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Han
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#1
27th April 2008
Old 27th April 2008
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Talking Direct Cut Vinyl

Yesterday I had a meeting in the studio with a number of forumites of a hi fi forum.
No testing, just listening to great muzic and compairing vinyl to CD and SACD.

The record player was a Thorens and we had a number of CD players. The hi fi set was absolutely hi end.

It occurs to me that many recording don't sound very good, I'm sorry to say but there's quite some crap there.
Then came the moment that one of the guys put on a Sheffield Labs Direct Cut record of the Harry James Bigband.

This is the best sound I've ever heard, razor sharp sound but
no edgy at all, as if the band was playing there in front of you. With eyes closed I could point to every musician and instrument there in front of me.

Amazing experience and I wonder how they did that. Harry James died in 1983 so it must be a seventies or even sixties recording I guess, absolutely gorgeous sound. Kudos to the guys who did that recording.

Anybody?
Han
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#2
1st May 2008
Old 1st May 2008
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Mmmmm, there were a couple of replies, what happened?
#3
7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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Yes, many post got lost in cyberspace...

Perhaps the folks that posted their comments will consider repeating the process for our community at large.
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7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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I don't know much about the Harry James album but FWIW, I happen to have the Sheffield Labs vinyl "Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker - I've Got The Music In Me". Probably one of Sheffield's biggest sellers... I don't think it's that rare.

Recorded Feb 1975 at The Producer's Workshop, LA.

18-piece band, including some familiar names: Tom Scott, Jim Keltner, Larry Carlton, Jim Gordon. Produced and engineered by Bill Schnee, assistant engineers Rick Ruggieri and Galen Senogles, lathe operator Mike Reese.

Sounds great, very open-sounding compared to other vinyl of the era.

My father, who was a huge hi-fi nut, bought the album when it came out. I would have been ten at the time. I was already playing with every tape recorder and microphone I could lay my hands on, but it was my fascination with that album that I think implanted the idea of "live recording" in my head. The idea that you capture a whole performance in one go, mistakes and all... and make it sound great. Yee-ha!

There's not much about the actual recording process in the sleeve notes unfortunately... only that the studio had a 24-channel desk, and they needed 32 channels. They make a huge deal of the fact that they somehow had to wire in another 8 channels in the days before the session. Bizarre.

Some of those Sheffield albums are available on CD these days. Might be interesting to compare the CD with the vinyl.
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7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
I don't know much about the Harry James album but FWIW, I happen to have the Sheffield Labs vinyl "Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker - I've Got The Music In Me". Probably one of Sheffield's biggest sellers... I don't think it's that rare.

Recorded Feb 1975 at The Producer's Workshop, LA.

18-piece band, including some familiar names: Tom Scott, Jim Keltner, Larry Carlton, Jim Gordon. Produced and engineered by Bill Schnee, assistant engineers Rick Ruggieri and Galen Senogles, lathe operator Mike Reese.

Sounds great, very open-sounding compared to other vinyl of the era.

My father, who was a huge hi-fi nut, bought the album when it came out. I would have been ten at the time. I was already playing with every tape recorder and microphone I could lay my hands on, but it was my fascination with that album that I think implanted the idea of "live recording" in my head. The idea that you capture a whole performance in one go, mistakes and all... and make it sound great. Yee-ha!

There's not much about the actual recording process in the sleeve notes unfortunately... only that the studio had a 24-channel desk, and they needed 32 channels. They make a huge deal of the fact that they somehow had to wire in another 8 channels in the days before the session. Bizarre.

Some of those Sheffield albums are available on CD these days. Might be interesting to compare the CD with the vinyl.
Seems strange to go to the trouble of avoiding generational losses in tape only to use 32 mics & the all the associated circuitry.

Having said that, I do appreciate the effort & motivation it must have taken to record in that way.

I wonder, what is the current state of extreme audiophile recording?

