Your best DSD256

Wow! Thank you so very much for the great reviews, Paul172!!!

Can’t wait for you to hear the other DSD256 titles we have!

Enjoy,
Cookie Marenco
Founder and Producer
bluecoastmusic.com

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Much deserved! I bought the Blue Coast Collection DSD 256 to compare to the SACD and I heard the first guitar string pluck on the first track and knew it wasn’t necessary. The 256 remaster is far superior in every way! Keep up the great work!!

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As aptly demonstrated in this recording, Petrit Çeku is a gifted guitarist. He plays fluidly, graciously, and elegantly, with perfect control over subtle dynamic shading. This wonderful music, written by J.S. Bach originally for solo cello, has seen many very successful arrangements for other instruments. This performance by Petrit Çeku on guitar ranks among the very best (of many) that I’ve heard. In Pure DSD256. Download available here.

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Gonzalo Noque’s recording is positioned wonderfully well in the superb acoustics of the 13th Century Spanish church of San Francisco in Àvila, Spain. This is a venue Gonzalo Noqué has used in many of his recordings for good reason. As a listener, Gonzalo has positioned us at a respectful distance from the performer. Some recordings place the sound field so close to the guitar, that one feels as if one’s head is being pushed into the sound hole of the body of the guitar. Thankfully, not so here.

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Hi @cookie, question regarding DSD 256 albums that have been remastered with upsampling from originally-recorded PCM, for example the Joey DeFranceso album upsampled from 48kHz, 24-bit WAV PCM.

If I were choosing between the JD album and one that is originally recorded in DSD256, what am I missing? I guess I don’t understand the merits of and differences between 1) recorded in lower rates and upsampled to DSD256 and 2) original recording in DSD256, possibly mixed in PCM (including DXD) and then back to DSD256.

Thank you.

Hello Shanka, thank you for asking this question. It can be very confusing to understand all the terms used by pro audio. We do not “upsample” in our remastering process to DSD256. Upsampling and conversions are digital processes that anyone with a conversion tool can do.

In our remastering process (called SEA) we take the original audio (whatever we are provided with by the label) and run it through a highly calibrated analog system and record that to DSD256. That then becomes our new “master”. From that DSD256 we convert to the other formats we sell. So at our store, the DSD256 will be the optimal format and the 4824 will not sound the same as the download you purchase elsewhere. It is unique to our store.

Unfortunately, we receive very few DSD masters. Our customers who want the original can buy the 4824 elsewhere if they choose. We have customers who prefer to buy DSD256 and DSD128 from our remastering process than purchase PCM.

We have customers who buy downloads based on what the original file was. We also have customers who buy lower resolutions based on how much they like the album and want to pay for it. We leave the decision to our customers.

Thank you for asking!
Enjoy,
Cookie
bluecoastmusic.com

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The original Joey Defrancesco 48/24 sounds very good on my system the DSD 256 sounds like there is more space around the instruments and more air if that’s possible and makes any sense. I’m enjoying it!

Cookie, so do you use the analog system to add a certain sound to the original recording other than making it more transparent with a remastering process? Or do you take unmastered source files for that which previously had been mastered with an inferior chain?

Hi Jazznut (and others who might be jumping in here), I don’t want to confuse the issues so I’ll better explain what’s going on.

I have 3 businesses -
OTR Studios (my main business and experience. We record, mix and master for any artist and label who pays us to do the jobs needed). We work on tape, DSD and PCM with various systems in place to accomodate archiving, remastering, restoration, new recordings etc. 40 years in the business.

Blue Coast Records - we investment to record, mix, master and release artists’ projects direct to DSD256 (formerly to tape or DSD64). Artists are asked to record in our proprietary system called E.S.E. (no headphones or overdubs). We own the recorded music to sell as we need (these are also called ‘masters’). We mix all projects through analog systems (at OTR Studios), master and remaster with our systems.

Blue Coast Music - a DSD and HD download store for high resolution audio enthusiasts. We don’t own the music. We are provided final mastered versions of songs (music already mixed from the multitrack and mastered by the label so that the sequences are in place). We remaster those final masters that the label gave us through an analog system and recapture in DSD256. We do all the work at OTR Studios.

I’m sure some of you are confused, which is okay. It’s very confusing to work in the music business. Unlike te majority of the music business, when recording in DSD, most people control all the processes from record to sales (as Paul Mc, Morten, and others do).

Most of us have businesses outside of just owning the label to help support the recordings. My “other” business happens to be owning a recording studio where I’m contracted to record, mix and master for other labels.

So, Jazznut… to answer your question… if we’re paid by an outside label we do work on unmastered source files to make them sound better. In most cases for Blue Coast Music, we are given the final mastered in the highest sampled version they have.

