Pristine Audio’s XR
technology is a claimed miracle of the transfer engineer’s art.
Go to www.pristineclassical.com
for specifics. Andrew Rose claims that pre-1945 78s now have their
audible upper frequency range increased from between 5-6 kHz to
somewhere between 11-13 kHz. He also goes further, boldly announcing
that these transfers render “all previous transfers and restorations
…entirely obsolete.” Since he’s embarking on a wide programme
of XR restorations this is a defiant claim. He takes a modern
recording of the work in question and utilises it as a reference
file – as he did in bass-stiffening and percussion-enhancing the
famous Heward Moeran Symphony recording. I’ve just reviewed his
XR work on Kathleen Long’s post-war, 78-based, Fauré Deccas (see
review). The sonic improvements
in immediacy were certainly apparent. Here however he takes on
a much earlier 1929 Paris classic, the Thibaud-Cortot Kreutzer
After the science
what do one’s ears tell one? I set up an A-B-C test and took
my (Italian) HMV DB1328-1331 – the one that announces the violinist
as a certain G. Thibaud – and stacked it up against Mark Obert-Thorn’s
transfer on Biddulph LAB028 (a 1990 transfer) and the XR. Then
as usual in this kind of examination I continually switched
between the three. The results to my ears remained constant.
The noise suppression – Cedar-ing I suppose – leaves a grainy,
steely subculture of sound. Fair enough. The main point of interest
however is the XR work itself. Doubtless Andrew Rose would say
I can’t hear properly – or hear what I want to hear. Well, so
be it, but I find this, after the Long, rather disappointing.
To me this transfer sounds curiously synthetic and treble starved;
the constriction also, in a way I can’t explain, seems to affect
Thibaud’s tone, which seems fractionally to become cloudy, as
it certainly doesn’t on the 78 or in Obert-Thorn’s quite noisy
but essentially unfussy transfer.
In the end it doesn’t
matter about graphs, reference copies, Natural Sound, predictive
elements and finding harmonics embedded in high frequency noise
– it depends on how the transfer appeals. I appreciate Rose
will not agree. Many other people also won’t agree and will
enjoy this – download it and see. If possible have access to
another transfer and better still go and listen to the 78. I
liked Rose’s work with the Long Deccas but not this Kreutzer.
It’s going to be trial and error, one at a time it seems, in
my XR experience.