Listen up, theater kids: Stephen Sondheim has one last posthumous wish to grant. Prior to his death in 2021, the famous musical theater composer was collaborating and advising on spatial audio remasters of some of his most famous works: Company, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods. He also consulted on plans for an audio reissue of Assassins. Co-produced by Didier C. Deutsch and Peter E. Jones, the remasters of those four famous Sondheim musicals are now available for your listening pleasure.
The four musicals are available in Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format via Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal HiFi, and in Dolby Atmos format via Apple Music, Amazon Music and Tidal. These two different spatial editions of the original musical recordings add depth to the at-home listening experience that aims to evoke the sensation of hearing the songs live in a theater.
“These spatial editions have the advantage of explicitly moving the action up and down and back to front as well as from left to right,” said Jones, via BroadwayWorld.com, “so the listener is given a three-dimensional experience versus the usual two-dimensional one — an experience that supports the story being told. Also, the higher audio resolution will treat the listener familiar with the original releases to subtle details unable to be heard in these recordings until now.”
I often listened to these musical soundtracks as a teenager, and the experience of listening to them in spatial audio felt incredible. The new placement of various singing voices in the mix significantly impacts the way the songs sound; I could close my eyes and imagine the actors walking around onstage, their voices moving to and fro.
That said, the spatial audio aspect does not take over the entire experience — and that’s by design. Darcy Proper, the remastering engineer, put it this way to BroadwayWorld.com: “First and foremost, we wanted to keep the intent of the shows intact. You want the effects to add to the music without being a distraction. The idea is to expand it beyond what has been possible with stereo so far. We wanted to make it more immersive and engaging, making it easier for the listener to hear and feel the action without them thinking too much about the technology.”
Listen to all four musicals (or take your pick) via Masterworks Broadway.