I downloaded the files that Ayre made from vinyl LPs to both DSD and PCM. I played them in my studio and they both sounded great! I haven’t had a chance to do any real analysis on the files but then again I don’t really need to. The provenance of these marvelous recording already defines what the potential fidelity of the original source masters will be. The original EQ’d masters that were prepared for the vinyl LP releases…because that what was produced for these particular albums.
Several readers have written comments or emails explaining that audiophiles just want the best possible version of their favorite classic albums. I do too! But it does matter to me that we all understand what master was used to create “the best possible” transfer. I’ve talked at length about this in several previous posts (you can read my post on masters here)We have to decide what the ideal source recording is.
The Beatles “Love” DVD-Audio disc is wonderful example of the process done correctly. I guess if you’ve got the kind of money that Cirque du Soleil has AND you can hire Sir George Martin and his son Giles to assemble a surround soundtrack from the original master tapes (including the multitracks when available), you’re pretty much assured to get something worthwhile. Who else knows the masters better than Sir George. [NOTE: He’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to the Beatles…I walked up to him at an AES party years ago and introduced myself. He was very gracious, polite and genuinely interested in what I had to say. It was a very memorable few moments.]
The “Love” DVD-Audio disc is a rare gem among transfers of older albums. In fact, it’s not a transfer at all, but rather a re-imagining of tunes we all know and love. Whether you like the sonic mashups and other manipulations that the producers applied to the tracks, the sonics of the songs are probably as good as we’re likely to get.
So fundamentally we have two ways to go.
There are older recordings that were created using the very best production methods and equipment available at the time. The producers and engineers made the decisions that they made for the sound that they thought would work best for the particular genre and style of music. We all want to have access to the best possible transfers of the best possible masters at home.
This is what Mobile Fidelity and others did in the era of CD (gold CDs at that!). They got the best sources and did the very best transfers using the best equipment of the time…into 44.1 kHz/16-bit new digital transfers. Were these good enough for audiophiles? Yes! And for the most part they still should are.
I would love to have the opportunity to listen to the raw mixes of these classic records before the mastering engineers chomped down on the dynamics and over tweaked the EQ on the low and high end (I did this for 16 years…I knew the mastering routine). If given the chance to listen to what the artist and producers heard during the mixing sessions, I would take it any day. I’ve been in a few studios and heard some of them. Serious record collectors and audiophiles deserve to hear them. Leave the over-processed mastered versions to iTunes and CD crowd.
Does anyone really want a PCM or DSD transfer of a vinyl LP? In the case of existing masters, wouldn’t you prefer to have the original source tapes…either the flat master or the CD master? I know I would.