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Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3
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Drone
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:23 am    Post subject: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

Thoroughly enjoyed the latest issue, as always. The last bit of the interview with Jackson Browne, he brought up a point which has been bugging me for a long time. Note, I come at this from the perspective of a music fan, and engineer (of the EE persuasion) more than as a recordist. And it's this, for the most part we are using vinyl as a poor approximation of high resolution digital recording, where we should have (and do have to an extent) better mediums to be distributing this in.

Remember when CD's first came out, and the had that little AAD or DDD code up in the corner, to tell you which steps in the process had been done in the Analog domain, and which had been done in the Digital. Given the current crop of recorded onto hard drive, mixed, or at least processed in the box, and shipped to a computer controlled pressing plant with digital lathes releases of music, I think it only fair if we reinstate the information so that any vinyl afficionado knows exactly what they are getting.

For the most part, something like a DVD-Audio disk would give a more accurate representation of the master recording, than a vinyl disk will, you can scan a DVD-Audio disk onto hard drive, and come back with an exact duplicate, bit for bit, with the original mastered recording, whereas a vinyl disk will only ever achieve a rough approximation of what was heard (a la an MP3 file) in this sense it is a lossy format, it cannot accurately reproduce the master recording, and there is no magic that makes the analog recording on the disk better than the digital file it was created from.

I have a friend that runs a small independent label, and he does record pure analog recordings, he picked the only pressing plant he could find that not only will accept analog master tapes, but swears to put them to the lathe in an analog fashion, and not digitize them. This would be the only case I can see where vinyl can be argued to be the more accurate format.

I know the whole analog / digital debate is a hoary old chestnut, but I just needed to get this bit of it off my chest.

...and I may have missed it, as I came late to Tape-Op, at issue 40, but I would love to see an interview with On-U Sound's Adrian Sherwood, seeing as you are doing a lot more UK interviews now. Keep up the good work, etc. etc. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:55 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

The SPARS code, those AAA/DDD letters, was abandoned years ago because engineers were integrating analog and digital technology during the recording/mixing/mastering stages of making an album to such an extent that determining whether to use an A or a D in any of the three positions was a blurry endeavor at best. It became a meaningless marketing tool, and was justifiably ditched.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:17 am    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

If analog is inherently superior to digital (or vice versa), then why do you need a label to tell you which one is which? Shouldn't you just be able to tell by listening?
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kslight
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 9:21 am    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

JWL wrote:
If analog is inherently superior to digital (or vice versa), then why do you need a label to tell you which one is which? Shouldn't you just be able to tell by listening?


Exactly.

Personally, I'd rather resort to the simple labeling system of either "good" or "bad" so I know before listening whether to waste my time or not. Or maybe they should print a tiny picture of the waveform...if it looks like a square wave avoid...
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Drone
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:29 am    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

Maybe some people like square waves, then again didn't someone just re-record that Metallica album that got everyone so upset?

Like I said, it was a personal grumble, stemming mainly from my frustration at bands that are making me wait for months whilst they muck about getting their stuff pressed to vinyl, when all I want is the digital download they release with it.

I was happy that Jackson Browne called people out on it, and said he enjoyed a good sounding CD as well, me too Mr Browne, and thanks for saying it.

I don't mind vinyl, I have a half dozen turntables scattered about the house, though it's a hell of an awkward playback format, that most people rarely have time for in everyday life. Maybe if I had lived in my parents basement for a period of my adult life? I was not looking to spark a 'this format is better' debate, more a Mikado-esque, 'let the format fit the recording method' type cry.
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kslight
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:18 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

I dunno I don't listen to Metallica except the 25-30 year old singles that end up on the playlist at the gym some days, not by choice.

I'm not sure what it has to do with your initial argument of bringing back AAA ratings and such, I think bands will probably release their music when the label or they dictate regardless of such a rating, and regardless of whether vinyl is pressed. I only buy vinyl from my favorite independent artists to put a little more money in their pocket (as part of a kickstarter campaign) not because I sit around in someone's basement listening to it (I don't even listen to it in my own basement).

