Although Phil Spector's recent murder trial was gruesome tabloid fodder, as a young man he stood proudly at the pinnacle of musical success. From 1962 through 1964 Spector produced a string of pop hits rivaled only by The Beatles and The Beach Boys. His continuous streak of records from "He's A Rebel" through "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Be My Baby," and culminating in "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,'" was thrilling to experience at the time. And it's still thrilling to hear those original sounds explode from your speakers today.

But you can't get that explodin' feelin' from the discontinued Back to Mono box set or a bunch of compressed digital files. For the real thing you need to hear the original sounds remastered with the DSD ("direct stream digital") process, which is what ABKCO used for their Rolling Stones reissues in 2002 and for their Sam Cooke, Animals, and Righteous Brothers reissues since then.

Phil Spector records are very dense – their distinctive timbre is known as the Wall of Sound – and their explosive punch relies on a pounding rhythm section with oodles of low-frequency transient energy. It is precisely this part of the musical spectrum that benefits most from the DSD process, which was popularized as the "CD part" of hybrid SACDs. ABKCO, bless their hearts, continued to use the DSD process for some of their "regular" CDs.

In 2006 ABKCO manufactured a 22-track "best of" the entire Philles label featuring six songs by The Crystals, six by The Ronettes, and eight lead vocals by Darlene Love (including three released under Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans and two under The Crystals). The selection, including two by the Righteous Brothers and "River Deep, Mountain High," is as good as it gets.

The heads-up here is that this DSD version of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound Retrospective may not be around much longer. It was never released domestically. I discovered it serendipitously while searching for related material on, where it is still listed as a 2008 U.K. import. My first clue that its days are numbered was the Sony Legacy reissue of Spector's classic A Christmas Gift To You in October 2009, which meant that the rest of the Philles label reissues were just a matter of time.

The next shoe dropped in February 2011 with four new reissues from Sony Legacy covering The Very Best of Phil Spector, The Crystals, The Ronettes, and Darlene Love. These were all remastered by Vic Anesini at Battery Studios. The Retrospective and Christmas albums were both mastered by Bob Ludwig at his own Gateway Mastering.

Although many listeners will be satisfied with the sound of the new Sony Legacy CDs, which is clear and crisp, I returned the other three CDs without even opening them after listening to the new Very Best of Phil Spector. I am particularly sensitive to a boost in the upper mid-range which gives the lead vocals a harsh edge that I find tiring to listen to. The lower end is well-defined, but not as present as it should be. The Bob Ludwig masters, by contrast, are as close to the sound of the original records as I can imagine, including that fundamentally important slam and punch at the bottom end.

With domestic distribution of Phil Spector copyrights out of ABKCO's hands, the DSD/Bob Ludwig version of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound Retrospective could be pulled off the market at any time. Compared to the new Very Best of Phil Spector, I wouldn't hesitate to pay twice the price or more for the Retrospective CD if you can still find it. It sounds that much better.