Independently of the statements on many vinyl remasterings which seem to have used no compression because not needed and independently of my experience, that with some highly dynamic classical recordings I see the advantage of digital playback, Steve Hoffmans inputs on effects especially connected with vinyl mastering (like compression or limiting) and his comparisons of lacquer, SACD, tape with the masters (see below) makes me understand why in practice some advantages of vinyl playback seem to have more weight than theoretical and practical limitations.
For those interested, here a few more quotes from Steve Hoffman:
I don’t use compression or limiting in mastering digital. In vinyl cutting there is usually a high freq. limiter going or else the cutter head would burn out on some stuff… You cannot hear it working and in most cases it improves the sound of the vinyl.
Kevin Gray and I cut THEME FROM “SHAFT” from the original stereo tape at 45 RPM and we did it both ways, with the high freq. limiter on and with it off. In a blind home test we both preferred the version with the high freq. limiter.
Whoopycat said: ↑
Steve, in your opinion/experience is there an ideal DR amount for different types of music? Or is it all specific to each recording?
SH: Around 20 db max.
First, let me say that I love records, compact discs and SACDs; I have a bunch of all three formats. Nothing that I discovered below changed that one bit.
I did these comparisons a few years ago. Since I spilled the beans to an interviewer on mic last year I continually get quoted and misquoted about this subject. I’ll try to set the “record” straight in this thread. Please note I’m typing on a whacked out computer not my own with a tiny monitor and no spell check… There could be a (gasp) typo or two…
A few years ago, mainly out of curiosity (and nothing else) I got the chance at AcousTech Mastering to compare an actual master tape to the playback of a record lacquer and digital playback. Also did the same test using DSD (SACD) playback as well later on in the day. The results were interesting. The below is just my opinion. Note that we cut the record at 45 because the lathe was set for that speed. A similar test we did using the 33 1/3 speed yielded the same result.
FIRST COMPARISON: MASTER TAPE with ACETATE LACQUER AT 45 RPM with DIGITAL PACIFIC MICROSONICS CAPTURE.
We had the master tape of the Riverside stereo LP Bill Evans Trio/WALTZ FOR DEBBY at AcousTech and decided to do this little comparison. Since the actual master needs a bunch of “mastering” to make it sound the best, I set the title track up as if it was going to be mastered (which in a sense it was, being cut on to an acetate record).
We cut a lacquer ref of the tune with mastering moves while dumping to the digital computer at the same time with the same moves.
Then, after a break, we sync’d up all three, first matching levels. Simultaneous playback of all three commenced and as Kevin switched, I listened. (We took turns switching and listening). First thing I noticed:
The MASTER TAPE and the RECORD sounded the practically the same. We honestly couldn’t tell one from the other during playback. This was of course playing back the tape on the master recorder with the mastering “moves” turned on. The acetate record was played back flat on the AcousTech lathe with the SAE arm and Shure V15 through the Neumann playback preamp (as seen in so many pictures posted here of AcousTech).
The flat digital playback of my mastering sounded different. NOT BAD, just different. The decay on the piano was different, the plucks of Scott’s bass were different, the reverb trail was noticeably truncated due to a loss of resolution. Non unpleasant, just not like the actual master tape. This is slightly frustrating to me because it confirmed the fact that when mastering in digital one has to compensate for the change (which I do with my usual “tricks”). The record however, gave back exactly what we put in to it. Exactly.
Please note that an actual record for sale would have gone through the manufacturing process and the lacquer would have been processed to a MASTER, MOTHER, STAMPER and VINYL with increased surface noise, etc. but the sound of the music remains intact for the most part. A remarkable thing since records have been basically made the same way for over 100 years.
SECOND COMPARISON: MASTER TAPE with ACETATE LACQUER AT 45 RPM with DSD MASTER (SACD MASTER).
So, using the same master tape of WALTZ FOR DEBBY, we compared the before mentioned acetate that we cut on the AcousTech lathe (manufactured in 1967 and modded by Kevin Gray) with a DSD playback of the same tape with the same mastering and levels.
Result? The DSD/SACD version sounded even MORE different than the compact disc digital playback compared to the analog master. More not-like the sound of the actual master tape. The resolution was fine and we could hear the notes decay, etc. just like analog but the TONALITY was a bit off. It was not telling the truth when compared to the master tape or the acetate record.
THIRD COMPARISON: MASTER TAPE with ACETATE RECORD with OPEN REEL TAPE COPY AT 15 ips:
We made a dub of the tune WALTZ FOR DEBBY to an Ampex ATR-100 at 15 ips non-Dolby, +3 level and played it back with the actual master tape and the acetate record. Both of us thought the open reel tape copy sounded inferior to the acetate record when compared to the master tape; weaker transients, a more “blurred” sound that would never be noticeable unless played back with the actual master tape to compare it to.
So, what does this mean to you? Probably nothing. What did it mean to me? I found it interesting. The CD playback had more accurate tonality than the DSD/SACD playback. The DSD playback had more front to back resolution than the CD playback. The tape copy sounded slightly lackluster. The acetate record playback beat them all in terms of resolution, tonal accuracy and everything else when compared directly with the analog master in playback. This is not wonderful news in a certain sense; vinyl playback is sometimes a pain in the butt and knowing that CD’s are not capturing everything in perfect resolution drives me bonkers.
Regarding the lowly phonograph record:
We know that records have their problems (could be noisy, warped, bad cutting, etc.) as well but for the most part they will be a damn miraculous representation of the actual master recording for not much money.
Your comments are welcome.
Please remember, the above is just my OPINION but I found it interesting. I love my compact discs but I realize they are not the last word in resolution; they are damn fine though and when listening for pleasure I play CDs and records, with CDs getting the most play. My Sony and Living Stereo SACDs are never far away from me either. If you disagree with me, that’s cool. It’s all fun, or should be.
Sorry again for some awkward English in this; my proofing time was limited (but not compressed).
As some of you know, Kevin Gray and I have been working on a bunch of wonderful Nat “King” Cole Capitol Records’ reissues for Acoustic Sounds/Analogue Productions over the past 1/2 year. We are doing three-channel surround SACD’s direct from three-track tapes with a two-channel and CD layer plus some extra-special 45 RPM 180 gram vinyl. So you will be able to hear Nat coming out of your center channel (on the three-channel SACD layer) and nicely balanced on your CD and SACD two channel layers and then on the uniquely mixed vinyl versions. Get an SACD player.
Do you have a turntable? If you are on the fence about getting one, I would do it if you love Nat. These records are going to be just killer and that is not just hot wind from a mastering engineer. The unique thing about these albums that will be on vinyl is the fact that the mixes will be unique, having been done by mastering the three-channel tapes DIRECTLY to the lacquer without any second-step “master” mixes to tape being done ahead of time.
In other words, the mixes that were cut into the acetate lacquers for pressing into records are unique, differing from our SACD/CD versions by the very nature of the mastering process. And yes, if we have to do recuts, THOSE sides will be slightly different mixes as well. This is an opportunity to get about as close to the voice of Nat Cole as humanly possible on this earth.
The strength of the LP is that it is analog, and can sound wonderful without little effort. The SACD on the other hand sounds wonderful as well, with a bunch of circuits working overtime to try and RECREATE the analog sound.
Both are totally bitchin’ to me, but if you are asking if they will match if played back at the same time in your system, the answer is: They should. But too many playback variables might get in the way.