for those of you who might want an option to traditional vinyl long playing records is that there are some fine modern options for high fidelity listening of classic recordings. You just have to track them down a bit. I've embedded links to many of the items discussed in this article so just click the links to explore whether they are titles you want to own.