Surround music award winners

Oh, what a night. The first annual Surround Music Awards, held December 13 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel (ahem — right next to the room where the Gold Globes take place), was filled with laughs (courtesy of hosts Ed Cherney and Al Schmitt), heart (the award for The Who’s Albert Hall disc was dedicated to the terminal children the project was designed to raise money for), and magic (Graham Nash and David Crosby’s performance — ‘nuff said).

But it all comes down to the awards, so we present here a listing of the winners from that special night, as well as some comments from the judges as to why each title won. If you want to check them out for yourself, most of these titles are available on or

Best Of Show

Winner: Nitty Gritty Surround; John McEuen and Jimmy Ibbotson w/Jennifer Warnes [AIX Records]

Why: Outstanding acoustic musicianship, recorded and mixed to use both the high-resolution capabilities of DVD and the spatial capabilities of surround, this release also adds multiple perspective mixes and video streams for an equally outstanding overall experience.

Top Surround Artist Of The Year

Winner: Songs for Survivors; Graham Nash [DTS Entertainment]

Why: While our Surround Artist of the Year has a body of work with a definitive style, in his latest release, that style is adapted creatively for surround presentation, without gimmickry. The result is both open and enveloping; both comfortable and intriguing.

Best Mix: Non-Orchestral

Winner: Ziroq; Ziroq [Silverline Records (5.1 Entertainment)]

Why: This fusion of worldwide musical influences takes chances, tests the medium, and yet does so with control, resulting in an expansive surround experience. Ear-candy events in the center channel, tasteful yet evocative use of the surrounds, and impeccable instrument sounds keep the listener enthralled track to track.

Best Mix: Orchestral

Winner: Paavo Jarvi/Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Paavo Jarvi/Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra [Telarc]

Why: Space, air, natural reverberation, these combine to create a surround field that places you in the hall. The recording is open and dynamic, combining with an excellent orchestral performance to nicely show off the high-resolution and surround capabilities of DSD.

Most Adventurous Mix [Tie]

Winner: A Night at the Opera; Queen; [DTS Entertainment]

Why: Surround gives this larger-than-life recording an even more gargantuan presence. Though a typical listener might feel they have to first listen to “Bohemian Rhapsody” a few times through for sheer pleasure, they’ll eventually find themselves listening and enjoying the album that has maintained its original integrity yet still benefits from an bold surround treatment end to end.

Winner: Headhunters; Herbie Hancock; [Sony (Legacy)]

Why: A classic recording known for taking risks and challenging the status quo comes into its own with improved resolution and a generous use of the surround field. The result sounds as though the title was created with surround in mind.

Best Made For Surround Title

Winner: LAGQ; Los Angeles Guitar Quartet [Telarc]
Why: This was a project that cried out for surround treatment. With four instruments sharing the same register, definition and discrimination of the tracks can be an issue with only a stereo pair and conventional resolution. Delicately recorded in Telarc’s best tradition, and discretely placed in the surround field, the Quartet comes alive and shares the room with the listener.

Best Hi-Res Stereo-Only Program

Winner: Trio; Monty Alexander, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis [Hi Res Music]

Why: With excellent 2-channel
imaging, marvelous and timeless performances, this recording shows just how huge three instruments can sound. Kudos to Hi Res Music for breathing new life into this very
special recording.

Best Standard Resolution Title

Winner: Music from Lifehouse; Pete Townshend [Eel Pie Productions/Image Entertainment]

Why: The musical strains of classic rock ’n’ roll are complemented by a superb orchestral arrangement. The disc was recorded with definition and mixed to take advantage of the surround field while maintaining the feel of a live concert. Combined with the video capture, the result is an experience that might just be better than being there live.

Best Menu Design

Winner: Awaken; Various [Electromatrix (5.1 Entertainment)]

Why: Entertaining and emotive graphics make the menu for this disc visually appealing. Excellent use is made of the video capabilities of DVD-Audio, with a layered slideshow during track playback. While the multi-artist compilation makes for a large number of menu elements, it remains accessible and easy to
navigate, even with the inclusion of set-up information, artist interviews, and video elements.

Best Additional Features

Winner: Nitty Gritty Surround; John McEuen and Jimmy Ibbotson w/Jennifer Warnes [AIX Records]

Why: There seemed to be no doubt among the judges who was the clear winner in this category. With
alternate mixes from the audience perspective or in the center of the band, creative camera work on two full video streams, Dolby Digital, DTS, and discrete 96 kHz/24-bit surround streams, this double-sided DVD-Audio/Video disc was conceived, recorded, and packaged to take full advantage of the format. It also includes tutorial information to educate consumers for their best overall experience.

Best Concert Video

Winner: Live at Royal Albert Hall; The Who & Special Guests [Image Entertainment]

Why: An excellent multiple-camera shoot complements a recording and mix that puts you front row center, and the band (and an assortment of talented guests) proves their musicianship. Who better?

Best Multichannel Reissue [Tie]

Winner: JT; James Taylor [Sony (Columbia)]

Why: A seminal album is reborn. Credit must be given to the original engineering team for recording exquisite tracks — the drum sounds alone are worth the price of admission. Credit must be given to the musicians for their art. And credit is obviously due the remix team for retaining the spirit of the original release, while taking the listener to new heights.

Winner: American Beauty; Grateful Dead [Warner Bros.]

Why: It is rarely possible to relive that joyous first experience of hearing a musical track that moves you. This remix manages to re-create that first listen, sweeping you into the performance to the point that you have to force yourself to step back if you want to analyze the mix in order to try and figure out why it is so enjoyable. Give in and go for the ride.

Listener’s Choice

Winner: A Night at the Opera; Queen; [DTS Entertainment]

Why: With fanfare that included a Surround Professional cover story, few discs were as anticipated as the surround reissue of this album. The eager listeners who lined up to buy the disc the first moment it hit the stores were obviously not disappointed, and they’ve given it the Listener’s Choice award for disc of the year.

Surround Professional Magazine