Andy
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#6
7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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I ran into a guy, many years ago who (I believe) did a number of the sheffield lab/DMM cuts. From what he told me it was quite a "rigmoral", particularly, I would suspect for classical work. I think the idea was more about cutting the chain down to the absolute minimum than reducing noise. The idea was that the master was cut "directly" from the microphone source (ignoring the associated electronics etc). Ulitimately Sheffield Lab, like (IMHO) so many audiophile labels miss the point. Music is about the music experience, not the listening one. Many of these labels had/have limited access to the truly great performers, people like Decca, EMI, Deutche Gramophon etc had all the best ones on exclusive contracts. It could also be argued that many of the larger companies also had fairly "audiophile" policies, certainly Decca are (deservedly so) lauded for their consistantly high technical standards, proven by how well many of their recordings from the early sixties still exhibit remarkable fidelity even when compared to todays state of the art. I'm a believer that great performances, in great halls, with good recording practices, using good quality equipment always yields good results.

Regards


Roland
Han
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#7
7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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A friend has ordered the original DC vinyl of The James Version and it came in his mailbox yesterday. He will make a copy to CD with his wonderful sounding Thorens recordplayer and his Fostex 300 and a copy to DAT in 16/48 and he'll send it to me. I'm very curious, I still have the sound of that DC vinyl in my head.

What amazes me the most is that this recording was done with a single stereo mic and was transported to the lathe by a 600 feet cable.

I'll keep you guys posted.
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7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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I'm doing projects for an audiophile label now (First Impression Music) and he wants to release an album from his library where the only copy of the recording is a direct cut vinyl.
I will be doing the digital transfer into DXD from a $110k Rockport Sirius turntable and Millennia LPE-2 pre. Should be exciting!

Regards,
Bruce
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#9
7th May 2008
Old 7th May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSD_Mastering View Post
I'm doing projects for an audiophile label now (First Impression Music) and ne wants to release an album from his library where the only copy of the recording is a direct cut vinyl.
I will be doing the digital transfer into DXD from a $110k Rockport Sirius turntable and Millennia LPE-2 pre. Should be exciting!

Regards,
Bruce
Now thats a turntable!

I have a few Direct to Disk Records that I hope to get back some day and there is a niceness in that there is no tape hiss or saturation. Its a different sound but can for the time really bring you into the event.

I have always been curious to try it one day for my label (only a little bit).
#10
8th May 2008
Old 8th May 2008
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I still have several DD recordings from the mid '70's or so, including the Harry James one mentioned. Below are the inside liner notes that I scanned.
Attached Thumbnails
Direct Cut Vinyl-harry-1.jpg   Direct Cut Vinyl-harry-2.jpg  
#11
8th May 2008
Old 8th May 2008
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I think most direct cut vinyls i´ve heard, sound little dull even the playing of musicians might be good. Seems like the "perfectness" of that kind of straight recordings is too gimmicky that they have come out too "clean" mixed and not enough "hot" for my taste. But, then i havent heard the record that the OP was referring to!
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#12
9th May 2008
Old 9th May 2008
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Tiny piece of trivia that I've just noticed as I was about to put the record away - playing on the Thelma Houston record are both Mike Melvoin (keys and some of the arrangements) and Gary Coleman (percussion)... the respective fathers of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (i.e. "Wendy & Lisa")

Sorry, it's the kind of thing that I notice! Carry on...
#13
10th May 2008
Old 10th May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LX3 View Post
Tiny piece of trivia that I've just noticed as I was about to put the record away - playing on the Thelma Houston record are both Mike Melvoin (keys and some of the arrangements) and Gary Coleman (percussion)... the respective fathers of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (i.e. "Wendy & Lisa")

Sorry, it's the kind of thing that I notice! Carry on...
And I remember them both well. I was in Prince's rehersal warehouse when Wendy practiced with the band for one of her first times and at the First Avenue concert where Prince introduced her to the public for the first time.
#14
10th May 2008
Old 10th May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard King View Post
I still have several DD recordings from the mid '70's or so, including the Harry James one mentioned. Below are the inside liner notes that I scanned.
Thanks for posting the notes - very interesting.

I wonder what exactly the 'misery' was?

I would guess that the brass instruments were a problem in terms of constant SPL at frequencies where the microphone had the greatest issues and perhaps in terms of asymetrical wave form?

