I think this is a semantics thing. When I say louder, I don't mean
compressed, but with the dynamics intact, they cut so the loud sections are
as loud as they can go, within reason. Ricker can cut a record that
can't be played back, especially if it has lots of out of phase bass in it.
And I know that Fine productions had plenty of dynamics and plenty of level.
Great recordings. And Piros did many of them, right? A master masterer!
His Mercury pressings have a distinctive look. And the sound is
extraordinary. Those FR1 pressings are some of the most challenging to
reproduce ever. I believe there's one notorious issue, organ with
antiphonal brass, that caused big problems with cartridges until the high
compliance cartridges of the late '60s. The FR1 pressings on Mercury, many
1S RCAs, many many EMI and Deccas are Audiophile pressings. The audiophile
"movement" began when the equipment got to the point where guys would listen
to something like the Firebird on Mercury and say "holy crap, that sounds
much better than the Columbia I have---why?". As a matter of fact, half
speed mastering was invented by Decca to help them get the treble on the
records without distorting the early stereo cutter heads. I suppose you
could say that the audiophiles just rediscovered good mastering when the
equipment made it apparent that the standards had slipped. The MOFIs were
cut softer overall, but the loud sections were way louder than the standard
issue. No limiting or compression. So the UHQR of The Pines of Rome is
very soft, then BOOM. I think Stan mastered that one too.
I totally agree with you that the mastering engineer works the magic. Any
medium can sound bad. Most can sound fantastic when done carefully.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2006 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] De-static question
> Hi Phillip:
> I have to argue with one statement:
>> Cutting engineers for the audiophile labels like Classic Records try to
>> limit the side to 17 minutes for the best fidelity. They cut louder than
>> the old records with as big a groove as possible.
> Actually, a point of pride in the true olde days (NOT the 70s, but late
> 50's and early 60's) was cutting loud and wide. That was definitely the
> practice at Fine Recording and I know it was at other NY mastering places,
> including the major-label studios (although they were usually more timid).
> And singles were another story too. Today's "loudness wars" are somewhat
> dejavu because singles were cut as loud as was possible to track by radio
> turntables and jukeboxes. And, in many cases, they were compressed to the
> moon for AM radio.
> Cutting got more timid with thinner vinyl, trying to fit more per side,
> more compressed musical content (ie the rise of rock) and automated lathes
> (plus the desire to avoid clipping with early solid-state cutter amps).
> And we all know how low the quality got for typical USA records by the end
> of the vinyl era (off-center holes, warped due to too-fast pressing or
> too-tight wrapping, noisy vinyl, really bad mastering, etc).
> As I said in my earlier post, the first bunch of audiophile-oriented
> records -- MoFi and Japanese reissues of American jazz classics -- were
> mastered soft and pressed on really nice vinyl. The idea was, master timid
> but with wide dynamic range and count on the vinyl to keep the noise floor
> down. It was a good MO to prevent clipping distortion in solid-state phono
> preamps of the day. And it also afforded tracking on a wide range of
> turntables. The more recent vintage of audiophile reissues (which cost
> much more money per LP too) take the olden days approach and cut hard and
> deep and count on the user to have a system that can reproduce it well.
> Deep cutting also never went out of style with 12" disco singles. In the
> audiophile world
> My bottom-line feelings about LPs and, for that matter, 78's is that they
> are what they are -- mechanical reproduction systems with century-old
> technology. They are capable of being very good under the right
> conditions, but like with CD's the run of the mill is usually far from
> perfect. I would argue that CDs stand a better chance of being
> mass-produced to a very high standard but mastering them properly is as
> much an art as it was for mechanical grooved disks.
> -- Tom Fine