Making Copies from Vinyl LPs to DSD & PCM

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.


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

3 thoughts on “Making Copies from Vinyl LPs to DSD & PCM

  • Frank L

    Hello again Mark,

    I am glad you agree on what I wrote a couple of days ago that “Love” is a nice addition to the Beatles’ catalog. I watched HTG’s Scott Wilkinsons Broadcast from some weeks ago yesterday where he talked to Steve Guttenberg from former Chesky fame and now CNET audiophiliac. Besides mentioning you and your recordings at around 32 minutes I believe he mentions this website http://dr.loudness-war.info/, where they check soundfiles/records for their dynamic range….
    I still believe that the “new” 5.1 of old recordings benefit all of us, because the engineers have to go to the mastertapes to do those mixes. That’s as close as we ever get to the original.

    BTW. Steely Dan did not release a DTS and later a DVD-Audio version from their Aja Album because someone had and still has stolen the multitrack mastertapes of two songs from the album. Donald Fagen did not want to release the album in 5.1 without those two songs. They even offered $50.000 to bring the masters back. Actually a sad story. MF.

  • Nicholas

    Hello Dr. Waldrep,

    Before I run out and download a DSD HRA file (over say a 24-196 Flac) do I need to do some leg work and find out if the original master tapes captured using DSD? If the master was captured in PCM then subsequently transfered to DSD doesn’t that negate the benefits of the DSD format?

    Thanks and pardon if you’ve addressed this issue in previous posts.

    P.S. The Beatles Love album is always my “go to” album when trying to convince friends of the benefits of HRA and multichannel music – even on my very humble setup the result is amazing. Crossing my fingers a proper downloadable version will be made available some day soon.

    • As you know if you’ve been reading these posts, I am not a believer in DSD as a music format. And the vast majority of the electrical engineers, audio engineers, studio facility owners, software engineers, and equipment designers that I know recognize DSD for what it is…and they prefer PCM. If a track was originally recorded using DSD and remained in the DSD format during all of the post production stages, then I would agree that DSD is the preferred way to listen to that individual track. However, native DSD recordings are exceedingly rare…most are transfers of analog tape or conversions from PCM or processed using PCM.

      I thoroughly enjoy the “Love” record as well…one of my favorite surround projects. However, it is not a great example of HRA since it was recorded on analog equipment, which is limited as compared to today’s equipment.


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