The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Did the first abums recorded on digital multitracks sound 'bad'?
Old 14th June 2004
  #1
Did the first abums recorded on digital multitracks sound 'bad'?

Did the first albums recorded with digital multitrack sound 'bad' as engineers got to grips with it?

I remember a Ry Cooder record supposed to be 'amazing' that my dad bought... I remember it getting very few plays.....

The early days of digital....

Which album blazed a trail?

Let's have a look back!
Old 15th June 2004
  #2
I think Donald Fagen's The Nightfly sounds great and I think it is one of the first commercially sucessful all digital recordings at least if I remember correctly anyway. I remember reading a Roger Nichols interview and he said something about all kinds of issues with the tape deck because the technology was so new.

I think it was a first generation 3m digital machine and it was all kinds of trouble.

Mastered by Bob Ludwig....

I just listened to it the other day and I still think it sounds good. Maybe an argument for recording techniques over medium I would say. It does have a "sound" all to it's own but I like it. "Clasic digital" ahh the good old days...

Old 15th June 2004
  #3
Lives for gear
 

i believe Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" was the first "completely digital" commercial album. still had an analog console. but was tracked to digital tape (mitsubishi or sony deck) and mixed down to digital tape (dat or whatever).
Old 15th June 2004
  #4
Gear Nut
 
Zoesch's Avatar
 

Voivod's Nothingface was the first all-digitally recorded album that I truly liked from a sonic point of view... but that's not saying it sounded great or not, just that the cold and harsh sound mated the music perfectly.
Old 15th June 2004
  #5
Lives for gear
 
jpaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Zoesch
Voivod's Nothingface was the first all-digitally recorded album that I truly liked from a sonic point of view... but that's not saying it sounded great or not, just that the cold and harsh sound mated the music perfectly.
hell yeah! They NEEDED a harsh and brittle tone to compliment their music, and I mean that as a compliment.
Old 15th June 2004
  #6
Gear Head
 
artapril's Avatar
 

Joe Jacksons ´84 "Body&Soul" was recorded to an 3M digital tape. Produced by David Kershenbaum, engineered by Rik Pekkonen. No mastering credits.
One of my fovourite CDs. But here you get a clue, why people described digital as sterile. But I like it. Very clear, with a lot of soul.
Old 15th June 2004
  #7
Gear Nut
 
Zoesch's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by jpaudio
hell yeah! They NEEDED a harsh and brittle tone to compliment their music, and I mean that as a compliment.
Oh indeed... and funny than on the other side of the spectrum, both Skinny Puppy (Dave Rave Ogilvie) and Frontline Assembly (Greg Reely) who were the two most futuristic sounding industrial groups had a devotion to analog tape that lasted until their last respective album
Old 15th June 2004
  #8
Gear Guru
Hi there. Long time lurker, first time poster. I think Steely Dan's Gaucho was recorded on a 3M Digital multitrack at Soundworks in New York.
As to the sound of early digital albums, outside the obvious improvement in ADs, it took time for engineers to figure out the new medium. In analog, you get the warmth for free but you have to work for the top so bright solid state condenser mics like 414s,and 451s were popular. In digital, the top is free but you have to work for warmth so people went to tubes and ribbons.
Old 15th June 2004
  #9
Lives for gear
 
2leod's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by genericperson
i believe Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" was the first "completely digital" commercial album.
I remember picking up "In Transit", a live album from a Canadian band called Saga in 1982 mainly because it was completely digital, though I bought it on vinyl. Recorded to a 3M machine and mastered digitally if I recall the liner notes correctly. It was the first digital recording I had heard, and the thing I remember was how punchy and tight it was for a live album. Now, being a Canadian band, maybe that doesn't quite qualify as a commercial album...
Old 15th June 2004
  #10
Gear Guru
Just took alook at the CD. Gaucho was 1980
Old 15th June 2004
  #11
Gear Nut
 
chrisjin's Avatar
 

I got my first digidesign system at the beginning of the 90's when it first was just Sound Designer and you had to use a 4-track program called "Deck" to multi-track with it.

