In October of 2019, I wrote an article on probably the single most important link in the long chain of production steps required to bring a classic analog master tape into our digital music world. The importance of maximizing the fidelity of the tape playback using a state-of-the-art reproducer and associated electronics cannot be overstated. And the sad truth is mastering studios – those run by the labels themselves tasked with the job – have been doing analog tape to digital transfers with less quality than is possible.
Of course, the mastering engineers, and executives they report to at the labels, will deny that they lack both the equipment AND expertise to make state-of-the-art transfers of analog master tapes but the reality is they do. I’ve visited some of those mastering rooms, met (and know) some of the best engineers in the business, and understand the practical limitations that exist in their studios. And they also need an equally capable analog to digital converter, master clock source, and a calibrated signal path from start to finish.
Fred Thal, an expert in the field, and I have been friends for a while. Recently, he asked if he could publish a guest article on this site. I promptly agreed. Read and learn.
Bringing Science Back to Audio: Introducing the Foundation for Recorded Music Preservation
A sobering reminder of the astonishing effectiveness of disinformation campaigns permeating consumer audio is the number of persons somehow believing that a vinyl LP record affords today’s best-known means of preserving heritage recordings.
While over on the digital side, a smaller, separate campaign tirelessly asserts (equally incorrectly!) that because linear pulse code modulation (LPCM) is inherently “bad sounding,” DSD is therefore our best-known digital recording technology.
Clearly, it’s time that we try to bring some science back into audio.
Adopting a triage perspective will bring focus onto the surviving original analog master tapes, stored away in vaults around the globe.
Because these tapes are deteriorating chemically and physically with time, we’ve established The Foundation for Recorded Music Preservation (recordedmusicpreservation.org). The Foundation for Recorded Music Preservation is a California nonprofit public benefit corporation.
Santa Barbara was chosen as the home for the foundation because of its proximity to the UC Santa Barbara campus. We’re excited by the possibility of symbiosis with the many UCSB graduate and doctoral programs that directly relate to our mission. Some of these are:
- Chemistry & Chemical Engineering
- Electrical & Computer Engineering
- Film & Media Studies
- Materials Science
- Mechanical Engineering
- Media Arts & Technology
It’s important to acknowledge that the thousands of people who insist that the original vinyl release of an analog-era recording often sounded better than did the CD re-issue aren’t wrong.
It’s only their hasty conclusion that this was due to an inherent fault of LPCM that’s mistaken.
Any readers who are in Santa Barbara area who would like to help with our mission, please get in touch! (Visit the contact page on the site.) Thanks.