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Topics - High and Outside

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General Discussion / Tales from the trenches
« on: April 17, 2007, 08:31:17 PM »
We have discussed alignment in a couple of different places on this forum. It's fundamentally imortant that the playback machine match the curve used by the recorder, otherwise the frequencies won't come back in the proper balance.

Now Doc has reminded me I was going to post some tales from the trenches, and there's a good one concerning that old audiophile chestnut "Jazz At The Pawnshop," so here goes.

I have remastered that title twice, and this story concerns the first time. The owner of the tapes was flying around with them personally, first from Sweden to Japan, where they were remastered for XRCD, then to San Francisco where I remastered them in HDCD. The label was FIM, run by my good friend Winston Ma.

Before the session even began I got a call from an associate in Sweden, Diedrik de Geer, who is a friend of the engineer who did the original recording, Gert Palmcrantz. Diedrik wanted to be sure I was aware that the tapes were recorded with the CCIR curve (now known as the IEC curve.) He was obviously afraid that I would just align to the NAB curve, since that's the most common in the US. But I had been forewarned that the tapes were CCIR (and they were clearly labeled) and assured Diedrik that all was well.

But it really wasn't all well. The machine was properly set up to the CCIR test tape, but playing the tapes back the sound just wasn't right. We all agreed, it just didn't sound balanced. As we were talking about it, and the owner of the tapes mentioned that they had been recorded on Nagra machines, I wondered whether there was any possibility that they had been recorded with the Nagra Master curve, which is several dB different in the high end. I decided to experiment, and dialed the repro curve in by ear. Once I had it sounding right, I put up the Nagra Master test tape to see how close my "earballing" had come, and it matched within a fraction of a dB.

At this point I got another call from Diedrik--he was obviously really concerned. I explained what we had been finding, and asked whether there was any chance that the tapes had been recorded with the Nagra Master curve. He had been told for sure that they were CCIR, but it worried him enough that he drove out to Gert's place--he lives out in the boonies and doesn't have a phone. Couple hours later we get another call from Diedrik. Bottom line: Gert had recorded with the machines in the Nagra Master setting, but mistakenly believed that was the same as CCIR, so that's how the boxes were labeled. I put my Nagra Master test tape back on, fine trimmed the alignment, and got on with the session. And we changed the labeling on the boxes.

There's another twist to this which may not be obvious at first glance. These tapes were recorded with Dolby A. Anyone who had been mastering them previously might have noticed the frequency balance being askew and tried to compensate with EQ. But if the frequency balance wasn't corrected at the tape machine, before the Dolby unit, then the Dolby encoding could never have been decoded depends on having  the original frequency balance for the decoding to work right.

I have a nice postcard from Diedrik saying that Gert told him my transfer sounds more like what he heard in the club that night than any other version he's heard.

Suggestion Box / Thanks for the suggestions-keep 'em coming
« on: January 16, 2007, 07:13:40 PM »
I love getting turned on to new music, and I look forward to getting some good leads from y'all.

You may not see much action on them right can be a long term process. But rest assured, we take them all seriously.

Paul Stubblebine

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