Tag Archives: stereo

Remixes & Remasters Vs. Originals: No Easy Answers (Part 1)

Recently somebody suggested an idea to me which I thought was pretty cool: do a little “analysis” — in the loosest sense — of whether certain re-mixes and re-masters are better or worse than the original mixes. As I dove into writing this I seem to have opened a bit of a Pandora’s Box of thinking, while not having a conclusive answer to the question.  But it is still worth discussing since the topic is obviously on some of your minds as well, Dear Readers. 

This is a touchy subject which I’ve seen divide scores of collectors and even friends… Really, this is surprisingly a quite personal topic which objectively has no “correct” answer, at least as far as the listener is concerned. My tastes and desires are unique from yours, both equally valid.  

That said, I swing both ways when it comes to the argument of originals vs. remasters and even remixed versions of favorite recordings. There are so many variables to consider — from how the remaster or remix was created to simply relative availability of an original copy. 

As I pointed out in my review of the recent Blue Note Tone Poet reissue of Kenny Burrell’s 1956 debut (click here to read that) finding an original in any condition is very difficult and the new version actually presents more of the music that was originally captured on tape.  That isn’t to say I wouldn’t want to own an original pressing for some of these albums — I’m holding onto my Kenny Burrell album even though it is beat up! — but having the new edition is a great close second, this side of finding a pristine original. 

Many people who are fans of a particular beloved recording feel it should remain untouched. Others get very upset somehow thinking that when an album gets remixed it immediately means that the original is no longer in existence (I’m not kidding folks, I’ve encountered this perspective from people many times over the years!). Some people get upset when they learn that what they’ve been listening to actually is a remix and not the original.

I’ve even gone to some extremes on social media (if you will) talking some people down from the ledge to calm them down, particularly when The Beatles’ albums were being remastered.  Forget about talking to some of those folks about the remixes, but do remember that you can always still play your original vinyl pressings of those albums, of which there are millions of copies around the world to choose from. No one is taking them away from you. 

The impetus for this article believe it or not came about as a result of a Facebook post I made about The Grateful Dead’s third studio album, Aoxomoxoa.  Discussions arose about the remix of that record which the band made in the early 1970s  (as well as to Anthem of the Sun) as to whether one was better or worse than the other? And of course, the answer to that is, inconclusively: it depends on your perspective

If you are a purist and want to hear the specific vibe the band crafted in the 60s, then the original mixes are the way to go. If you are looking to just hear the music in as clean a presentation as possible, the remixes might well be better for you.  The remix definitely sounds more like a 1970s mix than even one from a just a couple of years earlier.

In some instances a remix can be justified. For example, on the digital Stereo remix of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, you can now hear much more detail as the many tracks of music that went into making that album are now mixed in first generation quality. The resulting drums and bass in particular sound fuller and more dynamic than before. Interestingly, the overall vibe is closer to that of the original Mono mix — the mix the Beatles themselves put their energies behind at the time.  But… to get that one pays the price of listening to music from a digital source which ruffles the feathers of many an analog purist.  You can click here to read my review of that mix if you are interested.

Those Grateful Dead albums which Phil Lesh remixed in the early 1970s are generally fine but most serious fans of the band seem to prefer the original mix.  You can read about them on the Wiki (click the titles following):  Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa

When it comes to Aoxomoxoa — one of my favorite Dead albums — I lean toward the original, if only to hear the choir on “Mountains Of The Moon” (which neatly pre-echos the end of side one of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells!). I haven’t spent enough time with the Anthem of the Sun remix to make a definitive choice. And you know what? There is no reason to. If you like a particular album a lot you will probably want both versions!

There is also the question of whether remasters are “better” or worse than the originals? Many people are justifiably gun shy these days having endured a seemingly endless barrage of remasters of favorite albums over the years across a multitude of formats and music delivery platforms — from LP to cassette to CD, SACD, DVD-A, Blu-ray, HD Downloads, Streaming. If you are a regular purchaser of music, you have no doubt seen the buzz words whizz by you on hype stickers applied to the packaging and promotional materials for albums over the years: analog, digital, DMM, Half-Speed, Ultradisc One Step, DSD, PCM, Quiex, etc. It is confusing at times as these are diverse processes and technologies, some unique to the vinyl production process and others used in preparing the actual original final recordings for release. Some are used separately or simultaneously. Some are great. Some have delivered mixed results.

So, take a deep breath…. As I said earlier, there are no easy answers to this question…

Having done a fair amount of recording myself I understand the value of both re-mastering of older recordings and new mastering of new projects. There have been significant progressions in technology over the years with certain capabilities that can actually improve the final sound of a recording if handled properly.  Recent remasters of albums by Frank Zappa, XTC and others have been at times revelatory. 

