Note from Steve, Tullman isn't happy with me over a recommendation. Your thoughts?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Feb 14, 2006.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Tullman's mad at me today. :wave:

    In this thread:

    If you read down you will see that a few members are not happy that I recommended the SACD of Carole King's TAPESTRY without emphasizing that it has flaws like a recessed midrange. I want to reproduce below what I wrote in answer in that thread so I can get your comments. Can you post them here? I'll reopen that Carole King thread later. Thanks, I would really like to hear what you have to say; it might change the way I recommend CD's and LP's to you all. I've been assuming that we are all on the same page about this... I want to know if we are not! Read the below:



    This album is essentially UNMASTERED. Just like all of the silver MoFi CD's and many of the MoFi UDI's, WEA "Targets", JPN ABBEY ROAD, JPN Beach Boys PASTMASTERS and other early CD's that we pay crazy money for.

    Unmastered, let the chips fall where they may.

    So, an album has a bit of a hole in the midrange, so this or that album has too much or not enough bass, so an album has too much dynamic range? These things mean that the music was untampered with in transferring to digital.

    Essentially, to me, this means that you pay a paltry 20 bucks to have someone in a vault pull the master reels of an album out and make you a flat transfer. You have in your hand an exact copy of the master tape, warts and all. Where else on earth could this happen? Not any more, most everything is MASTERED now. This Carole King SACD for whatever reason (like the old Bob Dylan "John Wesley Harding" CD) emerged "mastering free", like the first series of Roger Nichols STEELY DAN CD's on MCA.

    Would I do it this way? Uh, no. I'd fix some of the little things by filling in midrange holes (caused by mixing on horn speakers with too much midrange) and do other "diamond polishing" things to bring out the best. Rarely I just "let it go" (DCC PET SOUNDS CD, for example, is one time I "let her rip"). Other mastering engineers would go over the top and do more than necessary. That, I cannot stand. I want to hear the master tape, and most people who hang out here want to as well. OR DO THEY? :)

    The midrange softness drives you crazy? Buy a 50 dollar graphic EQ on eBay and boost the 4k range. But probably on no other disc of this album in your lifetime will you be able to play TAPESTRY and say to your friends, "This is exactly what the master tape sounds like".

    To me that is everything. Sorry if you don't see it that way, but I always assume that in place of overmastering, this is the preferred alternative for all of the SH Forum members here. Guess I'm wrong...

    I must say I'm really surprised though."


    Your thoughts, members? I need to know what's on your mind! I want to be on your wavelength just as I want you to be on mine. Maybe we can meet in the middle or something...
  2. When approaching an original master tape it should be decided if any anomalies are a result of Omission or Commission. If the latter then leave it alone. If the former then what takes place next is decided by the talent and experience of those involved.

    Just my opinion for what it's worth.
  3. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Steve, IMO you explained yourself perfectly in the second paragraph of your initial post:

    That's enough of a recommendation for me.

    No mention of sucking midrange, etc. If you wanted to elaborate, I'm sure that you would have.
    The whole frenzy of comparing the (non) differences between the silver and the gold SACDs took control. (what a panic!) To me, the problem here, and on many other threads, is due to one or both of the following:
    • Forum members are not reading each post completely or
    • Forum members are reading TOO MUCH into some of the posts

    Some members jump to the last page of a thread without reading the previous pages and ask a question that was already answered, and then someone else who also hasn't read the rest of the thread will then proceed to misinform and on and on...

    If this was a poll I would vote that I am on the same page as you.
  4. nosticker

    nosticker Forum Guy

    Ringwood, NJ
    I'm a fan of the "warts and all". Hearing something like the SACD you describe is, to me, a window into the creative process, and that is where my interest lies. If it needs a little something, eq-wise, I'll put it on there. I prefer something flat, because AFAIK you can't un-compress or un-maximize. Personally, I enjoy getting the inside scoop on a disc from Steve and other discerning forum members on the history of a disc's production and sound quality.

  5. WestGrooving

    WestGrooving Forum Resident

    California, U.S.A
    So someone was disappointed with warts? IMO, If that's what it is and it has Steve's name on it or recommendation, I know that's what it is. So,what's all controversy here? I have an Audio Control EQ (low noise, high speed) and can tweak it the way I want it. Maybe try a tube EQ oneday... ummm....
  6. dead of night

    dead of night Forum Resident

    Northern Va, usa
    I'm a new member here and my opinion is unlearned, however, I prefer that a CD be mastered well before it gets to me.
  7. bangsezmax

    bangsezmax Forum Resident

    Durham, NC, USA
    You can also do what I do, which is create .wav files (EAC, needle-drops, analog outs from SACD, whatever it takes), EQ them in CoolEdit and then burn your own personalized "mastering" (there are lots of techical caveats about getting good-sounding results this way, but I'll skip those for now).

