I will add to this thread only slightly. Sony Classical's Masterworks
Heritage line was produced using transfer and mastering criteria developed
by the label since 1991 on various other reissue lines, viz. Gould, Walter,
Bernstein Stern, et al. MH may indeed have waved "a banner of quality", but
its genesis was borne not only of a desire to celebrate a century of
Columbia recordings but also to ring a different change on the DG Originals
line. However, each MH package (like Mercury Living Presence) was
individually designed, utilizing as much original art and photographic
support as could be fit into such a small area. Using original souce was a
prerequisite to production, but no attempt to employ any coeval playback
gear was ever considered.


On Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 9:34 AM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Jon, thanks to you and Mark for these insights. Let me reaffirm that
> despite
> the limitations you had, those masterings were a revelation to those of us
> who grew up with Dynaflex Victrola LPs. I couldn't stop playing Reiner
> Sound
> - it was astonishing.
> I just got a SACD player - talk about being late for a party! - and my only
> discs of that format are the Reiner Mahlers. The change to Song of the
> Earth, which was so distortion-ridden and clouded in previous issues, is
> extraordinary.
> Tom speaks of a marketing aspect to original equipment, and that appeal is
> strong. Decca "Originals" - yeah. What I like to think is that the Mercury,
> RCA, and Columbia Heritage programs came along at a critical moment, waving
> a banner of quality, right when many of us were disenchanted with the
> promise of the new medium (digital, CD). We didn't know that a decade
> later,
> there would be a whole new compromise barreling down the road (mp3),
> threatening again to make sound quality a non-priority.
> How much more difficult might it be today to push back against that
> compromise if those reissues hadn't adjusted people's expectations? That
> they sold well was one win. But the inspiration they provided to younger
> people in the recording trade must also have had a lasting effect.
> Certainly
> did for me.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jon Samuels
> Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 10:44 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] RCA Living Stereo CDs
> For what it's worth, I agree with you for the most part about
> Hi Mark,
> For what it's worth, I agree with you for the most part about using newer
> playback equipment in playing back open reel tapes.  From a
> historical perspective, there are a few facts I know about the earlier
> Living Stereo CDs issued by BMG that might be of interest.
> The first Living Stereo CD series started in 1992, not the 1980s.  I was a
> remastering engineer at BMG at that time.  Although this was never
> acknowledged publicly, only one CD was ever remastered on an Ampex 351.
>  That was "The Reiner Sound", which was the very first one done. The 351
> was
> not in great condition, and contrary to the press reports, had not been
> refurbished.  It was mechanically very noisy, very difficult to use, and
> quite frankly didn't sound that good, so we decided to use an Ampex 440 (a
> transistor three-track) for all the other projects instead, which was the
> only alternative we had at the time.  Not surprisingly, we never told the
> marketing people.  In addition, the two-track Living Stereo masters were
> reproduced on an Ampex ATR-102, since we even never had access to a
> two-track 351 machine.  We also used EQ as needed, both analog and digital,
> and occasionally a small touch of digital reverb.
> Not surprisingly, the later Living Stereo CDs we did at BMG in the middle
> to
> late 1990s were sonically much better, as we had better quality and later
> higher resolution A-Ds, better digital processing equipment, as well as
> higher quality (and significantly quieter) remastering rooms.
> Best,
> Jon Samuels
> ________________________________
>  From: Mark Donahue <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 9:44 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence
> I just want to make one quick comment about this idea that playing back 60
> year old tapes is best realized through playing them back on 60 year old
> machines.
> The reality here is that the ability to get the signal on to tape is a much
> easier task than getting it back off and the recorders of the day were much
> better at recording than playback. I remastered the entire Living Stereo
> series and was stunned as to how much information I could get off these
> tapes using state of the art modern analog playback. I then compared these
> to the transfers that were made with an Ampex 300 that was restored for the
> CD reissue project at RCA in the late 1980's and the differences were
> nothing less than astounding. Modern playback with low wow and flutter and
> an order of magnitude better performance in frequency response, noise and
> distortion revealed information that was on the tapes that had never
> actually been heard.
> As always, YMMV.
> All the best,
> Mark Donahue

Dennis D. Rooney
303 W. 66th Street, 9HE
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