I agree that vinyl is not a real practical every day listening format, I just don't see the relationship that the recording format rating system has with solving this problem.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

I have had it happen on several occasions, that bands I am fond of, and I do mostly listen to independent bands, will say the album will be out on this date, and this date rolls round and the album is still at press, or the sleeves were cocked up, or something, and then finally they release the album several months later, and finally make it available for download too. They held back on the download to coincide with the vinyl release. This would suggest that they think if people could download the music ahead of the vinyl, they wouldn't sell as much vinyl, and it's probably true. That's complaint #1

Now lets say for the sake of argument the album was recorded at 24-bit, 96KHz, I have a choice, of getting a piece of vinyl, or a 16bit 44.1KHz file.

I have know way of knowing, was the vinyl mastered from the original files? Were they converted to a format used by the lathe? Many of the record pressing companies I have seen request a RedBook CD for mastering the vinyl. That means the vinyl isn't even as good as a CD, it's stamped from a CD, that was converted from a master, that had a much higher bit rate. So the analog advantage of the vinyl has gone from being an analog copy of a digital master, down to an analog copy of a CD quality CD made from a digital master, which seems, to me as a music fan, not a recordist, or as a mastering engineer, rather silly. That's complaint #2.

Maybe I hang out with the wrong sorts, but when the vinyl issue comes up, the invariable answer is 'because it's analog, it sounds better'. But it's the equivalent of taping a CD.

I don't know if the rating systems as it was would be any use, but it would be one of those 'nice to know' things. Should I pay more for the vinyl, should I buy the handier, rugged CD? Well if the vinyl was made from the same file as the CD, then the CD is the one to go for, unless you prefer the album art big. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

I have seen artists struggle to meet release dates for all kinds of reasons, including CD duplicating problems...I chock it up to the shit happens clause...I'm not gonna hate on my favorite band for something that is probably out of their control. The bands I listen to anyway, have not cited vinyl pressing as an excuse thus far.

It makes perfect sense that a band would want to hold onto the sale of the download until after the physical mediums have had their run....otherwise the incentive to buy a CD or vinyl does drop off rapidly.

There are definitely artists that release vinyl with the kind of integrity you'd expect, unfortunately though the average music buyer is probably not technically knowledgeable to distinguish...I'll chock that up to shame on the band/pressing plant/whoever, but at least the consumer bought something for once clause. The band probably justifies it by saying that the consumer will likely listen to the music in their car or iPod anyway and the vinyl is just for wall decor...which is probably half true.
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Drone
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

Who said anything about hating bands?

So we're acknowledging that people would rather have the download, than vinyl?

You are saying the average buyer doesn't know shit from shinola? That's rather unfair, they don't get the information up front, which was what I started with, they have to buy the product, and listen to it, at home in optimum conditions, to find out whether the vinyl was worth the extra in either money spent purchasing it, or time spent getting it back to their listening spot rather than bunging it on in the car, or their iPod or whatever.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 12:42 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

AAA or DDD for it's own sake seems silly these days.

I turned down working with a band once because they insisted on working on tape, and the only tape machines we had access too (and no budget to rent a good one) were crap. Honestly, they touted their first album as sounding awesome because it was "all done on tape!". It had been recorded on a cassette four track. At the time I shared studio space with my housemate. They recorded elsewhere, and mixed at our place. Guess what? Album sounded like shit.

This is what happens 90% of the time when people insist on a format for the sake of using that format, not considering how it sounds.

Analog done right is awesome.

I enjoy vinyl even when it comes from digital masters. There's something to be said for the experience of putting a platter on a turntable. There is a psychological effect that it has. For me, flipping the sides, interacting with it like that in some ways makes me more attentive to the music, almost as if you're close to it.

