Dr. AIX's POSTS TECH TALK — 28 November 2013

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I would like to thank everyone that reads this post for being involved and interested in my passion for music, technology and uncompromised quality. Thanks very much for the support and encouragement. I consider it a privilege to be able to share my passion with so many others. I hope your day and life is full of family, fun, food and of course, great music!

There are a few recordings on AIX Records that I didn’t produce or record. I’ve added some of these because I loved the artist and others because I have a personal relationship with the artist/performer. But I always insist that I provide do the mixing or mastering so that product reflects my own sound aesthetics.

On a couple of releases, I simply took the existing CD and then produced an accompanying Blu-ray disc in full surround and without the heavy handed mastering that destroys so much wonderful music. In order to do my thing, the artists or the engineers behind the project send me a hard drive with the multitrack masters. These are the actual tracks that were recorded during the weeks or months of recording, overdubbing and mixing that go into a typical commercial release.

I received an email from a reader in Sweden that wanted to know why there was so much difference between the CD and BD discs for a project by Ali Isabella, a very young singer/songwriter out of New York. She worked with some very talented co-writers, producers and engineers in Nashville for her 2012 AIX release called “Say You’ll Be Mine”.

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Figure 1 – Spectragrams of the CD vs. BD of Ali Isabella “Say You’ll Be Mine”[Click to enlarge]

The product has two discs in the package. There is the standard commercial CD that was mastered by a Grammy-nominated mastering engineering based in Nashville AND the BD disc with three mixes and no mastering. I was responsible for the BD disc.

The Swedish gentleman noticed an enormous difference. The CD was “boring and lacking in information” while the Blu-ray disc “is how recordings should sound”.

The CD contains almost no dynamic range, has excessive amounts of high-frequency equalization added to “brighten” the tracks and the bass is artificially enhanced. It sounds like the usual material that you encounter on the radio…and that’s what the mastering engineer was targeting.

The BD on the other hand was mixed from the same source multitracks but I used minimal timbral modification, no dynamics processing and mixed the various musical parts in a very wide array around the vocal track. Because the tracks very capturing in an acoustically dead studio, I had to use artificial reverberation to “liven” the tracks. Everything was mixed in the digital domain at 48 kHz/24-bit PCM and then encoded using Dolby TrueHD.

The differences between the CD and the BD are the amount of processing that was applied during the mixdown stage, the lack of mastering, the maintenance of “natural” sounds and the spatial distribution of the individual instruments. The BD is targeted at music fans that want a rich and inviting track. Take listen and see what you think.

I’ve added a track from the CD and the BD for comparison to the FTP site. Check out the folder call Ali Isabella CD vs. BD Comparison.

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