Tune in tomorrow when we’ll explore more of that in Part 2 of this series…

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Pro Sound News’ Top 10 Articles of 2020

Pro Sound News top 10 articles of 2020New York, NY (December 24, 2020)—With the end of 2020 upon us (and not a second too soon), we look back at the year that was, presenting the Top 10 Pro Sound News articles of 2020 that appeared on prosoundnetwork.com, as ranked by the site’s Google Analytics readership statistics. Intriguingly, while the biggest news of the year was the pandemic, virtually none of these articles even mention it. Instead, audio pros like yourself were mostly interested in either looking ahead to when things would get back to normal by checking out the latest gear, or looking back at great moments in audio, whether it was the recording of classic albums or the earliest known stereo recordings. No one knows what 2021 will bring, but for now, enjoy the most popular articles from our site, and we’ll see you in the new year.

10. Discovering—and Preserving—the Earliest Known Stereo Recordings
By Clive Young. In 1901, German anthropologist Berthold Laufer used two wax cylinder recorders simultaneously to record Shanghai musicians, unintentionally creating the earliest-known stereo recordings.

9. Apple Mac Pro Rack: A Real-World Review
By Rich Tozzoli. Producer/composer Rich Tozzoli shelled out $10,000 for an Apple Mac Pro Rack computer; was it worth it?

8. The METAlliance Report: The Recording of Steely Dan’s Aja
By The METAlliance. Widely considered a pinnacle of recording excellence, Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja had an occasionally tortured gestation—but it won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album. Now METAlliance members Al Schmitt and Elliot Scheiner share the inside scoop on how…

7. Sennheiser Announces Layoffs Amidst Slowing Market
With consumer and live sound sales heavily impacted by COVID-19, Sennheiser will cut 650 jobs worldwide by the end of 2022.

6. Inside the Live Sound of Live Aid, Part 1: London
By Steve Harvey. We look back at the live sound effort that went into the legendary charity concert Live Aid, held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. With 60+ acts on the bill and 160,000 in attendance—not to mention 1.9 billion watching it…

5. Creative Editing is Key to Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend Podcast
By Jim Beaugez. A variety of audio editing tricks help audio producer Matt Gourley ensure that the Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend podcast keeps the laughs coming.

4. Danny Leake, Legendary Studio/Live Engineer, Dead at 69
By Clive Young. In addition to working as Stevie Wonder’s FOH engineer for three decades, Danny Leake also recorded dozens of top artists in the studio, leading to six Grammy nominations for his efforts.

3. Tool Tours with Intricate, Immersive Sound
By Steve Harvey. Touring the world behind Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first album in 13 years, the prog-metal heroes are filling arenas with a massive audio system that takes a new approach to immersive live sound.

2. Exclusive: Yamaha Launches Rivage PM5, PM3 Desks, DSPs, More
By Clive Young. Take an exclusive sneak peek of Yamaha’s most ambitious expansion for the Rivage series yet, as the company introduces two new consoles—the PM5 and PM3—as well as a pair of new DSP engines—DSP-RX and DSP-RX-EX—and Version 4 firmware.

1. AKM Factory Fire—A Pro-Audio Industry Disaster
By Clive Young. A 82-hour fire in AKM’s semiconductor factory is already hurting numerous top pro-audio manufacturers around the globe.

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Lectrosonics Unveils New DCHR Digital Receiver

Lectrosonics DCHR Digital Receiver
Lectrosonics DCHR Digital Receiver

Rio Rancho, NM (September 29, 2020)—The DCHR miniature stereo digital receiver is the latest from Lectrosonics—a miniature, portable digital receiver capable of stereo or mono operation from a single RF carrier with Lectrosonics digital transmitters, including the DCHT, M2T, DBu, DHu and DPR.

The unit tunes from 470-614 MHz in the UHF band, covering six Lectrosonics blocks, and matches the tuning ranges of the digital transmitters in the D Squared, DCH and M2 Duet  lines. Compact and lightweight, the DCHR measures 3 x 2.375 x 0.625 inches (76 x 60 x 16 mm) and weighs 9.14 oz. (259 g) with batteries installed.

Mixer Captures ‘Great Performances’ with Lectrosonics

Setup involves quick RF scans in SmartTune and using IR sync to send settings to the associated transmitter. Manual tuning can also be done using the RF Scan screen, or by entering the frequency in the tuning screen. Audio outputs on the TA5 locking connector can be selected in the menu as analog or AES3 format. A 3.5mm stereo headphone jack on the top panel can be used to monitor the receiver audio signals. Detachable SMA-mount antennas are included with the DCHR.

AES 256-CTR mode encryption is included, with four different encryption key policies available including Universal (common to all Lectrosonics D2, M2X and DCHX units), Shared (often used for sports coverage), Standard, and Volatile (one-time use key). Optional accessory cables are available for both analog and AES3 connections to associated equipment.

The optional LTBATELIM battery eliminator can be used to power the DCHR with external DC. The optional LRSHOE accessory can be used to mount the receiver on small cameras. A USB jack on the side of the unit can be used to update firmware in the field, using the Lectrosonics Wireless Designer software. The DCHR housing is milled from aluminum alloy then specially plated for scratch and corrosion resistance.

