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SH Spotlight What sounds just like the analog master tape: CD, Vinyl, SACD or a 1:1 analog Reel tape copy?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I was quite surprised, actually. Floored, if you want to know the truth; made me readjust my thinking about the "antiquated medium of phonograph records".

    The digital discrepancies are very slight in nature. The better the playback system gets, the more noticeable they become but unless one has heard the master tape, the problem would be not noticeable in most cases.
    Jopin likes this.
  2. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident

    That's very intersting Bob. It's so exciting to see people re-examing disc recording. It would be amzing to see folks get back into direct to disc recording. :love:

    (Thanks for all your incredible work btw Bob. )
  3. nin

    nin Forum Resident

  4. IanL

    IanL Senior Member

    Oneonta, NY USA
    Hi Steve,

    You mentioned in your original post that you already use your "tricks" when mastering to digital. I'm not asking what your tricks are, but wouldn't they mean you are mastering differently than you do for analog? If it's not possible to answer this question without giving away too much info, I understand. Just wondering what I'm not getting :confused:
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    The end result sounds as close as possible when I master for CD or LP. What ever tricks I need to get there when mastering in digital, well, it seems to work....

    Compare a DCC Gold CD I did with a DCC LP of the same title. Pretty close sonically as they should be. So even though I had to use different tricks to get them to match, the end result is the same; they sound the way I want them to sound, no matter what format.
  6. IanL

    IanL Senior Member

    Oneonta, NY USA
    Thanks for the clarification. I thought you were saying that the same exact steps/settings were taken to master for each (except for digital conversion). I realize now that you meant you are shooting for the same sound in all formats. Of course that makes sense.
    MitchLT likes this.
  7. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    The format is capable of reproducing what's put into it well, with a good cutter, engineer, etc. Garbage in = Garbage out! :)
  8. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    ...that he found that the tonality of a CD is pretty accurate makes me feel better about my old assertion of my needle drops sounding very close, if not identical to the vinyl.:)
  9. Another Side

    Another Side Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    Yes, and to be fair, Steve never said that the lacquer sounded just like the master. He said that it sounded like the master + the EQ moves.
  10. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    This is the kind of stuff I listen for when I do my work.:thumbsup:
  11. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    Thank you for this fascinating account. I do have a couple of questions:

    First, I note that the acetate was cut at 45 RPM. How, if at all, do you think dropping the speed to 33 would affect matters (aside from the obvious loss of potential high frequency response)?

    Second, since your experiment suggests that both digital formats deviate from "perfection" in different ways, do you think that the "flaws" in SACD are sufficiently less objectionable to justify its being sold as a premium product at a premium price? As a side issue, does it seem reasonable to think that the superior quality many perceive in SACDs results from extra care in mastering relative to what the typical conventional CD receives, not from the format itself?

    OK, that's three questions. I'll break out the comfy chair in short order. Again, thanks for sharing your insights!
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Glad you understand what I was trying to say. I am never sure it's coming out exactly like I mean it to.. Especially when typing in the back seat of a Taxi..
  13. gotityet0

    gotityet0 vinyl nut

    curious do you prefer digital or analog?
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Dropping the speed to 33 1/3? Well, we just cut at 45 because that was the speed that the album was being cut at for the "Best Of Jazz" 45 program. Kevin didn't want to change speeds on the lathe; it's a pain in the butt. We tried one at 33 once using a rock album this time: The exact same result.

    Regarding SACD, I like the format and I have many wonderful disks (like the Sony stuff: KIND OF BLUE, etc.) and I wouldn't trade them for anything. Sometimes I don't care if they sound exactly like the master tapes. I am sure these don't but they sure sound wonderful!

    SACD sounds better due to more careful mastering? Possibly, but a good one sounds wonderful and that resolution thing is happening nicely.
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    In general? Re-read post #1..
  16. gotityet0

    gotityet0 vinyl nut

    Silly me.

