It's like trying to rebuild Pennsylvania Station - one shot was all we had.
Once it's gone, it's gone, though at least we can still experience the
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 8:17 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording technology
Per Paul Stamler's posting, I think you'd get enough "vintage" sound using
the old mics and something akin to the Pultec preamps. I and most other
modern audiences do not like things "over-tubey," which really should be
stated as "over-ironed." Connect the vintage chain to a nice modern
high-resolution rig and it should work. My goal would be to get the
coherent, detailed, rock-solid stereo image of yore but with modern clarity
and no distortion. With a cleaner signal path, mic placement choices may be
slightly different -- same theories but the focal point of the presence peak
may be a little different due to less dulling from harmonic distortion and
My big caveat about the modern chains is, I know how different they each
sound vs. each other. There are all kinds of stuff that don't show up in the
specs but make audible differences. I think the biggest design problem out
there is not enough voltage swing on the analog stages, resulting in
non-perfect handling of peaks and bass-heavy attacks. This is where you get
the hit of mallet on tympani head but not the fast-rising boom. It's even
worse for bass drums. Very few ADCs that I've heard do that well. There's
also something that happens in the very upper midrange on some ADC's, and of
course some loss of "air and space" no matter the sampling rate or bit depth
(the best ADCs should have very little to almost no audible loss compared to
monitoring directly off the mics).
And, all the high-ends DACs I've heard sound slightly different from each
other, comparing apples-to-apples files played back from the same computer.
I suspect part of it is USB interface execution, descisions on up-sampling
and reclocking, the low-pass filter design and the analog stage after
conversion. So, just like when my mother started out on the CD project, it
would take lots of listening and trying different equipment and signal
Find a top-rate orchestra in a good acoustic space, get some serious funding
to restore the vintage equipment (last I checked, Schoeps wants several
thousand dollars per mic to factory-restore M201's, and they can't guarantee
results since they have no original parts on hand; Steve Jackson at Pulse
Techniques can make near-clones of the Pultec preamps for several thousand
dollars per channel), gather up a whole bunch of digital gear to test, and
we're ready to roll, just for the feasibility-testing stage though! I won't
hold my breath. ;) Seriously, I thought about this at one point and came up
with a $25k budget just to get started, just for gear and gear restoration
(figure several multiples of that to pay a producer/editor, recording
engineer and mastering engineer).
Maybe 10-15 albums per year, at a cost of about $15k per album factoring in
travel costs, and then add more for manufacturing of the end product (which
is what? single CDs? they're supposedly toxic to profits in the classical
business. SACDs? can't live on sales of a few thousand units. downloads?
what format? how will you market them?), marketing, etc. There is no
classical recording business plan except a crazy rich patron that works for
that kind of craftsmanship today.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 7:38 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording technology
> "I've often wondered about applying the Mercury technique, including using
> the real-deal Schoeps M201 microphones (they need restoration, but they're
> still alive), with a modern high-resolution digital recording rig."
> I'm ready when you are!
> Would be a great experiment, but there are caveats. Recording systems are
> systems; every part plays a role that needs to be complimentary to the
> whole. Without the slight homogenization of tape, those treble peaks might
> reveal themselves as rough terrain. Without the masking of noise, the
> harmonic distortion may be grating. So much of recording, then as now, was
> the overcoming of limitations, but different challenges for different
> Some of the challenge today is to find the magic when the tools are so
> perfect. This does happen, without any particular emulation of golden-era
> techniques. It's not all the technology, either. ("It's the guy, not the
> gear.") I tell performers that when they sound good, I sound good. Of
> course, the opposite is true, too, but that has to remain unsaid!
> Speaking of orchestras, so much of the culture is different now from 50
> years ago, it's not simple to point a finger at any one aspect. Generally
> speaking, the players and directors are primarily concerned with clean
> execution. This is understandable when most concerts are under-rehearsed
> the players often overworked with bazaar schedules - Bernstein one day,
> Bruckner the next. Some of the finer points of sound and interpretation
> neglected, particularly to my perception dynamics, which is something that
> recordings really need in order to overcome the limited sensory info.
> Personally, I can enjoy less than perfect ensembles of the second or third
> rank. In the US, these are budgetary differences as much as anything. The
> majors are so routinized in their virtuosity, it is refreshing to hear
> others rise to a challenge. That's when music gets made, and even limited
> recording technique is adequate to convey that difference.