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Various Artists - 10 Best Home Entertainment editors pick the best of Chesky Records
By Brent Butterworth, editor-in-chief, Home Entertainment magazine
Call us biased, call us fixated, call us fanatics. We don't care. When the editors of Home Entertainment magazine think of great music recordings, we think first of Chesky Records - and our thoughts often stop there.
Most CDs are recorded with multiple microphones in a dead-sounding studio, with reverb and overdubs added in the mix. Chesky's approach is purer: It records in the natural reverberance of St. Peter's Church in Manhattan, using custom-made vacuum-tube recording gear, a single microphone (in most cases), and no audio processing or overdubbing. The result is a spacious, natural sound you simply cannot hear in ordinary commercial recordings. Other audiophile labels do great recordings, too, but few capture the full-bodied tonality that Chesky achieves. And fewer still have signed such an eclectic array of artists.
Luckily for us, the company caught wind of our enthusiasm and offered to produce a limited-edition CD of our 10 all-time-favorite Chesky recordings. East Coast Editor Dennis Burger, Contributing Editor Steve Guttenberg, and I selected these cuts in part for selfish reasons - so we'd have the perfect test CD to use in our product evaluations. We encourage you to use it the same way. Compare the descriptions below to the way the music sounds on your system. Then try it on your neighbor's system. And use it in the store the next time you choose a set of speakers. If you don't hear a lush, ambient sound, with instruments seeming to come from several feet behind the speakers, you're not listening to a particularly good system.
SPECIAL BONUS TEST TRACKS included:
11. The Chesky Style: An A/B comparison
This track presents the first clear demonstration of the difference between a Chesky recording and a typical studio recording. The first snippet of trumpet is recorded Chesky-style: at St. Peter's Church in Manhattan, using a Calrec Soundfield microphone placed several feet from the trumpet so it captures both the instrument and the ambiance of the church. The next snippet is the same trumpet, recorded in the ordinary style. The difference is obvious, and it's why we so love Chesky Records.
12. Channel ID/phase test
The phrase "left channel" should come from the left, "right channel" should come from the right, "in phase" should come from between the two speakers, and "out of phase" should come from all around the room, or behind you. Re-examine your speaker connections if that's not what you hear.
13. Balance test
This test lets you adjust the balance perfectly without using a sound-pressure level meter. If the blip you hear comes from one speaker only, instead of from between the speakers, adjust the balance (or move your head) toward the other speaker.
14. Pink noise (-20 dBFS)
You can use this track to adjust the position of your speakers. The position in which the noise sounds brightest, with the strongest treble, is likely to be the best for your speakers.
15. Subwoofer crossover test
These tones ascend through the part of the audio spectrum in which your system transitions from your main speakers to your subwoofer. (If you don't have a subwoofer, ignore this track.) They should sound equally loud, with no tone standing out. If they don't, try flipping the phase switch on your subwoofer, or setting your subwoofer crossover to a higher or lower frequency. It probably won't be perfect. Your room's resonance may accentuate some tones, but get it as smooth as you can.
1. 52nd Street
2. Love and Happiness
3. Oh Well
6. Maria Mulata
7. Three Little Birds
9. No Flight Tonight
10. Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For