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DSD mastering for Red Book CD
hollowman
post Jun 14 2009, 09:55
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I have a few CDs that note they were re-mastered using DSD. Despite the conversion to PCM, and the foul math that entails, these CDs do sound better than non-remastered (older) versions.
A good example is Star Wars trilogy (Orig. Soundtrack). It was "originally" released in 1997 for the special edition movies. Then, in 2004, these CDs were re-released with DSD mastering (a marketing ploy, concurrent with the DVD release of the films). Only seven years separated the two releases and DSD version does involve extra step(s) to get it into 16/44 PCM. TTBOMK, nothing else was done to the 1997 masters. Still, the 2004 versions sound subtly better. (I've noted this in other CD-only DSD-mastered re-releases, like Telarc). It's not the DSD mastering, unless sample-rate conversion is somehow reducing jitter. Something(s) else, in the mastering process, must have evolved/improved in the interim: better electronics, improved skills, etc. What else?

This post has been edited by hollowman: Jun 14 2009, 09:57
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Mark7
post Jun 14 2009, 10:19
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I don't know anything about DSD. I do have the Star Wars CDs with DSD though, but to me they sound pretty unpleasant. The replaygain value of the tracks varies a lot from -8.23 to +9.81. -8.23 is incredibly loud for a orchestrated track imho. Heck, it's even loud for rock.

I wish i had the old(er) CDs.
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hlloyge
post Jun 14 2009, 11:22
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Do they sound better or are they simply louder? Please extract both CDs and replaygain them, then post replaygain results here, so we can see if really nothing else has been done.
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Cavaille
post Jun 14 2009, 11:44
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QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 14 2009, 10:55) *
A good example is Star Wars trilogy (Orig. Soundtrack). It was "originally" released in 1997 for the special edition movies. Then, in 2004, these CDs were re-released with DSD mastering (a marketing ploy, concurrent with the DVD release of the films). Only seven years separated the two releases and DSD version does involve extra step(s) to get it into 16/44 PCM. TTBOMK, nothing else was done to the 1997 masters. Still, the 2004 versions sound subtly better. (I've noted this in other CD-only DSD-mastered re-releases, like Telarc).
I own all three original versions from 1997. The sound is horrible. It is one of the worst remasters I have ever encountered. Loudness War in its purest form - for orchestral music. Iīve also listenend to the versions from 2004 and couldnīt find a difference - but I did only a quick comparison. And since I wasnīt that much interested in the scores at all...

If you talk about Telarc... which releases do you mean? To my knowledge they have only a few to DSD re-mastered releases. These are the discs where they re-mastered some old recordings done by the Soundstream converter to DSD 50 kHz. The CD layer for these releases was of course treated with todayīs technology, so they should indeed sound different compared to the old releases.

Another example: the CD-layer from the SACD for Goldsmithīs Star Trek: Nemesis sounds different to the normal CD. The reason are purely mastering differences and Iīve always wondered why Varese Sarabende would produce two different masters for CD layer.


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hollowman
post Jun 24 2009, 10:15
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QUOTE (Cavaille @ Jun 14 2009, 02:44) *
QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 14 2009, 10:55) *
A good example is Star Wars trilogy (Orig. Soundtrack). It was "originally" released in 1997 for the special edition movies. Then, in 2004, these CDs were re-released with DSD mastering (a marketing ploy, concurrent with the DVD release of the films). Only seven years separated the two releases and DSD version does involve extra step(s) to get it into 16/44 PCM. TTBOMK, nothing else was done to the 1997 masters. Still, the 2004 versions sound subtly better. (I've noted this in other CD-only DSD-mastered re-releases, like Telarc).
I own all three original versions from 1997. The sound is horrible. It is one of the worst remasters I have ever encountered. Loudness War in its purest form - for orchestral music. Iīve also listenend to the versions from 2004 and couldnīt find a difference - but I did only a quick comparison. And since I wasnīt that much interested in the scores at all...

