High-Res Vinyl - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 07-18-2014, 08:29 PM - Thread Starter
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High-Res Vinyl



The inimitable audiophile Michael Fremer pulls no punches talking about his visit to Abbey Road Studios and the upcoming mono reissue LPs of the Beatles master tapes, high-res audio from analog tape and vinyl, brain studies of people listening to HRA and CD, the limits of audio measurements, the preeminence of enjoyment over technical analysis, HRA audio files available from his website, AnalogPlanet.com, answers to chat-room questions, and more.


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post #2 of 27 Old 07-19-2014, 12:06 AM
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Scott, I like your thread's title: High-Res Vinyl ... lol

* Hi Michael.

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post #3 of 27 Old 07-20-2014, 03:55 PM
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There was no 50KHz pilot tone in quad vinyl recordings. Fremer is probably confusing the fact that FM quad used a 38KHz pilot tone to broadcast in quad for the SQ system of quad broadcasting in addition to the stereo pilot tone of 19KHz.

As an ex-recording engineer, I have to disagree that vinyl can approach the quality of a master tape. Even for audio that was used for broadcast, whenever we cut to vinyl instead of distributing reel-to-reel tapes, we were always disappointed in the sound of the vinyl. (We were disappointed with the sound of the high-speed duplicated tapes as well, but to a lesser extent.

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post #4 of 27 Old 07-20-2014, 04:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post
As an ex-recording engineer, I have to disagree that vinyl can approach the quality of a master tape. Even for audio that was used for broadcast, whenever we cut to vinyl instead of distributing reel-to-reel tapes, we were always disappointed in the sound of the vinyl. (We were disappointed with the sound of the high-speed duplicated tapes as well, but to a lesser extent.)
That's my exact experience as well. All I ever heard with vinyl -- some cut in very big rooms in LA, like RCA and JVC on Sunset -- was all the flaws compared to the master tape. When you really know what the master tape sounds like, the vinyl is not that great.

I think a lot of people listen to vinyl today with rose-colored glasses (mixing my metaphors), and they kind of bask in the nostalgia. I get that, and I also get that there are many thousands of recordings that will most likely never be available digitally. Those we have to prefer on vinyl, because that's all there is.

But with everything else, for practical purposes, if it's mastered equally well, I think the CD will often sound better than the LP in most cases.
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post #5 of 27 Old 07-20-2014, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Marc Wielage View Post
I think a lot of people listen to vinyl today with rose-colored glasses (mixing my metaphors), and they kind of bask in the nostalgia.
Even though there are aspects of vinyl that I really like, I think that's very true. Back in the late 60s-80's, audiophiles constantly complained about vinyl quality, although more about the pressing quality than the overall analog process. We'd complain about defective or warped pressings, that the American labels supposedly didn't always use virgin vinyl, etc. That's why audiophiles began to seek out pressings from Europe and Japan, which were supposedly better.

Sometime in the early 80s, I visited the Columbia Records pressing plant - I think it was in Camden, NJ - and it was a bit of a mess.

Many times when I've purchased a commercial CD of a catalog title, I've been disappointed with the sound and thought, "the LP sounded much better than this." But then I've pulled out the LP and put it on and it sounds far worse. So some if it is our memory and some if it may be that the old analog systems we played these things on were actually damned good. I'd give almost anything to get my old Fisher receiver and AR speakers back to see if they actually did sound as good as I remember them sounding. My high-end Pioneer A/V receiver seems to have no life to it when playing back analog material or even audio CDs.

Much more recently, for a number of years I transferred vinyl and analog tape recordings to CD-R for a long-term NYC DJ. If I was copying an old LP from a given artist and I happened to have a CD of that artist, sometimes I'd throw on "bonus cuts" to the CD-R, frequently the CD versions of the same tracks. The CD versions always sounded better, especially if the LP had been a compilation because almost all compilations were made from analog tape copies of the original. Some years before, I had put together an educational music series for an educational publisher and the tape copies we had received of the licensed material never really sounded great.
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post #6 of 27 Old 07-20-2014, 07:19 PM
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This title is a misnomer.

