Santana's self-titled 1969 debut album has been released as a multi-channel quad Hybrid SACD edition for the first time by Sony Japan. Converted from the original 1974 Quadraphonic analog master tapes to DSD, the CD layer contains the stereo mix mastered from the latest SACD remastering. The disc is housed in a 7-inch mini LP cover featuring artwork that faithfully replicates the US quadraphonic LP design. This special release also includes two cover artworks, Japanese edition single and an ad poster replica.
Santana is released as a Limited Editions, and follows in the path of previous releases from Sony Japan, which have all been of high quality and favored by quad fans around the world. I rather like the larger format that houses the SACD. As it provides for a more impactful cover art and certainly easier reading too. However, the bulk of the high quality printed materials are in Japanese and are promotional based in this particular edition.
Yet I believe we are all interested in the quad mix and to enjoy the immersive experience! Surely know that the quadrophonic mix will not disappoint, and enthusiasts will find it is extremely discreet, immediately making use of all four channels. Different instrumentation including congas, guitars, organ, bass, drums, and vocals, among other parts have been spread around the entire room. Even the drum kit has been split across the quad space with the kick drum thumping between the front channels and the hi-hat splashing from the rears. Guitars fire from both back channels playing alongside one another as the groove kicks into high gear on the opening track “Waiting.”
The aural picture changes from song to song with instrumentation moving to different spots in the quad space. Drums appear in the back right channels, while congas stretch across the remaining speakers filling the room nicely with the tribal rhythms. Bass guitar even takes up residency in the back speakers, which lends to a floating sound as human ears do not isolate the lowest of frequencies to a specific point.
I am super pleased with the transfer and mastering in the digital realm. For me, this SACD is absolutely the best version I have heard, and feel it is the best representation of the full range of sonics that were mixed to the quad analog tape. I happen to also have a digital fan made copy derived from a SQ vinyl source at 96kHz / 24-bit, and. There is a striking difference between that source and the SACD, including removal of sibilance from the cymbals, dramatic warming of the bottom end and fabulous channel separation that absolutely opens up the mix. I also found the top end to be very delicate and buttery adding to the very analog feel for this digital transfer from the analog source
I dig the call and response congas pitter-patter between the back and front channels on the song “Jingo.” Bass powerfully plays from the back right channel with organ humming along in the back left. Vocals spread across the front speakers with the drums smashing out the rhythm from the front left and Carlos’s lead guitar ripping from the front right.
The stereo DSD layer takes on more of the modern day mastering, with a bit of a punch in the upper mid-range. I find it to be extremely clean and clear with good dynamics. Guitars really shine through on this remaster, and organ and even the snare drum are accentuated. Having heard the quad mix and feeling very immersed by that version, the stereo layer will not be my first choice. For high resolution stereophiles, I cannot adequately say if there is a better version out there, instead I can say I am incredibly pleased with the stereo layer presented here.
Remembering that this is a limited edition, I surely can say that collectors of quad will absolutely want their copy and fans of Santana should fee compelled to pick up this special edition for the artwork and high quality audio available on the SACD.
I have also joined with Mike Viera from the YouTube channel Life in Surround on the below video to provide more commentary on both this and the Abraxas Hybrid Quad SACD release.
Release USA, October 2, 2020.
Quad Hybrid SACD. Also available in stereo through streaming services.