Vinyl also has a sound to it - not because it's a better reproduction of the recording (it objectively is NOT), but because of things like the RIAA curve, and the nature of a good turntable and needle. I find this sound pleasing.

I also listen to a SHITLOAD of music on digital. Give me lossless every time, but I'll settle for a good lossy encoding when I have no other option.

Ultimately, listen to the music, not the format. If the format is harming your listening experience, then you have an issue. Otherwise? Just enjoy it. Smile
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:30 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

Quote:
"I enjoy vinyl even when it comes from digital masters. There's something to be said for the experience of putting a platter on a turntable. There is a psychological effect that it has. For me, flipping the sides, interacting with it like that in some ways makes me more attentive to the music, almost as if you're close to it. "


Yes, this is well stated. I think that's a lot of it. Actually sitting in a room specifically with the purpose of listening to music, not putting on music to be in the background of your daily activities (which is fine too, just not the same). I listen to tons of digital too, and for records I really like, I prefer to have both digital and vinyl.

In addition, there are some things that really do sound more pleasing. Definitely not more accurate, probably not even "better" because it's definitely subjective. I think there are a few scenarios where this is the case.

With regard to the AAA/DDD labeling, (and I'm not arguing that we should return to that in the same form), there are isolated cases in which the artist went out of their way to have the mastering done specifically for vinyl, in some cases through a totally separate parallel process from the digital master of the same recording. When this is done, the vinyl usually sounds awesome (the digital may sound great too, depending on that mastering). In the case of the White Stripes "Icky Thump," the vinyl sounds WAY better than the digital version to my ear, and I'm fairly certain is was a totally separate master, IIRC. The opposite end of the spectrum is that as vinyl has become popular again, I think the process is performed hastily because "Well, it's an indie rock release, I guess we gotta put it out on vinyl." I swear I've bought vinyl pressings that made me wonder if they used a shitty 96kbs mp3 to cut the vinyl. I hope no one is dumb enough to do that, so it's probably just a matter of sloppiness and poor quality control. The vinyl of Yeahsayer's All Hour Cymbals (which is a GREAT recording in digital format) sounds like absolute shit, for example.

Anyway, I don't think SPARS code is the answer, but it would be nice to have some indication if someone actually gave a hoot what they were cutting to vinyl, or if it was just an afterthought so they could get hipsters to shell out $27 for the record (don't even get me started on the prices of new vinyl).
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IDQ
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

Quote:
"I enjoy vinyl even when it comes from digital masters. There's something to be said for the experience of putting a platter on a turntable. There is a psychological effect that it has. For me, flipping the sides, interacting with it like that in some ways makes me more attentive to the music, almost as if you're close to it. "


Yes, this is well stated. I think that's a lot of it. Actually sitting in a room specifically with the purpose of listening to music, not putting on music to be in the background of your daily activities (which is fine too, just not the same). I listen to tons of digital too, and for records I really like, I prefer to have both digital and vinyl.

In addition, there are some things that really do sound more pleasing on vinyl. Definitely not more accurate, probably not even "better" because it's definitely subjective. I think there are a few scenarios where this is the case.

With regard to the AAA/DDD labeling, (and I'm not arguing that we should return to that in the same form), there are isolated cases in which the artist went out of their way to have the mastering done specifically for vinyl, in some cases through a totally separate parallel process from the digital master of the same recording. When this is done, the vinyl usually sounds awesome (the digital may sound great too, depending on that mastering). In the case of the White Stripes "Icky Thump," the vinyl sounds WAY better than the digital version to my ear, and I'm fairly certain is was a totally separate master, IIRC. The opposite end of the spectrum is that as vinyl has become popular again, I think the process is performed hastily because "Well, it's an indie rock release, I guess we gotta put it out on vinyl." I swear I've bought vinyl pressings that made me wonder if they used a shitty 96kbs mp3 to cut the vinyl. I hope no one is dumb enough to do that, so it's probably just a matter of sloppiness and poor quality control. The vinyl of Yeahsayer's All Hour Cymbals (which is a GREAT recording in digital format) sounds like absolute shit, for example.

