Flat Transfers Question

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by dkmonroe, May 22, 2010.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot Thread Starter

    Location:
    Atlanta
    Why do some "flat transfers" apparently vary in quality? It would seem that if you have a good-sounding 2-channel master tape, that was used to produce great sounding LP's back in the day, a flat transfer of that tape to digital would make a great sounding CD. And yet it seems that some flat transfer CD's are well-regarded, and others are not.

    What is it about some 2-channel mixdown master tapes that make them an insufficient source for good CDs' without additional EQing?
     
  2. steeler1979

    steeler1979 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nashville,Tn. USA
    I've asked this question myself many times. For better or for worse, most times, I will take the flat transfer instead of a futzed with version. Recently I picked up a Marvin Gaye Tamla cd that said it was a direct transfer. It left a lot to be desired to these ears. Another Motown cd I have of Lionel Richie's s/t cd I really love how it sounds! I guess it just depends on the initial engineering, etc. and that's why people like Barry and Steve have a job. I'm looking forward to the professional responses on here! Great thread! :thumbsup:
     
  3. The tape may have been in poor condition. Maybe they used less than perfect equipment to do the transfer. Maybe the mastertape just has issues that were never fixed during mixing. There's a lot of possible reasons why a flat transfer CD might not sound that good.

    If a flat transfer was really the easiest way to get a great sounding CD, there wouldn't be any mastering engineers. Everybody can roll the tapes and split a resulting wav-file into seperate tracks.
     
  4. I Am The Lolrus

    I Am The Lolrus New Member

    Location:
    LA, CA, US
    Because some sound good as-is (flat) and some sound bad as-is (flat).

    Flat doesn't mean it sounds great, it just means that little is done after the mix. If the mix is messed up, then the flat copy of it will also be messed up.
     
  5. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Member Of The Midnight Society

    Location:
    Greater St. Louis
    And I will probably take the remastered version instead of the flat transfer, if it is not real bad. A lot of 80s CDs don't sound good to me.
     
  6. Mister Charlie

    Mister Charlie "Music Is The Doctor Of My Soul " - Doobie Bros.

    Location:
    Aromas, CA
    Because the flat transfer tapes were still made for different mediums. ESPECIALLY Motown.
     
  7. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid)

    Location:
    SF
    A lot of 80s CDs weren't "flat transfers."

    Not to say that the practice wasn't more common then, but I think it was also less common to include info about the mastering.
     
  8. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident

    Because flat transfer doesnt mean anything. If the sound that was recorded onto tape is of poor quality many times eqing it will help a lot. Flat transfer DOESNT mean flat frequency responce, but simply nothing was done to modify the sound EQ, whether it was good or bad.
     
  9. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    In an ideal world all transfers would be flat transfers. The problem is that there are no standards for monitoring in studios.

    If a mix was done on bright monitors the master will probably be dull. If it was done on dull speakers it will probably be too bright. The mastering engineer has the last say in trying to make the final product sound as pleasing as possible to most.

    Another factor that can affect mix tonality is how loud the monitors were during mixing. The bottom line is there are a lot of factors which can affect the mix and make it non ideal.

    Another factor may be the mindset of the engineer. Do we mix records for the audiophiles or for the masses. The correct answer is usually for the masses as they are the ones who buy the most product.

    Once again the mastering phase is the last place to 'correct' the mix so it translates best for the masses. Usually the differences are very slight. Most projects I was involved with mastering generally involved less than a db or two of correction at various frequencies. That said, just a little bit of eq can make a huge difference.

    Here is something else to consider. Changing the monitoring speakers can totally change the mix. With one set the guitars are in balance with the vocals and with another the guitars are too loud? Which is right? Once again, it's up to the mastering team to make that determination.
     
  10. Beattles

    Beattles Forum Resident

    Location:
    Florence, SC
    If all flat transfers sounded the same and were good, Steve would be out of a job. Since they don't, thankfully we have Steve, Keven, Barry, Vic, Bob, and a few others.
     
  11. WestGrooving

    WestGrooving Forum Resident

    Location:
    California, U.S.A
    Still.. sounding good might not mean they are the best available (clarity, focus, etc.) and I'm guessing the job involves research and homework to determine if what he's listening to is the best possible available to work with.

    Is it possible the best one has a slightly bloated bass, but, he can hear past that as the real deal... versus a great natural sounding EQ'd copy that's off a generation or two?

    Seems like the mastering engineer gig done right could be a big pain in the a*.
     
  12. Occasionally the engineer working on it could be listening on speakers that don't accurately portray the sound of the mixes or they just do a lousy job (or the producer does).

    The mastering engineer can fix these problems. I'm not always a fan of a flat transfer--it depends on whether or not the master needed some help.
     
  13. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I totally agree with that. So few people ever get to hear the actual master tape, they have no idea how much work the mastering engineer has to do. Sometimes it might literally be a dB here and a dB there; other times it might be hours and hours of meticulous work, all kinds of EQ, level changes, added compression, and tons of trial and error to get it all to work. I would much, much rather know that a guy like Steve or Barry had done the mastering, rather than being told "oh, this is a flat transfer, so don't worry about it." Uh-uh. Give me a good mastering engineer every time.

    I think it's even tougher with compilation CDs, where you might have 25 tracks that all come from different sources, different labels, different studios, all done over a 10- or 20-year period. The only way to get them to sound consistent and musical is to adjust each one so that each song flows from one to the other in terms of level, EQ and so on, and that takes considerable skill, good equipment, and a great room. A flat transfer is the last thing you'd want from sources like this.

    It might be different if it was a single complete album all done in one place, and the mastering engineer had access to the original final stereo mixdown master. That would most likely require minimal effort in mastering, but I hesitate at coming up with any rules of thumb, because every project is different.
     
  14. street legal

    street legal Forum Resident

    Location:
    west milford, nj
    Bingo.

    All the talk of "flat transfers" on this forum makes me laugh or cringe, depending on my mood.
    As if any consumer would even know a flat transfer if he/she heard it, yet so many around here talk about certain CD's sounding great because they are flat transfers .......... please.

    Kevintomb hit the nail on the head, it means absolutely nothing.
     
  15. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot Thread Starter

    Location:
    Atlanta
    So I guess the best answer is, "duh", then?

    Frankly, I was looking for a little more. I'm not of the opinion that flat transfer always equals best, and I can imagine the most obvious scenarios that were offered here. However, my interest is aroused when considering an album like George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, which I have often heard referred to as a great recording and as a great sounding LP, and yet the original AAD CD has a reputation only slightly better than the oft-panned remaster. It would seem to me that if ATMP was so well-recorded, a flat transfer of the master tape would at least be very good, even if not the best possible rendering of the album.

    As for flat transfers putting mastering engineers out of a job, Steve has many time described using the flat transfer technique for various DCC and and AF releases. I would think it would take a good engineer to recognize when a flat transfer is appropriate.
     
  16. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    Well I must disagree.

    There is an advantage to using a flat transfer if you can do it. It allows you to bypass the mastering console.
     
  17. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Member Of The Midnight Society

    Location:
    Greater St. Louis
    How about one that has not been messed with in modern times. I think some things need messed with like Sabbath - HH DE.
     
  18. street legal

    street legal Forum Resident

    Location:
    west milford, nj
    That's true. Good point.
     
  19. steeler1979

    steeler1979 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nashville,Tn. USA
    Fair enough. That's why they make red shoes and brown shoes as they say :)
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page