To my ears, Steve Hoffman's moniker on a CD makes his mastering the definitive version to own. As my collection of his work has grown, I have recognised the extra effort that Hoffman makes to produce lively, accurate and engaging sound. One crucial factor is the careful selection of tape machine to ensure optimal signal retrieval. I am somewhat surprised to learn that many recordings need nothing other than a faithful transfer to the digital domain -- especially given that other mastering engineers sometimes seem to needlessly degrade the quality with computerised tools. Hoffman goes for the right tone via the purest possible route.

I have four pieces of music that are generally used to audition sound system components. For me these demo tracks are the equivalent of audio nirvana:

DCC GZS-1127 showcases: transparent imaging; silky, warm and palpable vocals; and excellent dynamics. This one is well worth the financial investment. DCC GZS-1132 showcases: stunning vocal clarity and intimacy; brilliant use of stereo miking and delay; every instrument sounds real and has a tangible, lifelike timbre. "Time" was not mastered by Steve Hoffman and is used to evaluate the effect of a more congested, yet well-recorded and mixed, "rock" sound on system components.

More wonderful recordings to enjoy:

Superb staging and echo retrieval. The backing singers located to the right sound like they are actually standing there with Martin cemented firmly in the centre.