First generation master tapes, what are they?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by byrdman, Jan 6, 2010.

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  1. byrdman

    byrdman Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey
    Is it the same as original master tapes? What's the difference between first generation and second generation or third generation masters? To my knowledge, one of the definition of master means "the main source", how could there be more than one main source of something?

    Really confused here. Need the help of the experts.:confused:
     
  2. XMIAudioTech

    XMIAudioTech New Member

    Location:
    Petaluma, CA
    The original (first generation) master is the final 2-track tape made from the mixdown of the multi-track recordings.

    Usually a master tape is duplicated one or more times, for use as a backup or "safety" copy.

    Sometimes these copies are what gets used to make reissue pressings of some albums.

    -Aaron
     
  3. TonyCurrie

    TonyCurrie Member

    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    It was normal for a number of 'first generation' masters to be sent to distributors abroad. For example, in the USA A&M might use the actual master to cut an album, but a first generation copy would be sent to London for A&M to press in the UK and so on.

    Such masters are now often the only source of archive recordings where the actual master has vanished.
     
  4. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    emi sent copy masters to its pressing plants all round the world
    thats where occasional genius finds are made today
    same with the beeb
    transcription unit sent dics and tapes around the world at low cost or free to radio stations in the commonwealth
    another great source
     
  5. TonyCurrie

    TonyCurrie Member

    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Slightly off-topic I know but worthy of a mention. As many here might already know, to avoid 'needletime' problems, the BBC used to press its own LPs and later CDs for internal use. These were first referred to as "Coded Music" and later "Radioplay Music". Hundreds of CDs existed, many with rare material. The masters were supplied by record companies who swore blind that these were 'different' recordings to the commercial releases and hence weren't 'needletime'. As we say in Glasgow, "Aye. Right." A wonderful example of where our Scots language uses two positives to indicate a negative!

    Lovely items in these releases included an excellent Byrds compilation, a Carpenters album and two excellent Elton John sets.

    But eventually an agreement was reached on copyright and needletime and a High Court judge ordered that as part of the agreement all copies of these LPs and CDs had to be destroyed.

    Aye. Right.
     
  6. stavx79

    stavx79 Forum Resident

    Location:
    athens,greece
    A silly question,but here it goes:
    Do first or second generation copies differ REALLY soundwise from the original master tape?
    And if it did,would you need a very expensive audio system to appreciate the difference?

    I know this is quite a subjective question and opinions vary,but,what do you think?
     
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Please, people, DO NOT say "First Generation copy". That is a dreadfully confusing term.

    The master mix is FIRST GEN. The dupe or safety made is SECOND GEN. That is sometimes called a PRODUCTION MASTER and is what was sent around the world for licensees to cut records from.

    I hope I never read the term "First Generation Copy" here again!
     
  8. DoctorDave

    DoctorDave Senior Member

    Location:
    Dublin, Ohio
    In my opinion, any time you make an analog copy of a tape, there is going to be some degradation in the sound quality. Whether it is audible or not depends on the quality and the setup of the copying equipment, and the skill of the person doing the copying, not to mention the quality of the listeners system. However, with each successive generation of copies, the degradation will be more and more noticeable.
     
  9. therockman

    therockman Senior Member In Memoriam




    How about original master copy? :laugh:
     
  10. stavx79

    stavx79 Forum Resident

    Location:
    athens,greece
    Sorry Steve,my bad! I don't even know why I typed that in the first place!I didn't mean it, for sure..

    Any other opinions on the topic?
     
  11. Tuco

    Tuco Senior Member

    Location:
    Pacific NW, USA
    Steve, just to clarify in my mind . . . if ten Production Masters are made to be sent to various licensees, are these all copied from the First Gen, or are they copied from the dupe/Second Gen?

    I guess what I'm actually asking is: is that master mix/First Gen used just once and then put away?

    Thanks.
     
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Who knows, really? Too much generalizing. Specific examples always help.
     
  13. stavx79

    stavx79 Forum Resident

    Location:
    athens,greece
    Sonic Youth's 80s albums.What copies were sent to the UK?

    If you know that,I'll build you a shrine here in Athens!
     
  14. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    Yes a copy sounds different than an original master, but I'm guessing not all would be able to tell much difference or say which they prefer. Sometimes a copy may seem to sound better than the master.