Thanks for asking!

Cookie

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Thanks Cookie, that’s why I asked if you try to add a certain sound to it when saying you remastered it (by processing an already mastered source through an analog system and then recording that to DSD256).

So far I thought „re“mastering means to (a) differently master an unmastered source, not to (b) set an additional mastering on top of a mastered source. But this seems to be just my too narrow interpretation.

In my understanding (a) could result in a purer, more transparent version compared to the initialy mastered source while (b) could just result in a different sounding version compared to it (which may therefore sound „better“, too)

Hello Jazznut, another good question and I hope to clarify the job of the mastering engineer.

The primary job of a mastering engineer (and remastering engineer) is to create ‘masters’ suitable for making a product that:
A) is the master used for producing multiple copies for different formats like vinyl, CDs, SACDs, cassettes, etc.
B) is the master digital copy used for consumers to download or stream.

Generally, the producer, artist or label provides the mastering (or remastering) engineer the stereo mixed tracks that they have approved the sound of. The final mix will go to the mastering/remastering engineer in the one format available. The mastering/remastering engineer generally creates the production copies in multiple formats for manufacturing or consumer download.

In the best possible cases, the mastering engineer does not alter the sound of the mix unless they need to conform to certain specifications for production or are paid by the producer/artist/label to make adjustments to the sound.

Example… when I worked for Windham Hill Records, I was a producer with a budget and timeline to meet. When we finished the mix, we didn’t often have time to adjust the volumes between songs or adjust spacings between songs for vinyl release. We’d do that in mastering. Sometimes, we noticed a track needed eq or compression to meet the specifications of vinyl. I’d go to Bernie Grundman’s and he ran it through his systems to create the production lacquer. CDs and cassettes have different specs so we’d master a different master for each of those.

Depending on the requirements of the label, it’s possible that each format (vinyl, CD, mp3, SACD, DSD, 1/4" tape) will be slightly different in sound in order to conform to certain specifications.

Unless it is requested by the label, when we remaster an album for Blue Coast Music to DSD256, we try to do as little change to the mixed/mastered file provided. We created a proprietary process called SEA for this remastering to DSD that is analog. We try not to alter the mix but restore dynamics and widen the image when possible specifically for DSD256 release.

Audio engineer processes are not easy to understand and are not simple. I hope that my explanation helps.

Enjoy!
Cookie Marenco

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Thanks again Cookie!

My basic question was related to your above mention:
I still have no idea how dynamics can be increased and imaging widened (or transparency increased or details revealed) when a source is ran through and ADDITIONAL process, which doesn’t replace a previous inferior one. Is there a simple way to describe how this is possible?

Paul‘s case, where he replaces a previous analog mastering process to DSD64 with an new digital mastering process in DSD256 I understand in terms of a possible improvement. That’s different in my understanding, as it replaces a previous process and is not an added one.

Hello Jazznut,
I’ll be in the studio the next week and probably not able to respond much more for a while.

I watched a recent interview between the great mastering engineer Bernie Grundman and Chad Kassem on youtube. At one point Bernie says something like this, “There are things you can’t measure and only hear when it comes to sound.” Bernie was my mentor who I learned from. He tested gear and had modifications made until it suited his tastes in sound.

I will say that not every well known mastering engineer goes to the lengths Bernie does. Many don’t hear the difference between FLAC and WAV of the same file. Some mastering engineers won’t do a listening test for it, either. As Bernie also says, the ‘math’ isn’t as good as the ‘ears’. Which I agree with. This is a business of ‘ears’ and hearing sound.

If you play the same file using Roon, Audiogate, JRiver, etc… it will not sound the same. If you change DACs, that same file won’t sound the same. If you use different analog channels to run the sound through, those analog channels won’t sound the same with the same file. Filters, components of gear, chips… you name it… all make a slight difference in sound. This certainly keeps reviewers busy. :slight_smile:

In developing the SEA process, we tested hundreds of combinations of devices and software until we arrived at our current setup. Those slight differences in playback of each component is what highlights or diminishes certain qualities of sound we are looking for in our SEA process.

The differences we are making in our SEA remastering process are very, very small and very difficult to hear unless you’re experienced with doing blindfold tests. The choices we make for playback DACs for the source music and the analog channels we choose for adjustments in gain were tested and chosen over a period of a year before we finalized our processes. Our systems don’t work on all music but on 90%, we think we can make a difference for those wanting to hear their music in DSD.

Again, mastering is an artform of small details that most people don’t care much about. Bernie is a master, but there were times that I didn’t always agree with his choices… and that’s okay. These are very very small differences. Most of the time I agree with Bernie when I worked with him. The only way to really experience these sonic choices in mastering is to attend a mastering session with a high caliber engineer.

