On Jan 2, 2011, at 7:47AM US/Central, Tom Fine wrote:


> Early CD's, for the most part -- and again talking about mainstream titles at mainstream prices --  were hampered by bad production choices as much as lower-quality A-D converters.

Actually, early CD production didn't permit very much in the way of A/D converter choices or any other production choices. 

Time and materials were hideously expensive, from the acquisition and use of the Sony or JVC systems, and even much later when mastering from DAT or CDR media was invented. The business was highly capital intensive in the beginning, and business was not that brisk. 

> Using non-master tapes with generation losses or other distortions, playing back on non-aligned tape machines, using lower-quality tape machines than the original master recorders, etc, hampered the sound quality.

I think it takes some highly technical, diagnostic equipment to make factual conclusions of this type. 

> In many cases, a second generation reissue of older material sounded better than the first try and sounded vastly superior to the original LP. There were exceptions, one big problem was that by the late 80s and early 90s when many of these second-try reissues were done, the master tapes were deteriorated. Another problem was that NoNoise and other digital tools were in vogue then and, as now, ham-handed knob-twisters often over-used them. One other problem was that the modern mastering engineers in most cases never even listened to the original LPs, to see what the original cutting engineer did as far as EQ or dynamics control between the master tape and the production LP.

True in some cases, even if again over-generalized. Might be equally valid to point out that in most cases a record label would have their production staff directly supervise the process because of its expense.

> In some cases, particularly with rock, pop and jazz records, there was an added quality to the sound that had a lot to do with how much people enjoyed the song, especially as it was played over the radio.

We have hit upon a *very* important aspect of music and memory. 

You have described episodic memory, sometimes called autobiographical memory. Memory is a strange thing. We don't directly remember long ago events, instead we remember mostly the last recollection  of those events. This often leads to an overly embellished version of what really happened. I've often restored old recordings where the listener has completely confused the memory or event. Fifty year old memories of sound quality make good party talk, but more than not I don't think they hold up in practice.

> While the purists among us may say it's an "improvement" to go back to the master tape with this, some fan wanted to hear what they heard in earlier days, that was their sonic memory. This was a big problem with some rock and soul hits from the 60's. And there were cases like some of the early Contemporary Jazz recordings where the modern mastering engineer didn't listen to the original so he didn't even know that plate reverb was added between the tape and the disk cutter due to the very simple setup in the company's little studio/shipping room at that time (Sonny Rollins' "Way Out West," reverb problem not corrected until late premium-priced reissues).

Again, so this depends on the listener and his/her memory. No surprises here.

> I would say most of the third-generation reissues I've heard are not as good, and it's a big disappointment. The transfers being made today are generally at least 96/24 resolution and the sonic-cleanup tools are better and some (few) folks know how to use them more sparingly. But, master tapes are further deteriorated and worst of all has been the total collapse of common sense and willpower among mastering engineers where they blindly follow orders of tin-eared record company fools to "make it louder", thus crushing dynamics and producing distorted-sounded CD's, and forget about the lossy-format versions of these monsters, they sound doubly horrible. I am not optimistic about a fourth generation of reissues to fix these dumb moves, given the collapsing economics of the business.

What I said above. 

Parker Dinkins
Audio Mastering + Restoration