The future of music on disc? Or just one future?

You may remember a few weeks back we ran a story about the first audio-only Blu-ray Disc release, from Norwegian label 2L.

Well, quite a lot has happened since then, including the re-launch of this site, and as a result it was only last weekend that I finally managed to get the time to sit down and take a long hard listen to the disc.

Or rather the discs, since the music on the TrondheimSolistene's Divertimenti comes in a comprehensive, or perhaps even bewildering, range of formats, all in a single package.

You get – deep breath – 5.1-channel sound in DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby True HD and Linear PCM, all at 192kHz/24-bit, 5.1-channel Dolby Digital at 48kHz, and stereo LPCM 192kHz/24-bit.

What's more packaged with the Blu-ray Disc is a second version, a hybrid SACD/CD disc, containing stereo CD quality, and stereo and 5.1-channel DSD.

And that, at least, should answer my wife's question about why I seemed to be playing the same music over and over again for most of last Sunday.

So how does it sound? Well, one of the works on the disc, Britten's Simple Symphony, is a personal favourite, and so I chose to concentrate on that for all the comparative listening, on the grounds that if I didn't I'd probably still be listening, and you wouldn't be reading this yet.

And I have to say it's a beautiful performance, especially striking in the plucked strings of the Playful Pizzicato, and the flow of the Sentimental Sarabande, and each step up the quality chain brought out more of the music and the superb recording.

Switching from CD to SACD stereo was eye-opening, as was the jump to multichannel SACD, but there was even more to come when switching to the formats on the Blu-ray disc. Instrumental textures were thrown into even sharper focus, and the contribution of each musician became clearer.

My favourite of the three Blu-ray formats? I couldn't help but feel that the DTS HD MA and Dolby Digital versions sounded just a shade edgy and brittle, while at the same time delivering less detail than the Linear PCM, even though the bit-rates are exactly the same at 24-bit/192kHz.

So on this showing I'd go for 5.1-channel SACD and 5.1-channel Linear PCM as the top choices, and suggest you get hold of a copy of the disc - either from 2L or UK distributor Discovery Records.

This may only be one future for music on disc, rather than the future – after all, as far as I know this is so far the only Blu-ray Disc audio-only release. But if you have a suitable system and any interest in classical music, it's a great way of showing off your system.

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.