SH Spotlight Adventures in Mastering: First album by AMERICA on SACD for Audio Fidelity:

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Love the album, enjoyed working on it today with Stephen Marsh at his new studio in the Hollywood Hills.

    It's interesting how they jumped from song style to song style, (I NEED YOU sounding a bit like George Harrison's SOMETHING, many of the songs sounding very CS&N-ish with some weird Jethro Tull time signatures and a bit of The Who PINBALL WIZARD in there at times, HORSE THAT WENT LAME sounds like our boy Neil or did to me back then) but when it all came together for them, watch out. They borrowed from what they loved but when they hit upon something uniquely there own (SANDMAN), it was the turn of others to absorb that song and so it goes, rock & roll!

    The tapes were in great shape, EMI tape, no shedding, no baking needed, heads remained clean, Dolby System tweaked perfectly (after a few hours of trial and error by Stephen Marsh to get the Dolby playback just right). I CANNOT STRESS HOW IMPORTANT THE DOLBY A ALIGMENT IS ON THESE OLD TAPES. No two Dolby playback units sound the same, damn it. Doing it RIGHT is essential. It can make the difference between a really dynamic playback, and a compressed, weird sounding mess. Aligning Dolby takes patience and fortitude, I hate the system and everything it does to the music but if a mix was done with it, it's important that the mix is played back EXACTLY as it was back in the day or EVERYTHING else will be off, dynamics compromised, EQ wrong, etc. Stephen Marsh is the master at that. I would tear my hair out after the first hour of this..

    The sound on the album masters was very full and right with the "Trident Bite" just like engineer Ken Scott wanted it to be. We didn't change anything about the tonality of the mixes, we did NOT fix the rather steely sounding guitars since it's obvious that they wanted them to sound that way, we didn't shave the bass to make it uninvolving and cold like the old WB CD we compared our version to. The old LP cuttings were naturally a bit compromised due to the length of the album (over 46 minutes) and Stephen Marsh remarked at how neat it was to hear the "inner groove" songs on the album (that's he was used to since a kid) finally sound full, dynamic and just as strong as the other songs on the album.

    Once again we did a split feed, to the DSD master and to the CD master with no steps in-between for the purest sound reproduction possible. The DSD version goes off to Gus Skinas at Super Audio Center and we don't really get to hear it again until it comes back from overseas. The CD version we can hear and when I get the check disk tomorrow I'll probably make a few little adjustments regarding level from song to song and yes, Marsh will have to thread the tape back up and make the substitutions but that's show biz.

    All in all, an enjoyable experience!
    America_album.jpg AMERICA IMG_20130806_141416_620.jpg
    JDeanB, George P, CrazyCatz and 19 others like this.
  2. erniebert

    erniebert Shoe-string audiophile

    Toronto area
    Not again. ;)

    AMERICA IMG_20130806_141416_620.jpg
    Long Live Analog and vonwegen like this.
  3. If it sounds like Gorilla, I'll be beside myself, which ain't easy for a fat boy. :laugh:
  4. I'm looking forward to adding this one to my collection!
    siebrand likes this.
  5. Mr. Bob Dobalena

    Mr. Bob Dobalena Forum Resident

    Portland, Maine
    Thanks for the peek behind the curtain. It's a great record that deserves your TLC!
  6. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Amazing! What an EXCELLENT choice for SACD!!!!!!!!
    siebrand, DRM, ultron9 and 2 others like this.
  7. chumlie

    chumlie Forum Resident

    I'll second that. Looking forward to hearing it.
    MLutthans likes this.
  8. jdmack

    jdmack Forum Resident

    Silver Spring, MD
    There is a sticker on the box which reads" this tape has been digitally archived." Do you know when that was done, and did you listen to the digital archive version to hear how is compared to the analog tape? I have no trouble presuming that the original analog tape sounded better than whatever was done to digitally archive it, but I'm just curious.
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Did I listen to it? No. Done in the late 1980s or early 90s.
  10. RickA

    RickA Love you forever Luke, we will be together again

    Tampa, FL
    Can't wait for this. Glad you were happy with the tapes you had to work with and with Stephen Marsh assistance must made a very satisfying experience.