    A lot depends on how the copies were made. I generally made backwards copies by playing the master backwards and recording it directly to another machine using short cables. IMO this does a much better job of preserving transients, much like the advantages of half speed vinyl mastering.

    That said, a standard tape copy may sound a bit softer and often that softness may actually fool people into thinking the copy sounds better. Why is this?

    Well for one thing, analog tape has a sound which many people consider pleasant. There are even plugins for modern digital recording to add that analog tape sound. Secondly, there is a slight degree of tape saturation with most analog recordings which sounds a bit like compression. Though many here will find that a negative thing, it can make things sound a bit smoother and sometimes that can make things sound better to some. Thirdly, when you make copies you are also going through extra stages of electronics and often that includes transformers which can have an affect on the sound.

    It is important to know that there are a lot of ways to make tape copies. I mentioned that I would generally unplug the tape recorders from the studio wiring and use short cables. Most copies were not made this way. Quite often, the signal from the first recorder runs through the studio wiring including the patch bay. Even with low impedance balanced cabling, a shorter path usually is best. Heck, sometimes copies are actually run through the console.

    Another important factor is tape allignment. If the electronics or heads of either machine involved in the copy are not alligned properly there can be degradation. Just having the azimuth of the playback head off a tad can make a big difference in the sonics, particularly with high frequency extension and phase integrity.

    I think the basic philosophy used to be that a professional studio copy was so good that it was essentially transparent to the end user. Perhaps this was true for most people, but in this day and age many listeners are more sophisticated and pay more attention to minute detail. This is obviously more likely to be true for people who are members of this forum.

    Does one need an expensive system to hear these differences? I'd say not necessarily. I can hear the differences here on my small little M-Audio computer speakers. More important than an expensive system is knowing how and what to listen for.
     
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    What he said.
     
  16. JLGB

    JLGB Forum Resident

    Location:
    D.R.
    With a fixed mix (no live fader moving etc) it is possible to have multiple masters. Has that happened?
     
  17. stavx79

    stavx79 Forum Resident

    Location:
    athens,greece
    Thank you!My opinion,is that a lot(or most of) of the time it's psychological of course,too!
    Having spent $$ on an original LP that you are certain it's for the master tapes,you convince your ears and consequently your brain that it's much better than the reissue,or the original but not from the country of origin.A lot of times,the difference is so so subtle,that it's not noticeable.
    But we have to justify,the fortune that we spent.
    Of course,that is not a rule and many times the difference is so big,that it is actual and not fantasy.
     
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Why does it matter if the faders move or not? Multiple orgasms (oops) multiple masters were par for the course in the old days. The "A" set and the "B" set. A was used for record cutting, B stored or sent to client. Capitol did this, Columbia too, automatically.

    Fleetwood Mac RUMOURS is the only modern analog mix I know of that was done with two machines running, both versions first generation, cut (almost) exactly the same on the reels. It's interesting to hear how they didn't get both versions exactly the same. Your RUMOURS LP might be cut from either of the masters, both slightly different.

    It's like they had a premonition that it would be the most popular album of all time or something and that one set might wear out but they couldn't get them edited exactly the same..

    Oh, wait, Linda Ronstadt's punk album (with "How Do I Make You" on it) was mixed both to analog and digital tapes at the same time. Probably more around that era that I don't know of.
     
  19. Doug Sclar

    Doug Sclar Forum Legend

    Location:
    The OC
    One big problem with this method was that sometimes there was editing done to the mix master. Getting a final mix usually took many attempts, and often times the final mix was a comp of various mixes.
     
  20. therockman

    therockman Senior Member In Memoriam

    Wow, Sunday morning school. Thanks you guys.
     
  21. Skyflash

    Skyflash Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mexico, NY
    it's threads like this one that make this forum one of the best pro audio places to be on the web.

    It never occurred to me that duplicating a tape backwards could help preserve the quality.

    Awesome stuff guys!
     
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    You can also hear the voice of SATAN that way so it's a double benefit.
     
  23. Skyflash

    Skyflash Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mexico, NY
    :D
     
  24. chewy

    chewy Forum Resident

    Location:
    West Coast USA
    thats really interesting


     
  25. JLGB

    JLGB Forum Resident

    Location:
    D.R.
    I did not question movement or non movement of faders. Just speculating that there could be multiple masters done with a fixed mix. Just rewind and do it again with another fresh tape. And walah!...
     
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