In 2007, Kazuo Kiuchi, the Director of Combak Corporation, co-founded the new audiophile music label Master Music with Yoshihiko Kannari. Bringing to this record project was Kiuchi’s expertise in equipment and room tuning via his Harmonix line of products, plus the experience of Yoshihiko Kannari from his days of making recordings under the TBM audiophile label.
The first Master Music recording project was an acoustic guitar music CD, produced by Kiuchi, with regular TBM talents Kannari and Tohru Kotetsu of JVC. Presented by Kotetsu was the XRCD24 mastering system consisting of a custom designed analog console and a K2 24-bit A/D converter. A K2 Rubidium Clock was utilized in the creation of the 24-bit magneto-optical master disk.
As customary in the manufacturing of all XRCD-branded CD’s, the XRCD24 master went through a myriad of process for the utmost in playback quality. The following are paragraphs from the CD’s booklet explaining the process, slightly corrected for idiom:
“The XRCD24 process begins with the mastering.
The analog signal is taken directly from customized mastering console, then converted digitally into K2 24bit to regenerate the purest 24bit digital signal possible. The 24bit word is then stored in a magneto-optical disk. The 24bit MO disk is sent to the manufacturing.
At the JVC manufacturing plant, the 24bit MO disk is played back through Digital K2 in order to completely eliminate any jitter and distortions that may be produced during the digital playback.
The 24bit word is then converted into 16bit using K2 Super Coding to insure TRUE 16bit dynamic range. The TRUE 16bit signal is then EFM encoded and passed to a high precision DVD K2 laser, which is modified to cut “Red book” format CD glass master via the JVC Extended Pit Cutting Technology, producing more precise pit lengths before burning them onto the glass master. The entire operation is controlled by K2 Rubidium Clock that is over 10,000 times more accurate than conventional crystal clocks.
The result of this care of the mastering and manufacturing allows the listeners to enjoy the music in the same way the artist, producer and engineer intended.”
Especially noteworthy was the fact that this recording was made in a pure analog domain, using a Studer A820 reel-to-reel deck running at 30-inch-per-second on half-inch tapes to ensure the lowest saturation rate possible, thus yielding the most pristine dynamic profile.
Having auditioned a large number of CD’s from different labels, I found that every time I am treated to an XRCD, it is an occasion for fond memories. This latest XRCD24 from Master Music was no exception.
Realistic playback of individual acoustic guitar music is a world of its own. It does not require particularly powerful amplification to flush out the appropriate dynamics; but an amplifier of such refinement as to be able to recreate a guitar’s nuances and its bursts of energy is crucial. Such music also prohibits indiscreet playback levels that will make it sound like a recording of a giant guitar, but a loudspeaker capable of reproducing the complete spectrum and inherent dynamic properties of a guitar at realistically low level is a treasure.
Between the top two speakers at my household that were comparably capable of conveying convincing body and scale of the trio of guitars even at moderate volumes, namely the $26,000 Bӧsendorfer VC 7 and the $20,000 Tannoy Churchill Wideband, the Bӧsendorfer consistently disappeared in the aura of the poetic and spatial nuances of the guitars, while the Tannoy produced the most convincing dimensionality – both driven by the 55Wpc, $17,250, single-tube Wavac MD-805m monoblocks.
But amidst the most beautiful guitar rendition I’ve heard was the soft, whispery story-telling rampant throughout the disc. What the piano in its encompassing scale and majestic elegance can accomplish in sweeping the listener off his feet, the guitar of Mario Suzuki draws you into your inner-world with its intricate tone and melody. And what delicious pieces he had selected for this recording.
You won’t be faced off with rivalry guitar works between Suzuki and his two accompanists, for they were there to provide a second or third “voice”, adding layers to the already lyrical flow of the guitar sound. For someone like me, who favors orchestral pieces on most music more than solo ones, this CD made me quiet for days on end. Passage after passage, I was immersed in virtual monolog, listening to the beautifully soft, melodic, highly communicative music playing of guitars.
Among the first thirteen tracks, not counting tracks fourteen to sixteen, which are selections from a Japanese motion picture, the first ten are duo and trio guitar pieces, and the rest are solo playing by Mario Suzuki. For readers venturing into this tasteful compilation, starting at the more colorful duo and trio pieces will probably serve as a more productive familiarization process. Then, when you have also quieted own, like I did, Mario Suzuki’s solo pieces will become the timeless gems.
But if you are really like me, then you will find Mario Suzuki’s composition for the motion picture, New Snowy Village, most refreshing for a change. True, that track fourteen contained an incredibly song-like playing from Mario Suzuki and his accompanist, but once you’ve crossed over to the cello-and-flute version of the same piece in track fifteen, accompanied by a sympathetic synthesizer in the background, the cello’s riding lamentation would make you also looking for more of the occasional chiming-in of the flute and guitar, just so they would last just that little bit longer. Track sixteen, the full orchestral version, then becomes the one track that I would’ve dived into the first time I played this disc, had I known its beauty back then.
This disc is selected as one of Dagogo Editor’s Top Reference Discs.
This article was published in December, 2007 originally.
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