Home to some of the most resourceful electronics conglomerates, Asia has also been the test market of newly developed consumer technologies before they are introduced to the American consumer. Amidst the excitement generated by the emergence of the high-resolution formats, one of the most anticipated and visible development in high-end audio is JVC’s new XRCD24 24 Bit Super Analog technology. The star of the new technology is the application of 24-bit A/D and D/A conversion process in combination with the unprecedented utilization of a super-accurate, Rubidium master clock throughout the disc’s production process.
Meaning Red in Latin, Rubidium is a chemical substance less than a gram of which all our bodies possess. But more relevantly, Rubidium is also an atom most conducive towards maximum-accuracy timekeeping. From an article published on August 25, 2000, titled “Rubidium Fountain Clock”, by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein of the American Institute of Physics:
Atomic clocks keep time by counting the cycles of light in a microwave cavity
tuned to correspond to the internal energy transition of atoms launched from a
trap. The atoms never absorb light at precisely the same frequency, so clock
accuracy can be enhanced by averaging over larger samples of atoms, or by
watching the atoms for longer periods by chilling the atoms to make them more
uniform. High precision is manifested in a narrow linewidth in the spectrum of
microwaves absorbed by the atoms. In the process of cooling the atoms with
lasers, however, there is a drawback; the quantum wavelengths of the atoms
themselves increase at lower temperatures, giving them a larger “cross section”
for scattering from other atoms, which in turn corrupts the measurement process.
Physicists at Yale (Kurt Gibble, 203-432-6365, email@example.com) have
succeeded in reducing the scattering problem by a factor of 30 by using
rubidium atoms (instead of the more commonly used cesium atoms) in a
“fountain” setup in which cooled atoms are put into an excited state in one
microwave cavity (which is slightly detuned so as to cancel the effect of atom
collisions) and then sent upwards until, when they are nearly at rest at the
moment gravity starts to drag them back down, their transition energy is
measured in a second cavity. With improved precision the Yale researchers
expect to achieve an accuracy of 1 part in 1016, which would result in the best
timekeeping ability yet attained. (Fertig and Gibble, Physical Review Letters, 21
August 2000; Select Articles; see figure at Physics News Graphics.)
JVC’s first XRCD24 Super Analog CD produced with this new technology is Jheena Lodwick’s “All My Loving…”. Mastered with Harmonix Reimyo’s X-DC “Studio Master” AC power cables, HS-101GP-SUS XLR interconnects and the ALS-777 AC line stabilizer, the Super Analog CD was created under the personal administration of Mr. Kazuo Kiuchi, the Managing Director of Harmonix Reimyo’s parent company, Combak Corporation.
An “Asia Premier”, this XRCD24 disc was initially produced exclusively for Hong Kong by the land’s premium audiophile label, The MusicLab. Now, JVC is planning to introduce it to the U.S. audience as well. As the recording was released previously in HDCD, Mr. Kiuchi sent me both the HDCD original and the XRCD24 Super Analog versions for comparison. I auditioned the HDCD disc before taking on the XRCD24 24 Bit Super Analog disc, and, via my PiTracer and Harmonix Reimyo’s own DAP-777 DAC, the HDCD disc was immensely satisfying in its own right, sounding pristine at the top-end and smooth across the spectrum.
But as soon as I started spinning the Super Analog disc, I knew I had been ushered into a new era of music reproduction, and past the point of no return.
Within the supposedly pitiful confinement of the 44.1k Hz/16-bit standard, this JVC disc pumped out air and imaging the likes of which not even my SACD-slinging Sony SCD-777ES could approach. Elimination of digital grunge and lowering of noise floor were realized at the most unprecedented level, superbly complimented by an expansion of dynamics and superior tonal shadings.
Before imposing my judgment on the performances, I should acknowledge Ms. Lodwick’s popular status in Hong Kong, as her singing had long been adored by the former British crown colony’s general public as stated in the disc’s accompanied booklet. But for this compilation, I thought that somehow the hugely dissimilar styles of singing demanded of her by the songs undermined the vocalist‘s brilliance.
Half of the thirteen tracks presented in the disc are less complimentary of Ms. Lodwick’s vocal disposition invariably. Take the first two tracks, Emerald City and It’s Now or Never, for example. I felt that Ms. Lodwick’s the-girl-next-door magnetism was summarily suffocated in the lingering pulse and disjoint accompaniment. And although all songs selected are classics that have made their original performers millionaires, timeless songs such as Jambalaya (track 5), Are you Lonesome Tonight (track 7) and Morning Town Ride (track 12), are so ingrained into a listener’s psyche that I thought they are best left for singers with more drama and flare. Ms Lodwick is simply being asked to try too hard here.
Fortunately, Ms. Lodwick’s singing swiftly sprung to life beginning from the 3rd track, Nat King Cole’s Too Young, in which magical moments abounded when Ms. Lodwick sounded hauntingly like Karen Carpenter, which actually added an unexpectedly refreshing flavor to the classic.
The passage of time ceases to matter the moment Ms. Lodwick’s If You Love Me (track 6), Perhaps Love, Danny Boy and Tammy (track 8, 9 & 10) emerge from the speakers. Here, listeners are given a gentle embrace of the endearing, mind-soothing feminine touch of the Far East with the sweetness of her tone, making me wonder if any man can be immune to such delicate sensuality that impresses upon you like a blossoming rose.
Then, there is Ms. Lodwock’s rendition of Beatles’ All My Loving (track 4), which is strangely convincing, due possibly to this listener’s own inner bliss. Seriously, the fact is, it‘s quite probable that on top of the super-clear and enveloping sound of the XRCD24 , all the assimilation that the original version has done to me all these years just gave Ms. Lodwick‘s enchanting voice an unfair advantage. Also, her Song Sung Blue (track 11) has a similar effect opposite Neil Diamond’s original, and the last track, By The Time I Get To Phoenix (track 13), sounded remarkably relaxing and reminiscing, giving the impression that it was produced in the 70’s.
Regardless how disagreeing you may feel towards my takes on Ms. Lodwick’s performances, you will find this XRCD24 difficult to put aside just for its superlative sound quality. With technologies such as Pacific Microsonics’ HDCD and Mobile Fidelity’s Ultradisc UHR™, JVC’s newest XRCD24 24-bit Super Analog CD is another blessing that all audiophiles with substantial investment in RBCD software and hardware should experience.
47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport with two Power Humpties
Harmonix Reimyo DAP-777 20bitK2 DAC
Harmonix Reimyo CAT-777 preamplifier
Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B power amplifier
Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver speakers
Via Audio Note Sogon digital cable, Sogon interconnects, AN-Vx interconnects,
AN-SPx speaker cable, Harmonix Reimyo Studio Master AC cords.
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