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Lawrence Listens to Some K2 HD Music

09-04-2019 | By Lawrence Blair | Issue 105

I seem to have gotten onto this bandwagon a bit late, but on the bandwagon I am. K2 HD remastering is a new technique (c. 2014) that the Japanese have pioneered to try and improve the quality of that stalwart of music delivery, the RedBook CD, now seemingly in it's twilight in favor of hard drive music servers and audio streaming devices.

Developed by JVC / Japanese RCA Victor and described as an 'epoch making' mastering technology, K2 HD is supposed to deliver the 'ambience of analogue sound,' 'higher resolution,' 'lower distortion,' and a 'richer sound field.'

Superior as the XRCDs are to all standard CDs I've purchased and auditioned the K2 HD recordings presented a more significant excursion in the prowess of the XRCD24, yielding a considerably more meticulous presentation and separation of instrument bodies. On speakers capable of producing larger soundstage, such as the Kharma and SoundLab, and the spatial prowess of the K2 HD was more easily discerned would demonstrate a preciously more precise timbre portrayal, with a firmer medium- to bottom-end.

The K2 HD recordings listed here offered differing perspectives in dimensionality and dynamic contrasts. Although the DSD CDs already surpassed standard CDs in a more full-body spatial and tonal dimensionality, its colossal, high-profile portrayal of instrument body marked a stark contrast to the K2 HD disc's more unified and microscopic-like delineation of instrument bodies and timbre characteristics.

In addition, though its tonality was not as spectacular as that of some of the DSD CDs the K2 HD disc was nevertheless subjectively more evenly distributed in energy, culminating in a more focused presentation of relative positioning of activities onstage. They have a nascent ability to draw you into the music in dramatic ways that conventional recordings do not, simply.

Mark Knopfler, Screenplaying

The selection and title mix of recordings greatly vary, but many of the classical and popular music discs are ever so delightful to listen to, if you get the opportunity, you might try one or some just for the 'difference.'

Lang Lang Dragon Songs, Long Yu Chinese Orchestral Works

Herbert von Karajan New Year's Concert

The idea is that a creative mastering engineer trained in how to get the best from this K2 HD process works in a specially prepared "FLAIR" (Victor Studio) and extracts more detail from the master tapes, storing the information at up to 100kHz and 24-bit. But, mater-of-factly I upsample to: 32/384kHz and DSD playback just because.

Michael Nyman, The Piano: Original Music From the Film

I can seamlessly toggle in the digital domain and adjust with these recordings, and I apologize if I am both obtuse and pedantic for my readers and others that aren't over the edge this stuff:

2.8224MHz (DSD 1X oversample )

5.6448MHz (DSD 2X oversample )

11.288MHz (DSD 4X oversample)

PCM 24-bits / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz or 24-bits / 352.8, 384kHz

Getting this onto a CD involves JVC~Japanese RCA Victor converting down to 44.1kHz / 16-bit but the idea is that the good work done before this happens is still detectable when you play the CD and you might enjoy a mastering that is preferable to a non K2 HD version.

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 4-6

Katherine Jenkins, The Ultimate Collection

Shchedrin Carmen Suite

Ozawa 2002 New Year's Concert

Like SHM-CDs (also delightful and near to addictive in their playback and collectability—are Japanese manufactured and produced/re-mastered better or just different, does the Obi on the label subconsciously make you believe it is better?) and Blu-spec CDs and K2HD mastered discs are playable on all CD players. Just like normally mastered CDs, the skills of the mastering engineer and the condition, format (and availability) of the original master tape are just two variables that will surely have a big impact on how these new remasters sound. Please allow yourself the opportunity to evaluate these recordings on your own, in your home, with your audio playback components; they are available via Amazon, eBay, and Elusive Disc.


For Playback:

Jays Audio transport> DENEFRIPS Pontus DAC> First Watt/Pass Labs/Nelson Pass, specially made passive Line Stage> Kharma MP150 mono amplifiers> Kharma dB~7S  loudspeakers, VeraStar power cords, Kharma power cords and loudspeaker cabling