1970 digital PCM recording, Something, Steve Marcus, 13-bit/32kHz, sounds d@mn good!!!

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Billy Budapest, Nov 14, 2014.

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  1. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    So, I'm listening to Something, Steve Marcus' 1971 release on Nippon Columbia, recorded on NHK's prototype 13/32 stereo PCM digital recorder in 1970. It's been released on CD and it actually sounds really great. Nice round, deep bass, crisp highs. How can this be? :)

    [​IMG]

    According to Thomas Fine (who is Wilma Cozart Fine and C. Robert Fine's son),
    http://www.aes.org/aeshc/pdf/fine_dawn-of-digital.pdf

    The music is pretty good, too. Jazz fusion, with the title track an interpretation of Something by the Beatles. Not cheesy!

    Somewhat surprisingly, it has light tape hiss (or a tape-hiss-like sound) in the background. I guess it could have been introduced during the mixing stage.

    Anybody else have this on LP or CD and care to share your feelings about it?
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
  2. oneslip17

    oneslip17 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I really enjoyed reading that pdf in the link you posted. Thanks!!
     
  3. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    No problem. Definitely a great read! Fascinating! I've been collecting these early Nippon Columbia, Denon, Telarc, and other recordings mentioned within. Some great music, and great sounding recordings. There's something really special about that 1970's early digital sound, IMHO.
     
    kevinsinnott likes this.
  4. testikoff

    testikoff Forum Resident

    I have a 1984 Denon CD featuring July 1978 PCM recording of 14 Scarlatti Sonatas for Harpsicord engineered by Peter Willmoes & Takeaki Anazawa in my collection. It sounds really good despite being a tad low in volume (album peak = 0.304565; after de-emphasis).
     
  5. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Didn't some of the early digital systems feature analog companders, to extend their dynamic range? Something like dbx. That might explain how they could get decent sound out of 13/32...
     
  6. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    This was on my wish list. Another good reason to move it to the top of the list :)
     
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  7. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    Denon's later (circa 1977) PCM hardware included this feature, which bumped resolution from 13-bit to the equivalent of 15.5 bit, at least according to Thomas Fine's paper.
     
  8. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    That would have been recorded with the 15.5/47.25 hardware, which Fine notes was essentially equivalent to DAT's 16/48 resolution. I'm not surprised it sounds good. I'd like to hear these early digital recordings on SACD or as DSD files, avoiding the conversion to 16/44.1. That's why I love the Telarc Soundstream SACD's.
     
  9. MonkeyMan

    MonkeyMan Forum Resident

    I enjoy the early PCM sound. And there are many discs available cheap, especially if you like classical.
     
  10. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident


    It was a great recording. Media and resolution and all that jazz do not make the recording great or not.
     
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  11. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    Very true. And it does sound like a great recording.

    If you are a fan of The Other Side of Abbey Road, you'll like this too.
     
  12. beatlematt

    beatlematt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gadsden, Alabama
    Billy Budapest likes this.
  13. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

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  14. beatlematt

    beatlematt Forum Resident

    Location:
    Gadsden, Alabama
    Listen to Billy!

    And now for your Saturday morning cartoon-


     
  15. The Beave

    The Beave Forum Resident

    Location:
    Auburn, Washington
    This is just incredible!
    the beave
     
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  16. soundboy

    soundboy Forum Resident

    Thank you for starting this thread....very informative article and I think I'll pick up the Steve Marcus CD.

    That "MasterSonic" logo....that is Denon's remastering process, kind of like JVC's XRCD process. I wonder if that contributed anything.
     
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  17. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    The MasterSonic logo, in this case at least, was on the original LP, along with the words "PCM Recording" and "Low Distortion Cutting."

    I purchased the CD as a curiosity, to hear what the first consumer digital recording sounded like. However, I am really enjoying it--both the music and the sound!
     
  18. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    A lot of early digital sounds incredible - The Nightfly and Christopher Cross are the two examples that always come to mind.

    I think a lot of that harsh '80s digital sound had little to do with digital recording and more to do with fashionable EQ choices of the time (kind of like today's loudness wars) and the proliferation for a few years there of harsh digital synthesizers and even harsher early samplers and digital processors.
     
  19. evad

    evad Well-Known Member

    Location:
    .
    I didn't know Christopher Cross's debut was recorded digitally. It does sound fantastic. :righton:
     
  20. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Digital multitrack on that first 3M deck. Analog mixing console of course, but mixed down to digital 2-track stereo. So, DDD, in the SPARS code scheme, making Christopher Cross the first Platinum record to be recorded and mixed to digital.

    "Sailing" was the first digitally-recorded US #1 single, and also the first digitally-mastered #1 single. August 30th, 1980.
     
  21. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    Never seen the Beatles cartoon before. Wow, they really don't sound like the Beatles. Well, the Ringo character does sound a little like George, but that's it. ;)
     
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  22. Billy Budapest

    Billy Budapest Forum "Member" Thread Starter

    I have some more circa 1972 Dennon/Nippon Columbia PCM recordings. All sound fantastic and I will post capsule reviews soon. I have them on CD and it's a little disquieting seeing a DDD SPARS code from a 1972 performance.
     
    Robert C likes this.
  23. Trevor_Bartram

    Trevor_Bartram Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boylston, MA, USA
    The hiss you hear is quantization noise produced in the A/D converter. A good 13bit converter is capable of 78dB signal to noise ratio, that is better than most reel to reel tapes and the best FM radio. It would sound less hissy with pre/de-emphasis just like tape and FM systems use.
     
    tmtomh likes this.
  24. Robert Staton

    Robert Staton New Member

    I recently ordered this album. I'm curious to hear how it sounds, and to look at it on a spectrum analyzer. I imagine the anti-alias filters may have been somewhat relaxed, allowing relatively high frequencies to pass. That's probably how early digital got away with low sample rates.

    The light hiss would be due to the low bit depth, plus any noise source on the analog signal to start with. The noise floor of 16 bits is around -98dB, whereas with 13 bits it's around -80dB. And that's under ideal conditions, which I very much doubt they had.

    It would be nice to be able to download early digital recordings as a wav file, so you have a bit-for-bit exact copy of the original. Every conversion to another sample rate and bit depth adds more noise and distortion.
     
  25. testikoff

    testikoff Forum Resident

    Does this CD have pre-emphasis in disc TOC or track subcode (like most early Denon CDs), BTW?
     
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