Just to note the facts on the SACD's -- those transfers (the SACD layer) was not done by the
original producer, and original playback equipment was not used. The sound quality is quite
different, especially the 2-channel layer -- that's a 2-channel mix by someone not from the original
production team and not at the original sessions. If your ears prefer that, great, but it is
different from the 1990's CDs. The SACD's are long out of print, and I think there's a small group
of collector-cultists who covet them due to scarcity more than anything else.
Also just to be clear here, the CD remastering in the 1990's set the bar for quality and fidelity.
Unlike many competitors at the time, these transfers were done from FIRST GENERATION master tapes
(Mercury did not dub, actual session tapes were edited, in 3-channel during the stereo era, and a
3-2 mix was made as the original LP was cut; same goes for the CD's, 3-2 mix was made by the
original producer, output direct to A-D converter). The A-D conversion was using the
then-revolutionary dcs box, working in 24-bit.44.1kHz. That digital signal was then fed to a
Harmonia Mundi (sp?) digital buss with the Weiss-designed dither-downconvert module, which produced
a 16-bit/44.1 signal to feed digital-direct to the Sony 1630 master recorder. I've heard master
tapes, original LPs and 1990's CD's, in a level-matched comparison setting. The CD's sound much
closer to the master tapes than any other released media. Also worth noting -- there is complete
disclosure of source material and recording details in the booklets for each CD, including details
about what was used in the few cases where master tapes had been lost. In about a dozen cases, the
original music director/editor made new master edits from the "B" reels (second tape recorder at the
original sessions), because the "A" master tape was lost or damaged beyond playability. In a very
few cases, everything had been lost except the 2-track second-generation that was recorded during
the original vinyl-mastering session, made from the same 3-2 mix buss as the original LP.
Unfortunately, one of those cases was the Byron Janis Prokofiev/Rachmaninoff recording from Moscow,
the 35mm master for that has never been found and is presumed to have been mistakenly destroyed in
the 70's. As clearly noted in the original CD booklets, there were a few cases where the original LP
was from a 35mm master but the 35mm was lost. In those cases, except for the Moscow recording
mentioned above, the 3-track 1/2" tape recorded at the same time was used at the master (in the
35mm days, master edits were done on both 35mm and 3-track due to global vinyl-cutting logistics).
So bottom line, since the entire Mercury team is now dead, the closest you get to their hands and
ears is the 1990's CD's. And, all of them agreed (as did many "golden eared" critics) that the CD's
sounded closer to the master tapes (and thus closer to how the actual sessions sounded) than any
other release media. This includes instrument balance, timbre, reverb tails, "room tone," etc. The
big limitation to enjoying all of this in the early 1990's was the typical CD playback equipment of
the time. In today's age of superb and reasonably-priced DACs, that shouldn't be the case.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 6:12 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Fwd: [ARSCLIST] Mercury 51-CD box set now officially set for USA and Europe
> On 28/01/2012, Don Tait ([log in to unmask]) wrote:
>> Please add my thanks to Louis's. I've just ordered a copy. I looked
>> at just the first ten or so of the CDs on the site you recommended and
>> saw several recordings I remember from LP days but never bought or
>> heard, although I
>> have many Mercury LPs here. Six or seven CDs will duplicate ones I
>> bought years ago, Hanson/Rochester mainly, but little matter. There
>> will be an exciting listening voyage ahead.
> I have all the CDs from their original issue.
> You will not regret buying this box.
> It has to be said that the sound on the 20 SACDs that were issued was
> better than that on the CDs. When the Mercury tapes were transferred to
> CDs, it was still early days for A to D conversion.
> Don Cox
> [log in to unmask]