    One of the things I truly enjoy about this forum is that Steve has actually heard the masters on so many great recordings. so when he says this about the Rumours DVD-A:
    I can plug his knowledge into my EQ and off we go. I did this just the other day. And he nailed it.

    Steve, if you wouldn't mind providing this info for every commercial release of every master you've ever heard, I would be most grateful. ;)

    Mastering can be great. But between no mastering and questionable mastering, I know which one I'll choose.
  8. stever

    stever Senior Member

    Omaha, Nebr.
    Steve, I think you should recommend LPs and CDs to members in the same manner you always have. And that thread became one of the most confusing I have ever seen here. My f***ing God, it's one of the greatest albums of music ever made, and consumers have been given several different media to choose from -- enjoy it!
  9. biggerdog

    biggerdog Forum Resident

    As I said in the other thread, I'll always prefer undermastering.

    Eqing to taste is easy to do these days. But overmastered stuff often has the dreaded overcompression and misuse of noise removal, neither of which can be reversed by the listener.

    Perhaps people who don't have the ability to correct tonal balance prefer the overmastered stuff since it usually has overblown bass and upper midrange/lower treble, which impress the inexperienced listener.
  10. BZync

    BZync Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    Steve - in your original post you stated: "SH Forum member Taxman150 sent me the now OUT OF PRINT single layer ORIGINAL MIX version of Carole King's TAPESTRY. I give you my word I had not heard this album from beginning to end since we all wore our copies out in 1971 and it sounded GREAT on my system; warm, musical and dynamic with the great sound of the A&M Studio."

    Later you mentioned that you'd have done an EQ change to the midrange had you been the mastering engineer.

    Having had the good fortune to be at your side during a listening session for a different master tape that also sounded pretty "great" to me and having heard the VERY subtle EQ improvement you made to that recording....I tend to think that if you say "great" you mean it.

    Please continue to let us know about any CD's that sound good to you. That's why I'm here.
    ashiya likes this.
  11. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Hey, I'm OK with your recommendations. I've had this SACD for years. Always thought it sounded a little "dull", but I'd rather listen warts-n-all anyways. At least it's not compressed/bright ;)

    Keep on recommending Steve. The only part of me that hates when you do that is my wallet :sigh:
  12. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Uh Huh

    I'm always happy to read Steve's comments on specific masterings, good or bad. I can see Tullman's point though, as I too assumed it to mean that it sounds good as it stands. The thread title was "Carole King/TAPESTRY: Original mix SACD is wonderful!" I don't think it's "reading too much into the post" to take it as "it sounds good". I mean, the Beatles CD's were more or less "flat transfers" too, but you don't see any threads that say "Beatles/Revolver Original Mix CD is Wonderful!" Oh well, nothing to get hung about...

    Perhaps a qualifier like "flat transfer doesn't always mean well-mastered" or something like that would help, assuming one was needed, which it seems like it was in this case.
    Dudley Morris likes this.
  13. soundQman

    soundQman Senior Member

    Arlington, VA, USA
    Generally I am on the same page with you, because equalizers and tone controls are available for those who don't care for the original artists' or engineers' intent. I wonder about a few cases, though, since I don't claim to know much about the record production chain.

    When Mobile Fidelity released their first edition of John Lennon's Imagine album, many years ago, I read that it was flat transfer. It sounded very dull and lifeless to my ears and to one reviewer in a magazine (probably Stereophile). Then I read that Phil Spector, who produced the album, would often do equalization during the cutting stage for the LP mother, rather than make another generation of tape. Does that make any sense? It might explain why the Mofi LP sounded wrong even though it was what was on the master tape. The Mofi was much smoother sounding on the strings but very dull overall compared to the original U.S. Apple LP I had at the time. I gather that the usual method was to make another generation of tape equalized for LP playback. What you are talking about with flat transfers is from the original 2-channel stereo mixdown tape, correct? I have heard complaints on the forum about companies just grabbing the LP master rather than going back to the original for transfer to digital, because the equalization for LP (RIAA curve ) is not at all appropriate for CD playback.
  14. cwon

    cwon Active Member

    I think that when you say in your first post on that thread that it's the sound of the ORIGINAL release and if that's the sound you want to hear...etc., then I assume that's what you'll be getting. It won't sound like a Steve Hoffman version, it'll sound like the original LP. And besides, I assume you still like the way it sounds, so your recommendation is an honest one.

    It's like when you say the Beatles' white album is a flat transfer, that doesn't mean it sounds great - it still needs mastering - but at least it's unadulterated. I think most regular forum members have gleaned that distinction.
  15. John Carsell

    John Carsell Forum Resident

    Northwest Illinois
    If a tasteful remastering isn't or can't be done, I'll take an unmastered version anyday.

    Sure is a hell of a lot better than a screw-up that can't be undone.

