Octave Release: Zuill Bailey Bach Cello Suites

I’ve now had the chance to listen to Mr. Bailey’s work with Focal Utopias headphones and Sopra 2s. I’m struggling to accurately explain this: with the headphones, the music resided within my skull. It was part of me. With the Sopra’s, I was within the music. Both are incredible experiences. Tip of the hat.

Count me as one enthralled by this excellent recording.

More please!

I finally got a chance to listen over the weekend. All around wonderful recording and performance, and a very welcome addition to the Octave catalog. Well done by everyone involved.

With regard to the imaging phenomena that people have described, I noticed the same thing, too, though I just chalked it up to hall ambience and the fact that many rooms can be excited by sound at certain frequencies. Engineers try to minimize that sort of thing, but it’s hard to eliminate, and when it happens, it can create minor resonances that are sometimes just enough to confuse the ear as to the precise location of the sound’s source. Ordinary reflections and hall reverberation contribute, too. At live orchestral performances it’s rare to be able to pinpoint a lot of the sounds as they “bloom” to fill the hall, unless your seat is close enough that you’re getting a big dose of the first wave from any individual instrument. And chances are, it will be only that instrument, or the two or three closest to it (and you), that you can precisely locate. At least that’s been my experience. A cello being played in your listening room would sound completely different.


Helpful/insightful observations.


Yes, as I have noted a number of times soundstage/imaging as audiophiles know it is an artifact of recording.

Audiophiles often want recordings to sound very different from what is heard in live performance.


Please just note, that these are two of the three options I mentioned for this reason:

Either the concert perspective, ideally a one point recording with less transients and little localization/pinpoint imaging only

or the audiophile perspective with multi mic’ing, pinpoint imaging, some captured room ambience, but artificially built soundstage

The third is, where I perceived the Zuill recording. A mixture between both (which can also work perfectly) but here with little bugs or double compromises. A great concert perspective with an additional close mic’ing that avoided the typical transients and localization of bow strokes (possibly to support the concert perspective), but some misleading detail positionings, in this case the separate localization off playing, breathing and some other left/right changes during play.

I know an otherwise great flamenco guitar recording, which also confuses a bit because the player breathes 4 feet left from his picking or we know this from some otherwise great sounding jazz trios in a room, where the right in the back positioned drum set has the one cymbal coming directly from the opposing speaker, which ruins the illusion.

Things like this happen often, but we know from other recordings, it doesn’t have to be like that.

This is not to say that anything is ruined at the Zuill recording, it’s still nice. I just went into the details to explain my perception.

I had an experience just the other day that was similar to your flamenco performance, while listening to an otherwise very real-sounding recording of a guitarist/singer. I know from the nature of the performance that the artist was himself singing and playing, but because of either acoustic anomalies or deliberate mic techniques (more likely the latter), the voice was almost hard-right, and the guitar almost hard-left. The reproduction of the guitar and voice was so good that if the actual performance had been by two persons, it would have been a great record. Instead, knowing it was one person, it was disconcerting, since the apparent physical distance between the two sound sources was larger than could be accommodated by most humans.

And like you, too, I don’t mean to suggest anything about the imaging of the Zuill recording ruins the experience. I love this record. I’ve heard these sames artifacts in classical music halls, so I don’t necessarily consider them failings in recordings.

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Yes, the problem is when it should be an illusion and most is perfect, but something strongly works against it. As this more or less matching of sound spots is a very basic demand, it seems to be difficult to combine the close mic’ed parts with the overall perspective so that both match for the real illusion.

I admit I have no idea how you could have experienced this live unamplified. Maybe just from a wall reflection if you sit near it.

I also listen to the Six Evolutions by Yo-yo Ma that shares many of the same pieces. I must say the recording by Octave is ten notches better, but for my taste, Zuill Bailey is simply not in the league with Yo-yo Ma. But still, fantastic job by Octave…keep them coming.

I was quick to add this to my collection of Bach Cello suites, and I’m very happy with both the performance and of course the quality of recording. It is by far and away my favorite Octave Records release to date, and I’ve bought most of their releases so far. Because Bailey mentioned his previous recording as a younger artist, I bought a copy of that one as well. Interestingly, I actually prefer the earlier recording for some reason. I’m not sure if it is the less restrained artistic passion or the significantly fuller sound of the cello on the Telarc recording. Both are fantastic and have their own merits. Thanks PS Audio for flaming the fire for great recordings of great music like this.

Our absolute pleasure. Zuill’s performance and this recording are remarkable works. Thanks for the shout out.

When I bought the Octave release, I’d forgotten that I already had the earlier Telarc recording. I was pleasantly surprised to hear an easily discernible difference in his interpretation. It’s always fun to compare performance (and recording) when the same artist is involved. And while the earlier performance and recording are wonderful in their own rights, my preference on both counts is the Octave release. It may be a little less exuberant in places, but it’s not lacking in passion (how could it be with Bailey?). Overall, though, it’s a bit more mature, which fits my taste very well.

And @Paul I’ll pile on and say it’s my favorite Octave release, too. I was so happy when I got the release announcement email - I had no idea you were planning any classical projects. Keep them coming!

I just thought I’d briefly resurrect this thread since the latest (Nov.'21) issue of Stereophile has named this as their Recording of the Month. Reviewer Jason Serinus says in his full-page review that the Suites “abound in astonishingly beautiful musicianship illuminated by fresh insights and superb engineering.” He concludes with the statement, “You’ll be hard-pressed to find another recording that profiles a great instrument and excellent artist in such a quiet environment with so much color and dynamic contrast.”

Major kudos to everyone involved in the project!


@Craig_Burgess beat me to it! Well deserved recording of the month!