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Thread: Why are CDs digitized from master tapes?

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 1,553
    I'm Alex.

    Default Why are CDs digitized from master tapes?

    It seems that majority/most people, given a chance. tend to prefer the sound of LPs to the way CDs and digital files sound. Still, a lot of people are not prepared to make the plunge into the vinyl world, for a number of valid reasons (cost, inconvenience, etc.)

    On the other hand, there are a lot of claims that if one were to record a good LP playing on a good turntable, and then turn that recording into a good old 16 bit/44.1 kHz FLAC or AIFF or WAV file (the so-called Red Book format), all the charming qualities of the vinyl playback would be impeccably preserved for posterity. The argument furthermore goes that the reason people don't seem to prefer the CD sound is because CDs tend to present more faithfully the actual sound of the original master tape. When master tape gets converted to an LP, the turntable playback adds all kinds of sexy coloration etc., rendering that playback more seductive to human ears. All that charm is gone when converting the master tape to CDs, because CDs are 'perfect sound forever'. Well, it turns out human ears do not really dig that kind of perfection.

    If that's the case, why don't music industry switch to the so-called 'needle drop' production? Meaning, when planning to reissue a classic album, why don't they digitize it by playing the good LP copy on a top flight turntable, and then encode it into the Red Book digital format, and then cut the CDs?
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Jul 2010

    Location: Cheltenham

    Posts: 613
    I'm Charlie.

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    Alex,

    I have 15 IPS 2 track "master" tapes for number of albums inc Sgt Pepper's, Ziggy and Kind of Blue. LP is not as good as the original tape, as it has to be compressed (RIAA) to allow the amplitude of the music in the grooves to fit onto the 12 inch disc. Also, records are played at constant angular velocity (i.e. 33.3 or 45 rpm), which means that the length of grove tracked in one second is much shorter at the inner grooves than at the outer grooves. On the contrary, tape goes across the heads at a constant linear velocity, and the end of the album sounds just as good as the beginning.

    If you make a straight unity gain copy of the tape onto CD, the CD also sounds great. The problem is that some engineers will alter the sound, when mastering for digital to take into account the fact that most people listen to music on their phones. The ambient noise level on a train or bus is significant, and so the quiet bits are amplified to make them louder. This reduces the dynamic range of the music, as you can't increaser the signal on the truly loud bits on a digital recording system. Hence a normal digital file or CD can sound compressed.

    Charlie

  3. #3
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 1,553
    I'm Alex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by topoxforddoc View Post
    Alex,

    I have 15 IPS 2 track "master" tapes for number of albums inc Sgt Pepper's, Ziggy and Kind of Blue. LP is not as good as the original tape, as it has to be compressed (RIAA) to allow the amplitude of the music in the grooves to fit onto the 12 inch disc. Also, records are played at constant angular velocity (i.e. 33.3 or 45 rpm), which means that the length of grove tracked in one second is much shorter at the inner grooves than at the outer grooves. On the contrary, tape goes across the heads at a constant linear velocity, and the end of the album sounds just as good as the beginning.

    If you make a straight unity gain copy of the tape onto CD, the CD also sounds great. The problem is that some engineers will alter the sound, when mastering for digital to take into account the fact that most people listen to music on their phones. The ambient noise level on a train or bus is significant, and so the quiet bits are amplified to make them louder. This reduces the dynamic range of the music, as you can't increaser the signal on the truly loud bits on a digital recording system. Hence a normal digital file or CD can sound compressed.

    Charlie
    Thanks Charlie. That's good to know. I've never had a chance to listen to original master tapes, so I'm going by the second hand info. There are people who claim that CDs sound closer to the original master tapes than LPs do. Weird to learn that, especially in the light of your description here.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jul 2010

    Location: Cheltenham

    Posts: 613
    I'm Charlie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    Thanks Charlie. That's good to know. I've never had a chance to listen to original master tapes, so I'm going by the second hand info. There are people who claim that CDs sound closer to the original master tapes than LPs do. Weird to learn that, especially in the light of your description here.
    Some CDs sound excellent and some less so. Same can be said for LPs. It all depends on the mastering engineer, be it a digital file or cutting a lacquer.

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 1,553
    I'm Alex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by topoxforddoc View Post
    Some CDs sound excellent and some less so. Same can be said for LPs. It all depends on the mastering engineer, be it a digital file or cutting a lacquer.
    Totally. I've had my share of unlistenable LPs and unlistenable CDs.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

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    I'm Martin.

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    Are you suggesting that there might be a market for vinyl LPs copied onto CD?

    Otherwise I don't understand the point of the question. If your master is on tape how can you make a CD (or a vinyl LP for that matter) without 'digitising' it at some point?
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

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  7. #7
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

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    I'm Alex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    Are you suggesting that there might be a market for vinyl LPs copied onto CD?

    Otherwise I don't understand the point of the question. If your master is on tape how can you make a CD (or a vinyl LP for that matter) without 'digitising' it at some point?
    There are people who claim to be able to digitize the actual sound of a good turntable playback. The claim is that if you do a 'needle drop' using high quality analog-to-digital chain, once you burn the digital file to CD, no one can detect any difference between the CD playback and the original LP playback.

    Assuming that this is true, there could be a market for people who prefer to hear an album the way it sounds on a good turntable, as opposed to the way it may sound on their CD player/digital transport. And because they most likely don't have the money/nerves required to set up a good analog system, they'd gladly buy the CD that gives them an illusion as if they're listening to the five figure analog rig.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 15,827
    I'm Martin.

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    So that's a yes to my first question then. Not sure what the situation is in Canada but in UK you couldn't do it legally.
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

    Technics SL1200 with Sumiko h/s & Nagaoka MP50 * Firebottle valve MM phono stage * Parasound CDPi1000 * NVA P90SA passive pre / Krell KSA50S Power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 loudspeakers *



    "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S Thompson

  9. #9
    Join Date: Aug 2016

    Location: Kent UK

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    I'm Paul.

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    I know when CD's Hit the mass market in the 80's there was such a rush to release their back catalogues on CD than many hit the market that where little more than direct from LP to CD copy, needle drop, pop and clicks all included for free. It was not what CD sound was supposed to be, it was sold as free from all those annoying clicks and pops we all look for nowadays

    Paul
    Current setup Thorens TD-160 Mk1 with Denon DL-110 MC Cartridge, Pioneer A-70 Amp, Yamaha AX-592 Amp, Yamaha CDX-710 CD Player, Pioneer PD-4300 CD Player, Monitor Audio Bronze 5 speakers, Van-Damme Cables throughout.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Dec 2008

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    I'm Shaun.

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    Mmmm... I have a place in my sound system for both analogue and digital (compact disc) and I also own some albums on both formats because I never quite know how the mood is going to get me. I don't really have a preference for one over the other because I constantly cannot make up my mind so prefer to have both options. I do however find that compact disc sounds a lot cleaner and sharper than vinyl in my system but that vinyl sounds a bit more realistic in my room. Fortunately, I do not really have to choose one over the other. I like it just the way it is but if the record industry started producing CD's mastered from vinyl I would be highly pissed off.
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