The latest Crosby Stills Nash and Young cd "Looking Forward" is recorded in hdcd. The vocals are absolutely stunning!
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Don't be so heartbroaken about HDCD. HDCD, SACD, XRCD are the limited production sources and certainly in minority of most audiofiles. Let's say in average on every 100 CDs of the average collection only 10 HDCDs. There is a large gap in possibilities of sound reproduction but there is a small gap between actual quality of performance between HDCD and red-book CD.
I know that Dire Straits are being re-mastered and re-issued with much better resolution and they're all HDCDs.
Mark Knophler also produces new albums on HDCD which have a fantastic performance(still far from vinyl). Most of cheap HDCD compatible players reproduce red-book CDs with worse quality than a regular player so you should realy do a thorogh research to get yourself in audio-equilibrium when you can enjoy both HDCDs and regular CDs. I believe that Cary 303 players can satisfy you in that case because they have switchable upsampler in case you won't need it.
I agree with the Cary CD 303 recommendation. Owned one and it convinced me that HDCDs, despite some opinions to the contrary, are generally superior in sound quality. I highly, highly recommend the Rachmaninoff "Symphonic Dances" by Minnesota/Oue issued by Reference Recordings. Fantastic piece, fantastic performance, fantastic recording. My wife really likes the Dixie Chicks, and their first album was HDCD encoded (don't know about the rest), although not as noticeable a difference as with the Reference Recordings catalogue.
Hope that helps!
Although we don't know your musical preferences, Stevie Nicks' Enchanted HDCD boxed set is one that I particularly enjoy time & again. It's not even identified as HDCD anywhere (on the box or discs) so this was a pleasant surprise indeed.
And I have *never* heard of a Pacific Microsonics DAC implementation that offered degraded 16bit redbook performance, in fact quite the contrary. Furthermore, everything that I've heard available in 20 bit is significantly superior.
I own a Cary 303/200 CD player and believe that with this CD player there is no comparison between HDCD encoded disks and non-HDCD encoded disks. The HDCD CD's do not sound like recorded events, they sound as if the musicians are in my living room. I am not sure if this is the difference between analog and digital because it has been many years since I had a turntable in my system. I have seen commentary from other A'goners that described the difference that way. It should be noted that the current Cary CD players use the new Pacific Microsonics PMD 200 HDCD filter which is supposed to be a significant advance in HDCD playback.
As previously mentioned the Reference Recordings HDCD collection of classical releases are all wonderful. The best HDCD recordings that I have heard are those contained in the Grateful Dead reissue box set called The Golden Road. These recordings should make anyone a believer. My previous favorite was Willie Nelson's Teatro.
If you like folk/rock vocals, here are my top picks:
Joni Mitchell's "Hits" and "Misses" were remastered on HDCD and sound amazing.
Also, most recent David Wilcox CDs are HDCD.
Although the recording quality isn't as high, almost all Neil Young CDs in the past five years have been HDCD -- even some of the grungier live recordings.
a couple of HDCD's have found their way into my collection...Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris...Avalon, Roxy Music...two of my favories...I was disappointed...there's an echo sound, dynamics aren't the same...the redbooks sounded better...could be my equipment, but...DaViD II, Casanova, Dreadnaught...I've been e-mailing Theta and they think it just may be the recording format...if it is, I've heard better remasters...if it's a software/chip upgrade. I'll see...
Erik Friedlander/ Topaz: cello, bass, alto sax, percussion. All the musicians on this one are obviously very accomplished players (and listeners). The harmonics from the bass and cello, the juxtaposition of attack and decay, and the richness of tonal detail make this an excellent test disc.
HDCD/SACD does not always = better. Know that lots of polished turds and bottles of smoke are waiting for you to consume them.
All of the Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry solo albums were remastered in HDCD and sound fantastic, better than the vinyl. Try "For Your Pleasure".
Joni Mitchell's catalog up through "Mingus" sounds fantastic in HDCD. For demo purposes (not to mention musical delight), try "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter" which features stunning Jaco Pastorius bass sonics.
John Hammond's "Wicked Grin" is a rocking, bluesy collection of Tom Waits songs, produced by Waits. It's HDCD and sounds fantastic.
Natalie Merchant's "Tigerlilly" is an excellent HDCD recording and the performance to match. Clapton's "Reptile" is one of the best HDCD recordings that I have heard. Delbert McClinton's last few recordings have been HDCD as well, I have "One of the Fortunate Few" is the one that I have, it is excellent.