The original cast recordings of four of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals have been remixed and remastered as immersive audio experiences through Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos. “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Into the Woods” and “Assassins” have been released by Sony Masterworks Broadway. The new editions mark the release of the final legacy project on which Sondheim consulted before he died.
Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format wraps listeners in a field of sound using 360-degree spatial sound technology. With this tech, individual sounds from the recordings — including vocals, piano, guitar and live audience sounds — can be put into a spherical sound field. Any pair of headphones allows listeners to experience the recordings via Amazon Music Unlimited and TIDAL HiFi. Dolby Atmos adds clarity, space and depth to music, allowing people to become enveloped in the listening experience using surround-sound technology. The new Dolby Atmos editions are available via Apple Music, as well as Amazon Music and TIDAL.
The editions include fresh details that emerged when the recordings were re-explored, including the few seconds at the start of “Tick Tock” on the “Company” recording (which were cut from the original LP release and previous reissues).
Sondheim advised on the “Company,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods” editions, and consulted on plans for the “Assassins” reissue. These new editions were co-produced by Didier C. Deutsch, who has curated other Broadway recordings, and Peter E. Jones, archivist for the Sondheim Foundation. Ronald Prent served as the mixing engineer and Darcy Proper as the remastering engineer. Both Prent and Proper also co-produced the new editions.
“I think the [original] recordings themselves are considered definitive, being that they are the ‘world-premiere’ versions, never to be heard quite the same way again, as revivals change many things like the orchestrations,” Jones said in a statement. “Having been successfully translated into these new audio formats makes them even more definitive, and they will remain so until the next innovation comes along that can translate them to yet another generation of listeners. That very idea alone was important to Sondheim, and I think he’d be pleased with how splendid this first series has turned out.”
Jones explained how the new versions move away from the typical left-center-right sonic output, saying, “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, 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.”
“Sondheim had explicit trust in our production ensemble with us having created previous projects such as ‘The Story So Far’ box set which he was very pleased with,” Jones added. “He kept tabs on our progress and was excited that these stalwart cast recordings would re-emerge not as just the next set of reissues, but with a whole new audio expression.”