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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    Actually there are several reasons but midrange life and bloom and transient accuracy are not among them. The principal reasons are the dynamic spread, the increased time of a side and the absence of wow and flutter or background noise.

    I say this because I want to be clear that I do not find the Denon digital LPs notable for the reasons people who like digital like digital. They seem better at precisely those things where subsequent digital is weak.

    But based on Billy Budapest's comment maybe the very early generation of converters from others also sounded better in this way. I will have to investigate that.
     
  2. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    In researching the info in your post there are two Sony digital processors, the PCM 1 in 1977 and the PCM F1 in 1983. Both seem to have been designed for videocassette recording rather than standard audio. The PCM 1 only had digital outputs to video and operated at 14 bits 44.1k. In addition it used chips from Burr Brown and Texas Instruments which appear to be the same old same old. I don't know what chips Denon used though.

    There was another digital processor called the 1600 for recording but maybe that was part of you refer to as second generation? What recordings if any were made with the Sony PCM 1? Or are you basing that simply on experience with videocassette performance? Would @Vidiot know?
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  3. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I guess the soundtrack for Star Trek The Motion Picture was recorded or mixed down with it as Sony digital equipment was used and the PCM F1 wasn't released yet.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  4. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Well the Sony 1600 was released in 1978 apparently with some later iterations .1610 etc The 1600 used the U matic machine. Supposedly von Karajan heard a tape from the Sony 1600 which he liked. But given that it is using Texas Instrument and Burr Brown chips already I have to wonder if this is already the 80s flavor in its early stages. But that was why I was asking if that was first or second generation per Billy Budapest.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  5. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I'm surprised Karajan prefered the sound of one of those early Sony digital tape recorders over a good analog Studer tape recorder with or without Dolby A.
     
  6. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Why? Many of his DG recordings were average to poor. Conductors hearing loss plus age made it more likely those piercing highs sounded like sweet treble to him.
     
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  8. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

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    The TMP soundtrack is 16-bit, isn't it?
     
  9. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Thanks. I saw the vintage knob link earlier. But since the PCM F1 came out years after the 1600 I don't think first or second generation are good terms. There was an early videocamera track and a slightly later audio recording track. You feel the videocamera track was sonically better. However reading these and other sites I found there were significant technical problems that limited its professional usability. One advantage though was that it could be operated with batteries rather than the AC.
     
  10. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

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    The PCM-1 was the first, but it was more of a "prosumer" device.

    [​IMG]

    It came out in September of 1977 believe it or not, just as Star Wars was wrapping up its run. 14-bit, but used a compander to get 16-bits worth of dynamic range.

    The PCM-1600, which hit the market in 1978, was the professional version truly designed for recording studios. It was a full 16-bit unit. I can't find any pictures of it, but there are lots of pics of one of its successors, the 1630. I'd imagine the 1600 was similar:

    [​IMG]

    The Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrack was recorded on a 1600, or at least it was until the musician's union freaked out - from that point forward it was recorded analog then copied to videotape via the 1600:

    FMS FEATURE [Goldsmith "Star Trek" Score Celebrated - by Jon Burlingame] »

    The PCM-1 was succeeded by the PCM-F1, which ended up pretty much everywhere as it was compact and relatively cheap:

    [​IMG]

    It was frequently paired with a matching portable Beta deck, plus battery packs and an A/C adapter. So you could record digital audio on the go, which was revolutionary when this thing came out in 1981. It could even playback the 14-bit audio recorded by the old PCM-1.

    The PCM-1600 likely sounded better than the PCM-1 or the F1, since it was a big honking piece of studio gear. Most of those early A/D converters had issues though, although so did most analog tape decks and noise reduction schemes in use at the time.

    Pick your poison.
     
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  11. OK, let me clear things up now that I have the model numbers right in my mind. The Sony PCM-1, 14-bit and all, was supposed to sound great (I'm not sure I have any PCM-1 recordings, though, I will have to check my digital LP's) as did the PCM-F1. The Sony PCM1600 series (especially the later models like PCM1630, etc.) and DASH decks exhibited the type of digital sound quality that many people find objectionable.
     
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  12. The early digital recordings that I really like are those recorded with the Soundstream 16-bit, 50MHz system. It was used on many Telarc LP's released in the mid-to-late 1970's, but not just on Telarc. The 3M Digital Mastering System (used on The Nightfly among others) also sounded great.
     
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  13. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Thanks very much to the contributors here. I think we have made some progress in at least defining the potential dividing lines of these digital flavors. I have long suspected that the bit length was less critical than other aspects of the digital encoding process and this discussion tends to support that indirectly. The slightly smaller bit length did not impede subjective preferences for the encodings. But unless someone has technical knowledge of the circuit differences between the Denon, the F1 and the Soundstream vs the Sony 1600 and the subsequent derivatives and clones, all we can do is try to amass recordings by each system and listen.

    I am in the process of getting more Denon PCM recordings. These at least are easily identifiable as Denon put it right on the cover. As for the other digital encoding systems I would ask people to list any albums known to have been produced by them. Thanks again for all the information and contributions.
     
