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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. zobalob

    zobalob Forum Resident

    Glasgow, Scotland.
    That's OK, my glasses need cleaned :)
    I'm surprised at the results with the DSD/SACD comparison though, I'd have expected better than CD results.
  2. jojopuppyfish

    jojopuppyfish Senior Member

    How about this scenario:
    You're mastering something from the late 90s.
    Its from a DAT or a digital source.
    How exact would the cd or sacd be in comparison to the original source?
  3. Steve, thanks a lot for this thread, which is very interesting.

    Unfortunately, I am limited to digital playback at the time and can't go (back) to vinyl at the moment.

    Does it have to be "Compact Disc" (= redbook) or can it be any other, similarly convenient and widely compatible playback system?

    I know that you don't care much for DVD-A as a format, maybe because it is not convenient/compatible enough. But this thread more or less is another confirmation that the redbook resolution is limited and it shows during playback (even though CD's can still sound good).

    I think at 24 bit / 192 kHz the resolution of PCM should be close enough to analog, and I would be really curious if that format could have been part of your comparison also. I think it would be wise if all nicely done remasterings today (for CD, vinyl, SACD, whatever) also include a back-up/safety copy of the actual master tape (plus minor EQ changes if necessary) onto 24/192. These backup copies could be used for future releases whenever a new convenient data medium comes around.
  4. markytheM

    markytheM Forum Resident

    Toledo Ohio USA
    These findings are surprising but they do make sense. I always felt tape has a slight blurriness that actually pulls music together. I prefer that sound somewhere in the chain- at least once- as opposed to totally digital to (insert preferred format).

    CDs having less resolution made sense because it's the "air around the sounds" that seem to be missing. Nothing points that out more clearly than comparing an LP to a CD. This isn't really news.

    I'll take open reel tape's blurriness over CDs lack of resolution any day. However, the convenience factor and the lack of good source material (beside my own) make tape listening virtually null and void.

    Peace Love and you say you want resolution- well, you know we all want to change the world.
  5. PFA

    PFA Forum Resident

    As we travel on through the years, the master tapes of our cherished classic albums are degrading. They wear out a bit more with every use. It becomes more important to back them up than ever before. But with todays technology and the advancements we have made over the years, what is the best backup medium? And what is the best method for backups? Flat, 24-bit digital? This becomes an even more interesting dilemma with Steve's report. With digital being a less-than-perfect audio medium, are we making a mistake by backing up to digital?

    Vernon Fitch
    www.PinkFloydArchives.com home of The Pink Floyd Discographies Page
  6. Evan L

    Evan L Beatologist

    The only problem is, at this point, what else do we have?

  7. LeeS

    LeeS Martini Time

    What a baffling discussion. This is just one test and one man's, albeit experienced, opinion.

    There are many, many engineers who feel that DSD gets the tonality of the instruments far better than 16/44 CD.
    Anonamemouse likes this.
  8. nin

    nin Forum Resident


    Maybe, but on what grounds have they tested it? That is very big deal, for me.
  9. Capt Fongsby

    Capt Fongsby Simulacrum

  10. nosticker

    nosticker Forum Guy

    Ringwood, NJ
    I've experienced the reverse of this. In the early 90's I took a cassette of my band's demo, which had lots of 'verb on the drums and a few other instruments, and dubbed it onto the PCM tracks on my Sony 8mm VCR, which I believe are less than 16-bit.

    I'd heard stories about "bad differential linearity" and other terms, but here it was: less reverb overall, and certainly less of a "tail" on the snare hits. I considered that an improvement in some ways!

  11. Mister Charlie

    Mister Charlie "Music Is The Doctor Of My Soul " - Doobie Bros.

    Aromas, CA USA
    Thanks, Steve, very interesting and informative experiement.

    I must say having been a reel to reel man most all my life that I was disappointed a bit that it seemed to come out fairly low in the fidelity sweepstakes, although as you said it was just a curious exercise in what was the most exact copy.

    Obviously a tape tends to color the sound with a warmth and I even preferred bumping up my vinyl onto reels for better sounding music long before CD's ever showed up.

    I don't listen to reel to reel music tapes anymore, since the convenience of CD's and digital files on a computer randomized are easier and make more sense, but I always felt tape surpassed vinyl given surfacce noise, possibility of skips and such.

    But then again it all depends on the equipment one has and the ears God gave ya, and my equipment was always the cheap consumer stuff, both by necessity and because I didn't know or care any better.
  12. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain (EU)
    Not to contradict you, but if you are using 'tricks' to make your mastering sound the same in both digital and analogue, then there is some adapting of the source going on in both cases, even if you are getting the same wanted results from them.

    So, yes, you are following a single conceptual mastering scheme, but you are adapting the output to the different formats. Hence my question: if one were using the same mastering settings in digital as in analogue, would that not act against the format not being mastered for? This, I am sure you can see, is totally different from saying that you do not use the same mastering philosophy for both formats.
  13. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain (EU)
    Wouldn't that amount to mean that old, faithful, PCM is still a good option?
  14. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain (EU)
    I guess you are talking 'collateral damage' because in my book the first casualties of illegal downloads have always been CDs.
  15. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Spain (EU)
    Steve does mention SACD performing better than CD in the resolution area.
  16. Taurus

    Taurus Forum Resident

    Houston, Texas
    An depressing thought, but one I totally agree with.

    But seeing how short-sighted most of the Big Labels are, I very much doubt the people in charge think this way - the past is sooooo overwith you know - and instead are looking for the next talentless starlet with great looks to put out a million-selling single.....then drop her....the spend more time looking for another one.....then drop her....then.............:(
  17. Dragun

    Dragun Forum Resident

    Los Angeles, CA
    Taurus, I don't know much about the music business but surely the record labels know they sell a lot of catalog albums. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, etc. will always sell units.

    Is it possible to currently back up the masters if digital formats don't quite capture everything?
  18. john lennonist

    john lennonist There ONCE was a NOTE, PURE and EASY...

    Should I deduce by this that you are not a fan of the sound quality of DVD-A (or at least think that SACD is certainly -- depending on the mastering of course -- a better-sounding hi-rez format)?
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I was never asked to do one.
  20. regal

    regal Member

    York, PA,USA
    I am very surprised the RTR didn't do better.
  21. Scott Wheeler

    Scott Wheeler Forum Resident

    ::spoken in the voice of George Takai::

    "OH MY!"
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Could have been the interaction of the playback electronics, etc.

    This is just something we did for a lark; it's not meant to be the last word; I just thought it was interesting..

    I have no vested interests in any of the formats; I just work with them. I'm not a stockholder..
  23. Scott Wheeler

    Scott Wheeler Forum Resident

    It's cool though because there is often much speculation about how the various media hold up to the master but very few reported comparisons.
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Remember (and I assumed this was obvious but you never know), BILL EVANS TRIO / Waltz For Debby even though it's a wonderful album is not the last word in resolution; it's an Ampex 351 recording from 1961 on Scotch 111 tape at 15 ips using heaven knows what mic preamp. The piano is the most difficult instrument to record and I thought it would be interesting to compare..
  25. Sean Keane

    Sean Keane Pre-Mono record collector In Memoriam

    The answer is obvious: BACK THEM UP ON ACETATES.

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