Sinatra / Capitol Sound Quality: "Come Swing with Me" (1961)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MLutthans, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    When I put the HD version into mono and invert one channel (to cancel the "centered" vocal), the vocal cancels most when the right channel is dropped by 2dB, indicating that the vocal is about 2 dB stronger in the right channel than the left. (At least it's this way on YES, INDEED, which is the one I checked.) With left and right channels unaltered, the "centered" vocal reduces in level when flipped, but not as much as it does when the right channel is dropped by 2 decibels.

    Thanks for the note about the reel-to-reel sample not working! I will need to dig that up from the ashes of some antique hard drive in my closet....
    :)
     
  2. StingRay5

    StingRay5 Important Impresario

    Location:
    California
    Yeah, I tried the invert-and-downmix at -3 dB and Frank's voice got very quiet, but -2 dB nearly eliminates him completely. You win. :)

    On the plus side, cutting one channel by 2 dB is easy to do, and if that's all it takes to fix this HD download's main problem... why not? Though of course it's annoying that it got released this way.
     
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  3. CBackley

    CBackley Chairman of the Bored


    Interesting. This is a dumb question, but how does one defect something is a fold-down vs a true mono mix?
     
  4. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    It depends, and sometimes it's very hard (nearly impossible?) to tell. Sometimes the vintage/style of recording can be a big help, though.

    On these close-mic'd or section-mic'd vocal-plus-orchestra pop recordings, especially the ones made to 3-track tape originally, usually the giveaway is that the vocal becomes louder/out-of-balance compared to the orchestra. Mathematically, the stuff mixed dead-center -- in this case, that's Sinatra's vocal -- becomes three decibels louder than the stuff that is not in the center. It's algebra: Left orchestra and vocal are on the left channel in stereo; right orchestra and vocal are on the right channel in stereo. Sum (+) those, and you get:

    left orch + vocal + right orch + vocal = left orch + right orch + 2vocal.

    (Oversimplified, but that's the gist.)

    On three-track recordings like COME SWING WITH ME, with the mono button pushed, since there is no (well...very little) orchestral overlap between the left channel and right channel in stereo, in mono the orchestra should sound tonally fine, and the voice should, as well. It'll just be a balance issue. Compare this scenario with a person at Capitol in charge of making a TRUE mono mix, where he has a 3-track source tape (left orch, right orch, vocal -- all on individual tracks that can be rebalanced as needed - plus "live" chamber reverb that is added to the mix), and, assuming he is skilled at his job, the vocal balance vis-a-vis the orchestra and the reverb should be at appropriate levels at all times IN MONO when the mix is done. In stereo, the vocal and (in some/many cases) the reverb are kind of left to chance when summed to mono. The orchestra should come through relatively unscathed. The "stuff in the center" is the problem. (Why did Rudy Van Gelder record for a time with the instruments all either "hard left" or "hard right?" Nothing in that pesky CENTER position, where the balance becomes an issue! He could sum those left and right tracks and VOILA! Instant mono mix master! Nothing algebraically boosted! No balance changes!

    Now.....(sticking with Sinatra examples) on the stereo releases of (specifically) WHERE ARE YOU, COME FLY WITH ME, (the stereo tracks on) THIS IS SINATRA, VOL. II, and FRANK SINATRA SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY (plus a couple of singles), the orchestra was NOT close-mic'd for stereo, but used two widely spaced omni-directional microphones (a la a purist classical orchestral recording), so ALL of the orchestra is in the left channel and ALL of the orchestra is in the right channel -- but there are timing and volume differences, i.e, if the oboe is 3 feet closer to the left mic than to the right mic, it's sound will arrive FIRST (by a few milliseconds) at the left mic, and it will likely arrive a little LOUDER at the left mic. The closer he is to the center, the more centered he will sound in stereo (AND the more susceptible his sound will be to being altered by comb filtering WHEN SUMMED -- which seems counterintuitive at first blush). When you have an orchestra with dozens of players, and you are in a room that has WALLS that produce audio reflections (and more prominent ones at louder instrumental volumes, i.e, Billy May on Isle of Capri) on all sides of the microphones (which are omnidirectional and pick up in all directions), each player producing their own set of timing and volume differences as presented to the two microphones, you get (essentially) "random algebra," in terms of what gets boosted or cancelled, and by how much -- AKA comb filtering WHEN SUMMED TO MONO.

