Goldberg Variations Acoustica from AIX Records is the world's first 3D Music Album™, the first Blu-ray™ 3-D Disc using the Dolby® TrueHD lossless codec, and the first 3-D Blu-ray Disc™ of a live music recording session. The project was shot using four prototype Panasonic AG-3DA1 cameras. The performance was recorded on June 11, 2010 at the Los Angeles Colburn School for Performing Arts in Zipper Auditorium. This album is not a live concert. There was no audience present during the recording session. AIX Records' unique approach to recording albums captures live performances in real time without subsequent overdubs or any digital post-production processing of any kind. Two other AIX 3D Music Albums are reviewed in Issue 157, with three more to follow. Based on a well-known composition of Johann Sebastian Bach, the AIX All-Star Band performs a largely improvised version of Bachs "Goldberg Variations" in styles that range from quiet, dreamy sound collages to driving, rhythmic, and jazzy interpretations. The Goldberg Variations Acoustica includes the opening Aria, 14 Variations, and the concluding Quodlibet. The Blu-ray is fully compatible with standard 2-D Blu-ray Disc players and displays, so one can enjoy the disc even on a non-3DHD display. The previously released AIX Records Audio Calibration Disc & HD Music Sampler is recommended as a reference to the exceptional audiophile quality that the company has built its reputation on. The calibration/sampler disc features reference-quality Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ music tracks, and home theatre setup tests such as the "Subwoofer Crossover Test" and "System Setup Tutorial," to help optimize the performance of a sound system. Goldberg Variations Acoustica is the third in AIX Records' Acoustica series (following Moonlight Acoustica and Pachelbel Canon Acoustica), and the first to be released as a Blu-ray 3D (only the second Blu-ray 3D disc to be commercially available). (Gary Reber)
Special features include a booklet about the project with appropriate musician and production credits, notes on Johann Sebastian Bach's Colberg Variations published in 1741, and an AIX Records catalog listing. Both 2-D and 3-D versions are contained on the Blu-ray Disc.
With this 1.78:1 720p MVC 3-D Music Album Blu-ray release, AIX has ventured into producing original 3DHD video programming of the highest technical quality. Shot with four Panasonic AG-3DA1 cameras, the picture exhibits beautiful natural depth. Occasional non-distracting faint traces of visual crosstalk or ghosting can be detected when critically viewed. The impressive imagery is encoded at 1280 x 720 HD resolution, not 1080p, which might have further enhanced resolution, but because the Blu-ray 3D format cannot handle full 29.97 frames per second at full 1080p, the smaller standard was used. Still, while not as sharp as possible, the imagery is totally satisfying in detail, particularly in the instruments and supporting electronics. Instrumental textures are revealed in degrees of "reflective shininess" of glossy, smooth finishes on the drum kit, guitars, and piano, and the "roughness" exhibited on drumheads and scuffs on the wood acoustic bass. Similarly, fine detail is revealed in facial features and clothing, as well as the staging textures. The color spectrum is absolutely realistic and natural, with no exaggeration. Hues are rich and warm, with natural densities. Fleshtones are accurate throughout. The visuals are straightforward, as the program is an assemblage of images showing relatively static musicians expressively playing their instruments from various angles and distances. Contrast is excellent with deep, solid black backgrounds and revealing shadow delineation. This contributes to the impressive sense of depth and the ability to judge spatial distances between the musicians and their instruments. There is no real complexity to the imagery, just a straight-ahead documentation of the performance staging shown from various angles. While foremost a musical event, the inclusion of a 3-D performance elevates the 3-D presentation to near-reference Blu-ray status, with stunning and absorbing natural imagery. (Gary Reber)
The album is recorded in high-resolution 96 kHz/24-bit LPCM, with no dynamic range compression, equalization, or other signal processing to compromise fidelity. The recorded 5.1 surround mixes are encoded using Dolby TrueHD and the legacy Dolby Digital format, and allow the listener to choose the perspective from the "stage" or from the "audience" point-of-view (POV). The "stage" perspective puts you on the stage, with the musicians distributed to the left and right as well as in front of you, while the "audience" perspective delivers the sound if you were in the best seat in the house, more distant and reverberant, with a frontal focus and ambient surround soundfield. There is an additional 2.0-channel 96 kHz/24-bit PCM mix provided for more traditional listeners or those who have not yet upgraded to surround, which also sounds incredibly transparent. To assist in proper level setting, AIX provides channel ID calibration tones. The sound quality is audiophile grade throughout, with an impressive dynamic quality and natural three-dimensional holosonic® envelopment delivered by the surround mixes. No matter what presentation is selected, there is no sacrifice in fidelity or transparency across the recording's wide dynamic range. Most impressive is the natural decay of transients amongst the varied instrumental sounds, which enhances the absolute visceral realism, for one of the finest recorded sonic experiences ever. AIX Records uses stereo pairs of microphones, world-class discrete preamplifiers, and high-precision digital-to-analog converters fed directly into a multitrack HD digital recorder. The resulting surround music presentation is delivered with the highest-quality technical standard, using state-of-the-art digital recording equipment, with the intent of elevating the standard of recording/mixing music, performed by real musicians, in real performance venues. The musicians include Music Director Jim Cox on piano, organ, and Wurlitzer Electric Piano; Dean Parks on electric guitar; Laurence Juber on acoustic guitar; Alberto Lopez on percussion; Kevin Axt on acoustic bass; and MB Gordy on drums. As a testament to the extraordinary musicianship, this is an unbelievable unrehearsed performance; the entire album was recorded in a single take done without a run through or any rehearsal! This is a marvelous musical achievement and presentation that will enthrall both fans and audiophiles. (Gary Reber)