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SH Spotlight Steve Hoffman: Do you ever try to make a recording "BETTER" than the original?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by kevintomb, Apr 1, 2007.

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  1. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I should explain a bit what I mean. But im curious if steve ever comes across recordings that he feels he could make BETTER than the original release of the recording. Im sure with his talented ear and expertice he could change EQs etc to make even better than the original was. But, does one draw the line at making it exactly as the artist intended or does one sonically IMPROVE on their decisions?

    My motivation for this question was my recent listening to steves BUDDY HOLLY recordings (( which sound AWESOME by my opinion)) but I just wondered if they sounded that good originally or if steves mastering made them even BETTER that what was heard back in the day:righton:
  2. ChristianL

    ChristianL Senior Member

    Berlin, Germany
    Buddy Holly was transfered straight from the tape without EQ'ing. His decision was to leave them the way they were recorded.
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

  4. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    San Jose, CA
  5. His decision was to leave them the way they were recorded.

    OK, please, and I do mean please, forgive me for asking a stupid question. If Steve left them the way they were recorded, then exactly what did he do? I mean if steve left them the way the were then in affect, Steve did nothing. I don't mean my question to sound the way I know it sounds...I really don't.

  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Buddy Holly.

    Original 45's and albums dubbed from tape copies with severe processing.

    What I did was spend 6 months searching for the original tapes, all marked "Do Not Use" and having the good sense to transfer them flat.

    I guess in a sense you could call that doing nothing. Sigh, I wish more mastering engineers did nothing.:agree:

    PLEASE read this:


  7. Steve, I knew my question was going to sound disrespectful and I meant no disrespect.
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    It wasn't disrespectful to me, I was smiling. A lot of people have no idea what I do or why.

    If you read my mutterings on that link I gave you I think you will understand more and be able to ask your questions in a different way.

  9. munson66

    munson66 Forum Dilettante

    Toronto, Ontario
    Sometimes the result is more important than the process. :) MCA got the best possible digital master of the analogue sources, so in that sense, SH did his job spectacularly well. How he delivered it was of no consequence.
    It all evens out in the end -- witness the Mamas and Papas compilation. :D

    When something like that happens, it must be a bit disconcerting.

    I recently was sent a manuscript for a children's book. It was from a new client, so I wasn't used to their expectations; nor did I have a sense of what to expect when I opened the envelope. The whole thing only ran about 24 pages double-spaced, and I looked it over, then picked up my blue pencil, then looked it over again. And again. And again. Except for a single comma, I just couldn't see anything that needed changing.

    Instantly, I started to get paranoid -- I specialize in adult popular nonfiction, and the stuff usually needs a LOT of work just to make sense. I sat there for a few hours, completely uncertain of what to do. Was I being put on?

    So, I marked that one lonely little change on the paper, then phoned the publisher and said, "Is this some kind of test?" :laugh: They assured me it wasn't. I gave the editor the one change right there and then over the phone, and sent in my bill. Since I felt I'd done so little work on it, I honestly didn't know what to charge!

    It took me a while, but I realized I'd done what they hired me to do -- turn in a manuscript that was fit for publication. They've continued to hire me ever since, so I guess they were happy with the work.

    Sometimes, restraint is its own reward. And in the case of the Buddy Holly comp, we all enjoy the benefits!
  11. This I understand perfectly. All I was trying to find out is what steve did to the original to make it sound so wonderful. If he did nothing, then why buy it? I am just trying to learn.
  12. andyinstal

    andyinstal Runner for Others

    Allen, Texas
    Most of the time the engineers want to try to make it sound better by EQ or compression, when actually, many times, the best sound is already on the master tapes (the correct ones). I do not know how he does it. Even sitting watching him at the console and he adjusted some frequency by 2db, and that was it, I still did not know how he could pick the one thing to make something come alive. Then he showed us the difference. It was small, but after pointing it out, we could hear it.
  13. OK, now we are getting somewhere...at least in my mind. He EQ'd it. Nothing wrong with that if it's done propperly. Why not just say that up front?
  14. munson66

    munson66 Forum Dilettante

    Toronto, Ontario
  15. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    He didn't do nothing. He recognised that the original masters were fine as they were - something no other mastering engineer had ever done with the Buddy Holly catalogue before. No other engineers had even used the original masters before.

    So, you buy it because it is the best sounding Buddy Holly release there is - or is ever likely to be.

  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Now you're seriously scaring me.
  17. Steve clearly understands what goes on between input and output. It reminds me of Robert Moog who said that he could "feel" what was happening in transistors, resistors, diodes, etc.. He had the circuit path in his mind and thought, what can I do improve or change the sounds. Steve has the talent and experience to not only know what sounds right for a particular recording but what to look for and know how the equipement used can provide results.

    Imagine being on a bobsled going through varies channels and being able to do whatever it takes to keep the momentum going without impedeing the movement or direction. Steve has that gift-not the bob sledding thing but the recording thing...ha.
  18. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    Why not? Would you be more inclined to buy it if Steve did something to the tapes that they didn't need, and made the sound worse?

    Steve posted what he did, and it's not "nothing". Transferring this stuff properly is very important as well. He has great sense when and when not to Eq, what freq., etc. In this case, it meant making a judgement call to not Eq. That decision alone is "something", as it influences the final result as much as any knob twiddle.

    So buy, and enjoy. :)
  19. PaulT

    PaulT Spuzzum

    B.C., Canada
    What I think is being said (in this case) - he did nothing and it made it better - is 'compared to what has already been released from those original masters after others had previously futzed with them'.

    As Steve said in Post #6 the original releases had been "dubbed from tape copies with severe processing".
  20. LOL
  21. andyinstal

    andyinstal Runner for Others

    Allen, Texas
    I never said he EQd the Holly tapes. I said he EQd the tape he was working on at the field trip I attended.
  22. munson66

    munson66 Forum Dilettante

    Toronto, Ontario
    Hey, I'm just trying to help. Why buy it? Because when you hit play, you'll be transported back in time, nearly half a century, and hearing what Buddy and Norman Petty heard in that control room or studio floor. That's a gift.

    When you buy the Steve-mastered Buddy Holly, you're buying his ability to recognize that it didn't need a tweak here or a bump there.

    Knowing what to do, and what not to do, are two sides of the same coin. The best mastering engineers listen to the recordings and understand what they need or don't need. The ones whose work is frowned upon around here are generally those who feel they have to impose their "sound" or make it sound "modern" or "as if it were recorded yesterday."

    Ah, 'nuff said. Hearing is believing. I see that the Holly CD is available for $6.99 (Canadian!) on amazon.ca, so it should be "popularly priced" everywhere. A steal at three times the price.
  23. John Cantrell

    John Cantrell Active Member

    Outta here
    Today is the 1st of April...:shh:
  24. Look guys. I understand. I just think it's complete folly when someone says the "decision was to leave them the way they were recorded" Of course steve did something to the original recordings, that's why we enjoy them so much.
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Ah, now I get it.
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