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. SiriusB

    SiriusB New Member

    New York

    Ah, now I get it. Thanks.
  2. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    So, where in the hell did so many on this forum get this "flat transfer" stuff? Ah, you did one or two projects flat, like the Buddy Holly thing, and everyone is convinced that "flat" is the only way, or no way!
  3. Greatest Hits

    Greatest Hits Just Another Compilation

    Well, Steve came REALLY close. But alas, it was not meant to be. :shake:
  4. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    Steve, it's Buddy Holly, Louis Prima, and Pet Sounds. Anything else comes to mind (not talking about tracks here and there on V/A stuff)?
  5. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    Better flat than someone tinkering in a not so good way, making things worse, no? Yeah, most recordings need a little help, but sometimes the disease is better than the "cure"...
  6. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    I understand that. But, yes, most tapes need some help. And, what is considered "good' help is always subjective. We, just happen to like Steve's kind of help. But, remember, he's also manipulating things with tubes and maybe cable swaps.
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Most CD's I recommend here (that I did not master) are "flat transfers" (early MoFi CD's, Kinks Pink Cover CD, etc.) Better not to touch the fragile sound of the original tapes than to screw them up with agressive bad mastering moves. It's easy to add a bit of EQ if so inclined at home but almost impossible to UNDO damage already done.

    Hooray for the Flat Transfer!
  8. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    I'll bow out now...for a while. (quietly walks away...)
  9. DjBryan

    DjBryan New Member

    Steve did any artist ever negative about a remaster?
  10. BZync

    BZync Senior Member

    Los Angeles
    I thought Steve had mentioned that Red Rose Speedway was a flat transfer. I hope I am not incorrect, I'd hate to be the source of misinfomation. Someone correct me if appropriate.
  11. DjBryan

    DjBryan New Member

    Negative feedback, sorry
  12. Andreas

    Andreas Senior Member

    Frankfurt, Germany
    Willy & The Poor Boys on the hybrid SACD.
  13. BeatlesObsessive

    BeatlesObsessive The Earl of Sandwich Ness

    Steve works from a basic truism. A copy is always inferior to the original. Also.. he has a baker's logic... once that loaf of bread is baked(or that master tape is mixed).. it has all it's tasty goodness inside of it. To take that loaf of bread... immerse it in water... make it into a pulp .. then using high tech centrifuges.. get rid of the water... then mix it back up.. shape it into a loaf and bake it again... it just won't be the same. The material in these tapes has a whole universe of information beyond just this mass of signals. It has cohered in a certain way that the engineers who recorded it and mixed it were LIKELY in the BEST position to understand. Steve takes that loaf of bread.. and tries to reheat it WITHOUT putting it into a microwave and turning it into a piece of rock with the water boiled out of it... or burn it to a crisp by heating it too long.. but by getting it just to that perfect temperature and then quickly taking it out of the oven and presenting it to us ... "yes it is an old loaf of bread.. but here you can see it at it's perfect moment. THIS is how this great bread should come together. A new loaf would be fresher but this is the bread in it's original state."

    Sure .. we might ask.. "gee.. what does buddy holly know.. he probably brought that tape machine from sears and had it in a musty garage!!!" or the guys from motown and abbey road submixing like mad!!! yeah.. those are things that might sound better and we can tweak them and process them and eliminate buzzes and hiss. But then again.. Buddy Holly's input board was probably as simple as an erector set and passed signals directly onto fresh tape in possibly great fidelity!!! Meanwhile Whitney Houston may have recorded into a 72 input Neve console with several percentage points of distortion and all sorts of poor audio specs and gone through miles and miles of audio cable resulting in a recording with poor depth and dynamics. Steve gives the original master the benefit of the doubt. You never know until you hear the master tape... and those old techies in the 40s and 50s built much of their equipment to high standards and some very well trained people used that equipment.

    So Steve opens up our ears to what is ALREADY there... just in the process of listening to the released products and going on a detective hunt to find the original work parts and masters. Introducing us to the very high quality medium of reel to reel tape and how it achieved GREAT results from the 1940s through it's slight decline into the 1990s!

    One example of WHY STEVE MATTERS is an Elvis collection released in 1986 or 1987 where some engineer at RCA? had run Elvis's hits through all sorts of digital processing and proclaimed how great this enhanced Elvis would sound and it sounded like utter crap. Or the layla remixes of 1990 which just sounded weird and in some places underwhelming. By then Steve was making a name for himself with the DCC work and the Mobile Fidelity approach was revived for digital. The principle of just let the tapes breathe and give some consideration for the good work of the original engineers and you'll be AMAZED. Try tracking down this Buddy Holly CD and then get a regular copy from your library and do your comparison. In my own case.. and this is a bad example.. but just listening to Penny Lane on the Magical Mystery Tour CD and then hearing it on the Beatles 1's collection is a good example of how the same recording remastered with better equipment can sound vastly improved although the 1's collection is hardly as good as it should be!!!
  14. Fortune

    Fortune Senior Member

    Yeah that IS a really bad example.

    Great post...and then you say that "Beatles #1s" sounds good? Sheesh. :eek:

    That's like the baker placing the perfect piece of bread under a steamroller to make matzoh! Squashed!
  15. sungshinla

    sungshinla Vinyl and Forum Addict

    I could be wrong here but by "flat transfer", I don't think Steve is just putting on the master tape and sitting there. I think his "flat transfer" mastering is a time-intensive, well thought-out and carefully executed process, as he is trying to capture the "breath of life" of the recording, while sacrificing as little of the frequency and dynamic range of the recording.