Andy
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10th May 2008
Old 10th May 2008
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Direct-To-Cutterhead compared to standard analog process

Compared to other vinyl, yes, D2D sounds more like mixer feed. It also helps that they made a stamper directly from the cut part, but limits total record production (no mother-master-mother-mother-mother-stamper-stamper-stamper, multiple mechanical generation loss).

You could do the same kind of "Direct To Recorder" process today with decent gear and great players and get good results. Digital, even. It's a state of mind, rather than "a state of gear". You can self-limit the production to X tracks, with X inputs, to emulate working techniques of 1953/1963/1973, even though you have available 24+ MDM/DAW tracks and 90+ analog I/O and 300+ available DSP slots. "Decent gear" meaning Mackie electronics and better, used within their design limits, with emphasis on borrowing enough good microphones and preparing the performers.

If you think not, go look at production cost/speed/style of Cowboy Junkies 1st and 2nd albums. 16 bit DAT capture from CalRec Ambisonic microphone (not magic, just good quality stereo microphone signal, not B-Format surround). I think that those tracks periodically grace "greatest hits", movie soundtrack, and "the Best of..." collections, so are making money 20 years later. The DAT could just as easily have been a 2T 1/4"15ip/s analog tape, but DAT was cheaper and lighter. Now, 24bit HD/Flash memory is lighter and smaller.

Cheers.
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13th May 2008
Old 13th May 2008
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FWIW we still have Kevin Gray come out during concerts at my buddy's place and during the day we have the artists come in and cut D2D on the studios built in lathe. Blue Heaven Studios Kind of cool to watch it being done.
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Han
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#17
13th May 2008
Old 13th May 2008
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Quote:
The DAT could just as easily have been a 2T 1/4"15ip/s analog tape, but DAT was cheaper and lighter. Now, 24bit HD/Flash memory is lighter and smaller.
I have five DAT machines and two standalone CD recorders, but none of these sound better than my Studer 1/4" at 15 ips in a way of true to the source. On the contrary.
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14th May 2008
Old 14th May 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Han View Post
I have five DAT machines and two standalone CD recorders, but none of these sound better than my Studer 1/4" at 15 ips in a way of true to the source. On the contrary.
More expensive may mean "event not recorded" especially in the world of under-funded musicians self-producing, not "this cheap little digital thing is _better_ than your expensive heavy big analog thing". Not at all. I WANT to record everything to a tuned-up A-820!

Cheers.
#19
22nd November 2008
Old 22nd November 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSD_Mastering View Post
I'm doing projects for an audiophile label now (First Impression Music) and he wants to release an album from his library where the only copy of the recording is a direct cut vinyl.
The recording just hit the shelves last month and here is a review done by a writer from "Audiophile Audition"

Album Review


Regards,
#20
23rd November 2008
Old 23rd November 2008
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My memory of the hardware was that a single AKG stereo mic was used to feed two channels. Period. It was direct to disc, through the appropriate tube amps. The one entire side was made in one shot. Listen closely and you will hear the musicians moving and breathing between tracks as they played each number on the side. If they did not get it without a hitch, they did it again, the whole side. Lincoln Mayorga who drove the project was tough.

I worked with Emilio Castillo's brother, Candelario (I forget his anglo name) from Tower of Power. TOP hated the album they did with Sheffield and did not consider a good effort. I disagree. But, the point is that Mayorga recorded it the same way: all the tracks on one side straight through, no retakes from start to finish. It took five days, I believe, and the band was major pissed. They did not want to play anymore but they finally got both sides done. Listen to the recordings. Major good sound. I only have the CD, but it is great. I had the Harry James but an ex GF has it now.
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Last edited by boojum; 23rd November 2008 at 04:01 AM.. Reason: shpeling
#21
23rd November 2008
Old 23rd November 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSD_Mastering View Post
I will be doing the digital transfer into DXD from a $110k Rockport Sirius turntable and Millennia LPE-2 pre. Should be exciting!

Regards,
Bruce

do they track better than tecknics when scratching and cutting?

just kidding by the way
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