Hi Carl:

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 tape smear.

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 chains.

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 eras.
> 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 and
> the players often overworked with bazaar schedules - Bernstein one day,
> Bruckner the next. Some of the finer points of sound and interpretation get
> 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.