Some interesting anecdotes but those inconsistencies in opinion.
One moment disparaging objective methods of evaluation then selectively appealing to certain scenarios that bolster his premises.
Then all the false equivalencies and as well flawed examples.

In the few situations when I have had the opportunity to compare both a quality vinyl record and CD of the same recording, CD always wins.

I also fairly recently went to a high end audio shop where some friends and I listened to a few records on some really nice gear with a few albums of varying physical quality my opinion was further reinforced; that vinyl is not audio nirvana.

They even had the fancy grossly overpriced, $4,000, vinyl liquid/vacuum cleaner which was used for the listening session and with U2's Joshua Tree we listened to it before and after cleaning and it still had all the faults of vinyl audible present.

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post #7 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 02:34 AM
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My strongest recollection of Michael Fremer is as the guy that absolutely RAVED about a set of cables in a Stereophile review a couple of years ago... only for John Atkinson's measurements to show that the cables were basically defective and could not be recommended. (It was refreshingly honest of them to publish the review and the measurements/assessment though!)

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post #8 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 05:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KMFDMvsEnya View Post

In the few situations when I have had the opportunity to compare both a quality vinyl record and CD of the same recording, CD always wins.

Best regards,
KvE
My experience is just the opposite. With players of equal value for both Cd and vinyl, I have yet to hear a CD that was more realistic to my ears. I am referring only to classical music reproduction.
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post #9 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 11:12 AM
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MF is certainly opinionated and passionate about his love of vinyl. While I have heard a couple of master tapes in a studio, I have not compared them directly with a CD or vinyl mastered from those tapes. I can state that I have heard some great sounding LPs and CDs. I prefer CDs and prefer high rez audio even more, which can sound so smooth and natural. I am right now listening to a 24/88.2 transfer of Oscar Peterson's Exclusively for My Friends which was recorded in the 60's and captures OP at his peak (all 6 albums together for only $35.00 when they are $18 individually) Quite a steal! In a word they sound sensational. I know that about 250 sets of these tapes were made for reel to reel that coast about $300 each at least. They are are gone now but I can't imagine the reel to reel tapes sounding any better. Digital can indeed sound stunning. For me, it is more about the quality of the original recording, the condition of those tapes and the skill of the mastering engineer than makes the transfer for commercial release. When all of these steps are done well, the results, whatever the format can be excellent.
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post #10 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 11:46 AM
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the Inimitable Fremer

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
The inimitable audiophile Michael Fremer pulls no punches talking about his visit to Abbey Road Studios.....
Well, Scott! I enjoyed the show; that was one of the less irritating Fremer sessions I've heard. Hey, speaking of non-sequitirs, I've been wondering lately what would keep engineers from creating a record player that uses a laser to read the grooves instead of a needle. Has such a thing been tried?
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post #11 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Utopianemo View Post
Well, Scott! I enjoyed the show; that was one of the less irritating Fremer sessions I've heard. Hey, speaking of non-sequitirs, I've been wondering lately what would keep engineers from creating a record player that uses a laser to read the grooves instead of a needle. Has such a thing been tried?
Thanks! As for your question, it has indeed been tried. I don't know how well it worked, but the fact that it isn't common among turntables might tell you something about that. I'll ask Fremer what he knows about it.

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post #12 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 01:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Thanks! As for your question, it has indeed been tried. I don't know how well it worked, but the fact that it isn't common among turntables might tell you something about that. I'll ask Fremer what he knows about it.
(http://www.theabsolutesound.com/arti...ser-turntable/)
(http://www.stereophile.com/content/industry-update-9)
I've got to remember: "search before I speak". I did a search immediately after posting; it seems that they're still rather expensive($3500 and up), and they're so sensitive, one has to clean the record each time one wants to listen. They seem to be a good choice for listening to vinyl that is old and worn out; other than that they are a curiosity at best.

