Latest Software Reviews

Camille Saint-Sans—Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 Organ (BMG)
Audiophiles the world over cherish RCA's Living Stereo classical recordings that were originally released on LP in the 1950s and remastered to CD in the mid '80s, and they have eagerly anticipated the transfer to SACD. The wait was worth it—pop on one of these Living Stereo discs, and you'll be listening through the mists of time back to the virtual dawn of the stereo era, and yet the realism of the soundstage trounces many more recent recordings. It's also worth noting that, since the original Saint-Sans Organ Symphony master tapes were lost for many years, this SACD is the first reissue sourced from the first-generation masters since it was released on LP.

The SACD packaging mistakenly refers to the three-track mix as "SACD Surround," but it is, in fact, just the front left, center, and right channels. The Living Stereo SACDs are the first to offer audiophiles the chance to experience the original master's three-track mix, as well as the stereo version. I certainly didn't miss the surrounds in the slightest; the three track-version is vibrantly, er, three-dimensional.

Enough gushing. I want to backtrack and point out that I'm not merely referring to the technical aspects of the sound. No, hearing the full measure of this powerful music, the sheer drama of the orchestra's performance, is what high-resolution sound is all about.

This hybrid SACD's "bonus" tracks include the contents of a another Charles Munch/BSO Living Stereo LP: Debussy's La Mer paired with Ibert's Escales.—Steve Guttenberg

DVD: Sleepover—MGM/UA
Video: 3
Audio: 3
Extras: 2
Aimed squarely at the female 'tween and high school set, Sleepover has enough angst-injected humor to hit the mark with its target. All others, meaning parents watching with their kids, will get a chuckle or two, as a group of friends—auspiciously having a slumber party—find themselves locked in an all-night scavenger hunt against the perky blonde-haired "in" crowd. The stakes: bragging rights to the best lunch-time seating in the school courtyard.

This is a sugary, unoffensive movie, and the film's bright, vibrant look reflects that, as does the color-saturated, 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation found here. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, while not stunning by any means, is surprisingly robust in all the right places (the Cosmo Club sequence comes to mind).

Don't expect much grist in the extras department, or you'll be disappointed. There's an entertaining but short making-of called "A Guide to the Perfect Sleepover," as well as profiles of the four lead actresses, including Alexa Vega of Spy Kids fame. Seems they all had a real slumber party during the production, and they just can't stop talking about the fun they had. My bet is there was (gasp!) some toenail painting involved. Director Joe Nussbaum delivers a commentary track in which he serves as troupe leader to the lead girls. It's a free-flowing conversation that's worth a listen if you liked the film. All in all, this is a fun night out spent in the comfort of your home.—Gary Frisch

DVD: Seinfeld Giftset—Columbia TriStar
Video: 4
Audio: 3
Extras: 4
Finally, this series gets its due on DVD. Seinfeld was more than just a 30-minute sitcom that we enjoyed every Thursday night during NBC's Must-See-TV lineup. It was groundbreaking TV. It was actually funny! And think of all the new terms the show coined: yada, re-gifting, man-hands, and Festivus (my personal favorite).

The Giftset includes all 18 episodes from the first two seasons on four discs, along with the 22 episodes from season three on four discs. Just giving you the first three seasons on DVD wasn't enough for Columbia TriStar. They went ahead and remastered every episode in high-definition. The 1.33:1 aspect ratio looks great. It's sharp and clean, and it looks good considering the series is now more than a decade old, much better than what's currently airing in syndication. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is adequate, given the nature of the show. Short of hearing Kramer come through Jerry's door in a surround channel, there probably aren't many extra effects that would vastly improve what's already here.

For a show about nothing, the extras package really is something. On board is a healthy dose of extras: commentary with cast members, outtakes, bloopers, longer versions of a specific episode, and footage from Jerry's stand-up routines. There's also an hour-long feature on how Seinfeld came to be and how it almost didn't get made at all. Just in case that's not enough, you also get a copy of an original script, Monk's salt and pepper shakers, and playing cards.—Amy Carter

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