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Mastering Direct to Acetate Recordings Ribbon Microphones
Old 5th September 2007
  #1
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Mastering Direct to Acetate Recordings

I'm a big fan of recordings made before analog tape caught on....i.e. pre 1950. (Hope I'm right on my history here). Anyway, I listen to these type of recordings on CD of course, and they sound VERY VERY good; 16 bit doesn't seem a problem.

I was wondering if any one could fill me in on a typical mastering chain for these types of recordings. Is compression/limiting used?

Also, do any digital mediums compare to the direct to acetate method? DSD for instance or high sample rate PCM?

Thanks.
Old 6th September 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluegrasser View Post
I'm a big fan of recordings made before analog tape caught on....i.e. pre 1950. (Hope I'm right on my history here). Anyway, I listen to these type of recordings on CD of course, and they sound VERY VERY good; 16 bit doesn't seem a problem.

I was wondering if any one could fill me in on a typical mastering chain for these types of recordings. Is compression/limiting used?
One thing that I've heard often happened with direct to disc orchestral recordings is that the engineer would have a score (which they were expected to be able to read as fluently as a conductor) and would be able to follow along and any anticipate any extreme dynamics that would not translate well (i.e. overload the cutter head or be so quiet as to have a poor signal to noise ratio) with a fader move to compensate. Many earlier direct to acetate recordings were done with a single ribbon mic going to tube amps driving the cutter head running on a lathe with fixed pitch and depth. It's possible that later direct to acetate recordings used things like high pass and low pass filters, acceleration limiters, and compression/limiting more as ways of insuring the safety of the cutter head than as introducing any type of deliberate change to the audio being recorded.

A great video of direct to disc recording of Duke Ellington is at
YouTube - Record Making With Duke Ellington (1937)

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 6th September 2007
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Great video, thanks for the post Steve. That was extremely interesting to watch. It was interesting to think of those days being tottally AAA...
Old 7th September 2007
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I have a friend who has a few Direct to Disk recordings. Some where jazz some Classical. They are some of the best recordings I have heard. They have no tape hiss and seem to be able to get a real feeling of being in the venue. Very hard to find his recordings though and they are the thing some purest pay very top dollar for.
Old 7th September 2007
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I think that part of what makes these recordings sound great is that they were recording GREAT sound in the first place. I suspect that a modern recording of those players in that room would sound pretty damned nice. Also, using one or two (for stereo) mics will result in a recording that is free of time-distortions, like phase cancellation. The sounds travels from the instrument to the microphone, then any short reflections hit the mic, resulting in a very clean sound. In modern recordings, we are often hearing a sound being picked up by multiple mics at various distances and angles, with different eqs applied, etc.

I suspect that the recording medium has little to do with the sound you're hearing, I suspect the source and the techniques are more important, and not that difficult to emulate, if you have the patience, and access to top-shelf gear and players.
Old 7th September 2007
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A couple places are actually still doing Direct to Disc recordings -

Pauler Acoustics in Germany where they cut directly to DMM -
Stockfisch-Records
elysia: Direct Metal Mastering

and Corduroy Records in Australia -
Vinyl's last stand - Livewire - http://www.smh.com.au/technology/


Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 7th September 2007
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jdg
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i think engineers should go back to wearing suits while working.
we're professionals, dress like it! (only half kidding)
Old 7th September 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cellotron View Post
A couple places are actually still doing Direct to Disc recordings -

Pauler Acoustics in Germany where they cut directly to DMM -
Stockfisch-Records
elysia: Direct Metal Mastering

and Corduroy Records in Australia -
Vinyl's last stand - Livewire - http://www.smh.com.au/technology/