.....That said, I didn't need to do the search to guess what Michael Fremer would have to say about a laser-based turntable. I can hear the 'poo-poo-ing' from here.

I do have to say I enjoy him as a guest(in moderation). He's definitely an intelligent man who knows what he likes. I kind of liken it to watching Jerry Springer or eating deep-fried mushrooms. It's kind of messy, definitely not highbrow or intellectually stimulating, but once I start, it's hard to turn away.
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post #13 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 06:28 PM
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Hello,

I see Utopianemo found the ELP laser turntable.

It's a phenomenal piece of engineering, if you think about it, optical disc surfaces have to be protected by polycarbonate. The surfaces are engineered to be highly reflective from the outset to a specific wavelength of laser to ensure reliable performance. Even the orignal laserdisc had a silver (or gold) reflective surface which then delivered an analogue waveform to the video circuit (and in the early days of laserdisc the audio was analogue also). Now think of the vinyl LP, which is black (not great for reflecting light at any frequency), it's surface is rough, unprotected, and a dust magnet. Now think of the size of LP grooves, and the fact that the information on a stereo LP is encoded on the groove walls, not the groove itself, so the light has to reflect off the walls and back to the pickup head, and you need to do this with two lasers which must track a dirty black disc with warps and distortions. Now you are beginning to see just the basic engineering challenges of engineering a laser turntable.

I have heard an ELP, many years ago at a Hi Fi show in the UK (probably 20 years ago now if not more). It was good, but certainly I would say that a Michell Gyrodeck or Roksan Xerxes with a good arm and a good ($1,000 - $1,500) moving coil cartridge could beat it hands down. The laser turntable was really sensitive to dirt and dust, it's soundstage was only average and to me there was just no air in the high frequencies. It's one saving grace was that it seemed invulnerable to scratches.

As for archiving, I have a recollection of an article in Stereophile from the mid 90's regarding an archiving deck built by Rockport for Sony as part of their Music Archival system, rumor had it that if you approached Andy Payor at the time to build a turntable like the Sony one, it would have run to over $150,000, bear in mind his 'production turntable, the Sirius III, was $75,000 at the time if my memory is accurate. The US Library of Congree uses a Simon Yorke turntable, custom built to accomodate oversized platters, which I understand would have cost around £15,000 UKP when they sarted installing them in 2005. Both of these organisations have huge vaults of priceless, vintage vinyl, yet neither chose to go the laser turntable route. I think this really is the reason the ELP has become just a memory, it simply didn't do enough to justify it's price tag when compared with a conventional turntable, and wasn't versatile enough to find a home in the archive and restoration business.

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post #14 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 06:39 PM
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I forgot to mention that Michael Fremer produced a DVD called 21st Century vinyl which takes a beginner through the basics of setting up a turntable, arm and cartridge. He funded the whole production himself and it is a really great guide for someone who is new to turntables and wants to learn how to perform turntable setup. Michael is surprisingly funny host and the video has little editing, so you can see even an experienced pairs of hands not getting it right on the first attempt.

Michael Fremer was also the sound supervisor on the film Tron and worked with Steven Lisberger (the creator of the Tron character who was also the writer and director) to achieve the unique soundtrack for that movie with Carlos.

I have a video which I downloaded of a 1 hr interview with Michael Fremer where he discusses his work on the film in more depth. If the admins have no problems with me linking to another site, I'll try and find if the link to that video is still live and post it in this thread.

Best wishes,

David
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post #15 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 08:29 PM
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As a guy who grew up in the 80's I fell in love with vinyl due to my mom. EMI remastered my favorite band, Duran Duran, early albums and they stunk. They overused dynamic compression that just took the breath out of the music. I was so ticked. Not to mention the glitches they refused to fix.