    Rick A.
  11. ascot

    ascot Senior Member

    Steve, can you describe the process of aligning Dolby A? How does Stephen know when it's correct?
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Well, he uses 25 years of experience working with the crap to start. He uses the tones on the tape, not only the Dolby A warble tone but the 1k as well and then aligns. But, that means nothing. Listening is crucial. Adjusting a bit here and there, using vintage units, getting the most out of a flawed system, that's the ticket. Also comparing to old LP cuttings that have alignments by other engineers on old Dolby units. Hearing the "attack", "decay", etc. Just a pain in the **** all the way around. Every time I see the "DOLBY SYSTEM" stickers on a tape my face falls. Heck, the stickers themselves usually fall off the damn boxes and reels but even seeing the imprint of where the stickers USED to be is a bummer. Terrible system.
    hi_watt, DRM, CrazyCatz and 11 others like this.
  13. Seminole

    Seminole Forum Resident

    Tallahassee, Fl
    Thanks for the background information, Steve, on this remastering session. Very enlightening for someone who only listens to the music
    ascot likes this.
  14. stevemoss

    stevemoss Forum Resident

    After all the stories you've told about tracking down "DO NOT USE" tapes, Steve, I find it interesting to see this one marked "USE FOR ALL WORK!!" How often does that happen?
    vonwegen and erniebert like this.
  15. apple-richard

    apple-richard Overnight Sensation

    This a big one for me. I bought the singles Horse and I Need You as a 12 year old.
    Ed Hughes and nbakid2000 like this.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Not often but most British reels sent to WB are marked that way.
  17. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    San Jose, CA
    Yes - very interesting.
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Sometimes a company made a distinction between a tape to be used for tape (cassette duplication) work and one to be used for record cutting.

    In this case, they just used the same tape for everything. The bitchin' sounding giant analog compression level that Ken Scott has on the songs he mixed made it possible to just cut as is.
    CrazyCatz and vonwegen like this.
  19. head_unit

    head_unit Senior Member

    Los Angeles CA USA
    Oh amen amen! That was also the bane of cassette, whether Dolby B or C.

    Makes me wonder how many of the crappy CDs out there are crappy due to improper alignment...
    ultron9 likes this.
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I don't know, a lot, probably. You can't align the thing just by the tones, you have to tweak it by ear or all is lost.
    Grant likes this.
  21. head_unit

    head_unit Senior Member

    Los Angeles CA USA
    As for the album, salivating to think about hearing this. After becoming a MOG subscriber I thought "I'm done buying discs, why would I need to do that"...and promptly shelled out $46 for the Emerson Lake and Palmer deluxe editions the other day!
  22. head_unit

    head_unit Senior Member

    Los Angeles CA USA
    Once upon a time, was setting up a Luxman K-111 or whatever the heck that super high end cassette deck was. But it only put tones one one channel not both, or some crazy thing. Didn't work. Didn't sound right. So in the end I...
    ...adjusted it by ear!

    I would've thought that fat wide tape at high speed would obviate the need for Dolby, but I guess marketing from Dolby plus the cost of tape conspired against that. Still, I always go back to thinking about early stuff like Beatles or Bill Haley etc. Great sound without all that technology, probably because the only way to get good results was by applying a lot of skill.
  23. erniebert

    erniebert Shoe-string audiophile

    Toronto area
    I remember making tapes and not bothering with the Dolby, just leaving it off. It gives a purer image and I don't mind some tape hiss.
    George P and vonwegen like this.
  24. erniebert

    erniebert Shoe-string audiophile

    Toronto area
    Steve, how did they physically get the tape to you guys from England? Courier?
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Hot air balloon.

    The tapes are in Burbank, dude.
    hi_watt, CrazyCatz, vonwegen and 4 others like this.

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