We will be offering a DSD mastering workshop soon. We haven’t settled on the final topic, but if you’re interested to learn more, ask questions, hear the files (remotely, we’ll send out later), please fill out the form for our waiting list.
https://forms.gle/4sq9hgFJBKcKpepAA

Enjoy your music!
Cookie Marenco
bluecoastmusic.com

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Thanks Cookie! I also watched this interview and agree with him.

So finally what I understand of your SEA process is, that you don’t replace an inferior mastering step with a better one, but you give a certain sound to the initial mastering by using your great analog equipment and transfer the whole thing (which is still based on the initial, lower resolution, already mastered PCM or whatever source file) to DSD256.

It’s still a bit of a mystery to me how one can change dynamics or imaging without remixing or replacing a previous mastering step, but that seems to be the art of the engineer :wink:

Thanks for your answers and your offer!

Yes, Jazznut… a good description. One clarification is that the SEA process as I’ve described it is used for projects to sell downloads in DSD256 that we receive from other labels who did not record in DSD. (If you think about vinyl or CD, mastering engineers have certain processes unique to their gear that they use to maximize the quality for production).

If the project has been mixed or mastered from DSD files through our analog devices (such as Blue Coast Records or some project that I record for other labels) then we don’t need to do the analog stage a second time… unless it is for our older titles that we mixed to 1/2" tape or DSD64. To bring those to DSD256, we do go through the entire analog SEA stage.

Oh no… my session starts in a little while… I better go!

Enjoy!
Cookie Marenco
bluecoastmusic.com

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Thanks, Cookie. Brilliantly written and so generous. You have it right. This is all about listening. Every last bit of it. Thanks for the insights.

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This recording is from the International Phonograph Inc. series of recordings by Jonathan Horwich being made available at HDTT in direct DSD256 transfers from his master tapes. For years, Jonathan has made his recordings available as reel-to-reel tape dubs on his own website, and he continues to do so. (See here)

Most of Jonathan’s recordings are live recordings from concerts where he was able to set up his microphones and reel-to-reel tape deck (15 or 30ips) over the past 40 years. Some of the artists will be unknown beyond the region in which they regularly performed; others are internationally recognized (e.g., Chet Baker, Benny Goodman, Chick Corea, Stan Getz, Clare Fischer, Joe Pass, Lee Konitz, Ravi Shankar…). But whether known or unknown, the performances are usually quite excellent as is the sound of the recordings.

A few years ago, Jon and Bob decided to collaborate. Jon makes the transfers from his master tapes to DSD256 (I think using a Playback Designs ADC) and sends the files to Bob for download from the HDTT site. Many of these IPI recordings are superb, this is certainly among them. I’ll have to post some additional ones.

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This is one wonderful sounding recording. Actually all the DSD256 files I got from HDTT and elsewhere all sounds more like vinyl because they just have more body, richness of tone, soundstage air and ambience. A lot of that information is a bit curtailed with DSD64.

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For someone who listens to all analog since the beginning of Hifi (besides also listening digital), it is interesting to observe, that many, who intentionally decided against analog, seem to prefer especially those characteristics from their digital and their digital media.

I guess for those, even by digital playback, analog sources continue to dominate, simply because most historical favorable artists for quite some time will still be recorded analog…even if new (and extremely few) DSD256 recordings would offer similar quality.

For someone like me, the question arises, why those listeners don’t directly listen all analog and partly not only decided a against it, but some even more or less argue or inwardly fight against it. But I understand that DSD 256 copies of analog sources are a more or less good way to listen to this quality without having to deal with the tape or vinyl circumstances. In 50 years we might have enough historically valuable artists recorded in DSD256 in comparable sound quality.

I have respect for Cookie, who went from favoring tape to favoring DSD64 or 256 as the best new format for this kind of quality, without favoring every kind of digital inbetween against analog tape. This is a comprehensible, undogmatic path. I also have respect for everyone else on this path after whatever possible loop ways.

I agree. When one gets to DSD256, the music becomes much more fully fleshed out in all the ways you describe.

These have become my favorite performances of the Bartok String Quartets. The Ragazze Quartet seem to simply breathe this music delivering the full range of emotional content in vibrant, intelligent performances. The recording quality is superb.

Jared Sacks captures these performances with exceptional transparency and resolution, preserving the delicate information that allows the natural air and reverberation of the church in which these were recorded to bloom without overwhelming detail. Volume 1 is in Pure DSD256. Volume 2 was recorded in DXD and then converted to DSD256 for release. I don’t know why Jared changed to DXD for the second recording.

(Review here) (Download available here and here)

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