Mike Oldfield – Hergest Ridge

16 Jan

Mike Oldfield - Hergest Ridge DS55p front


Reissue: (D) New decode

Release: DS55p

Source: SQ CD

Process: ‘Phoenix’



10 Responses to “Mike Oldfield – Hergest Ridge”

  1. sacdtodvda January 31, 2016 at 08:47 #

    I won’t be able to a comparison listen with this album as the other version I have was done with one of the original “scripts” and pre-dates any of OD’s post-script development.

    I have only ever owned the Boxed version of this but had only (apart from the early decode mentioned above) ever heard it as a stereo mix-down. Of course, this means I was unfamiliar with the original stereo mix of the album, as Hergest Ridge is one of those examples where “quad means less” as Mike removed some of the original peripheral instrumentation during the quad mix and then decided that configuration would now constitute the official stereo mix as well.

    There were always some elements to the stereo mix down of the quad version that have not sounded quite right to me – particularly the tubular bells which previously sounded like I was hearing the echo or ambience, an “after-sound” (apologies, I don’t know a technical musical term for this) rather than the instrument itself and the sleigh bells. The Phoenix decode has vastly improved both of these elements for me, making them sound distinct and true.

    In contrast, the quality of the Phoenix decode has highlighted what I have always felt was a flaw in the overall pastoral sound of the album, the synthesiser (Is it a sequencer? Or just an electronic organ on some odd setting?) passage. I have always found this a bit jarring – out of place and out of time, or at least jerky in it’s timinng. While the decode does make this stand out even more it does in some ways add to the charm.

    it would be fair to say that like its predecessor this is not the most discrete mix. As Owen has said, it’s more of an enveloping ambience mix that places most of the music evenly around you, but when there are discrete elements they are distinctly discrete. Phoenix does bring clarity to the subtler elements of the instrumentation.

    • oxforddickie January 31, 2016 at 09:59 #

      I’ve never been happy with this remix, and that includes the last version of this release. But this decode finally shows that there is a reasonable mix there and that it’s listanable, although a proper mix based on the original stereo mix would have have been preferable.

      Thanks for your view on it, much appreciated, as are the others and (hopefully) those still to come.


  2. Alfie January 18, 2016 at 15:43 #

    Thanks. I look forward to getting this new decode when I get home. I don’t think there’s any need for a decode of TB when there’s an official, discrete version already out there, though I suppose some people could find it interesting to compare.

    • Owen Smith January 18, 2016 at 21:45 #

      From memory I’m not convinced Tubular Bells is a particularly good album for comparing decodes vs. discrete. There’s plenty going on yes, but it’s not often in just one speaker or bouncing around much. I have given this thought in the past when test decodes with the Surround Master were discussed (which nothing ever came of).

      The things in TB’s favour is we’re as sure as anyone ever can be that the Boxed CD is the exact same quad mix as the SACD, and we have CD as a source for SQ encoded. A better comparison to my mind would be Dark Side Of The Moon vs. the discrete Blu Ray, but the SQ is only on LP there.

  3. Owen Smith January 17, 2016 at 19:44 #

    Well this brings back memories…

    It’s the first encoded quad content I ever held in my hands. In the late 1980s or early 90s my house mate brought Miked Oldfield – Boxed home (which I’m pretty sure this is decoded from), and I was intrigued to see it mention being quad encoded (and the jokes about old biscuit tins). I loved the music, and when he moved out and I tried to replace the boxset he took with him I was annoyed to find it had been withdrawn. I bought the individual CDs knowing from the Boxed booklet they’d be a different mix, but I hadn’t realised in some cases how different eg. both Tubular Bells and the Hornpipe, and I felt a bit cheated to be honest. I’ve always felt Boxed provided the best versions.

    Fast forward many years to when I was getting into surround music. I searched for Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells, and found a little site tucked away called the Dreaming Spires Quadraphonic Archive and to my great joy I found that new SQ*Final re-releases of all of Boxed had been done. At last I could have back the versions I loved. It took me a bit longer to really get into the blog, those were early days for the decodes (around DS150 I think). Later I found the Tubular Bells SACD which improved the quad of that substantially (see the SACD to DVDA site if you want a conversion of that, I’m seeding it).

    And so to this decode. With the exception of Tubular Bells (which was a demo mix, in more senses than one) I was underwhelmed with the quad mixes on Boxed decoded with SQ*Final. It should be remembered that Mike didn’t do Tubular Bells in quad but he did do all the others on Boxed. Anyway, Mike’s mixes where a bit of a disappointment. Phoenix has changed all that and teased out this rather subtle quad mix. I’m hearing all sorts of little things in this album I’ve never heard before (in stereo or quad), which no doubt is the hidden detail in the SQ encoding being revealed. But also the quad mix itself is rather nice, in a subtle and mature way.It’s more like a classical room ambience mix than full on active quad, though there is some active effect.

    So thanks very much OD for this gem decoded with Phoenix. Given the huge improvement it has provided, I’m really hoping you plan to do Ommadawn and Collaborations soon which is the rest of Boxed (not much point doing Tubular Bells given the SACD is discrete and exactly the same mix).

    • oxforddickie January 17, 2016 at 20:40 #

      Thanks for the review, I’ve already decoded Ommadawn and although i’ve only listened to it once so far, the decode is superiour to any before it.

  4. sacdtodvda January 17, 2016 at 09:55 #

    Hey, and away we go …

    • oxforddickie January 17, 2016 at 17:11 #

      Isn’t that from Ommadawn? LOL

      • sacdtodvda January 18, 2016 at 00:48 #

        Of course, you are entirely correct, but then the lyrics do say,

        “So if you feel a little glum,
        to Hergest Ridge you should come …”

        I expect this will cheer me up immensely, and I WILL post a review in due course.

        • oxforddickie January 18, 2016 at 06:15 #

          Ah, very good, i totally forgot that, even though i’ve just listened to it. A review would be nice.

          Let me put this out there…. Would a ‘Phoenix’ decode of Tubular Bells be of use, especially in terms of decode accuray when compared to the SACD conversion? Obviously the only source is from the Boxed CD set, but that should make that much difference.

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