Track 1 – Heavy Metal: Metallica’s Enter Sandman from their Black album.
Enter Sandman features a limited amount of instruments but is big on sound and provides an extremely demanding test of low frequency sounds. Our source for this test is the high resolution stereo mix from the DVD-Audio version of the album. At 96KHz/24Bit it is significantly higher quality than a standard CD version, or the Dolby Digital tracks which are also included on the disc.
When preparing to listen to this track the biggest concern was that the strong bass performance which has been present throughout our testing would overpower the rest of the mix. The good news is that this proved not to be the case for the majority of the song. As the track begins we are presented with some very clean and crisp sounding guitar. Shortly after 00.30 the drum part features exceptional bass sounds and as we head into the main riff the guitar sounds great but could be a little more prominent if we are being exceptionally picky. As the solo kicks in at 2.40 we once again have great clarity to the sound with the bass only slightly overpowering the last few notes of the guitar part. As the song comes to an end the vocals and guitar remain well balanced with the bass just a little too strong but nowhere near the extent of that heard on other test tracks.
Track 2 – Rock: The Eagle’s Hotel California from the album by the same name.
In terms of a reference quality source for audio testing it does not get better than the mix found on the DVD-Audio version of Hotel California. For this version engineer Ted Jensen created stereo mix by converting the original analogue two-track master to digital at 192 kHz without any creative changes. This is as close to hearing the original master recording as it gets.
So with Hotel California we have a mix which is as close to how the band/producer intended us to hear it as possible but how do the Atrio handle it? First the negative aspect of the sound, once again that is the Bass. Throughout the track we are overpowered by this aspect of the Atrio and in places, such as the first minute of the track, it creates a very muddy low end to the sound. Elsewhere there is more clarity but using the electric guitar part at around 1.20 as an example, the bass overpowers the other instrument. In terms of positive aspects of the sound quality there are more than a few highlights created by Future Sonics. The guitar harmonic at approximately 3.10 is exceptional in its sound quality and throughout the song the vocals are crisp and clear, close to perfection. Detail is also very obvious with a prime example being the near silence at 3.25. On cheaper earphones we hear nothing, on the Atrio it is possible to hear the slight echo in the studio as the sound dies down before restarting.