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post #16 of 27 Old 07-21-2014, 10:31 PM
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Just imagine for a moment, an analog TT/vinyl planet without Mikey. ...Who can replace him? ...Nobody IMO

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post #17 of 27 Old 07-22-2014, 02:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogergraham View Post
My strongest recollection of Michael Fremer is as the guy that absolutely RAVED about a set of cables in a Stereophile review a couple of years ago... only for John Atkinson's measurements to show that the cables were basically defective and could not be recommended. (It was refreshingly honest of them to publish the review and the measurements/assessment though!)
Fremer also was caught up in the JREF $1,000,000 Challenge, going to bat for $7,000+ Pear Cables in a test against Monster speaker wire before Pear left him in a lurch.
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post #18 of 27 Old 07-23-2014, 03:40 PM
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I'm new to AVS Forum but have been listening to Scotts Podcast on TWiT
for as long as he's been doing that. And like many here count myself
as a many decades long Audiophile. I thoroughly enjoyed the High-Res Vinyl
podcast and didn't find too much that I would differ with Michael Fremer
about. Maybe the thing about the 50KHz "pilot tone" on quad, wondering
how that would beat up against the tape drives bias frequency. Aside
from that I would support Michael in that a properly created LP produces
"glorious" sound. Michael even puts aside the accuracy thing and indicated
that if it sounds good that's a good thing. I agree.

I do in fact have a nice collection of Direct To Disc LP's, many of
them the classics. And the reproduction system to go with them.
The vast majority of the listening audience today has never heard
such a thing and when presented with it I find they are astounded that
a 30+ year old record can sound better then anything they have heard.

The time of Sheffield Lab, Mobile Fidelity and Audio Fidelity is
behind us. Reminiscing about all that, and playing your old LP's,
is great fun but lets move on.

Should you read this post Scott do bring Michael back again.
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post #19 of 27 Old 07-23-2014, 03:44 PM
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He has been on at least a couple of times before, I am sure Scott will have him back again.
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post #20 of 27 Old 07-24-2014, 10:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post
Many times when I've purchased a commercial CD of a catalog title, I've been disappointed with the sound and thought, "the LP sounded much better than this." But then I've pulled out the LP and put it on and it sounds far worse. So some if it is our memory and some if it may be that the old analog systems we played these things on were actually damned good. I'd give almost anything to get my old Fisher receiver and AR speakers back to see if they actually did sound as good as I remember them sounding. My high-end Pioneer A/V receiver seems to have no life to it when playing back analog material or even audio CDs.
I think you've really summed it up - it's memory, and how we heard things when we were younger. I wouldn't be surprised if in twenty years this generation starts waxing (no pun intended) nostalgically about the sound of mp3s and how the audio technology of 2034 just lacks the magic and sparkle of those old lossy formats. After all, LP is absolutely a lossy format

My brother still has my old AR38s, and, while they still sound good, they certainly lack the detail of his newer Paradigms. I think it is much like we were blown away with DVD picture quality on our old analog television sets, and now we see the flaws of DVD on our larger HD panels.

An analogy from the world of film sound. Most films prior to 1977 or so had high frequency response that topped out somewhere around 2 khz, so therefore speaker systems in theaters essentially filtered out all of the frequency content above that. The end result was pleasing, "acceptable" sound quality in the theater. Now, listen to these same older films remastered at DVD / Blu-ray quality on today's much higher resolution audio / speaker systems. The limitations of those old soundtracks become incredibly apparent.


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post #21 of 27 Old 07-24-2014, 11:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Schuermann View Post
An analogy from the world of film sound. Most films prior to 1977 or so had high frequency response that topped out somewhere around 2 khz, so therefore speaker systems in theaters essentially filtered out all of the frequency content above that. The end result was pleasing, "acceptable" sound quality in the theater. Now, listen to these same older films remastered at DVD / Blu-ray quality on today's much higher resolution audio / speaker systems. The limitations of those old soundtracks become incredibly apparent.
One quibble: What you state applied to films with optical soundtracks only - not to 70mm 6-track mag or Cinemascope 4-track mag films. It wasn't the speaker systems that filtered out high frequencies, it was the Academy Curve, which started rolling off high frequencies above 2KHz, primarily in order to avoid the hiss inherent in optical soundtracks.