As soon as they introduced PT with the smpte slave driver there were guys (including myself) that were taking tracks off of 2-inch (usually drums), editing the stuff, and laying it back in multiple passes with just the 4-track PT interface...I did a couple of gigs like this with with 2 studers linked and all the tracks had been edited on my little PT system...There were a bunch of major label albums from the early, early 90's that had this business going on....A lot of those albums sound better than albums I'm hearing today...

had to back it all up with DATa on DATs...I was stoked on my 450mb hard drive that cost me $1000...those were the days.

meanwhile...Alanis's Jagged Little Pill was recorded completely with ADATs if I'm not mistaken...not that it sounded that great, but I think I've heard much worse sounding albums put out in the last two years...sold like 19 million as well, so go figure....

Interestingly, most of the stuff from then that ended up sounding good was mixed by the same guys that are still mixing most stuff today, and when done well, it didn't end up sounding that much different...Even more interestingly, look at how far converters have come since then and look at how things are mastered today...
Old 15th June 2004
  #12
I may be answering my own question here....

1980 digital multitracks were so expensive they were used only by the artists and producers & engineers with the biggest budgets.

I started intering in a 'b' grade 2" tape using three studio facility (even though we had SSL's & Trident consoles) from about 1982 and up till now have NEVER come near a digital multitrack appart from ADAT or DA88... (and I did struggle with the sound when I was forced to use them..)

I suppose I was looking for similar early digital issues and early DAW issues...

I would be interested to hear how folks grappled with the sound of digital even if they WERE recording world class talent back then!

heh
Old 15th June 2004
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Ted Nightshade's Avatar
 

Evelyn Glennie's late 80's Light In Darkness, done on some old Sony digital system, came out really well. Sounds better than many, many more current things. It's multitrack.

Just about my best sounding CD is from 1984 or something- The Rite of Spring tracked digital- sounds incredible, still, much, much better than most of the best of the current stuff. My guess- they payed a whole lot of attention, and didn't manipulate anything digitally- just tracked it, and you play it back on the CD bit for bit.

Digital storage is one thing- digital manipulation of sound is a totally other thing.
Old 15th June 2004
  #14
Lives for gear
 
blackcatdigi's Avatar
Take a listen to Rainbow's very aptly titled "Straight Through the Eyes" (The album with "Stone Cold" on it) from '82. First digital (DDD) hard rock album I'm aware of.

I remember trying to figure out what was so 'wierd' sounding at the time. Blackmore's rather piercing Strat, coupled with early digital medium makes for some absolutely deadly notes in those solos.

Strangely enough, the first time I listened to this record all the way through (and made these observations), I was listening through an audiophile, all tube system. And it probably lessened the pain, tremendously. I recall wincing, involuntarily through most of the guitar solos...

Other than Blackmore's painful frequencies, the overall production is actually quite good. Great drummer (Bobby Rondinelli)...
Old 15th June 2004
  #15
Lives for gear
 
blackcatdigi's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by 2leod
I remember picking up "In Transit", a live album from a Canadian band called Saga in 1982 mainly because it was completely digital, though I bought it on vinyl. (snip) Now, being a Canadian band, maybe that doesn't quite qualify as a commercial album...
Saga really was a great band. Those guys could play. I always felt they should have been a lot more successful.
Old 15th June 2004
  #16
Lives for gear
 
ttauri's Avatar
 

Trevor Horn was on the digital tip early, wasn't he? I like the sound of "p:machinery" a whole lot and I think that was all digital, though that's also a case where digital-ness fits the vibe. Not a particularly warm album, that Propaganda one (both in spirit and sound).

