OK. I got home from work early so I threw on the Immolation SACD.
First I verified that all my bass management settings were correct. All my speakers were set to small. Crossover at 80Hz. Played a couple of minutes of an Elton John SACD. The sub was firing perfectly. Beautiful full sound. Then I put on the Immolation SACD and verified that it was indeed quad. No center channel. I skipped to the end with the fire music and kettle drums. I went over to the sub. Couldn't hear anything come out of it. Put my hand on it and felt a very faint vibration. Not enough to generate any sound. So I went to the AVR settings and dialed the sub up to maximum volume possible... +16dB over my normal setting. (That is 2 1/2 times the volume level and would blast bass with any other recording.) I could just hear a little bit of sound coming out, but it was all in one frequency band, because the kettle drums had a clear discernible note. When the basses would do a descending pattern of notes, the sound would be there and then disappear as it went lower. It seems to me that on a quad album if some sound is coming out of the sub, then bass management is working.
So I tried setting all the speakers to large to turn off bass management. That made no difference at all. Still no sub bass.
I went to my music server to search up the RCA stereo Bach transcriptions album from CD. It turns out the fill up was Handel's Water Music, not Immolation. So I chose Komm Susser Tod to compare to the SACD.
Immediately there was a difference. The CD started out with a sustained bass note like a pedal on an organ. Throughout the piece was a low frequency musical pattern like the bass line on an organ piece. That was almost inaudible on the SACD. I boosted the sub channel of the SACD to +16dB. I could now hear an occasional small bass sound, but it was all in a single note. When the bass line descended, it disappeared. It sounded like there was a little bit of bass rolling off right at 80Hz that got crossed over to the sub, but below that, there was nothing.
It was interesting to compare the mixes/mastering on other aspects too. The string tone on the stereo was focused and natural. Typical sumptuous Stokowski violins. On the SACD, one part of the violin sound was front left and another frequency band of it was back left. It was as if the violins were smeared across the left wall. No focus. Unnatural sounding. Worse yet, the sheen on the top of the violin sound was filtered off. They sounded dull compared to the CD. I couldn't detect anything coming from front right on the quad. I guess that is where the basses were supposed to be. Interestingly enough, the quad version had an overdubbed flute solo in the rear left channel that didn't exist in the regular stereo version. I guess Stoki added that bit to spice up the surround effect.
In any case, I took the time to track this down and define the problem. At the beginning, I thought it had something to do with there being a bad LFE track. Then I thought it might be a bass management issue. Not it's clear that there is a bass rolloff at 80Hz on these discs that is eliminating the sub bass. I also think there is a high end rolloff that is blunting the treble above 10kHz. This is pretty clear in the triangle at the end of Immolation. It is all in a single frequency range like a bell with no upper harmonics. I can't comment on the weird left channel smear to the strings. That may have been a part of the original quad mix. It doesn't sound good though. All of these things are the exact same things I identified as problems with the Mancini Severinson disc, so it seems to be a pattern with Dutton / Vocalion releases. Less formal comparison of the Floyd Cramer, Hugo Montenegro and other Mancini release seem to back this up, but I haven't gone to the trouble of jacking my subwoofer settings to check them yet. Are these deliberate choices? Are they mastering errors? I don't know. But I do know that the sound on these discs is flawed when played on a full range system.
If anyone has one of these discs and wants to check for themselves, I'd suggest doing the subwoofer volume boost I describe above and see what you come up with. RCA in the 1960s was the gold standard of sound quality. These recordings really should sound as good as the best recordings you've ever heard.
Originally Posted by Bill Mac
I did a search for bass issues with DV SACDs and the only mention of it was this thread. There are several DV SACD threads over at the QQ and Steve Hoffman forums and not one mention of bass issues that the OP claims. There are quite a few very knowledgeable members in both of those forums. I would tend to think if there were bass issues with the DV SACDs they would have posted about it long ago.
There was a discussion of it at QQ back when I got the Mancini disc. The posts were all deleted by a moderator. I can't tell you why no one else since has commented on this. I would guess that they just aren't familiar with the way these albums are supposed to sound. Or perhaps their systems aren't capable of producing sub bass frequencies. On headphones, or with small bookshelf speakers, it would be harder to hear what's missing. It also may be due to the assumption that because it's an SACD and surround sound, it has to sound good. The midrange certainly sounds great on this disc... sharp, crystal clear, no tape hiss. If I was just judging by French horns and woodwinds, I would think it sounded good too. But with audiophile recordings and with classical music, I expect more than that.
Someone at QQ posted a spectrum analysis of the Mancini disc that showed the frequency range and volume levels of each frequency. It clearly showed that the bottom two octaves were severely attenuated. I don't have the ability to do that. But if someone has one of these discs and knows how to generate that sort of thing, it would show clearly what I'm talking about. I'd be interested to see where the high end rolloff is. I'm guessing 10kHz but the rolloff may actually start lower than that judging by the dullness of the violin sheen.