Best regards,
Steve Berson
Hi Guys
The article about Corduroy records is a bit old in terms of time not in what it contains We are now called Zenith records and are still in production We have shifted the operation closer to the action and still do what we do well, press vinyl which
By the way we are the only one in Australia with the ability to cut a master and produce a vinyl record There is another company which produces vinyl but rely on masters delivered to them from their UK parent
It seems that vinyl is still loved by lots of people and gathering from this thread at least this is the case with you
It has been quite clearly established by many that many CD's that are produced form vinyl masters do sound superior
In listening test's we have done we have found that the same record, one produced direct from the master as a CD and a CD produced from the same master on a lacquer master and then onto CD, the later was preferred by all the listeners
Apart from making sure that the signal level on the original mix/master was not going to be an issue with the cutting lathe no other adjustments where made to the take for these test's
There are a number of explanations why is that, they are all plausible
The one we have debated at length is the fact that there is a mastering guy that does the cutting on the lacquer who is well versed with the equipment as well as music
So it is not done by some guy that has a bunch of boxes as well as pro tools of which he has little or no control over it's workings internally
When you cut a master you have total control of the equipment you are using, an example is half speed cutting where you will get a deeper cut with better results on the reproduction of the sound
Some of this digital stuff is very good but quite a lot of it is abysmal One finds that when the mixing was done by someone that had an innate knowledge of sound reproduction even fairly ordinary takes can be made to sound good
We quite often have to rework mixes as well as masters given to us to be put on vinyl due to the person not having the necessary skills
It is amazing when you load the submitted master in the console and see the graphs on the scope You immediately know weather it was done by a pro or an amateur
One of the biggest issues we find is phase inversion as well as loudness they are both anathema to the cutting lathe, nevertheless both of these issues make not a bit of difference in digital
It is known that the human ear is quite susceptible to phase inversion, it is somewhat unconscious but is seems that when a recording is done with correct phasing throughout it does sound better It is the case with analogue recording when you cut a master as the cutting head is an analogue devise phase inversion will cook it or if it survives it will cut static
Besides, about 15 KHZ would be the upper limit in any cutting lathe and that would be pushing it, whereby in a digital recorded CD,there is no such limitation
It is a well known fact that that last 5 Khz of frequency are the most expensive ones to deal with Both in terms of dollars as well as equipment
It seems that the human ear is not to pleased with those higher frequency's although it does like the harmonics even at a higher level
There are another school of thought as well which has a view that due to the well engineered and careful mastering as well as the analogue method inherent in vinyl, anything mastered and recorded on vinyl once it finds it's way onto a (digital of course) cd does sound better another reason given is the output amplifiers that drive the cutting head
On a technical note it should be pointed out that all amplifiers that drive a cutting head on a lathe of a reputable make are of single ended design, not Class A, AB or anything resembling a push pull output stage so distortion is negligible if it is present at all Even in some solid state amps output transformers are used not for impedance matching but to have a bit of residual flux remaining in the transformer core which in a way acts as a "damper" providing a smoother signal
Rupert Neve the famous audio engineer now in his 80's is quite adamant on this point and has been for a long time, his view is no matter how well you design any type of push pull output stage, crossover distortion will always be there regardless
In his new venture in the US all of his designs are certainly single ended as has been his practice all along in his long involvement with sound and it's production
Now the point is this, Sound reproduction is subjective It has to please the listener There has not being a method so far as I am aware that one can base listening pleasure on any type of specification provided by the manufacturers of the reproducing equipment
All of the best specifications are out of the window if it does not sound good to whom? To you of course
One has only to visit an audio shop and he will be presented with a vast choice of speakers amps players of all kinds etc The sales guy will switch at least 3 or 4 sets in and out and wait for a response from the listener in to what he likes best What does that tells us? Subjective and only that
So here we are with even a budget priced or a top end system we still base our choice subjectively rather than looking at the specs of this system as against that All the same vinyl well done or better still: Analogue recording and reproduction of that analogue signal seems to be the most preferred way for sound reproduction, at least up to the present
A long post Just had to do it
Cheers
Chris
Old 7th September 2007
  #9
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Some interesting links on vinyl

Here is some links that may be of interest
Cheers
Chris
YouTube - Rca Victor records manufacturing process 1942 part 1
YouTube - Rca Victor records manufacturing process 1942 part 2

This is fascinating development of the technique of record cutting Most likely the highest level ever reached The process is amazing for the time

YouTube - RCA SelectaVision Production Tour Part 1
YouTube - RCA SelectaVision Production Tour Part 2

A really good show and fairly late
YouTube - How Vinyl Records Are Made PART 1 OF 2
YouTube - How Vinyl Records Are Made PART 2 OF 2
Enjoy
Chris
Old 9th September 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdg View Post
i think engineers should go back to wearing suits while working.
we're professionals, dress like it! (only half kidding)
There is something to be said about being and dressing the job.
Old 3rd October 2007
  #11
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Thanks for all the intersting feedback. I'm still wondering what sort of processing [digital and/or analog] is done making the digital master from an old direct to acetate recording. Thanks in advance to anyone who knows and would like to share.
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