A good book to read until you understand it -- and it shouldn't take more than one read because it's
well-written -- is Bob Katz's "Mastering Audio." He explains how the whole bit-depth thing works. If
you don't go digi-tools crazy, 24-bit is plenty for standard conservative cleanup or EQ tweaking and
then peak-level normalization. You start getting into trouble with multiple chains of effects and
dynamics processing. Also, some digi-tools are better than others. And I think a lot of people get a
rig full of digi-tools and just start using them like crazy without understanding what is being done
to the signal. Finally, I still think some of the worst sins of digi-processing were back in the
early days of Sonic Solutions and CEDAR when they were over-used by people not listening carefully
or unable or unwilling to hear the awful digital artifacts.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "phillip holmes" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 10:33 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Shopping for AD/DA
>I know you weren't. That was merely an "amen" for Bob. Most decent ADCs can give good results, if
>they are used correctly. That's why I don't like those "restorations". They "put lipstick on the
>pig" and the result is unacceptable for me and the pig.
> There was a great article about Pro-tools a while back. It explained how all that manipulation in
> the digital domain gives such a bad sounding product because every manipulation of the original
> signal looses bit depth (or something like that---I'm an idiot about digital).
> Tom Fine wrote:
>> I'm not arguing for bad digital sound -- I don't know who would.
>> I am saying that a top-line converter like the Benchmark is a real stretch for some
>> funding-limited organizations and I'd much rather see limited budgets spent on excellent
>> quality -- and the maintenance thereof -- ANALOG gear so you don't need a "by the light of the
>> virgin moon" kind of digital chain but rather the very good and relatively inexpensive stuff that
>> is out there if not plentiful. There are probably some who have more faith in digital processing
>> than I do -- I say make it sound good before it goes into the box. So under this philosophy, one
>> wouldn't even try extreme digital processing since you can't put lipstick on a pig and most
>> people I know find digital artifacts super-annoying compared to minor analog imperfections.
>> I still think the CardDeluxe is the best DAC device for under $1000 but some are very insistent
>> on keeping all the audio circuitry outside of a PC/Mac box, for understandable reasons. There are
>> a variety of external devices of excellent quality out there for well sound of the Benchmark's
>> prices, although if your budget is rich and your tastes are toward the excellent only, that
>> equipment has a sterling reputation. I can't recommend a specific external box because I don't
>> have any. I will note that some of these devices seem to devote a lot of the development and
>> marketing budget to mic preamps and/or built-in analog stuff like tube "warmers" or compressors
>> of various flavors which may or may not be desired in a transfer chain.
>> Even more important that what digi-toy you happen to have is your practices -- are you presenting
>> undistorted, in-azimuth audio to the analog-to-digital converter? Is polarity and phase constant
>> in your chain? Did you chase down and eliminate grounding and hum issues? For that matter, have
>> you scientifically measured your equipment and do you have the equipment to measure it and keep
>> it running to spec? If you're doing disks, have you cleaned them properly and played them with
>> the proper stylus? Is your tape machine aligned to the proper standard? Do you keep the tape
>> heads cleaned and degaussed (sp?)? Are you converting at 96/24 and leaving plenty of headroom so
>> your processing won't present digital clipping? Do you have a proper storage and backup system?
>> To my thinking, all of this is much more important than what brand of DAC you use as long as you
>> find something in your budget that can produce digital copies that come out sounding like what
>> was fed into the digital system, minus whatever digital processing you choose to do (and I would
>> choose to be as conservative as possible with that).
>> Just to be clear one more time, I'm not advocating a bad-sounding anything -- EVER!
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "phillip holmes" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 8:27 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Shopping for AD/DA
>>> Amen. Bad analog sound, plus bad digital sound, equals junk. Many "restorations" of old 78s
>>> sound worse to me because I can still hear the limitations of the 78, and then, they add a layer
>>> of mediocre digital processing. Obviously, there are guys who do good "restorations". I say
>>> "restorations" because you can't restore what's not there. You can only take away ticks and
>>> pops, and in the process, some of the music you'd like to keep. That's why I'm a record
>>> Bob Olhsson wrote:
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> >From Tom Fine: "...I would argue that these would be great overkill
>>>> for such
>>>> things as cassette field recordings, almost any spoken word, private recordings, old non-hifi
>>>> media, etc."
>>>> If the recordings are worth cleaning up, I'd argue they are worth the best
>>>> converters one can afford. Digital artifacts are not covered up by analog
>>>> recording artifacts. It comes down to the actual value of the recordings vs.
>>>> the cost. High quality converters create audio that can accept a lot more
>>>> signal processing before turning crunchy.
>>>> Bob Olhsson Audio Mastery, Nashville TN
>>>> Mastering, Audio for Picture, Mix Evaluation and Quality Control
>>>> Over 40 years making people sound better than they ever imagined!
>>>> 615.385.8051 http://www.hyperback.com