And even as a young kid (but with an interest in audio even then), the sound of optical sound tracks in the theatre was never pleasing (at least not to me). When I got to hear a mag track in a Cinerama film or seeing "West Side Story" in 70mm 6-track at the Rivoli in NYC, my mind was blown.

When Dolby started producing their processors in 1977, they replaced the Academy Curve and as a result, Dolby encoded optical soundtracks exhibited a wider frequency response, frequently using the same speakers as before. They were able to do this because the noise reduction reduced the optical hiss (as well as multi-generational tape hiss during the production process). Many theaters of that era used Altec A7s or the equivalent and these were the same speakers frequently used for concerts. Nothing wrong with those speakers.

Most films made from about 1948 had the original sound recorded magnetically (after we "liberated" a few machines out of Germany at the end of the war), even if the film was never released that way. For Blu-ray and DVD home release, if they went back to those mag masters, instead of producing the disc from an optical print, there's no reason for the sound quality to be poor. And they are doing that in many cases. If they hadn't, the audio quality on the DVD or Blu-ray release would sound like a poor quality AM radio.
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post #22 of 27 Old 07-24-2014, 11:35 AM
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I agree with just about all of what you are saying. RE: 70mm or CinemaScope, that's why I said "most films," not "all."

Your information does conflict with some of what I have learned (or been told, anyway), in that speakers in most cinemas were "optimized" for the limited bandwidth of optical tracks, of course with emphasis on the range associated with the human voice. I suppose my response was somewhat poorly worded when I said that the "speaker systems" filtered out the higher ranges (of course, you are correct in terms of how the sound was pre-filtered). However, as I mentioned, it is also my understanding that the speakers used in most theaters weren't really designed for flat response.

I am not claiming you are wrong by any means, just saying we have conflicting information. It could be that the information I have is incorrect, as I have no hands on experience with the speakers in question.

RE: transfers from magnetic vs. optical. It's my understanding from talking to many involved in the film to video transfer world that going back to mag masters is very rare, as the studios are not usually willing to pay the premium except for certain prestige titles.

Again, I'm not suggesting that my information is definitive. And of course I was just trying to make a broader point.


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post #23 of 27 Old 07-24-2014, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
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In the few situations when I have had the opportunity to compare both a quality vinyl record and CD of the same recording, CD always wins.
For me, this hasn't always been true, particularly when the original/early CD releases are no longer available/hard to find, and all that's readily available are the overly compressed "remastered" CD versions. That's also been true of new releases. The soundtrack to the "Sound City" documentary is a compressed mess on CD, but the vinyl version sounds great.

It's not the vinyl that makes some releases sound better than CD, it's the crappy mastering of the CD version.

When I've compared vinyl and CD that have been treated equally during mastering, the CD has sounded better.
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post #24 of 27 Old 07-24-2014, 12:45 PM
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Absolutely agree that it all comes down to the quality of the mastering for the respective delivery format.
When all is relatively equal with a quality master used for a vinyl and CD, the CD will sound superior every single time.
Unlike vinyl which has a multitude of extraneous influences that affect and degrade audio playback at any instance a well mastered CD has in comparison negligible issues to account for in the playback chain.

All the rationalizations proposed by ardent vinyl aficionados is simply smoke to justify their fetish for an inferior playback format.

It is both perplexing and infuriating that 16bit 44hz and upwards digital audio files provide excellent fidelity but is marred and hindered by asinine mastering choices. Whereas with the vinyl its shortcomings actually compels the decisions makers to not brickwall or apply dynamic range compression to the degree that digital has been abused to.

Sound City was an interesting documentary and after all the talk about pursuing that particular analog sound it is all pissed away with the antithetical overly compressed and distorted CD master.

I have a couple of vinyl rips of certain artists due to the terrible digital masters and since vinyl cannot be abused to the same degree those are the only versions that sound decent. NIN - Hesitations Marks sounds mildly better with the "Audiophile Master" than the conventional mix but it is the vinyl that sounds the best thanks to the better dynamics. Unfortunately I only have a version from a less than stellar turntable so the highs have some serious issues but the midrange and bass is vastly superior to the "AM" mix.