Anyway, I don't think SPARS code is the answer, but it would be nice to have some indication if someone actually gave a hoot what they were cutting to vinyl, or if it was just an afterthought so they could get hipsters to shell out $27 for the record (don't even get me started on the prices of new vinyl).
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

Drone wrote:
Maybe some people like square waves, then again didn't someone just re-record that Metallica album that got everyone so upset?

Like I said, it was a personal grumble, stemming mainly from my frustration at bands that are making me wait for months whilst they muck about getting their stuff pressed to vinyl, when all I want is the digital download they release with it.

I was happy that Jackson Browne called people out on it, and said he enjoyed a good sounding CD as well, me too Mr Browne, and thanks for saying it.

I don't mind vinyl, I have a half dozen turntables scattered about the house, though it's a hell of an awkward playback format, that most people rarely have time for in everyday life. Maybe if I had lived in my parents basement for a period of my adult life? I was not looking to spark a 'this format is better' debate, more a Mikado-esque, 'let the format fit the recording method' type cry.


If you're referring to Death Magnetic: they just went back and remastered it several times. All of Rick's records run pretty hot anyway, it's just how he wants things (regardless of what his engineers think though I do think sometimes they are accomplices).

But when that record was done and everyone was noting that it was almost un-listenable, they went back and had it remastered for pretty much every format possible: Guitar Hero, MP3/File, Vinyl, CD, radio, DVD audio, etc. I know that Greg Fidelman's (engineer) whole life got dominated by that for a time.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 1:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

IDQ wrote:
I listen to tons of digital too, and for records I really like, I prefer to have both digital and vinyl.


Oh, for stuff I really love, I'll buy Vinyl with a digital download nearly every time if it's an option.

IDQ wrote:
In the case of the White Stripes "Icky Thump," the vinyl sounds WAY better than the digital version to my ear, and I'm fairly certain is was a totally separate master, IIRC.


Yeah, I would put money on Jack White insisting on a master specifically of vinyl, which can be a really good thing. While he has a reputation as a huge asshole (screwing over Jim Diamond, his irrational hatred for Dan Auerbach), he is a stickler for his vision. That said, I kind of see him as emblematic (and perhaps a partial source of) of the whole "analog is better just by virtue of being analog!" bullshit.

IDQ wrote:
(don't even get me started on the prices of new vinyl).


Yes, new vinyl is VERY overpriced a lot of the time. Having a friend who runs a tiny vinyl-only record label (shout out to John and Lower Peninsula Records - http://www.lansingscene.com/lprecords/), I have heard a lot about the costs of producing vinyl. It's expensive to do on a relatively small scale. However, my buddy releases those records almost always at $15 or less. There are two albums out of 13 that are more, and sell for $25. These are both double-LPs though, so it makes some more sense.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Bring Back the AAA DDD standard -or- Vinyl is the new MP3 Reply with quote

I like the idea that vinyl is a subjective sound, I agree, because when my son was born, I got him a little record player I'm giving him my boxes of old vinyl, because it's almost a rite of passage, giving him an iPod full of music just doesn't seem the same.

I also agree with Ian saying that bands that focus on a particular format, can often fuck things up. I think if you are too focused on what your recording on, you can stunt your growth. I'll record on whatever is handy, and easy.

Shame there's not a service like Kunaki for vinyl, that would be the way to go. You can listen to it in whatever format you like, but it's all coming from the same source.

Here's a new peeve, same band that made me wait for vinyl before, this last release they let the CD go first to give them some extra capital, then stuck a bonus track on the vinyl, sigh Rolling Eyes

Not as bad as the 90's in the UK, with every band releasing 4 different versions of each single, in the hope you'd by all four for the bonus track, and propel them up the chart, ah those were the days Wink
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