MSRP for the DCHR is: $2,795 and it will become available in the fourth quarter of 2020

Lectrosonics • www.lectrosonics.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Discovering—and Preserving—the Earliest Known Stereo Recordings

In 1901, German anthropologist Berthold Laufer used two wax cylinder recorders simultaneously to record Shanghai musicians, unintentionally creating the earliest-known stereo recordings.
In 1901, German anthropologist Berthold Laufer recorded on two wax cylinders simultaneously to record Shanghai musicians, unintentionally creating the earliest-known stereo recordings. INDIANA UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES OF TRADITIONAL MUSIC

Recorded sound has always been about creating a moment, and the tools to accomplish this only get more advanced as time goes on. Our ability to record and endlessly tweak audio in so many different ways these days is a perk of living in our era. (Who would have thought slogging through 2020 had its perks?) The tools at our disposal allow us to artificially create moments that seem as natural and realistic as possible— the proverbial “lie that tells the truth.”

Recording in a practical sense started in 1877 when Thomas Edison created the wax cylinder recorder, but ensuing decades and today’s audio tools pull us further and further away from what it originally started out as—a simple audio snapshot of a moment, replete with all the plusses and minuses that real life serves up, whether it’s that the trumpet player was on fire, the singer missed the high note, or that the drummer sped up and slowed down like, well, 2020.

Building A Beer Bottle Edison Cylinder

Even in Edison’s time, people wanted to hear immersive audio, or at least audio from more than one source. Inventors explored what would become known as stereophonic sound as early as 1881 with the creation of the théâtrophone, a French subscription service that delivered live performances in simulated stereo over phone lines, though the performances weren’t recorded; the technology wasn’t there yet. For years, the earliest known stereo recording was created in the 1920s, but now an even earlier moment captured in stereo has been brought to light and preserved for the ages.

Indiana University’s Archives of Traditional Music in Bloomington, IN, recently digitized a number of wax cylinders from 1901 featuring Shanghai musicians performing traditional Chinese folk and opera music; when combined, they create the oldest stereo recordings known to exist. Ironically, they weren’t recorded with the intention of creating stereo sound. In fact, they weren’t meant to be heard by the public at all.

In 1901, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York sent German anthropologist Berthold Laufer to China to research and obtain items for the museum. There, he recorded the musicians—not with an eye toward preserving their music for the ages, but rather as an archival ethnographic research exercise. Laufer used two cylinder recorders operating at the same time in order to capture the singers and the instruments separately, with each group placed slightly apart as they performed together. While there was inevitable audio bleed, with the vocal-oriented cylinder capturing some of the instruments’ ambient sound and vice versa, recording the vocals and instruments separately, albeit at the same time, allowed Laufer to more clearly transcribe each later on.

The AMNH gave thousands of wax cylinders to the IU archives in the 1940s; in return, the archive preserved and made them accessible as needed, according to Dr. Alan Burdette, director of the Archives of Traditional Music. “We’ve always known the cylinders were there [but] the stereo aspect of it has been a new discovery,” he told me. “We copied our cylinders to tape in the mid-1980s to provide access to patrons by way of copies. More recently, we got a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize the cylinders themselves—and that opened up some new realizations of possibilities.”

Over a period of two years starting in 2017, the archive’s collection of 7,000 wax cylinders was digitized, capturing each two- to three-minute recording. Laufer’s cylinders stood out among the selections as unusually high-quality recordings considering the format and the era. While researching those recordings at the AMNH, Burdette discovered a letter dated Sept. 19, 1901, from the anthropologist to his superiors, explaining how he was using two cylinder machines simultaneously. Realizing they essentially had 119-year-old wax multi-tracks, the archive suddenly saw its digital recordings in a whole new light.

“This digitization process made certain things possible that would have been nearly impossible to do in the past, and that is getting cylinder recordings that have variable, hard-to-define speeds to match up,” said Burdette. “In some cases, getting those matched would have been really difficult in the open tape era. In the digital era, it’s still a real challenge, but it’s conceivable that you might actually be able to do it.”

IU media preservation specialist Patrick Feaster took on that challenge, and it was hardly a case of dropping files in Pro Tools and calling it a day. Finding which cylinders matched up required further research, with Feaster poring through both Laufer’s notes and the cryptic, often multi-language notation on the cylinder boxes, and then ultimately writing some code himself to digitally stabilize the recordings’ pitch. The result is a handful of proof-of-concept stereo recordings—which you can hear for yourself—along with an in-depth technical account of how Feaster pulled it off, all on his academic blog at www.bit.ly/317MKQN.

In the meantime, the archive is working to make all 400 of Laufer’s cylinders publicly available. Enticingly, Laufer appears to have recorded an entire Beijing opera in his accidental stereo format, stopping and starting musicians repeatedly so he could swap out cylinders, resulting in a whopping 72-cylinder series. “We made a trip to China last spring,” said Burdette, “and there’s a lot of excitement there among scholars about these recordings. They’re from the time [from which] a lot of the art forms are no longer practiced or have been lost—there has been quite a bit of cultural and political upheaval in China since 1901—so for a lot of scholars, it was truly remarkable to be able to hear things that were this old.”

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com