Peece,
T. Tauri
Old 15th June 2004
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

I remeber Alex Degrassi did a solo finger style guitar record in the late 80's and they made a bid deal in the liner notes about it being recorded digitally. It was known at the time for it's exceptional sound quality. Looking back, I remeber it did sound very good. I sort of think it had most to do with the increased dynamic range and low noise floor (et al. no tape hiss) more than anything else.
Old 15th June 2004
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

early all-digital albums and no one's mentioned Peter Gabriel yet? despite the fact that it's 20dB softer than modern releases i still love Security...vibe works perfectly for that album.
Old 15th June 2004
  #19
High End Moderator
 
mwagener's Avatar
We recorded some of the Accept albums (Restless and Wild, Balls To The Wall, Russian Roulette) on digital (3M, the first in Germany) in the early 80s. They were mixed to 1/4 analog.

Other albums I recorded on hybrid analog/digital (various machines, drums mostly on 2") are: Skid Row (1st and 2nd album), Extreme Pornograffitti, Saigon Kick, White Lion Pride and Big Game, Alice Cooper Constrictor. Alice's Raise Your Fist and Yell was the first album I completely recorded in digital (still mixed to 1/2") and Warrant's Dog Eat Dog

Once I worked on the digital machines, i never wanted to go back to anlog tape (flame suit on ), even though these early 3Ms were not without problems.
Old 15th June 2004
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

Dave Grusin's "Mountain Dance" was done direct to two-track digital in 1981.

It was (is) a fine sounding album.

I only ever heard it on vinyl, though.

Ed
Old 16th June 2004
  #21
Gear Nut
 
bitrot's Avatar
 

When purchasing the Andreas Vollenweider's
Behind the Gardens Behind the Wall-Under the Tree (1982), I was told it was recorded digitally by the sales guys who went off on how new digital was, and how great Jon Otis' percussion is on the album.

My folks had a decent turntable and speakers. I immediately found that the lows and mids were ok, but the high end was terrible... each pick on his harp had this, well, digital sound like it was dropped in bitrate... all the high end on the album just sounded clicky and terrible. I didnt' listen to it much cause it sounded like ass, basically. I thought something had gone wrong with the pressing of the album and I just had a bad copy.

Then one day a few years later, I recorded the album onto a cassette tape fairly hot, and to my surprise the whole thing sounded so much better... gone were all the artifacts that had been driving me nuts.

At the time, I had no idea why or what I was hearing in terms of the differences between the album and the cassette, but in 20/20 hindsight, even the meager tape compression of the cassette format obviously took care of the offensive high end and smoothed out the digital artifacts.

After that I paid attention to look out for the dreaded "DDD" on CD's.
Old 16th June 2004
  #22
Lives for gear
 
James Lehmann's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by not_so_new
I think Donald Fagen's The Nightfly sounds great and I think it is one of the first commercially sucessful all digital recordings at least if I remember correctly anyway. I remember reading a Roger Nichols interview and he said something about all kinds of issues with the tape deck because the technology was so new.

I think it was a first generation 3m digital machine and it was all kinds of trouble.

Mastered by Bob Ludwig....

I just listened to it the other day and I still think it sounds good. Maybe an argument for recording techniques over medium I would say. It does have a "sound" all to it's own but I like it. "Clasic digital" ahh the good old days...

"The Nightfly" is one of my all time favourite albums and a masterclass in mixing - the arrangements are so complex but it never sounds cluttered. I still use this album for listening test on gear. However, if I'm honest and focus on the sound rather than the wonderful music and musicianship I do find it a bit 'bass-light' - there just isn't a decent low end on this album.

Am I in a class of one here or does anyone else agree?
Old 16th June 2004
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
Henrik's Avatar
 

I think the Polar studio in Stockholm were one of the first to jump the digital bandwagon. I'm quite certain Abba's The Visitors and Super Trouper was recorded to digital. When was that, 1981-82?

Cheers,
Henrik
Old 16th June 2004
  #24
Lives for gear
 
audiothings's Avatar
 

grp's 'glen miller orchestra' thing was some kind of landmark digital event? it sounded pretty good, when i heard it, back in high school. but back in high school i used to like grp, the smooth jazz sound. (grp and i have since parted ways .