  14. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Perhaps that has been the problem of these digital designers - that simply adding all kinds of additional capabilities and bells and whistles inevitably improves the sound. We know from amplifier design that the best sonics are often associated with the simplest designs even if they have certain limitations that make it more difficult to use indiscriminately.
     
  15. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Just to clarify upfront the Soundstream was a 16 bit 50kHz system.

    From Wiki comes some interesting info:

    Soundstream’s first commercially released recording (popular music on the Orinda label) in 1978 was a month shy of the world’s first digitally recorded commercial release, Ry Cooder's "Bop till You Drop". For the ensuing three years, 50% of all classical music recorded digitally used Soundstream equipment.

    Unlike its competitors, Soundstream's analog circuitry was transformerless, permitting a frequency response to 0Hz (DC). This accounted for the "bass drum heard round the world"[6][7] review of the 1978 Telarc recording of Frederick Fennell: The Cleveland Symphonic Winds
    .[4][8]

    Some technical info:

    The filtered analog signal passed through a custom sample and hold and was digitized by an Analogic MP8016 16-bit Analog-to-Digital Converter operating at a 50 kHz sample rate. A three-bit sync pattern and an even-parity bit were added to each 16-bit sample to form a 20-bit word that was serialized and transmitted by interface electronics to the tape transport where each audio channel's data were written to two separate tape tracks.
     
  16. Last edited: Aug 12, 2016
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  17. Yes, kHz. Slip of the finger!

    I believe that some of the I nfo in that Wikipedia article is not correct, though. Soundstream recorders were used in 1976 and 1977, and I believe those LP's were released before 1978.
     
  18. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    The 3M Digital Masterin System

    From Mix Online:

    The result was the 3M Digital Audio Mastering System, which consisted of a 32-track deck (16-bit, 50 kHz audio) running 1-inch tape and a 4-track, 1/2-inch mastering recorder. (Click here to download the system's operating manual.)


    Both decks operated at 45 ips, offering a 30-minute record time from a 7,200-foot, 12.5-inch reel or 45-minutes from a 14-inch, 9,600-foot spool. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the 3M system was its conversion scheme. As no true 16-bit converters were available, it combined separate 12-bit and 8-bit converters to create 16-bit performance.

    Priced at $150,000 ($115,000 for the 32-track and $35,000 for the 4-track), the first two-machine systems were installed in early 1979 at Sound 80 and in Los Angeles at A&M Studios, the Record Plant and Warner Bros.' Amigo Studios. Among the notable early pop releases cut on the 3M system included Ry Cooder’s Bop Till You Drop (engineered by Lee Herschberg) and Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, engineered by Roger Nichols.

    An interesting comment about it on Gearslutz:

     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2016
  19. winopener

    winopener Forum Resident

    Another 1979 Soundstream recording, clearly quoted in the "credits" of the album (3:28 to 3:41) with a filtered voice:

     
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  20. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Forum Resident

    I find curious that both the 3M and Soundstream systems used 50 Khz sampling rate, higher than 44.1 Khz used on the Sony Digital systems and later chosen for CD. May this be the reason why Sony digital systems sounded (in my opinion) different, worse than 3M and Soundstream systems. The higher the sampling rate the lower the impact of filtering on the audio band.
     
  21. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    The Denon used 47k sampling. However there has been a longtime 48k pro standard sampling rate. I find it hard to believe that such small differences of sampling rate would produce such a divide of sonic flavor. My unverified guess at this point is that these initial digital encoders were simpler circuits and that later iterations progressively mucked up the digital encoder sonics. As I pointed out above, we see a similar effect in amplifier design. Whether that is the case here would require an EE with knowledge of these respective circuits.
     
  22. sunspot42

    sunspot42 Forum Resident

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    The analog stages of these machines were likely as responsible for their "sound" as their digital attributes. I recall reading somewhere that those 3M decks had some of the best analog components anybody ever put into a tape deck.
     
  23. Here is an oft-repeated quote from Roger Nichols regarding why he thought the 3M system sounded good and what its drawbacks were:

    '81 Digital (Roger Nichols) - Gearslutz Pro Audio Community »

     
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  24. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Forum Resident Thread Starter

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    Yes the gearslutz quote I posted above referenced the Nichols statement. @sunspot also makes a good point about the analog stages. Although it should be pointed out that quite a few audiophile CD players specifically enhance those stages in their design without really removing the later digital flavor.
     
  25. Here's a similar thread discussing Soundstream recordings.

    Telarc--How well have the late 70s early 80s digital Soundstream recordings aged? »

    I have the back off on something I said before--the first Soundstream LP's were released in 1978. The earliest Soundstream recording from 1976 has never been commercially released. The 1977 Soundstream recording of Virgil Fox pipe organ was actually released on CD in 1983 as "The Digital Fox." The LP version released in the 1970's was a direct-to-disc recording that did not utilize the Soundstream tapes that were being recorded contemporaneously.
     

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