Mastering accurate to master tape or how you think it should sound?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tom Baruffi, Mar 17, 2019.

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  1. Tom Baruffi

    Tom Baruffi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago
    Sorry if this question has been asked before, but I was not successful searching the topic. I'm curious... I have heard several remastered works. Some are just fabulous, and others are just... blah. I can think of things I would do to improve them, without naming names...

    I am under the assumption that Steve's charter is to attempt to replicate the master tapes as closely as possible. I have several fruits of his labour and can agree, they are splendid.

    But what does a mastering engineer do if he/she feels that the original mastering was weak? Does he/she remaster the work the way he/she feels it should have been done in the 1st place (mastering secret sauce), or just try to replicate the original, assuming that is the way the artist wanted it?

    Even though in the past it is widely assumed the artist had no input into the "technical details"?

    Just curious...
     
  2. Grant

    Grant Back to the 60s!

    Location:
    United States
    Steve Hoffman seeks to bring out "the breath of life", meaning he tries to make the recording sound lifelike, what's good to him, and he hopes we will agree with his taste.
     
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  3. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
  4. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    That's just transferring the tapes. Playing a tape back and digitizing the output. Which may or may not be what is desired for a particular recording.
     
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  5. rockclassics

    rockclassics Forum Resident

    Location:
    Arkansas, USA
    Steve has said that many (most?) masters need some EQ, etc. to sound good and very few sound great as a flat transfer. If his charter was to "replicate the master tapes" he would not be needed - a flat transfer would do it.
     
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  6. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    There's another issue here too in that master tapes deteriorate with time. So unless it's a digital file, the master tape is no longer the (as fresh) master tape after some years.
     
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  7. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    In most cases they don’t deteriorate that much.
     
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  8. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    Assuming great storage the losses are modest but audible. But this goes to the point of a flat transfer of a changing baseline.
     
  9. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    What are you basing that on?
     
  10. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    Listening to some classical music master tapes. But also to many reissues. But perhaps my limited experience is highly atypical. I assume part of the remastering tweaks try to put a bit of sparkle back to high frequencies?? In comparing originals to good reissues the reissues sound a bit less airy. The reissues to be stellar (ie more than a nice alternative at lower cost to the original) have to correct some problem with the original , eg Steve H's remaster of the stereo Surrealistic Pillow.

    So I am on the side against the flat transfer unless the master tape is fine. Of course bad remasterings use a trowel rather than a paint brush.
     
  11. BZync

    BZync Senior Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Based solely upon my response to the finished product, a Mastering Engineer brings their ears and their taste to each project. There are a few engineers whose ears and judgement align with what I want a recording to sound like, and many who do not. Honestly, I don't care what the master tape sounds like - only what I can purchase.
     
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  12. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    That can be due to any number of things, from the tastes of the engineers, to the monitors used, to the tape machines and cutting lathes. Sometimes "airy" is actually due to phase problems that are less likely to occur today.
     
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  13. Grant

    Grant Back to the 60s!

    Location:
    United States
    Digital tapes can degrade, too. In most cases they will either play or they won't. Hopefully, someone made an analog safety at some point.

    It can even come down to the point of how the tape machine is aligned. Some engineers don't stop at the test tones, they listen to the playback as they tweak, Forum member @Doug Sclar once said that's what he used to do.
     
  14. Tom Baruffi

    Tom Baruffi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Chicago
    Outstanding response. Thank you all for your feedback!
     
  15. Timbo21

    Timbo21 Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    There was a generation of Ampex that deteriorated, which resulted in the oxide depositing like mud across the heads. This was due to Ampex changing the adhesive used attaching the oxide to the tape. If they were baked this solved the problem for a short time allowing it to be archived. I think it may have been their 406 tape.

    I handled much older ones of different brands which were fine, some Sinatra stuff from the 50's/60's and it sounded great, clear and not dull at all. The only trouble was they never had any test tones, so you never really knew if it was correctly set up. At the start of a project you should align the playback with the standard NAB/AES/CCIR test tones playback reference tape and then align the record side off the play head. We had no way of being sure what standard they had been lined up to.

    As many have stated it is quite rare for a mix to sound right with no mastering. Often there is some bass boom, or mismatch elsewhere, and apart from breathing life into it you want continuity between tracks and for it to translate to the end users listening environment. You would be surprised to hear how all over-the-place the bass/mids/treble are between tracks listening pre-mastered.
     
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  16. lukpac

    lukpac Senior Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    It's called sticky-shed syndrome, and it also affected some 3M tapes. I *think* it only affects tapes with back-coating.

    Generally, the longer tapes are baked, the longer they can be used before requiring baking again.
     
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