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KvE

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Last edited by KMFDMvsEnya; 07-24-2014 at 12:53 PM.
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post #25 of 27 Old 07-24-2014, 04:54 PM
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Interesting, but in addition to the Direct Discs of yesteryear (Acoustic Sounds - blues only - and a German label are still doing them, by the way) the other higher-res vinyl format was and is 45 rpm 12-inch vinyls - which nobody has mentioned! The ones from Original Recording Group are $65 for two discs, but they are all better than the CD versions and usually better than the stereo out on the hybrid SACDs in my comparisons for AUDIOPHILE AUDITION.

The increased mastering and playback speed really moves the fidelity up a notch. Classic Records also did a series of multi-disc 45 rpm pressings of some RCA Living Stereo and other masters. For one of them I had the open-reel quarter-track prerecorded tape, the original RCA LP, and the CD, and the 45 rpm reissues handily won over them all. But nothing beats a well-done Direct Disc. Unfortunately, many of them provided excellent examples of Gordon Holt's dictum about the reverse ratio between great music/performance and great sound. I'm thinking especially of M & K's direct disc of the Ode to Joy of Beethoven's Ninth; wish I'd kept that - probably the worst recording ever made, and the sonics were terrific.

We review many vinyls, SACDs and Pure Audio Blu-rays at AUDIOPHILE AUDITION.
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post #26 of 27 Old 07-25-2014, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post


The inimitable audiophile Michael Fremer pulls no punches talking about his visit to Abbey Road Studios and the upcoming mono reissue LPs of the Beatles master tapes, high-res audio from analog tape and vinyl, brain studies of people listening to HRA and CD, the limits of audio measurements, the preeminence of enjoyment over technical analysis, HRA audio files available from his website, AnalogPlanet.com, answers to chat-room questions, and more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJotc_K0LQI
The argument from those who like Vinyl better than the numerous Digital formats is mainly because the new Digital re-masters are not “Mastered” the same as the Vinyl LP Disks. He referred to the Beatles “Abbey Road” as an example. Since Vinyl Disks were Mastered 100% Analog sometimes more than 40 years ago, the new Digital Mastering Engineers must listen and compare (their remastering) to the original Vinyl Disks when recreating the new Digital re-Masters of vintage Vinyl Albums, to try to reproduce the “Mix” of the original Engineering, otherwise, the listening Public will reject the new Digital Master.

This is what “Digital Deniers” offer which is 'their error' as evidence of the superior sound of Vinyl Disks. What these deniers do not understand is that it is not the Vinyl technology that is superior, it is the craft of the original Mix that is desired or is lost in Digital re-mastering. Digital re-mastering from the original multi-track tapes many times do not recapture the Engineering of the original Mix, while this fact is now better understood, there are also several technical reasons why the various Digital formats do not “Sound” as good as Vinyl as Mr. Fremer discussed. One glaring error that has been made with CDs is that most have errantly been digitally compressed (to 1 db) to make them supposedly sound better (or better heard) on the Radio or on the Car Stereo, this will not happen with my projects. It is now possible for the public to compress their music themselves. My work is original so it will only be judged on itself and will sound as good as it does with no alternate technology (like vinyl LPs) to detract its merit.

I have been studying how to make DVD HD-Audio disks. This technology is available and offers the promise of High Resolution Audio DVDs (DTS 5.1 and other formats) for consumption. The only thing that may hold back publishing my projects to this format is just like everything else; it is a matter of money and labor. Listening to my mixes is high resolution by default, so I enjoy high resolution whenever I am Engineering the mix for Mastering.

Last edited by jsalsburg; 07-26-2014 at 12:07 AM.
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post #27 of 27 Old 07-30-2014, 07:00 AM
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At least MF seems to acknowledge that hi-res digital doesn't sound like crap. I wouldn't label him as a true "Digital Denier".
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