During my recent conversation with Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings, we chatted about his production methods and delivery formats. He’s been encouraging me to take some of my most popular recordings and convert them to vinyl LPs. I know what you must be thinking…because I’m right there with you. Why would anyone want to take a wonderfully accurate stereo PCM recording done using high-resolution sampling rates and word lengths and release it on vinyl? Well, it seems to be working for Todd. He recently struggled through the production process for “Sera una Noche”, which is a 45 rpm vinyl LP that retails for $33. Here’s how Todd describes it on his website:
“This beautiful, Extended Play 45rpm 180m disc, presenting three of the best tracks from the first 96 kHz recording of “Sera una Noche”, was cut to lacquer by Len Horowitz on his legendary 1950 Scully cutting lathe with Westrex cutting head. Entitled simply, “Sera una Noche 45rpm” the disc contains (on side A) two versions of Gardel’s “Malena”, the first with Pedro Aznar on vocals (7’ 38”), and the second, a haunting, original instrumental track of the same (5’ 06”). Side B presents the profoundly mesmerizing, “Nublado” (11’ 22”), arguably the killer track of the whole session, which was recorded in the little Gandara Monasterio church in the Argentine countryside, approximately two hours outside of the capital of Buenos Aires.”
The total length of both sides of the LP is around 23 minutes.
The right business decision is to maximize the amount of money that can be derived from any individual investment…or production. If a source recording is worth $10-15 dollars as a 96/24 PCM stereo track, does it really double in value when cut to lacquer and then duplicated on vinyl (a format that is definitely capable of less fidelity)? The same fundamental question resonates when someone records at DXD and then downconverts to a variety of other formats…each with their own price formula. The perception that vinyl LPs or DSD files are somehow worth more because of their “analogness” runs contrary to my own belief that great fidelity and accurate reproduction is the most important aspect of a recording…after a great performance.
I experienced a similar situation when I thought about making analog tapes of some of my productions. Transferring older analog tape masters to new analog tapes has worked out really well for The Tape Project…they charge around $300 per album for their releases. I’m confident that a 96 kHz/24-bit stereo PCM master transferred directly to my Nagra IV-S as a first generation tape would eclipse the sound quality of any of any commercially available analog tape on the planet. But David Pogue (ex-tech reporter of the New York Times) wrote me and said that the reel-to-reel community would reject any analog recording that was sourced from a digital master. Somehow the “digititis” that they believe pollutes anything made using digital methods compromises the ultimate product…even if it’s a first generation analog master tape. Of course, this is pure nonsense. In fact, high-resolution digital recordings are capable of much great dynamic range and frequency response (and every other specification measure you care to name) than the best analog tape machines ever made.
That’s why I was so surprised that Todd is able to sell his digital recordings as analog vinyl LPs…and do so at elevated prices.
I might even be tempted to try a vinyl LP version of Laurence Juber’s “Guitar Noir” if it weren’t for the incredible technical and quality assurance problems that you have to solve when pressing vinyl. I’m content with DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, and Blu-ray discs delivering superior fidelity, easily, and at an affordable price.
It’s seems like a game to me.