The stated purpose of the event held at Jungle City Studios was to pump up awareness and knowledge about high-resolution music. The plan was to bring a number of audio engineer “top professionals” together and have them give a 20-minute presentation about their activities and passion for high-resolution music. The DEG, CEA, The Recording Academy and labels sold sponsorships to a few hardware vendors and some spots were made available to digital music retailers (only sites that have signed license agreements with the majors were invited…iTrax wasn’t even contacted) to help offset the cost of booking out the entire facility for the day. I was a late addition to the list of presenters because Elliot Scheiner ended up having a conflict and had to be dropped from the list.
The first presenter was Kevin Reeves of Universal Mastering and Sterling Sound. His recent work has been to do transfers of analog masters for distribution to sites like e-Onkyo in Japan and HDtracks. I wrote to Kevin and asked him to tell me what he played and the provenance of each track. He responded with the following information…I think this gives a very good insight into the engineering stages that various companies are requesting. Take a look:
1. Allman Brothers Band “Statesboro Blues” from the 1971 Show 4 at the Fillmore – 192/32. (16 trk masters were transferred in DSD128, then down converted to 192k/32bit PCM for mixing)
2. Oscar Peterson “It’s All Right With Me” from the 1959 master “Oscar Peterson Plays Cole Porter” – 192/32. (Original Verve master tape was transferred in DSD128, then DC’d to 192k/32bit for mastering)
3. Steely Dan “Bodhisattva”. This was a flat DSD128 transfer from the original master for our Blu-Ray friends in Japan. I DC’d it to 192/32 for the HRA playback.
4. Kiss “Strutter” from the first album. The original master tape was mastered in the analog domain and then converted to 192/24.
5. Stevie Wonder “Livin’ for The City” from the Innervisions master. Analog master was transferred flat to 192/24, and “mastered” digitally – although I hardly touched it, honestly. It sounded pretty spectacular on it’s own.
Kevin and I talked about what he does and what his clients expect when they license a selection of music. I found it interesting…the trend seems to be to leave more or less alone when it comes to crushing dynamics or other processing during the mastering stages. This is definitely a positive trend but wonder if it’s limited to transfers that are headed to “audiophile” sites. Seeing the number of tracks that have been transferred using DSD 128 is also trend that perplexes me. Why transfer to DSD 128 and then (down)convert to 192/32 bits? It would be better to transfer straight to 192/32-bits. Do a parallel transfers if you want…but don’t force me to accept the limitations of DSD.
Next up was Chuck Ainley, a multiple Grammy-winning engineer based in Nashville. He works a lot with country artists but I know him as the engineer for Mark Knoffler of Dire Straits. He played a number of selections, although I wasn’t in the room while he was presenting and he wasn’t at the sound check.
Between sessions, there were 10 minutes breaks. They set up the desserts and coffee on the 10th floor so entice people to head downstairs to the other vendor area. It was apparent early in the evening’s proceedings that things were falling behind schedule. Not really good news for the last presenter…me.
To be continued.