For a drastic change of pace, I listened to Sacred Feast (dmp), a compilation by the 31-member Gaudeamus choral ensemble conducted by Paul Halley. Recorded in the Trinity College Chapel in Hartford, Connecticut, they sound splendid on this multichannel hybrid SACD (truthfully, I'm sure they'd sound splendid on a scratchy mono LP). The recording places the performers firmly in front, with generous amounts of natural reverberation in the surrounds. Interestingly, the six-channel master recording also captured sound from overhead, but with my setup this full-range track was sent to my subwoofer - like most people, I don't have a ceiling-mounted full-range speaker installed in my home theater. Even so, the reproduced sound quality was magnificent overall.
To complete my audition, I checked out a multichannel hybrid SACD sampler of movie and TV soundtrack medleys by Jerry Goldsmith, performed by the London Symphony conducted by the composer. The recording places you in the middle of the orchestra, with instruments and hall ambience coming from all around. The effect was interesting but not very convincing - it sounded as if the left/right stereo tracks were duplicated in the surround channels. This does give a sense of surround sound, but it's not realistic because you'd never hear an orchestra spread all around you (not even a conductor has that perspective). The sixth channel was not used for bass or anything else.
After all this surround sound auditioning, I switched back to stereo playback, which seemed stunningly flat and uninviting in comparison - like switching your TV from color to black-and-white. It left me wondering how I ever put up with plain stereo all those years!
A few operational notes: It took the SCD-CE775 about 10 seconds to switch between SACD disc layers or different mixes, and disc changes took about 15 seconds. I wish these times were a tad faster - I'm a busy guy. On the upside, the player provided fast track access and played both write-once CD-R and rewritable CD-RW discs.
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