SH Spotlight NEW! Your questions answered: How to properly master an audiophile vinyl record..

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Piero, Feb 1, 2023.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    OK, I'm back.

    The main thing is to figure out WHY a dupe tape would be marked MASTER and the original tape marked "DO NOT USE." That is key. Clues are listening, reading the old notes, talking with the people involved in the recording and mastering the original..

    Fast example, Bell Sound, NYC used to recopy EVERY tape that came in that wasn't recorded at Bell originally. For the billing. So what they marked MASTER was actually a dupe. Drove me (and Bill Inglot, etc.) batty. The originals were maked simply "ORIGINAL." and in all cases sounded better than the master (obviously).

    Sadly, ABC Records razorbladed many of these originals back in the early 1970's to make vault space, because they weren't marked with the magic word "MASTER". Good for us that they didn't touch the Ray Charles stuff (Ray had a buy back contract) so the originals of all his ABC-Paramount stuff were used in my work.

    Other companies kept most everything. Still, an album like PETER, PAUL & MARY's first album has a three track for the songs, a mono original, stereo original, Radio Recorders "master" (a remix) and a bunch of safety dubs. It was a pain but our Audio Fidelity SACD was a mixture of a few remixes I did (for noise level lowering) and the original NYC stereo mix.

    Other albums took a long time to find originals of. Not what a mastering engineer is supposed to do, they use the music that is given to them and don't complain.
    sjaca, hi_watt, SMRobinson and 16 others like this.
  2. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Thank you, Steve.
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Half-Speed Mastering discussed earlier in this thread.

    Flat transfers are rare. Still have to be adjusted for volume, etc. for each song and phase, dynamic peaks. A true flat transfer is a thing of beauty but not many of those exist..
    Soundslave, hi_watt, Jim B. and 3 others like this.
  4. StingRay5

    StingRay5 Important Impresario

    Flat transfers aren't always the way to go, though, right? I think you've mentioned in the past that for Carole King's Tapestry, some mids reduction is needed because the original monitors used for mixing were weak in the mids and they (perhaps without realizing it) boosted the mids to compensate.

    The Jethro Tull "bookset" anniversary editions that have come out over the last decade or so usually include what is claimed to be a flat transfer of the original mix along with the Steven Wilson remix. In some cases the flat transfer sounds good, but occasionally not. Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die!, for example, sounds quite muted in the flat transfer. I find it sounds better with a bit of a treble boost.
    ARK likes this.
  5. Tullman

    Tullman Senior Member

    Boston MA
    All of you original pressing guys take note. @Slick Willie There is a reason you like the old records.
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    As I stated, hardly ever the way to go.
    Jim B. and ARK like this.
  7. sharkshark

    sharkshark ThatShelf

    Toronto ON
    Again, I don't want to derail this, honest, but IS it obvious that an analogue copy sounds worse? Or was it that these copies weren't done with care?

    Because that then comes down to, again, the question of whether a DSD from the =actual master= for as close to 1:1 sonic preservation is superior to using a dupe for archiving the master.

    Again, I've never had access to actual master tapes, so I have no idea... but, in theory at least, if any tape-to-tape copy results in some deterioration, and, again ideally, a DSD copy (that's NOT being futzed with after archiving, simply transferring what's on the tape) should sound =more= identical to the master tape than the tape copy.

    Again, in theory....
    Piero likes this.
  8. sharkshark

    sharkshark ThatShelf

    Toronto ON
    IIRC, many of the SHM-SACDs out of Japan were flat transfers, only meant to be heard in the mixing room by likes of our host. My friend dubbed it "raw vegan" audio, and the fetish for the ingredients before cooking (ie., the inevitable mastering stage before releasing on physical media) was being subverted in the name of "authenticity".

    As if we'd ever watch a negative projected, or even an untimed interpositive, without any colour timing.
    Cracklebarrel likes this.
  9. ChickenringNYC

    ChickenringNYC Forum Resident

    And not too long ago, a buddy of mine with a really nice stereo system was telling me he's not so into DCC pressings because they don't have a lot of low end. I was like, what are you, nuts?

    I think they sound great. And last night I did as Steve suggested and ran some A/B comparing on Court and Spark; the first track on DCC sounds incredible.
  10. DigitalSupremacy

    DigitalSupremacy Compact Disc warrior

    You've got balls I'll give you that, but I don't trust anyone's ears who can listen to DCC - L.A Woman or DCC - Hotel California and say "That doesn't sound good" There's some things in life that are non negotiable and those two mastering's by Steve are simply non-negotiable.