If you talk about Telarc... which releases do you mean? To my knowledge they have only a few to DSD re-mastered releases. These are the discs where they re-mastered some old recordings done by the Soundstream converter to DSD 50 kHz. The CD layer for these releases was of course treated with todayīs technology, so they should indeed sound different compared to the old releases.

Another example: the CD-layer from the SACD for Goldsmithīs Star Trek: Nemesis sounds different to the normal CD. The reason are purely mastering differences and Iīve always wondered why Varese Sarabende would produce two different masters for CD layer.
Cavaille: I think the 1997/2004 versions are way superior to any other release, including vinyl. ROJ is the worst sounding, but it always has been because it was an early digital recording (and also engineered poorly). Yes, the first film is engineered with a "bright" sound.
I have the Nemisis disc, too, but CD-only version.
QUOTE
Do they sound better or are they simply louder? Please extract both CDs and replaygain them, then post replaygain results here, so we can see if really nothing else has been done.
Replaygain for Star Wars -- A New Hope 1997 (std CD) and 2004 (DSD CD), track "Princess Leia's Theme" (disc 2), converted to FLAC, are -3.66 dB and -3.67 dB respectively.
File sizes for same track conv. to FLAC are slightly different, but the EAC-ripped WAVs were exactly the same for both versions: 46037kb.

This post has been edited by hollowman: Jun 24 2009, 10:17
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Soap
post Jun 24 2009, 11:27
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QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 05:15) *
but the EAC-ripped WAVs were exactly the same for both versions: 46037kb.

So they're exactly the same length?
QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 05:15) *
File sizes for same track conv. to FLAC are slightly different,

But not exactly the same content?

Shocking!

wink.gif


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Cavaille
post Jun 24 2009, 11:28
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QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 11:15) *
Cavaille: I think the 1997/2004 versions are way superior to any other release, including vinyl. ROJ is the worst sounding, but it always has been because it was an early digital recording (and also engineered poorly). Yes, the first film is engineered with a "bright" sound.
I still donīt like them. The original mixing engineer seemed to had to work within an old facility (according to James Horner with 40 years old equipment - I hardly call that cutting edge). With the remastering they were IMO trying to "freshen up" - something that sounds awkward with some recordings. And why is it that people deem "early digital recordings" as bad? Iīve mentioned early TELARC recordings - they are sounding even today as good as new. The same goes for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, recorded digitally in 1979 - very good sound. ROJ is in my opinion the best sounding of them all. Still to loud though...

Oh sorry... off topic.

QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 11:15) *
File sizes for same track conv. to FLAC are slightly different, but the EAC-ripped WAVs were exactly the same for both versions: 46037kb.
Is the FLAC file for the 2004 release bigger? If so, the reason could be that the upper frequency regions contain more dithering noise. That in turn would hint at how the DSD remaster came to existence: They simply kept the recordings remastered in 1997 in their natural state (perhaps 24/96). After the rights passed to Sony, they did nothing more than to reprocess the 24/96 files to DSD. These were downsampled with the DSD-SBM process - hence the bigger amount of dithering noise.

But for that, one has to look at a comparison of frequency responses. Right now Iīm only guessing.


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hollowman
post Jun 24 2009, 14:46
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QUOTE (Cavaille @ Jun 24 2009, 02:28) *
QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 11:15) *
Cavaille: I think the 1997/2004 versions are way superior to any other release, including vinyl. ROJ is the worst sounding, but it always has been because it was an early digital recording (and also engineered poorly). Yes, the first film is engineered with a "bright" sound.
I still donīt like them. The original mixing engineer seemed to had to work within an old facility (according to James Horner with 40 years old equipment - I hardly call that cutting edge). With the remastering they were IMO trying to "freshen up" - something that sounds awkward with some recordings. And why is it that people deem "early digital recordings" as bad? Iīve mentioned early TELARC recordings - they are sounding even today as good as new. The same goes for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, recorded digitally in 1979 - very good sound. ROJ is in my opinion the best sounding of them all. Still too loud though...

