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Positive Feedback ISSUE 60
march/april 2012


Mercury Living Presence: The Collector's Edition 50 CD Box Set
by Robert H. Levi


I was in the midst of auditioning the stellar Dynamic Design Nebula Power Cables (more about these state of the art AC cables soon), when I received notice from Arkiv Records that this extensive and newly minted CD set was available.

Buy it!

End of review.

Just kidding! Wilma Cozart Fine transferred the Mercury masters from tape and film to digital in the early 90's. She used a process of 256x oversampling developed by Keith Johnson. She commented at the time that the digital transfers were just as viable as the analog LPs. I did not hear this based on the CD players of the era.

Consequently, I compared the sound of the original CDs released in the 90's with the CD layer of the 15 SACD re-issues, and then with the currently pressed CDs from Germany in this box set. Good news! These newly stamped EU sourced CDs sound more alive and musical and more like the LP sound of yore than ever before.

For listening, I used my reference E.A.R. Acute III Tube CD Player and DAC which upsamples CD to 24/192. The new Dynamic Design Nebula AC Cord powered the player ($6100). The Acute was connected to the E.A.R. 912 Preamp with my reference Jorma Origo Balanced Interconnects ($4600). SACD was auditioned with the extraordinary ModWright Sony 9500 with Tube Power Supply and Mullard 5AR4 Rectifier Tube in place.

The new CDs are much better texturally than the original issue, 10-15% better than the CD layer of the few hybrids released 10 years ago, and truly lovely overall (even the mono's) when played in a current state of the art upsampling player. WOW! The string sound is actually a bit sweet and very luxurious. I prefer these new CDs to the SACD layer of the reissues in 2002.

I just hope there is a sequel to this set and the next 50 CDs are released. You must own this box. And at $99.99 from Arkiv, how could you go wrong? Even if you have the earlier issues, these are better yet. The current batch lets you hear what Fine heard when she did the original transfer. Even the tape hiss is elegant and analog sounding. Just wait ‘til you hear the film transfers in this set. You will finally understand what the 35mm film recording technology was all about sonically. Killer!

Buy it!

End of review... but just the beginning for you after you buy this marvelous and historic collection.