    Of course, if the recording had been originally mastered by someone like Robert Ludwig in his prime (late 60's to earlish 80's) from the original master tapes, there is not much to improve upon most of the time. But because a large majority of the recordings were not originally mastered as well as they could have been, we can hear such an improvement with Steve's work. Of course, not every mastering engineer had the luxury of being true to their ear, as producers, executives, etc. who had decision making power may have influenced their mastering decisions. Many of those engineers, I am sure, were wonderful at their craft and had wonderful ears.

    I am just glad that there is someone like Steve who is able to bring back several of those great recordings and often bring them back "better than new".

    Also, if you are a vinyl junkie like I am, you should also have great appreciation for Kevin, who often cuts the vinyl with Steve. One thing I REALLY appreciate about their vinyl reissues is that their work minimizes the distortion, often inevitable for certain recordings on vinyl.

    There are quite a few examples of this where the original vinyl pressing, although quite magical, has some annoying moments of distortion (whether inner groove or otherwise). In addition to the "breath of life" and other merits of Steve's/Kevin's work, their pressing seems to minimize those annoying distortions and makes the listening session that much more enjoyable.

    Some folks here may have noticed, but I try not to make any sweeping generalizations about any mastering engineer or any other musical or sonic topics. There are a handful of exceptions, however, and I think Steve's work is all great and all worth having (even if you may actually prefer the original in certain limited cases)!

    I would not have become an audiophile without the likes of Robert Ludwig, Rudy Van Gelder, Steve Hoffman, Doug Sax and a handful of others.
  16. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    'Vastly improved. . . . .hardly as good as it should be!' doesn't sound to me like B-O was saying BEATLES 1 sounded good. Better than the MMT CD, but still neither would win any prizes sonically.
  17. Andreas

    Andreas Senior Member

    Frankfurt, Germany
    Penny Lane on "1" sounds infinitely worse than on the good old MMT CD.
  18. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE. In Memoriam

    South Mountain, NC
    Just my opinion, and I seem to be in agreement with the majority here. I have to admit that seeing the word "remastered" often leaves me a little bit apprehensive of what the contents of the CD might sound like. I would prefer to use the phrase "correctly mastered". Since it is impossible to buy a time machine and travel back to the original sessions, we have to consider two things when remastering. One, the mastering philosophy of the era in which the recordings were made, and two, that the recordings were made by engineers who presumably knew what they were doing. And in the days before Pro Tools, when you were working with tubes and knobs and meters with a needle that had a "spade" on the end of it, you HAD to know what you were doing. The only time something would truly need "remastered" is if the recording is blatantly mastered incorrectly.

    Mastering is like cooking up a pot of spaghetti sauce. All the ingredients need to be there, in correct proportion. Remastering, then, is like re-cooking that spaghetti sauce. If the mastering "cook" put in a little too much sugar, not quite enough basil, we can fix that, and we can tell by tasting it exactly what to do to fix the sauce and make it taste like it's supposed to. When you start adding "boom and sizzle", reverb, and so on, it's not spaghetti sauce anymore, it's clam chowder. The key to remastering is to end up with a sound that will thrill, BUT no listener will be able to say "Hey, they equalized that!" or "Hey, they compressed that!" or "Hey, where did that reverb come from?" The true goal is not so much to present the original recording, but the original performance. The prime focus of remastering, at least from behind THIS workstation, is flaw removal. Hums, buzzes, pops, dropouts, that sort of thing. Things which the listener would never know were missing unless you put them back in.

    Just my eight cents worth
  19. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident Thread Starter

    STEVE: Thanks for clarifying....I have always wanted to ask you this, but somehow felt I may be ridiculed for asking something obvious to you. I have thought many original CD and a lot of vinyl, ISNT the greatest it could be compared to the original master tapes (( which obviously you have the ablility to hear and compare and WE usually Never do)) I watched a documentary on Pink Floyds "Dark side of the moon" and watching alan parsons play back the multi tracks made me realize just how CLEAR and Great the original sounds were. SO in essence if YOU have access to the TRUE MASTERS you could achieve a much more natural sound than that of the other DSOTM remasters. Of course that may NOT be exactly as heard on the original 70s vinyl, BUT ACTUALLY A LOT BETTER....!:righton:
  20. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain (EU)
    Guys, seriously, accept it, Steve has found the Tao of mastering. Remember the old Taoist phrase that says, "Tao does not do anything, yet there is nothing it doesn't do." That's why it may seem he has done nothing to a recording when mastering... :righton: :agree:
  21. Doonie

    Doonie New Member

    Not Steve, but I did get a response to a similar question in this thread:

    "Hard to say. Most of them take the opportunity to demand more record co. royalties so is it that or the fact that they like to see their stuff on GOLD and vinyl? Never had any complaints though."

    (This was the first time Steve "talked" to me. I never washed my monitor screen again.)

    When prodded for more info, he also said:

    "This has all been covered here many times. Gotta do a search."

  22. Joel1963

    Joel1963 Senior Member

    I nearly feel the same way after "communicating" with Bruce Johnston the other day on another thread.
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