Oh sorry... off topic.
Didn't know ST '79 was digital (Got a link on this?) Maybe it was BOTH (like Sheffield Labs did direct-to-disc and analog tape master concurrently). Good engineering aside, ST '79 20th anv. CD (1998) may have used the analog.
Some early digital was "good", tho' it's hard to separate engineering from recording medium -- the former can more than make up of the latter: Telarcs, Deccas and some Denons come to mind. OTOH, Telarc's compilation CDs are , IMO, excellent tools for judging early vs. contemporary digital.
QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 11:15) *
File sizes for same track conv. to FLAC are slightly different, but the EAC-ripped WAVs were exactly the same for both versions: 46037kb.
QUOTE
Is the FLAC file for the 2004 release bigger? If so, the reason could be that the upper frequency regions contain more dithering noise. That in turn would hint at how the DSD remaster came to existence: They simply kept the recordings remastered in 1997 in their natural state (perhaps 24/96). After the rights passed to Sony, they did nothing more than to reprocess the 24/96 files to DSD. These were downsampled with the DSD-SBM process - hence the bigger amount of dithering noise.

But for that, one has to look at a comparison of frequency responses. Right now Iīm only guessing.
1997 FLAC: 22.0 MB (23,139,690 bytes) / WAV: 44.9 MB (47,141,180 bytes)
2004 FLAC: 22.1 MB (23,179,878 bytes) / WAV: 44.9 MB (47,141,180 bytes)

This post has been edited by hollowman: Jun 24 2009, 14:50
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hollowman
post Jun 24 2009, 14:59
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QUOTE (Cavaille @ Jun 24 2009, 02:28) *
The original mixing engineer seemed to had to work within an old facility (according to James Horner with 40 years old equipment - I hardly call that cutting edge).
Old equipment is not necessarily inferior. A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" swear by RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence recordings. Also, I wouldn't put faith in Horner's account; perhaps unrelated, but he's often criticized as one of the most plagiaristic (= dishonest?) film composers ever.

This post has been edited by hollowman: Jun 24 2009, 15:01
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Cavaille
post Jun 24 2009, 17:51
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QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 15:46) *
Didn't know ST '79 was digital (Got a link on this?) Maybe it was BOTH (like Sheffield Labs did direct-to-disc and analog tape master concurrently). Good engineering aside, ST '79 20th anv. CD (1998) may have used the analog.

Hereīs the link. It seems I was mistaken with ST:TMP, sorry. It was recorded analogue but mixed digitally with Sony equipment. I always mistake this with The Black Hole (that one was recorded on 3M 48 Track recorder in 16 Bit and 50 kHz... remotely not "low digital bit-rate" as stated on Wikipedia).

QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 15:46) *
OTOH, Telarc's compilation CDs are , IMO, excellent tools for judging early vs. contemporary digital.

Are they? I own quite a lot early pressings from them. "Normal" releases and compilations. They still sound pristine to my ears. Other companies donīt have this recording quality even today. Early Telarc recordings have only two flaws: too much reverb and too much high frequency content. Apart from that they are fine. No distortions, no quantization noise, even the crude digital mixing of those days (in case of 1812 ouverture or Wellingtonīs Victory) canīt be heard. When treated with todays technology they for sure donīt sound 30 years old, Telarc offers some earlier recordings remastered with DSD ("Soundstream 50 kHz").

QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 15:46) *
1997 FLAC: 22.0 MB (23,139,690 bytes) / WAV: 44.9 MB (47,141,180 bytes)
2004 FLAC: 22.1 MB (23,179,878 bytes) / WAV: 44.9 MB (47,141,180 bytes)

Thatīs not much difference. Could be dithering. The sound difference would be miniscule though. Both (1997 & 2004) are still botched up recordings. If you want Star Wars in pristine and - forgive me - "audiophile" quality, listen to the scores for Episodes I-III: just wonderful mastering & mixing. Episode III even is a HDCD.

QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 15:59) *
Old equipment is not necessarily inferior. A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" swear by RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence recordings. Also, I wouldn't put faith in Horner's account; perhaps unrelated, but he's often criticized as one of the most plagiaristic (= dishonest?) film composers ever.

RCA Living Stereo indeed are very good sounding recordings. A capable engineer can do wonders - even with what we consider today mediocre or even sub standard equipment. But Episode IV & V... forgive me. The original mastering wasnīt that good and the remastering made things worse. I love the movies and even the music is nice but the sound is garbage.

When it comes to James Horner... he is criticised often for ecleticism and itīs true. But mostly he has great taste in sound quality. He talked about this old equipment when he was interviewed for the ALIENS-DVD. There he said, the recording studio wasnīt very good - he barely couldnīt do there anything with the synthesizers he so desired for that score. On the other hand he talked about the wonderful job the mastering engineer for Star Wars did with the same equipment 7 years earlier at the very same recording facility. I disagree there with him - but that you can read above.

We are talking a lot about different mastering techniques... not about DSD mastering for Redbook CD that much.

This post has been edited by Cavaille: Jun 24 2009, 17:58


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Jun 24 2009, 18:30
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QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 09:59) *
Old equipment is not necessarily inferior.


Dpends what you call old. If by old you mean the tubed production equipment of the 50s and 60s, then by modern standards it was usually inferior. By the late 70s the tubes were pretty much gone and SS audio production equipment was at a technical quality level that is not that much different from today. Since then, most progress took the form of vastly reduced cost and size.

QUOTE
A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" swear by RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence recordings.


A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" are overwhelmingly influenced by sentimentality and habit. I wouldn't use their perceptions as any kind of relevant standard in a modern discussion of sound quality.
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Cavaille
post Jun 25 2009, 18:05
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QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jun 24 2009, 19:30) *
QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 09:59) *
A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" swear by RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence recordings.


A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" are overwhelmingly influenced by sentimentality and habit. I wouldn't use their perceptions as any kind of relevant standard in a modern discussion of sound quality.
I agree. Hollowman, have you ever listenened to an orchestral recording on vinyl or on bad tape? Horrible. I still wonder why some composers record analogue these days when digital and the experience in using it has improved so much in the last 30 years. Listen to "The Mummy Returns" - analogue recording. The same with "Sleepy Hollow" and "Spiderman". And again the same with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring" (partially analogue). Analogue CAN sound good (as even the recordings from the stone age of stereo music by RCA prove) but Arnold is right. Today not one reason exists to rely on analogue. It is only sentimental.

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2Bdecided
post Jun 25 2009, 18:55
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I don't know. People seem to like professional tape compression / soft saturation for certain kinds of music, and a little bit of gentle background noise and distortion for lots of kinds of music.

Not the kind you get at home from compact cassette, but the kind you get in a real recording studio.

In terms of accurate reproduction, it's garbage - and orchestral music is the last thing to put through it - but in terms of another piece of studio effects gear, it's great.

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Cavaille
post Jun 25 2009, 20:00
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QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jun 25 2009, 19:55) *
I don't know. People seem to like professional tape compression / soft saturation for certain kinds of music, and a little bit of gentle background noise and distortion for lots of kinds of music.
David, youīre right of course. I just talked about it that way because Hollowman seems to be interested in scores for movies - just like me. I was referring to that music only. When it comes to other genres of music, analogue may still be a preferred option. I donīt know for example rock music enough to give an opinion there. However, I know that if I would be an engineer I would do everything digitally - even there. With high sample rate and bit depth of course. But then... Iīm not a sound engineer. laugh.gif