.007,
self.

ps: i wonder if in 20 years time people will be paying $27000 for the 'vintage' early digital sound machines like they do for the fairchilds these days.....
Old 16th June 2004
  #25
Quote:
grp's 'glen miller orchestra' thing was some kind of landmark digital event? it sounded pretty good, when i heard it, back in high school. but back in high school i used to like grp, the smooth jazz sound. (grp and i have since parted ways .
Hey watch it... Glen Miller is still WAY COOL.... I still love that CD (but I lost it a few years ago and have not replaced it). I do remember it sounding pretty good. Actually the guy that introduced me to that CD won a car stereo competition with that CD back in the day. Really good stuff....

Quote:
"The Nightfly" is one of my all time favourite albums and a masterclass in mixing - the arrangements are so complex but it never sounds cluttered. I still use this album for listening test on gear. However, if I'm honest and focus on the sound rather than the wonderful music and musicianship I do find it a bit 'bass-light' - there just isn't a decent low end on this album.
Hummm.. Bass-light or bass-right?? It is a little thin compared to other Roger Nichols / Steely Dan productions but it does not bother me, if anything I think it is a bit cleaner.

This might go to Jule's original post actually. Obviously Steely Dan and Roger Nichols know a thing or two about good sounding albums, check out Aja and the Royal scam. But Gaucho and The Nightfly both sound s little thin in comparison. If memory serves Gaucho was DDD as well and was "early digital." Roger N and the boys might have been used to tracking and mixing with fat analog tape comp so their tracking and mixing techniques did not change much for these sessions and because of it they tracks sound thin.

Over time everyone got better with digital and by the time Two Against Nature came around they had it together. Two Against Nature has got to be one of the best sounding pop productions in the last 5 years and dare I say one of the best all around productions ever (in the top 50 maybe??). Yes technology changed drastically between Gaucho to Two Against Nature but I also think the recording process and techniques were modified along the way to accommodate the "new" sound of digital.

Just a guess on my part, unfortunately I was not there for any of it...
Old 16th June 2004
  #26
Lives for gear
 
echorec's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Henrik
I think the Polar studio in Stockholm were one of the first to jump the digital bandwagon. I'm quite certain Abba's The Visitors and Super Trouper was recorded to digital. When was that, 1981-82?

Cheers,
Henrik
True, they used their 3M machines up until recently. I have made quite a few recordings the with those machines at Polar and they still sound pretty good, I think it´s 20 bits and 50k sampling freq or something like that. I also made a few recordings on the Mitsubishi 32-track digital about ten years ago and those recordings sound good today as well. All of that stuff was mixed through great analog consoles.
Old 17th June 2004
  #27
Lives for gear
 
ttauri's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by audiothings
ps: i wonder if in 20 years time people will be paying $27000 for the 'vintage' early digital sound machines like they do for the fairchilds these days.....
Well, certain hip-hop folks prize the MPC60 sound.

Peece,
T. Tauri
Old 19th June 2004
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Roland's Avatar
People like Denon and Decca were experimenting with Digital systems in the early Seventies, however I do remember Fleetwood Mac's Tusk being hailed as one of the early digital recordings on the brand new 3M digital machines, though I am not sure the date of that album.

Regards


Roland
Old 19th June 2004
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Mikey MTC's Avatar
 

James - you're right, The Nightfly is a little bass-shy. You've got to hear Elliot Scheiner's new DVD-A remix of it. They've got it right now!

Also - the first commercially successful all digital recording I can remember was Stevie Wonder's Hotter Than July; from 1980.

It's a little strident in the top end, but many of the transients are not compressed at all by today's standards and it has a real bounce about it. It probably sounded much smoother on vinyl but on CD as I have it, it's good but you can hear the effect of those early A/Ds.
Old 19th June 2004
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Roland's Avatar
I checked out Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, and that was 1979, so it probably is the first major digital multitrack recording. I remember there being a lot of fuss made in Studio Sound about it at the time. Apparently the studio rebuilt the room and re-equiped to entice Mac to record there. Part of the upgrade was the 32 track digital multitrack.

Regards



Roland
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump