Denon PCM Encoding in 1970s. Is it different than Sony CD PCM?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Mr Bass, Aug 7, 2016.

  1. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    I have a few LPs made in the mid 70s by Japan Denon. Despite a slight coarsenes they have a more full bodied midrange and what I might term meatier sound than I hear with contemporaneous LPs derived from the Sony Philips PCM CD format that appeared in the early 80s. Denon developed several digital encoders in the 1970s, the DN-023R and DN-034.

    My question is whether the Denon PCM process had any significant differences from the later Sony Philips format? I understand that Denon had a slightly different sampling rate and bit rate ~47khz /14-15.5 bits. But were there other encoder differences which might account for my perception of Denon LPs as more realistic than early Sony/Philips digital LPs or is it just better/different mastering?
     
  2. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    [@EddieVanHalen from two posts some years ago:

    I found a Denon LP called "Invitation to Denon PCM Digital Classics", code number ST-6007, released in 1979, made in Japan for the US market It includes Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, Bach's Toccata and Fuge in D Minor, Bach's Choral "Jesus Bleibet Meine Freuden" and Bizet's Farandole among others. I'm giving it a first listenning right now and it sounds wonderful, quiet, defined and very warm, surprising giving it's they are all full digital recordings.

    I think the first PCM digital studio tape recorder was Denon's DN-023R.
    Most of these early digital recorders comprised of two units, one with all the control and A/D and D/A conversion and a second one with the tape transport.
    On the late 70's the fashion was to use a digital "processor" (A/D and D/A conversion, level controls...) with a video tape recorder to store the data-hungry PCM stream, an example of this was Sony's PCM1. ]

    Again the question: is someone familiar on the difference if any in the encoding process used by Denon compared with subsequent other engineering approaches.
     
  3. skriefal

    skriefal Well-Known Member

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  4. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Thanks. I missed that thread because it didn't have Denon in the title. I am generally familiar with the technical details cited in a few of the posts concerning the different encoders and sample/bit rate. However the Denon LPs were mostly made at something approximating eventual CD Redbook rates, not with the initial 13 bit/32k encoder.

    I may be overoptimistic that anyone has delved into a detailed engineering comparison of this early PCM encoder and later encoders. I am just struck at how subjectively better the Denon encoder was at capturing the midrange (or was it perhaps the LP mastering?) compared with the now standard ADC/DAC Redbook process. Maybe people didn't realize at the time what was being lost from these Denon encoders as the technology developed.
     
  5. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I never liked how 80's digital recordings made with Sony equipment sound, Sony PCM 3324, PCM 3348 and PCM 1630. Clean, yes, high dinamic range, yes, detailed, no, realistic sounding, no, warm and pleasant to ears, no. I'm thinking about recordings like Phil Collin's No Jacket Required, Madonna's Like A Virgin, Giorgio Moroder's Metropolis soundtrack or Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms.
     
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  6. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    It wasn't just Sony in the 80s. There was a certain digital "flavor" that seemed widespread in the 80s across manufacturers. Of course maybe everyone sourced some basic circuit design from Sony. However Denon dd have some of their own processors into the 1980s at least. I agree that the Denon 70s LPs sound subjectively different than 80s era digital. I hope someone has an idea of what might have caused that sonic difference because as you say, later was not better.
     
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  7. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    Don't you think that Michael Jackson's Bad even sounding definetely digital and recorded on Mitshubishi equipment sounds different (not better neither worse) than Sony digital recordings?
     
  8. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    I haven't heard it in 25 years and never on LP so I can't say. I certainly have heard different flavors of digital but none that has the midrange fullness of the early Denon LPs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2016
  9. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I scored a Bab LP on a local street market not only mintnbut also factory sealed and with the red sticker stating it was new MJ studio album for 8€ three years ago. It sounds fantastic, like the CD but fuller, fatter. It's also nice to listen to the original mixes as I think the later revised mixed were never released on vinyl, again, I think.
     
  10. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

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    I think much of it had more to do with the sound of the electronic instruments of the day as much as the method of recording digitally.
     
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  11. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    The LP sourced from a CD can sound subjectively better than the CD for a variety of reasons. But that is something different than the early Denon LPs which anyway didn't have a corresponding CD. What I noted about the Denons was a more realistic midrange than other digitally sourced LPs from the 80s. That is an apple to apple comparison.
     
  12. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Well that might apply to 80s era recordings on CD and LP but not to the 70s era Denon LPs.
     
  13. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I don't think MJ's Bad was sourced from the CD, both were mastered by Bernie Grundman but it wasn't the norm in the 80's (the other way around did hapen, to use an LP mastering as source to master a CD) as equalization and dinamic range compression were different, among other things. I had the first pressing CD with the original mixes which I bought when it was released but I haven't listened to one in a long long time. I have a later but no remastered CD with the revised mixes and sound very similar to my original LP but I prefer the LP as it sounds fuller and warmer.
     
  14. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Here is the cover of a typical Denon PCM LP for reference.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. 56GoldTop

    56GoldTop Forum Resident

    I have the Sonny Stitt ~ Moonlight In Vermont (DenonPCM) LP. I'll have to go back and give it another serious listen. There are many, early, digitally sourced albums that I either tolerate or cringe at while listening. IIRC, my Michael Franks ~ Objects of Desire album was mixed and mastered using a Mitsubishi Digital Mastering System. Sad. I like Mr. Franks; but, the sound of that album makes me want to hurl. Generally, when it comes to "early" digitally sourced albums, my ears have no problem making the distinction. I'm of a like mind with @Mr Bass and @EddieVanHalen ; just don't care for that digital "flavor".
     
  16. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Please do listen if you have time and let me know what your assessment is. I only have a few classical LPs and no jazz LPs from the Denon PCM series. I also have a 1986 Denon CD of Phil Woods which is the earliest CD I still retain. I always thought that CD somewhat better recorded than contemporaneous CDs which is why I still have it. As noted I think Denon was still using their own equipment up to that date, but have no idea how it was recorded or mastered.

    I want to be very clear what I am saying about the Denon PCM LPs I have. They do not sound analog nor are they audiophile to me. However in my perception they are doing something significantly better in capturing a more realistic midrange sound and in particular retaining transient information (note onsets and decays) than the 80s Sony digital processors did for their digital LPs.

    As for the Mitsubishi mastering system I have only seen reference to it for that one LP although apparently MJ's Bad used something from Mitsubishi. But by the 80s Sony was well on its way to dominance.
     
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  17. quicksrt

    quicksrt Forum Resident

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    Not only does this album sound great, the music selections are rather strong as well. As an invitation to classical music, one could do a lot worse than this hi-fi knock-out platter. I think I'll get my copy out and play it again after not hearing it in so many many years. Thanks for reminder.
     
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  18. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

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    Yes, true. It was really the reference to some early 80s digital albums I was responding to. I have Peter Gabriel's fourth album (Security in the US) which was DDD all the way, but exhibits none of the harshness so often ascribed to that era. Got a good few other titles that sound good too.
     
  19. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

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    Some studio engineers I know and trust have told me they believed that the Mitsubishi X80 machines were by far the best-sounding digital multitracks of that era. Once that format started dying, quite a few music guys preferred to record on RADAR, a hardware-based hard-drive machine, and they continued to mix with analog consoles. Eventually, Pro Tools got good enough that the engineers began to like the A/D's (and the D/A's), and by the early 2000s a large percentage of sessions were done completely "in the box" -- recorded, edited, and mixed entirely within Pro Tools.

    I have heard the Sony DASH decks in the 1980s, but it was only for film & TV sound and I thought they were fine. I never got the sense there was any real distortion or problem being added. There were reliability and stability problems, because the heads didn't last forever and the machines put out a lot of heat, but for sound quality they were OK. The 1600 and 1630 converters were not very good and I have heard problems with them before. But I later heard "modified" 1630s at some mastering houses where they had replaced the converters, changed out the power supply, and done a lot of stuff to it which -- they claimed -- fixed all of Sony's problems.

    BTW, I believe Michael Jackson's Bad album was recorded in a variety of studios on different recorders, analog and digital, with all kinds of samples and edits and all kinds of stuff. Read this article for just a taste on how complicated the recording sessions for Bad were:

    In The Studio With Michael Jackson: A MUST for fans of the King of Pop »
     
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  20. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

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    This had more to do the instruments, recording techniques, equalization and compression settings and processors utilized than the digital recorders (although Like A Virgin was 14-bit if memory serves, which probably had some impact). In general, the digital recordings from that era sound better than the analog recordings, in that they tend to be a bit less distorted and clearer. I think some analog recorders had real trouble handling the then-trendy shrill high-end and midrange, and also tended to emphasize some of the harshness of early digital processing equipment (reverbs and such).
     
  21. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Mid Atlantic
    Thanks Vidiot for your comments. I don't dispute that digital processors got "better" over the years. My perception though is that they have very rarely gotten the midrange or transients right. That's what caught my ear with the Denon PCM LPs even though I hear certain other problems with them such as a lack of dynamic smoothness.

    I just wonder if this perceived difference was due to their encoders or some aspect of their overall digital recording process. After all their computers were less capable at that time in the mid 70s than they were in the 80s and yet I hear something better and more involving about the Denon LP sound compared to later digital LPs. I just can't find any information as to where in the chain this could have happened.
     
  22. testikoff

    testikoff Forum Resident

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  23. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Thanks but I already read it awhile ago. It doesn't really delve into the specific process, but just mentions the encoders used and their sample / bit rates. Since they arent in use anymore it's hard to make direct comparisons.
     
  24. testikoff

    testikoff Forum Resident

    You could buy current Denon CDs, featuring 1972 (DN-023R) & 1982 (likely DN-034R) PCM recordings of the same 2 pieces performed by Smetana Quartet & compare those, if you are so inclined:

    Smetana Quartet - Mozart: 2 String Quartets, KV 458 & KV 421 (COCO-73164) [recorded on Apr 24-26, 1972; 2010 reissue; no CD pre-emphasis]
    Smetana Quartet - Mozart: 2 String Quartets, KV 458 "Hunt" & KV 421 (COCO-70792) [recorded in 1982; 2005 reissue; CD pre-emphasis in TOC]
     
  25. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Mid Atlantic
    Thank you very much for your interest. The problem with CDs here is that inevitably they were reprocessed/edited later. The CD Redbook format had yet to be established so there would be some unspecified conversion on unspecified equipment of the 70s era Denon PCM to put it on a CD. (I mentioned above that I had a Denon CD of Phil Woods that sounded decent to me from 1986 but no LP was issued.) But by the 80s Denon would have had to have significantly modified their equipment to produce Redbook CDs.

    I have accepted the fact that no one can now make a properly controlled comparison of these 1970s Denon LPs with later digital LPs. I was just hoping someone was sufficiently familiar with the Denon PCM recording process in the 70s that some inference could be made about where this subjective improvement occurred.
     

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