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ARSCLIST  September 2014

ARSCLIST September 2014

Subject:

Re: Duke Ellington accidental stereo comparison

From:

Jamie Howarth <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 5 Sep 2014 09:51:44 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (22 lines)

On Sep 4, 2014, at 8:25 PM, Tom Fine wrote:

> https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55748706/Ellington%201932%20Accidental%20Stereo.zip
> 
> I have finally amassed (thanks to Helpful Others) full-resolution WAV files of the 1985 Brad Kay/Steve Lasker LP version and the 1999 RCA/BMG (Lasker providing files to Seth Winner for sync and restoration) version. Also included in the ZIP archive are scans of the LP liner notes concerning the two 1932 accidental stereo recordings.
> 
> Opinions are likely to vary on which "sounds better" because the tonality is very different and different restoration and sync methods were used.
> 
> As I said before, I believe that,  for whatever reason that the RCA/BMG reissues are out of phase. My reasoning -- one man's hearing impressions -- is as follows:
> 
> 1. assuming the mic setups were as diagrammed by Kay/Lasker in the LP liner notes, what should be dead center is not at all in the center.
> 
> 2. even if the Kay/Lasker mic diagram is incorrect, even if the two mics were on opposite corners of the room, the piano shouldn't sound like it's in two different places at once, which it does on the RCA reissues.
> 
> 3. there is far too much difference information prevailent in the RCA reissues. Whereas the Kay/Lasker version sounds like two recording setups were made in about the same place (since the engineer would likely know what was a good single-mic pickup in the controlled environment of the recording studio, why wouldn't this be the case?), with the difference information being mainly "room tone" and some arrival time differences for instruments further back in the room. In other words, if two mics were placed relatively close together in a typical highly-deadened 1930s recording studio, there wouldn't be all that much "stereophony" recorded, but there would be suble clues about where instruments sit in the depth of the room and also what reflections are coming off which walls when, giving more of sense of the room size and reverberncy than a "spread out" ensemble such as one would get with close-micing everything and then creating a mixed-out-of-the-ether sound-picture (ala most 1970s big band records).
> 
> What may have happened was that one of the recorders or microphones was wired in opposite polarity from the other, so if both disks were played back on the same system, one side would be out of phase to the other. It's also possible that the transfer Lasker brought to Winner (Seth said he didn't do the disk-to-digital transfers) were made at different times on different playback systems that were in opposite polarity. What does surprise me is that Steve Lasker didn't refer to his own earlier stereo LP work and use it as a reference, when the later version is clearly very different stereophony and indeed sounds like stereotypical (pun intended) out of phase stereophony.
> 
> Finally, it's just my personal taste, and I understand possible reasons for why it wasn't done, but I would have gone after that high-pitched tone that's very audible on the RCA reissue. I don't care if I took out the little bit of high treble present in the recordings, I would have notched or low-passed it. Very little of the musical energy is in frequencies where that tone is and the tone is really annoying to my ears. Seth told me that it's "groove chatter" caused by the wax cooling while the recording was being made, that it would thus be present on all pressings of the recording, and that it was likely aggressively notched and high-passed on the LP version. He also said that the transfers for the LP version may have been played back with RIAA EQ, which would have rolled off the top end more aggressively. How to deal with tone was in the purview of the RCA reissue producer. Were I the producer, I would have sacrificed the bright CD sound quality to get rid of or severely attenuate that tone. It's worth noting that nowadays, with modern spectrum-"healing" tools, you can go about it more precisely and less brute-force than could be done in 1999.
> 
> -- Tom Fine

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