Mozart: Clarinet Quintet K.581 / Horn Quintet K.407 / String Quartet K.189 is the world's second 3D Music Album™, the second Blu-ray 3D disc using the Dolby® TrueHD lossless codec, and the first classical music project recorded specifically for 3-D Blu-ray Disc™. The performances were recorded on June 12, 2010 at the Colburn School for Performing Arts in Zipper Auditorium located in downtown Los Angeles. Think of this as a private performance by an award-winning chamber music ensemble. AIX Records produces albums by recording the amazing performances by exceptional musicians, without overdubs or digital processing of any kind. Two other AIX 3D Music Albums are reviewed in Issue 157, with three more to follow. The repertoire consists of three well-known compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed by the 2010 Gold Medal winners of the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, The Old City String Quartet with guests horn player Corey Klein and clarinetist Ruokai Chen. The repertoire includes an exceptional performance of the popular "Clarinet Quintet In A Major, K.581"; "String Quartet In A Major, K.169"; and "Horn Quintet In E-Flat Major, K.407." 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 and 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. (Gary Reber)
Special features include a booklet about the project, with appropriate musician and production credits, liner notes on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and an AIX Records catalog listing; an essay on The Old City String Quartet; musician credits; liner notes; a photo gallery; and a behind-the-scenes photo montage. Both 2-D and 3-D versions are contained on the Blu-ray Disc.
AIX continues to produce original 3DHD video programming of the highest technical quality with this second 3D Music Album. The four prototype Panasonic AG-3DA1 cameras produce images of exceptional color and natural depth. Both occasional non-distracting faint traces and more prominent visual crosstalk artifacts or ghosting can be detected when critically viewed on this pre-release review copy, with assurances that additional production work will minimize these imperfections. However, the impressive imagery, encoded at 1280 x 720 HD resolution, brings the musicians into your personal listening space. At full 1.78:1 1080p, there may have been more detail in the video imagery, however, the project was shot at 29.97 fps and Blu-ray 3D doesn't support 1080p at that frame rate. The "natural patina" of the aging wood of the stringed instruments is revealed in multiple degrees and the "highly polished" horn. The ensemble's formal dress, with red accents, is particularly well rendered in the video. Colors are realistic and natural, without evidence of artificial processing. The rich, red color of Milena's full-length gown is rich and warm. The youthfulness of these musicians is brought to life with realistic skin color and hair. The program shows the musicians performing the compositions of Mozart from a variety of angles, with minimal camera movement and well-paced cuts. The contrast is deep, with solid-black backgrounds and excellent shadow definition. There is an impressive sense of depth clearly visible in the video, showing space occupied onstage by the musicians and their instruments. The production is spartan, choosing to rightfully focus your attention on the music. Clearly, the music performances and incredible sonic fidelity are the focus of this Mozart 3D Music Album, because there are noticeable unfortunate pre-release 3-D technical artifacts, which otherwise would have attained near-reference 3-D Blu-ray status with stunning and absorbing natural imagery. (Gary Reber)
The Mozart project, as are all AIX Records' productions, is recorded in high-resolution 96 kHz/24-bit LPCM, with no dynamic range compression, equalization, or other signal processing. The 5.1 surround mixes are encoded using the lossless Dolby® TrueHD and the legacy Dolby Digital formats. Listeners are allowed to choose their preferred audio perspective between a "stage" mix or from the "audience" point-of-view (POV). The "stage" perspective puts you on the stage with the music immersing you in melody and harmony. The "audience" surround mix places you in the best seat in the house, with the natural reverberant sound of the hall coming from the left and right loudspeakers and a more frontal placement of the musicians. There is also an incredibly transparent 2.0 channel, 96 kHz/24-bit LPCM mix provided for two-channel devotees. AIX Records provides channel ID calibration tones on each of their releases, to ensure proper playback of the multiple mixes. The sound quality will please even the most demanding audiophiles and is uncompromised in any way, with real-world dynamics and natural three-dimensional holosonic® envelopment delivered by the surround mixes. In all three mixes, there is natural, warm sound with transparency across the entire frequency range, even into the ultrasonics. The completely natural tone produced by the stringed instruments, the sonic accuracy of the horn, and especially the clarinet are particularly impressive. This recording delivers a sonic experience that is among the very finest ever heard from a disc. AIX Records uses multiple stereo pairs of mics, world-class discrete preamplifiers, and high-precision digital-to-analog converters feeding 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 members of the Old City Quartet are Violinists Bryan Lee and Joel Fink, Violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, and Cellist Camden Shaw, who performed these works with tremendous enthusiasm and delivered an unusually refreshing musicality to very familiar works. Clarinetist Ruokai Chen is an emerging virtuoso and manages to bring rich tone and fluency to the well-known Clarinet Quintet, and Horn Player Corey Klein delivers a very solid performance of the Horn Quintet K. 407. This album brings the intimacy of well-performed chamber music into your own private listening and viewing space, with incredible audiophile realism. (Gary Reber)