I've decided not to run my masterings through an HDCD converter..

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Apr 3, 2011.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    It degrades the sound and it bugs me. I've tried everything, every way and it just diminishes the fidelity. I am speaking of my recent experiences at Stephen Marsh Mastering. As for other studios that use the process I cannot speak for them, they have their own ways and their own tricks for getting the most out of it.

    I am reproducing here some correspondence with Monsieur S. Marsh just this morning regarding the new Bad Co. "Straight Shooter" project we worked on yesterday at the studio. We have the Pacific Microsonics HDCD box in the room and have tried it every which way, with no luck. Our mastering style is so pure and clean now (but with an amazing British made vacuum tube layer courtesy of audio master Tim de Paravicini) that I don't want to tamper with success.

    I left Stephen last night to further experiment with HDCD. Today Stephen writes me:


    ".....In the interest of giving the HDCD system the fairest of all shakes, I again today ran our completed Bad Co. master through it D to D in 2 additional configurations. First I took our fully prepped, edited 24 bit/44.1 out of converter aes through the HDCD box, outputting 16/44.1 HDCD. Second - I took our 24/88.2 captures and ran those through the box to 16/44.1 HDCD. In both instances we found the HDCD box to be at least as detrimental to the sound as we heard while A to D'ing with it Friday - if not more! In particular - I listened to the HDCD encoded material in un-decoded fashion so I could get a sense of what most consumers are going to hear. Even through the best converters in the room the results were very unsettling: Namely - there was a dip at around 8K that took all the snap and sparkle out of the snare and deflated the air out of the tracks. Engaging the decoding circuits and monitoring through the HDCD D to A's lent an overall 'generic' feel to the sound - it sounded fine, don't get me wrong - but it didn't sound special and was certainly not an improvement.

    I would strongly recommend that we keep going with our present tried and true pure signal processing and A to D configuration as I am now certain it provides the absolute highest fidelity available in a 16 bit CD format. When I play the Phil Collins, James Taylor and Byrds albums we have mastered I can't imagine degrading the sound just to get the HDCD. While I completely understand Audio Fidelity's desire for consistency in this regard across all their CD releases, moving forward with HDCD on future releases that you and I master together would run counter to the ethos of the Audio Fidelity brand and our personal mastering styles."



    Stephen Marsh Mastering
    Hollywood, CA 90028
    310 598 6038 tel 5685 fax
  2. GetHappy!!

    GetHappy!! Forum Resident

    I haven't heard any advantage from the discs I have with HDCD. For example, whenever I play The Beach Boys remasters with HDCD playback, it just sounds louder, not fuller or richer.
  3. Channel Z

    Channel Z Forum Resident

    Good. Not many cd players on the market now decode HDCD. It will end the debate to play AF discs decoded or not. I don't think many people will miss it. I won't.
  4. I won't be missing it. Most of my best sounding CDs aren't HDCD encoded and very few people can play it back as HDCD anyway.
  5. salleno

    salleno Active Member

    So. Cal.
    YES! I was wondering when you would come to this conclusion!!
  6. rburly

    rburly This space for rent

    Very interesting Steve. And thanks for sharing the "inside" decision-making that goes into your work. I'll let others get more technical with you, and I'm stating the obvious, but the differences in HDCD and 'regular' CDs sounds like it complicates the situation more than I really knew. And, I agree with GetHappy!! as well, as I recall.
  7. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Member Of The Midnight Society

    Greater St. Louis
    It improves the VH remasters. It takes some of the high end off. That is really the only big example.
  8. 16/44.1

    16/44.1 Well-Known Member

    Well, why did you used HDCD many times before?
    So is it correct to say that all previous releases are a waste of time, technology and money?
    Use_Your_Koala likes this.
  9. Channel Z

    Channel Z Forum Resident

    I think Steve had to use HDCD because Audio Fidelity wanted him to. I'm glad AF won't use it anymore. I don't think anyone bought AF discs because it was HDCD encoded. Its a format thats dead and confusing, frustrating and debatable if its any good. Its a step forward for Audio Fidelity.
  10. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect Forum Resident

    Nottingham, UK
    Thank you, I am sure this is the right decision.

  11. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    No. We are only discussing effects of one part of a (great sounding) chain, not something which decides the value of his whole mastering project.

    The perfect playback and mastering chain has never existed, it's an ever-changing world of tastes, marketing, gear and standards. This sounds like a carefully considered choice meant to eek the very last bit (so to speak!) of quality from their particular mastering process as things currently stand. You never hear anything about the processes that go into most masterings...
  12. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Member Of The Midnight Society

    Greater St. Louis
    I wonder how much better some CDs would have sounded, or not?
  13. Interesting thoughts from Stephen, thanks for sharing.
  14. Emberglow

    Emberglow Forum Resident

    Waterford, Ireland
    Thanks for telling us that, Steve. Above all else, it's all about getting the best possible sound. HDCD has been one of the most wildly misunderstood technological tools in recent years. Audio Fidelity HDCDs have been the best of the bunch but there have been major disastrous misuses of it by others. May they follow where you lead.
  15. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer Forum Resident

    I'll concede I have no idea what HDCD was supposed to do in the first place.
  16. blue

    blue Well-Known Member

    sweet spot
  17. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Yeah I know what you mean. But then if we're not careful we could think the same for every piece of electronics in every mastering, start waking nights in a cold sweat and end up looking like the gelatinous thing behind an invasion in a bad Scifi B-flick. :D
  18. Dan Steely

    Dan Steely Forum Resident

    Good call, Steve:righton:
  19. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    That is interesting, that the box sounded good 10-15 years ago but doesn't sound good now. Maybe something in the box has degraded, or perhaps this is a different box than what was used before.

    I know of cases where engineers used the HDCD box simply because they felt the A/D converters were really good, but they didn't use the HDCD-encoding part of the circuit.

    Maybe it's simply a case where Stephen Marsh feels other A/D's do a better job in 2011, and that's something I don't doubt.

    I agree with that. The whole concept behind HDCD sounded really dodgy to me; SACD or Blu-ray audio could at least give you real 24-bit audio without any hocus-pocus.

    Which specific HDCD releases fall into that category? To me, it'd be hard to tell unless you had the ability to listen to the original tape and then compare it to the HDCD itself.
  20. 16/44.1

    16/44.1 Well-Known Member

    Strange though that Steve was the one to decide not to use HDCD anymore.
    Was AF not the one to decide in this case?
  21. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Member Of The Midnight Society

    Greater St. Louis
    I do that now trying to find the best mastering. :D
  22. dwmann

    dwmann Well-Known Member

    Houston TX
    I am glad to hear this. I use a McIntosh MVP-871 (which decodes HDCD) into an MDA 1000, but I am STILL happy about this. No garantee future players will decode HDCD. The less processing and the closer we can get to the DCC sound the happier I'll be. (I have 2 Platinumn subscriptions.)
  23. quicksrt

    quicksrt Forum Resident

    City of Angels
    Steve said to me, when we were both standing over the console at Acoustech several years ago he was not a fan of the HDCD box (sitting there in the center of the board). Even back then there was that lingering question.

    So it's no surprise that now it has had it's day.

    Anyway, I am of the school of "shortest signal path" & "least amount of processing" during A to D as possible.

    "Straight Shooter" has some burning guitars and some pretty cracking snare drum sounds. I too look forward to hearing this one.
  24. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Detroit, Michigan
    Very interesting thread, but we need some pictures in it....I want to see the "box", the room, even Monsieur S. Marsh himself.
  25. Espen R

    Espen R Forum Resident

    I welcome this move.
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