    FWIW, I think the Tapestry (stereo only) SACD sounds very good to these ears.
  16. cvila

    cvila Senior Member

    IMO, Some mastering that is not great may be better than a flat transfer. I don't have a parametric equalizer to tweak a flawed flat transfer. My system and room have their own anomalies. I also listen to discs in my car. These less than perfect conditions means I really have to take discs on a case-by-case basis. Clearly, there is a sliding scale of flawed flat transfers vs. flawed mastering. I don't buy into the idea that flat transfers are the end all and be all that some collectors share. Remember, some DCC discs command big bucks not because some record company no-name was paid 20 bucks to make the disc but because SH extensively and significantly EQed the tapes (check the archives for SH anecdote of "daisy-chaining" equalizing equipment for at least one DCC release). If I can't get a disc with "Breath of Life", a better option than a flat transfer might be a disc that is EQed in a way that some would find mildly objectionable.
  17. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Steve, as you know it's no secret that I would prefer your mastering choices in dealing with either CD or SACD delivery. In absence of that I'll take an unmastered copy of the master tapes everytime over dumping to a digital workstation with questionable use of digital tools. Very few mastering engineers seem to have the authority or knowledge to pull off the right stuff these days I'm afraid.
  18. Hawkman

    Hawkman Supercar Gort Staff

    New Jersey
    Maybe it's just me but it all seems a bit anal to me. I don't have a top of the line stereo but frankly, I respect Steve's opinion enough that I have bought things based on his opinion. A copy of The Shadows Greatest Hits on cd because it was flat transfer. Even on my crappy stereo, I want to have the best sounding piece that I can get so that WHEN I do get a good stereo I can hear it well. Honestly, I don't have the time to sit and futz with eq and all that stuff. I'll probably make it worse. :)

    If something is a flat transfer, I'll take it. To me it's what the artists wants me to hear, warts and all. BUT..if it is going to be mastered, I would want the best job possible.

    Frankly, I was never a big fan of Carole King when she sang her own songs. Sorry. But I wouldn't lose sleep over not being told that a certain SACD was missing some midrange and I think Steve's answer to Tullman was fine.

    Just my humble non-trained, tinnitus whistling ears opinion. :D

  19. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Steve..P L E A S E don't change anything! Just continue on with your expert advice, and knowledge...of course we can judge what we like with our own ears, but it's a plus having your recommendations first hand...I've been collecting CD's from the beginning and have most if not all of the CD's you recommend...I respect my hearing and want to keep it sound...seems the only guarantee these days to do so is to have you master it, or go reto! We love ya just the way you are.:)
  20. Claus

    Claus Senior Member

    I always appreciate Steve's comments.... it's a very good technical guide for me! But I trust my ears.... anyway I mostly agree with Steve's recommendations.
  21. ruyeno

    ruyeno New Member

    Honolulu, HI
    This, to me, is the crux of the matter. Yes, I'd like to hear the master tape. But given what Steve is saying here about the use of horn speakers in the mixing process, hearing the master tape in this case means that I am *not* hearing what the producers heard and intended the master tape to sound like, right? And it is what they *heard* and thought would be on the master tape that should be regarded as "definitive" (whatever that means), and not messed around with, from my perspective. This is why I tend to be less critical than many here when producers or artists are involved in the remastering (I'm thinking here, for example, of the Elton John remasters involving his original producer). Because if we give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the master tape does *not* sound like what they intended the tape to sound like, due to horn speakers, etc.

    Unless a remasterer has all of the necessary information and equipment, though, discerning what was originally heard and intended from what exists on the master seems very difficult, and I would imagine that most of us would prefer to hear what exists rather than a representation of what a remasterer *thinks* the master should have sounded like.

    Of course, I've never set foot in a recording studio, so take this for what it is worth.
  22. Pioneer

    Pioneer New Member

    Gaithersburg, MD
    That's an interesting issue, 'intent'. If Tapestry was originally mastered on horns that imparted midrange boost, then what the people at the desk heard, had no midrange hole. If you listen at home with horns, or if your room or system boosts midrange, you may hear it as intended. If not, you may have to boost the mids yourself.

    But how often can we know what was heard in the control room? How often can we know 'intent'? Even saying 'a flat transfer' doesn't tell you what was heard at the mastering desk. We'd have to have a chart with the room response, plus the speakers and listener positions, to start to get close to that!

    Food for thought....hopefully not junk food. :p
  23. Raxel

    Raxel Forum Resident

    If it's the best digital version available, then that's your only choice, even if it's not perfect. I believe most members here will choose a un-mastered version over a badly-mastered version.

    But if there's other well-mastered version available, then I like it be at least mentioned.
    Jack_Straw likes this.
  24. Sgt. Pepper

    Sgt. Pepper Member

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Actually, I wish you would be even more vocal about your opinion of the sound quality of various CDs than you are now. I guess in the case of an unmastered CD like this one, you could say that it is unmastered but could have been better if it were mastered just so that no one can say they didn't know before they bought it.
  25. But then again maybe it was done for me! :D I do listen through horns.

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