I would expect that a difference in the tape machines and/or the artistic
input of the reissue producers have more to do with a difference than would
the change in conversion technology. It is amazing how much impact a tiny
change in eq can have. There are times when I'd like to tame the top end of
some Merc's, but I respect the 'true to the tape' philosophy Mrs. Fine
maintained - especially given what else was going on at the time.
This brings to mind something I've never seen addressed, but have long
suspected. Did producers in the early stereo era put more into the sound
(like more top end) to compensate for losses through the
tape/mastering/pressing process? This may also enter into mic
choice/placement decisions, where the pickup is often a bit closer on old
sessions than one might do now. Now, what you get out can be much closer to
what you put in, an adjustment workers had to make when digital came in.
But back then, were producers purposely thinking through to the final
product when considering their artistic decisions? (This I mean to be
distinct from such LP technical requirements as avoiding too much out of
phase info.) In the case of Mercury, did they maybe exaggerate aspects of
the sound to guarantee that the Presence made it through to the listener of
1962? Or did they want the most perfect master tape, and let the disc or
playback be dealt on their own?
No intention to negatively second-guess these documents. I revere them. It's
not just Mercury that prompts the thought - Columbia, too, and many others.
It might be *duh!* obvious, or not, but it certainly has implications for
how reissues are approached both by listeners and producers.
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Don Cox
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 9:45 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Fwd: [ARSCLIST] Mercury 51-CD box set now officially
set for USA and Europe m...
On 30/01/2012, Tom Fine wrote:
> 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.
I have all the CDs, all the SACDs, and a number of LPs.
To my ears, the SACDs sound better than the CDS. I am quite happy to
listen to the CDs, but where the SACD is available I would listen to it
My opinion is that the DSD conversion rather than the SACD distribution
medium is responsible for most of the improvement.
The Chabrier disc is particularly good on SACD.
I was disappointed that the Gershwin concerto disc was not released as
an SACD, as that has digital clipping on the CD. Maybe some others do
too - this is the one I checked. It is a great performance.
> 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
The SACDs were also made from the first generation tapes.
> 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
> 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.
Did that "closer to" include the SACDs, or are you talking about
opinions from when the CDs were released?
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