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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus from HDTT in DSD256

06-07-2022 | By Rushton Paul | Issue 121

A superb reissue of Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady from HDTT in DSD256 that retains all the natural rawness and energy that makes this album special. This is a must have acquisition for any jazz library.

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady by Charles Mingus. HDTT 1963, 2022 (DSD256, DXD) HERE

Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the great jazz compositions of all times. This album should be in every jazz lover's collection. And this DSD256 release from High Definition Tape Transfer is the digital version of this album to have. Bob Witrak and his team have knocked this one out of the park.

I once had the Analogue Productions 45rpm vinyl reissue of this recording, and it was excellent. While I can no longer make a direct comparison, this DSD256 release makes me very happy indeed and I pine no longer for the vinyl. As for the CD and SACD digital files in my library, they never approached the vinyl, and they don't match the excellence of this HDTT transfer, either.

If all you have is the straight CD release, you are completely missing out on some great sound—you need this release to replace it.

If you have the SACD, you might be happy staying with it, but I'm not. After listening to the DSD256 HDTT, the SACD now sounds "gentrified" to my ears—very clean, but smoothed out and sonically sweetened. The raw edginess of the instruments that makes the sound so compelling (particularly in the first movement) is missing and presumably smoothed out in the mastering process for the SACD.

The HDTT DSD256 transfer, by contrast, sounds close-up, alive, raw, raucous and flat out dangerous. I can certainly enjoy listening to the SACD, but which do I prefer? Oh, the HDTT DSD256 without a doubt. It's a far more emotionally charged trip. This is a superb transfer that retains all the natural rawness and energy that makes this album special.

Enthusiastically recommended!

A note about the mastering of this release is in order because HDTT has changed an aspect of their mastering process with this release...

On HDTT's catalog page for this album, they note that the files were transferred from tape in DSD256 but then post-processed in DXD and returned to DSD256. I emailed Bob Witrak to ask him about this and to inquire whether he was moving away from offering Pure DSD releases.

His reply was that they were definitely not moving away from Pure DSD releases and they would continue releasing in Pure DSD when they had a clean tape that could support the straight transfer without any post-processing. But the reality is that many of these archival recordings he's working with do require some post-processing to repair damage from years in storage. And this can only be done by moving the file into DXD.

The change in his process is that he's now making the transfer from tape in DSD256 and not in DXD. Why? Because it sounds better in his listening tests. Even if the file will have to be moved into DXD for processing, once it is moved back to DSD256, the file sounds better than if it had been copied from tape in DXD.

So, he is now copying the tape in DSD256 into the Merging Technologies Pyramix Digital Audio Workstation, then moving to DXD for whatever post processing may be necessary, and then outputting to a DSD256 file, a DXD file, and any other resolutions to be offered. Thus we have in this case a DSD256 original file, with post-processing in DXD and then output once again to DSD256.

On the flip side, if the tape were in good enough condition for a Pure DSD release, he will continue to copy the tape in DSD256 into Pyramix, do the edits and crossfades purely in the DSD domain (something Pyramix has been able to do since at least v.12), and then output a Pure DSD file. The catalog descriptions will clearly state whether the file is Pure DSD, as he has always done.