I’ve been focused on finishing and laying out the “Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Audio” as of late. I apologize for not getting more posts on this site. Bear with me for another month or so.
A reader linked me to an article by Michael Fremer over at Analog Planet titled, “Analogy Records Sells Only Master Tapes“. I read the piece, the comments, and even posted a comment of my own. Once again, the allure of analog tape is being used to sell “master tapes”, but the tapes aren’t made from analog masters!
In the ABOUT US section of their website:
“Analogy Records is the world’s first record label to produce contemporary artists at its recording studio, distributing ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES.
Instead of producing copies from any pre-existing master, for each order Analogy Records produces an original master directly from the multi-track recording system, thus removing an additional stage. No first generation copies but only original Master Tapes, in order to ensure the best listening experience ever.”
One of the commenters on the Analog Planet site correctly pointed out that “Original master tapes are either the first generation mix from multitracks (or original unprocessed recordings) used for archival purposes and for actually mastering the commercial copies of the recording.”
The Analogy Records representative replied, “That’s exactly what we’re doing, printing from the studio’s multitrack system via analog mixing (or summing if you prefer the term) to 1/4″ tape. Sincerely I don’t know any other term to define a mix that jumps out from the mixer main out hitting the tape.”
What’s missing from this discussion is the fact that the “master tapes” being sold are first generation copies of high-resolution digital masters—not analog master multitrack tapes. To the analog tape purists of the world, this completely discounts their value. These are not analog productions!
Several years ago, I had the same idea. I have a large catalog of amazing sounding high-resolution music titles. I offered to make first generation (“master tapes”) copies of my digital masters available to reel-to-reel owners. I follow a R+R group on Yahoo led by “tech guru” David Pogue and posted my idea to them. Initially, David and others were very interested in the idea. When they learned that the original source recording was made using PCM digital at 96 kHz/24-bits, David’s opinion changed. He was adamant that an analog tape made from a digital master would carry the “digititis” that was forever imprinted on the PCM digital masters. He’s completely wrong about that notion, but whatever (I have actually made copies from digital masters and had R+R purists rave about the fidelity).
I abandoned the idea. What’s the point of spending hundreds of dollars on a tape copy of a high-res music master when you could just get the high-res original? If a customer really wants the sound of analog tape, they could make their own copies at home. Or they could run the clean digital signal through an “analog tape plug-in”, which adds distortion, high-frequency hiss, scrape flutter, modulation noise, and EQ artifacts (which analog tape lovers cherish).
So Analogy Records is deliberately misleading its customers. It comes down to definitions. The guy from Analogy stated, “To clarify, in the music industry, a ‘Master’ is the final product that comes out from the recording system (whatever it is), recorded to a media (tape, DAT, lathe, file etc.). This ‘Master’ is then used to create copies of different media.” Once again the “provenance” issue becomes relevant. He’s both right and wrong. What he says is technically correct but practically wrong because he doesn’t talk about the digital multitracks used to make the copies.
Analogy Records isn’t selling “master tapes”. They are selling first generation analog tape copies of high-resolution digital sources. And I’ll bet that they sound great…better than the third generation Tape Project tapes that go for hundreds of dollars. But they should rightly be called “high-resolution to analog transfers”.
Why would you name your company “Analogy Records” and use “Studio Original Master Tapes” as your tag line, when you’re not using “master tapes” as your source? It seems to me that this is a misleading, money grab pitch to analog tape lovers. If this works for them, then I should offer analog tape copies of my catalog. Hmmm…