    Don't get me wrong I love flat transfers as well, it's feels nice being 2 generations away from the source material and often the flat transfer is the BEST version, but sometimes a very good mastering engineer can make it sound even better than the source.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2023
  11. Christoph1967

    Christoph1967 Forum Resident

    Dortmund, Germany
    For me (!) it was system dependant. When I had my old system I thought the same as you. With my actual one (funnily tube-based) they started to shine and I understood what Steve did and how good the old DCC‘s are. After my experience (I don’t know why) more dynamics sound dull on lower hifi.
  12. Piero

    Piero Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Not only in theory but also in reality.
    It is clear that a vinyl made from the DSD copy taken directly from the original master will be better than the vinyl made from a third fourth generation analog copy IMHO
  13. youraveragevinylcollector

    youraveragevinylcollector Forum Resident

    Hartwell, GA
    I’m not sure if it totally relates to the thread… But, how did you start in the mastering/audio engineering field? Did you make a few good cuts/mixes to tape or vinyl and someone higher up got impressed?

    Also, were there ever any master tapes that were hard to master for vinyl, whether it be damaged source material, severely weird mastering, and so on?

    P.S. My personal favorite of yours is A Night at the Opera. Best sounding Queen remaster I’ve ever heard. Blows away the OG US vinyl IMO.
    Tullman likes this.
  14. NorthNY Mark

    NorthNY Mark Forum Resident

    Canton, NY, USA

    Have you (or the friend you mentioned) heard many of those flat transfer SHM-SACDs? I have quite a few (most of the Roxy Music and Van der Graaf Generator titles, UK, Steely Dan's Gaucho, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Ommadawn, Gentle Giant's Octopus), and they sound wonderful--and very natural in terms of tonality. In several cases I compared them to other masterings on CD or vinyl, and they at least held up very well, and were often the best to my ears and on my equipment.

    I don't assume this means that flat transfers from the master are always the best way for an album to sound, but my experience with those SHM-SACDs suggests that it can often be a very good way to go. It certainly is preferable to what most modern (non-audiophile) mastering engineers tend to do.
    brimuchmuze likes this.
  15. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.

    Odd that you would take Steve's blanket statement and think it applies to me. While I'm not opposed to a pinch of compression, a dynamic presentation is what floats my boat..along with a sense of energy, and little or no bass bloat to cover up the other instruments.
    And I've never penalized a record for being cut low in volume... I try to volume match when comparing.

    I should prob mention that I don't do jazz.
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Bell Sound made s****y copies, on low grade tape (to save money) and through noisy electronics. The copies always sounded worse. A good copy, made with care can sound wonderful. Not so for anything from Bell Sound in the 1950's-60's..
  17. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    All master tapes are hard to master for vinyl! Having an expert like Kevin Gray involved made it possible to use masters of James Taylor, etc. without reducing dynamics or cutting too hot..
    Bolero, dee, NorthNY Mark and 5 others like this.
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    If your stylus at home can't track the record we cut without distortion, we've failed as mastering engineers.
  19. Limopard

    Limopard National Dex #143

    Leipzig, Germany
    Even with cheap spherical styli? (given they are adjusted properly and not worn)
  20. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    If a Shure V15 could track the lacquer, we did our job. That was our benchmark, not too cheap, not too expensive.
    nosliw, NorthNY Mark, dee and 3 others like this.
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    We used to cut ref lacquers with a test cut way into the inner groove just to test if the thing could track and at what volume. It's amazing what a nicely cut record can do. +6 db with full EQ close to the label without the groove breaking or overloading.

    The Neumann System is truly amazing.
    nosliw, WMTC, NorthNY Mark and 8 others like this.
  22. Limopard

    Limopard National Dex #143

    Leipzig, Germany
    Sounds reasonable.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    If there was inner groove distortion on our test cut I would lower the volume 1/2 db until the last song on the side would track properly.

    Never did any of those lazy "reduce the top end" etc.) tricks to make the inner groove play better.
  24. dmiller458

    dmiller458 Forum Resident

    Midland, Michigan
    I'm not much of an audiophile. I shelled out some cash to have a decent system at home and in the car. IMO everything sounds good on it.

    I listen to the Grand Funk Railroad studio albums produced by Terry Knight and they've always sounded thin to me. Same for the MC5's Back in the USA. And when I listened to GFR's 2002 remasters and I didn't hear much of an improvement.

    Is it a case where there's only so much can be done due to the original botched job? Or can the right production team make something happen that even a tin-eared listener like me could appreciate?
  25. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.
    Even GFR's 2nd (red) album?

Share This Page