Hi-Res Downloads, June 2022

hfnalbumAlice Coote & Julius Drake
Schubert: 21 Songs (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68169

The simplest recordings are often the trickiest to reproduce – for example, we all know what speech sounds like, and can instantly tell whether it's 'off'. In the same way, an accompanied voice may seem to present few challenges to a hi-fi system, but some make very heavy weather of it, with that oppressive sense of the ears being 'overdriven' on high notes. Try this recital by mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and you'll know whether your set-up is at fault, for on a fine system it's simply wonderful. From the amour of 'An den Mond' to the lighthearted waltz of 'Sleigkeit' through to the dark ballad 'Der Zwerg', Coote gives an enchanting – often spine-chilling – account of these songs, with typically masterful accompaniment by Julius Drake. The recording, in All Saints, East Finchley, balances the two in a persuasive acoustic while still giving the singer's thrillingly gorgeous voice full range, both dynamic and tonal. AE

Sound Quality: 90%


While the 96kHz sample rate provides more than sufficient bandwidth for both Steinway (~14kHz) and mezzo-soprano (~20kHz) there's a hint of 'analogue' ultrasonic noise and/or very mild post-mic distortion [red trace, Graph]. PM


Thom Lafond
The Moon Leans In (DSD64; 44.1-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.psaudio.com/products; Octave Records 0014

This is a wonderfully appealing set by Texas-born singer/songwriter LaFond, also arranger/producer here, drawing on music written over years of touring with his band Banshee Tree. At times simple and lyrical, with LaFond playing solo acoustic numbers, the album easily switches to good-time rockers such as 'Isolation Hymn' then drops back into the charming 'Life As A Sight'. The title track of the album shows the quality of the singer's voice and his songwriting, well served by the close focus of the straight-to-DSD recording at Octave's favoured Animal Lane Studios in Colorado. The label's engineer, Jay Elliott, captures the many facets of LaFond's work, from introspective, emotional soloist to country blues rocker. It's definitely an album to hear and then revisit, as rewarding as it is uplifting, and enjoyable from start to finish, in no small part due to the excellent sound quality! AE

Sound Quality: 90%


Recorded in DSD64 on a Sonoma 32 track system and mixed on a Studer 963 Console, there's barely the bandwidth to fully capture LaFond's voice and percussion, but dynamic range is good [sl. poorer in 192kHz, black trace]. PM


Florent Ghys
Mosaïques/Ritournelles (44.1kHz/24-bit, WAV)
www.cantaloupemusic.com; Cantaloupe Music CA21175

This is a 'twofer' release, simply because French double bassist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ghys realised he had too much music for just one album. As a result, Mosaïques is heavy with samples, from voices to sound effects, while the accompanying Ritournelles is more ambient, with natural instrumental sounds. A vinyl compilation is coming later this year. Ghys, who played and produced the whole enterprise, as well as shooting videos for each track on Mosaïques, says the former requires full attention, while the latter is better as background music! But whichever you choose, it's not long before you'll be immersed in the soundscapes of Ghys's work, helped immensely by a wonderfully detailed and – at times – dramatic sound, with excellent dynamics and all sorts of 'did I just hear that?' details popping up on Mosaïques in particular. Fascinating... AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Composition, playing, programming, recording and mixing is all by Florent Ghys, and the result is a solid 44.1kHz file. The 22kHz bandwidth is filled [inc. lower rate samples, black] and peaks are not normalised – a good thing! PM


Jacob Reuven, Omar Meir Wellber, Sinfonietta Leipzig
Vivaldi & Piazzolla: The Mandolin Seasons (96kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.hyperion-records.co.uk; Hyperion CDA68357

It's arguable whether we need another 'Four Seasons', but here it is, and – as the title suggests – there's a twist. Even that's not unusual, as the work has previously been 're-imagined' for all kinds of instruments. In this case, however, the mixture of Vivaldi and Piazzolla works well, as does the unusual idea of bringing into play virtuoso mandolinist Reuven with the orchestra conducted by childhood friend Wellber, who also provides accordion continuo. The result is as joyous as it is fresh and heartfelt, served with a typically fine Hyperion recording. At turns delicate and detailed, as it is in Piazzolla's 'Winter In Buenos Aries', and fast and vibrant in the Vivaldi, this is a fine-sounding set that's much more than a novelty, and so much more than just another 'Seasons'! AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Recorded in the spacious acoustic of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the mandolin, harpsichord and accordion all have >20kHz (harmonic) bandwidths that are well served by this clean 96kHz rendering (peaks all <–1dBFs). PM


Hothouse Flower (DSD64; 44.1-192kHz/24-bit, FLAC)
www.psaudio.com/products; Octave Records 0018

Well, here's an unusual – and unusually fabulous – album from writer Amy Faris and former US X Factor contestant Hannah Jackson, plus classical violinist Kimberley Sparr. This is so much more than a novelty turn, and far from an exercise in kitsch: the set roams from pure cabaret songs to dry humour, and transcends genres from jazz and musical theatre to classical and pop, not least thanks to the virtuosity of multi-instrumentalist Faris on keyboards and more. Jackson's voice is similarly multifaceted, able to do the retro thing then switch into pop belting, while Sparr's fiddle adds depth and texture. A masterful recording by Scott Faris – captured in DSD, mixed as analogue, and then transferred back to digital. This only seems to enhance the textures of the trio's work, creating a sound that's as rewarding sonically as it is enchanting in terms of performances. AE

Sound Quality: 85%


Lab Report
Another DSD-analogue-DSD transfer from PS Audio's Octave Records, here showing a ~4dB difference in peak levels between DSD [red trace, Graph] and LPCM. Trks 2, 5, 7, 10 and 11 on the 192kHz file peak at the 0.0dBFs ceiling [black trace]. PM