What on earth are SHM-CD’s?
Well, that’s a good question.
SHM-CD stands for Super High Material Compact Disc and was developed in Japan by Universal Music Japan and are made of a higher quality material that supposedly enhances the sound quality of the compact disc format.
Another CD format, seriously?
Well if you’re reading this blog you know I how I feel about physical media and fortunately for collectors Japan still has a healthy appetite for physical media such as compact discs and vinyl – thank goodness.
Now hear’s the rub – these discs are only available as Japanese imports in the States and are limited in quantity, expensive and are sometimes a pain to track down.
(Note: Thank goodness I’ve never let reason get in my way or this blog would be completely blank right now.)
While quite a few audiophiles and music aficionados think that SHM-CD’s are just snake oil and they sound exactly the same as any standard pressing of the CD (as long as it’s not a new mastering) I beg to differ … go figure.
Also SHM-CDs are usually packaged with the collector in mind (anyone in the room raising their hands but me!) and are immaculately packaged and often are released in what’s called a Mini-Lp style.
Mini-Lp style CD’s mimic the way the original vinyl issue of the disc looked right down to replicas of all inner sleeves and posters that came with that first vinyl release (I love miniature replicas!)
And of course as a true blue collector (hoarder?) I have indulged in quite a few SHM-CD pressings and unlike most of my fellow music enthusiasts, it seems, I’ve found them to be uniformly excellent in the sound department.
Now it may just be Jedi mind tricks or some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy or delusion (did I really pay that much for these?) but on my system at least I can hear a difference when playing these discs.
Okay, I can see quite a few eyes rolling but I swear I do.
The biggest difference that stands out right away to me is the bass.
The bass seems to be more solid, more fluid or more present. I don’t know how else to say it. The bass on these discs just thunders along and seems to jump out of the speakers more vividly than on the regular US pressings I own of this same material.
Okay, it’s not a night or day difference but it is there.
The other thing I notice about these SHM-CDs is that the stereo separation seems to be more distinct and the background vocals also seem to leap out a bit more.
Again, not a night and day difference but it’s as if the slight distortion on some of this music has been lifted or smoothed out and the clarity has been amplified just every so slightly. At least that’s what I tell myself.
If nothing else these discs sure are purdy to look at!
I have included a gallery of ten Paul McCartney Archive Collection CDs I own that have been released in the SHM-CD format in Japan.
Five of the discs I own are 2 CD versions that came out when McCartney was with the Concord label and five are 2017 Mini-Lp CD versions that just came out this past December.
(Note 2: I just have to say that the mastering on these McCartney Archive releases is uniformly excellent and should be checked out whether you can locate SHM-CD versions or not.)
I’ve really enjoyed playing these discs and as I’ve said I find them to be better sounding than their US counterparts but again while not a night and day difference they do sound sweet.
Above are some photos of the discs for those who have never seen them.
I’m just glad I haven’t caved and bought one of the Super Deluxe monster Paul McCartney Archive SHM-CD sets that have been released in Japan!
At least not yet anyway. If I do I’ll be sure to post it here so folks can get a glimpse before they cart me away to the funny farm!
So until our next therapy session, enjoy and RAM ON! (so to speak)