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Some serious sound problems, but perhaps worthwhile overall
on April 23, 2010
This collection of arias and songs by Luciano Pavarotti has its strengths and weaknesses, but it overall I found it a worthwhile collection. The main strength, of course, is that this is a bargain for 100 well performed, well sung arias and songs by one of the great tenors of the 20th century. The performances are pretty good throughout, and frequently great.
The biggest weakness, as remarked by another reviewer, is the sound. There are only a handful of tracks that have what can be called truly good sound for an MP3 -- maybe 10-15% of the total.
The bit rates vary from track to track, and are typically 238-256 Kbps, but range from a low of 160 Kbps on 6 tracks to a high of 320 Kbps on 9 tracks. There are also strange audio artifacts on some tracks, presumably from MP3 encoding, that come through clearly with headphones and sound like a bubbling coffee percolator, especially during orchestral passages. On a cursory listening I heard these artifacts on about 15-20% of the tracks -- sometimes annoying, sometimes worse.
The low bitrates and encoding artifacts are disturbing, but more important is that these are almost all live recordings, and their quality varies quite a bit. Only in a handful of performances do you get real professional recording quality. Instead, both the orchestras and the singers are generally picked up by house microphones, which capture the sound of the entire hall and frequently give that strange, echoey kind of sound, as if the performance were recorded either in a tunnel or in the 1940s. Indeed, I'd go as far as to speculate that some of these may be bootlegs, or recordings made by opera houses for internal purposes rather than for public release. These kinds of sound problems are major on maybe 10-15% of the tracks, and less of a problem but still noticeable on most of the others.
Starting with track 61, the set is dominated by tenor-and-piano performances, with no orchestra, which are interesting as I hadn't heard many of these from Pavarotti. Some of these are professionally recorded, some less so. A few even sound like they were recorded on a Walkman-type cassette player in someone's living room.
Another drawback is the metadata. Mostly the artist information is limited to "Luciano Pavarotti" -- no orchestras, no opera houses, no recording dates. Sometimes composers are listed, but that doesn't add much value, really. Finally, there is some duplication, with the same pieces repeated, although thankfully in different performances.
A majority of the tracks are OK for me, but I actually listen to recordings from the 1940s and am pretty forgiving of less than perfect sound. If high technical quality is a must for you, you should definitely look elsewhere. I doubt it is worth full price, but as the "Daily Deal" on April 23, 2010 at for $1.99, it was worthwhile for me. I will be able to sift through it and throw out what I find unpleasant. I imagine I'll keep about half of it in my long-term collection.