The Kinks: SACDs & 96/24 Downloads Sparkle Plenty

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Years ago, a fine series of hybrid stereo-only SACDs were released featuring a large chunk of The Kinks' back catalog, paricularly the RCA and Arista Records era (early 1970s into the 1980s). Generally well assembled with nice Digipak sleeves and informative booklets, the SACDs got lost in the sauce among the multi-channel sound hoopla of the period. To answer why, there is no one reason but here are some possibilities:

Most SACDs featured 5.1 surround remixes as well as high res AND conventional stereo CD layers. Some consumers were confused by stereo-only SACDs; the labels did a mediocre job explaining this and providing rationale why anyone should buy them. Some discs even had mis-information on the back covers indicating that there MIGHT be a surround mix on the disc -- even I was confused on this at one point!

Apart from a select group of press folks and uber audiophiles, few people at the time had players that could decode SACDs.

Adding insult to injury were the millions of youthful Playstation3 owners who clearly weren't lining up to play The Kinks music on their SACD-ready gaming machines.

So, sadly, many of these fine Kinks discs came and went, and were soon replaced in the store shelves with more conventional CDs.

Being a huge Kinks fan, I have been collecting the SACDs and have not been disappointed. Most sound stellar -- especially considering that most of the original RCA Dynaflex LP pressings were awful. The sonic upgrade is significant and one may not even want to bother keeping the original LP pressings (I admit that other than to look at the album art, I won't bother playing mine anymore).

You can download the Kinks albums as high res 96-hHz/24-bit FLAC files from HDTracks; they sound near identical to the SACDs. 


1978's Misfits sounds remarkable and could even become a demo-worthy recording to show off your system. Glorious in all its classic FM radio splendor, big strummy acoustic guitars, raw fat electric guitar tones (probably from Dave Davies' Les Paul), big drums 'n percussion touches, swirly keyboards and synthesizers soar. Both the SACD and the HDTracks downloads sound equally fab; they even sound better than my Swedish LP pressing (which I'm only keeping at this point due to it's unusual gatefold edition). Details like drummer Mick Avory's reverb-laden monster Tom Tom hits on the title track are just spectacular; you can feel the air being pushed out of your speakers from Avory's kick drum hits. "Rock and Roll Fantasy" is a revelation as Ray Davies' unusual quazi-reggae acoustic guitar rhythms percolate inside while brother Dave Davies' electric guitar fills ping-pong back and forth between the speakers -- details are fairly buried on LP.


1973's Preservation Act 1 shines in high res: the glorious choral opening of "Morning Song" gives way to the dreamlike lullabye melody hummed by Ray Davies, recorded in a close mic'd sort of manner that makes it sound like he's singing right in your ear. The acoustic/electric guitar army which follows on "Daylight" sounds like a dream compared to the old Dynaflex LP pressings. 

Of the three albums I decided to compare for this article, only Soap Opera (from 1975) sounds a little boxy -- but then, the original was never super dynamic. Nonetheless, it remains a guilty pleasure.

You can get these and many other Kinks albums at Or go to Amazon and do a search for "kinks, hybrid, sacd" and you'll find a bunch up there for sale.  Either way, you'll be getting some great mid-period Kinks music sounding better than ever.


Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine,, Sound+Vision Magazine and  He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written.




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