    Thanks, that answers my question.:)
  17. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident

    Houston, Texas
    Here goes! :D

    What about 96kHz/24bit linear PCM on dvd, the format that pretty much any dvd player priced over $50 can play?

    Besides the DADs from Chesky and Classic Records (both get great reviews), I never understood why that format never went anywhere....or maybe it was because dvd-audio and sacd overshadowed it? And besides the extra samples (192 is overkill IMO), all those extra bits in the *sample word* would very much improve resolution over the redbook standard.
  18. bhazen

    bhazen Okay Boomer

    Newcastle, WA
    Great thread and post #1, Steve. Confirms much of what I've thought, particularly about SACD. I've never been keen, for some reason; I always blamed it (unfairly, perhaps) on the mastering of all the SACDs I've heard, while it may be a problem with the DSD thingy itself.

    I've always felt that the potential of CDs has only occasionally been fully realised (DCCs being an honourable and cherished exception!); but it's nice to know that someone with Steve's ears and experience agrees with me that, reverb/echo issues aside, CD can have at least as good tonality as vinyl.

    CD's my format of choice (and considerable investment), and I'm sticking to it!
  19. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Motown Legend

    Nashville, TN
    Unfortunately the first casualties of illegal downloads were SACD and DVD-Audio. Label executives who were watching their sales plummeting and wondering if they'd still have a job in six months were no longer willing to gamble on new audio formats. I heard about a lot of serious plans for the new formats that got shelved.
    Mr Bass likes this.
  20. Grant

    Grant Just chillin'!

    United States
    Well, then, how do you explain the enthusiasm for the doomed Dual-Disc thereafter?
  21. Rock Klammer

    Rock Klammer Formerly pompatusoflove

    Clarkesville, Ga.
    I tend to agree with you on the SACD thing. There's something about a carefully mastered SACD that really sounds nice. It's one of my top choices for playback.
  22. tfarney

    tfarney Active Member

    Well...that settles it, we'll never have to argue digital vs. analog again. :agree:

    Seriously, can we stick a pin in this one and whenever the subject comes up again, just turn the thread into a link so we can go on talking about music? :D

    For my part, in my little house with a boy and 3 dogs, I'll stick with CDs and my small system that doesn't know the difference anyway. But I'll always look back on LPs with longing and affection.

  23. kevintomb

    kevintomb Forum Resident

    very cool experiment steve! There is just something about vinyl in the ambiance or something as you showed in the experiment.....not sure what but when done good it sounds awesome.....Just wish ALL cds (SACDs) would TRY to sound better than wed have convenience and great sound
  24. I am not one bit surprised by Steve's findings, and given the same test (tape, hardware, studio, etc.) I doubt that I'd feel one bit differently about the outcome.

    There has to be a reason I get excited listening to vinyl and not from cd, I thought it was "just me" for the longest time but I hear the same conclusion from others all the time these days.

    I recently purchased the Spoon vinyl album 'Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga' and
    was really stunned by it. I preferred it over my 4 older Spoon cd's
    by quite a margin. Later, I heard a coworker play GGGGG from
    a digital source and the "magic" was gone.
    After thinking about it, this made perfect sense.

    I have a few DVD-A discs and I was frustrated by how much more
    natural they sounded to me than my SACD's. I blamed it on equipment
    (but my original DVD-A player, a Toshiba, had lousy redbook playback . .
    and it still sounded better than my Sony SACD when playing back DVD-A!)

    To these self-educated ears, 96/24 and 192/24 both stomp DSD for naturalness. Just an opinion!
    AudiophilePhil likes this.
  25. Bob Olhsson

    Bob Olhsson Motown Legend

    Nashville, TN
    Adding video to the package was seen as a way to add perceived value over an MP3. The public yawned.

    When all is said and done it isn't about price or format. It's about a recording that people consider well worth paying for because it's a treasure.

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