    Q. What exactly is comb filtering?

    (Continuing with that same list of recordings....) Leave the recording in stereo, and it will very likely sound extremely pleasant, because ALL of the frequencies are coming out of each speaker from each source microphone, but once you combine those meant-to-stay-separated elements into mono, all bets are off! The orchestral sound will often take on a mildly bleached quality, because of comb filtering (peaks and valleys in the frequencies). On those particular recordings (and others of their ilk), the vocal will likely sound fine in mono, but the orchestra becomes slightly strange sounding, usually with the bass a little thinned out due to frequencies cancelling. (Also, if stereo reverb was used on the vocal, some of that may cancel when summed to mono, so the vocal may sound more dry than it does in stereo.)

    End of yammer.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2021
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  5. StingRay5

    StingRay5 Important Impresario

    Location:
    California
    Terrific summary! And just to make one more connection, this explains why, in the standard method for downmixing 5.1 to stereo, the center and LFE channels are lowered by 3 dB before being added to the left and right channels. -3 dB is a power reduction of 50%, so by putting half the power of the center channels into the left and right stereo channels, you maintain the proper balance.

    It's interesting, looking at the history, to see how engineers approached the problem of doing stereo records while continuing to do mono. They had an established procedure already for doing mono records, so at first they were probably disinclined to tamper with that strategy while experimenting with stereo. I would guess that accounts for the situation you have with records like Only the Lonely that were actually recorded simultaneously on two separate tape machines by two different sets of microphones. This way, the engineers could make the mono version the way they were used to, while also making a nice stereo version with a real sense of space. The weird part, obviously, is that the mono and stereo records sound wildly different even though they document the same performance. Then, later, the stereo method became the standard way to record, and they either did a separate mono mix from the multi-tracks, or simply folded down the stereo mix.

    Anyway, to sum all this up, I think the question of identifying fold-down mixes comes down to a process of elimination in which it is usually easier to prove that a mono mix is not a fold-down than to prove for certain that it is.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2021
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  6. CBackley

    CBackley Chairman of the Bored


    Thanks! I’ll have to test that out with a good stereo copy of some album. I don’t have Come Fly With Me on stereo, but this might be a fun incentive to pick it up.
     
  7. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    @CBackley -- If you want to hone your skills, get one of these World Record Club releases, which I'm guessing can be had for cheap via Discogs or Ebay:
    [​IMG]
    This mono edition of the ALL THE WAY album is a fold down from start to finish. Get a USA mono pressing of the same album, and you can A/B over the course of twelve entire songs.

    Here's the Discogs link: Frank Sinatra – All The Way (1966, Vinyl)
     
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  8. CBackley

    CBackley Chairman of the Bored


    It’s a fold down all the way? :cool:
     
  9. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Yes.
     
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  10. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    We seem to have overlooked the 50th anniversary of the release of this album a couple of weeks ago: August 31, 2021.
     
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  11. paulmock

    paulmock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Ummmm...Matt. It's only August 12th.:(:sigh:
     
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  12. StingRay5

    StingRay5 Important Impresario

    Location:
    California
    According to Sinatra.com, Come Swing with Me was released July 11, 1961.

    Source: July 1961
     
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  13. paulmock

    paulmock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Thanks. I thought poor @MLutthans was having problems with time since moving from the big city to America's Heartland and a small town. :cool:
     
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  14. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Well, THAT was a major brain malfunction! I saw a post by @Bob F listing JULY (!!!!!) 31, 1961, as the release date, and I typed August for some reason! o_O
    I am on Central Time this week, so cut me some slack! :laugh:
    Sorry about that, guys.
     
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  15. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    A better source than Sinatra.com is Matt’s own 11fifty.com: Come Swing with Me - 1961
    July 31 (a release-day Monday in 1961) is the correct date. It charted 3 weeks later:

    Frank Sinatra's Major Capitol LP Releases 1954–62
    Major Sinatra Capitol LPs: Weeks from Release to First Billboard Chart
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2021
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  16. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Not to rub salt in the wound, but it was the 60th anniversary we overlooked. :D
    Time flies…
     
  17. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    What kind of drugs was I on yesterday?????? :laugh: My wife has a mathematics degree; I clearly will never have one!
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2021
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