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hollowman
post Jun 26 2009, 02:24
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QUOTE (Cavaille @ Jun 25 2009, 10:05) *
QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jun 24 2009, 19:30) *
QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 24 2009, 09:59) *
A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" swear by RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence recordings.
A lot of tube/analog/vinyl "audiophiles" are overwhelmingly influenced by sentimentality and habit. I wouldn't use their perceptions as any kind of relevant standard in a modern discussion of sound quality.
I agree. Hollowman, have you ever listenened to an orchestral recording on vinyl or on bad tape? Horrible. I still wonder why some composers record analogue these days when digital and the experience in using it has improved so much in the last 30 years. Listen to "The Mummy Returns" - analogue recording. The same with "Sleepy Hollow" and "Spiderman". And again the same with "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring" (partially analogue). Analogue CAN sound good (as even the recordings from the stone age of stereo music by RCA prove) but Arnold is right. Today not one reason exists to rely on analogue. It is only sentimental.

I was adding counterpoint to Cavaille's remark "The original mixing engineer seemed to had to work within an old facility".
While I disagree with "I wouldn't use their perceptions as any kind of relevant standard in a modern discussion of sound quality" (how does one define "relevant standard" and "modern"?), I generally agree with Arnold B. Krueger. Living Stereo/Living Presence and other "audiophile-approved" recordings are, IMO, overrated: yes, nostalgia, "sentimentality and habit" have a lot to do with their press coverage, marketing and price tag. That said, I do think audiophiles' comments are noteworthy, if for the simple fact that audiophiles (statistcally) do a lot of listening/reporting.
I generally think that modern digital recordings are better than most older analog (and older digital) -- but there are no hard/fast rules. E.g., it's hard to separate the engineering of a project from the media from a consumer's prespective (i.e., w/o a lot "inside info").
In film music, e.g., Zubin Metha Star Wars/Close Encounters (1977 London) comes close to a lot of modern digital scores. Hollywood studios have a lot of $, so it's not surprising that film scores sound as good as they do.

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Cavaille
post Jun 26 2009, 04:40
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QUOTE (hollowman @ Jun 26 2009, 03:24) *
Living Stereo/Living Presence and other "audiophile-approved" recordings are, IMO, overrated: yes, nostalgia, "sentimentality and habit" have a lot to do with their press coverage, marketing and price tag. That said, I do think audiophiles' comments are noteworthy, if for the simple fact that audiophiles (statistcally) do a lot of listening/reporting.
I generally think that modern digital recordings are better than most older analog (and older digital) -- but there are no hard/fast rules. E.g., it's hard to separate the engineering of a project from the media from a consumer's prespective (i.e., w/o a lot "inside info").
Apart from the comment about the Living Stereo/RCA recordings (which are quite good - especially when one considers when they were produced - though they are not as good as the audiophile community hears them to be) I completely agree with you. We had this "little" discussion here - I also believe that comments from audiophiles can be noteworthy. Also, many older analogue or digital recordings do not sound good - but at least they can be remastered to sound good. On the other hand, some older recordings still hold up very well when compared to todays standards. A capable person can achieve tremendous results even with mediocre and substandard material - in fact, not the technical side in recording/engineering/mastering are important but how they are used. Even I forget that sometimes.

Oh, I almost forgot... do you really think that many scores do sound good because of the amount of $? I could give some examples of scores that are sounding awful, unbalanced and are victims to the loudness war - even with major studio backing. Donīt forget, many scores are produced under severe time pressure where the persons involved may not have the time to finetune the sound. And if I think of Jerry Goldsmith he was always a composer who changed the sound of his scores during mastering or mixing to match the atmosphere of the movie he was composing for. That incorporates equalizing, artificial reverberation... in the new edition of Twilight Zone (great remastered by the way) Bruce Botnick talks a great deal about the mixing, microphone placing, recording techniques; things that were going beyond the basic orchestration or composition. JG tweaked this even if it meant that it wouldnīt sound "right" or "by the book".

But on the other hand youīre right. There are also several examples of great sounding scores. One just canīt come up with a general rule... there are too much shades of grey.


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