I first heard the mellow and melodic band Bread on AM radio as a kid, and I must admit it was initially hard to listen to what was a thin AM sound I grew up with transformed into a high resolution quad version. Thankfully this has all changed after I picked up their 1973 Best of Bread collection when it was released on Audio Fidelity Hybrid SACD, which includes many of their classics that still get regular play on soft rock stations.
Starting with "Make It With You" by lead singer David Gates , the band quickly spun off more hits like "It Don't Matter To Me" "Diary," "Baby I'm A Want You," and "If." Through the year they have retain that soothing blend of soulful lyrics and gentle music, with this album covering all the early hits. Reassembled from all the original masters of each track, Audio Fidelity has full-filled their promise of releasing the album with a completely fresh, updated sound.
I found the quad mix transfer to be very clean and sonically excellent. Listeners will easily hear every part of the spectrum from full lows, warm mids, and sparkling highs. Channel separation is very wide with plenty of back channel use, among other instrument placements primarily unique to the era when quadrophonic LP’s and 8-Tracks were introduced. While the overall dynamics are somewhat muted, I attribute this to the actual original mix and multi-track recordings, which at that time typically made heavy use of compression to overcome tape saturation and noise.
“Make it with You” opens this compilation with rhythm guitar placed in the front left channel and drums placed in the front right channels. Bass and vocals are centered while strings and second parts fall to the back channels. Stepping somewhat out of the multi-channel mixing convention by today’s standards, this and many of the remaining tracks are great examples of how quad mixing engineers were still experimenting with instrument placement back in the day.
“Diary” really opens up with lead vocals placed forward between the front channels and acoustic guitar spread across the right side from front to the rear channel. The real depth of this song occurs when the backing “Oo” and “Aa” vocals penetrate from the back speakers.
Even though I have mentioned some unconventional instrument placements, there is a pattern and style by the quad mixing engineer. “It Don’t Matter to Me” literally mimics the opening track, excepting the drums have been centered. Their dreamy classic song “If” has a magical energy that allows the listener to float within the sound stage. Strings and bubbly vibrato guitar emanate from back channels while the extremely rich bass, guitar and sweet vocals are placed in the front speakers.
Now that I have been surrounded by the soft-rock music of Bread, the days of recalling their thin AM sound are gone. The quad mix is revealing and immersive all with a warm quality that harkens back to 70’s when vinyl reigned. Multi-channel enthusiasts should find plenty more crafty use of the quad soundstage, such as the placement of the bass guitar in the rear left channel on “Too Much Love,” making this a very enjoyable listen.
It is also worthy to note that the stereo DSD layer is also excellent. I am certain this is the best version of these classics as they really come to life and maintain the clarity and balance found on the quad mix. Of course there are some subtle differences between the mixes, such as a slightly more present voice on the stereo version of Diary.
A very enjoyable release, absolutely recommended for quad enthusiasts and high resolution audio fans seeking the best versions of their favorite songs. An excellent transfer that you must have!
Multi-Channel Quad Hyrbrid SACD.
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