[78-L] Recording Quality - a relative term

DAVID BURNHAM burnhamd at rogers.com.invalid
Wed Jul 2 07:47:05 PDT 2014

DSD is an improvement in storage.  The ealiest SACDs that SONY released were reissues of analog recordings from the '70s and earlier.  The superior quality of these analog recordings is what permittled the SACDs to shine so impressively.  The Mercury Living Presence SACDs were audibly clearer than the earlier CD releases and they were recorded in the '50s and '60s.  RCA's Living Stereo SACDs were also from recordings from as early as 1954.  The demonstratable fact is that the skill of capturing a performance had been mastered by around 1960 and the only thing left to be improved was the technology required to store that performance for future generations.

The SACD was a superior product both for the industry and the consumer.  For the consumer because of the clearly apparent superior sound from a carrier as easy to use as a conventional CD and for the industry because this quality could not be copied illegally without great difficulty.  SONY, not for the first time, gave us a superior product and then marketed it so poorly that it was not able to take off.  They had previously done this with BETA.  In the late '90s they introduced the single layer SACD.  The discs had the capacity of a standard LP, they only issued analog material from the '70s and earlier - usually each disc only carried the contents of a sinle LP, they charged twice as much for them as standard CDs and you needed a special player to play them.  This after they had been telling consumers for over 15 years that the CD was perfect.  What was going to motivate a move towards these new discs?  There was no need for them to be more
 expensive, in fact they should have been cheaper, because the DSD process is simpler than 44.1/16 bit technology.  Most importantly, the capacity of an SACD is actually several hours.  They could have easily put 5 or 6 LPs worth of music on a single SACD without any loss of quality.  BIS issued an SACD with the complete concertos of Mendelssohn on a single disc, (4 or 5 hours of music), and another set with the complete organ music of Bach on about 5 discs instead of the almost 20 CDs required for the same recordings.  Hybrid SACDs solved one problem - they could be played on a normal CD player, introduced the advantages of surround sound, but they removed the ability to contain the large quantity of program because they were limited once again to the capacity of a CD.  

But now things have fallen apart.  We have experienced perfection in sound reproduction but it has largely been taken away from us.  Consumers are largely no longer concerned with quality of audio reproduction, the priority instead has become how to store 18 hours of music on something the size of a dime or smaller.  Record stores are closing all around us and the persuer of pristine audio quality has little or no product to feed their priority.


On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 8:28:56 AM, Don Cox <doncox at enterprise.net.invalid> wrote:

>On 29/06/2014, Dave Burnham wrote:
>> I've always felt that recording quality peaked between 1958 and 1963.
>> I'm talking here only about the skill of putting mikes in front of
>> musicians and capturing a realistic, (if that was their goal), and
>> exciting sound. Sound carriers, (LPs, tapes etc.), still had a long
>> way to go. I demonstrated my belief to a senior music producer by
>> playing for him the Mercury SACD of "Poet and Peasant Overture" and
>> "Light Cavalry Overture" and he agreed that the sound left no room for
>> improvement. The SACD of Reiner's "Pines of Rome" is also top drawer.
>> These SACDs were made about 10 years ago so they were made from tapes
>> which were about 40 years old, just imagine what these tapes would
>> have sounded like 50 years ago!
>I broadly agree. The art of recording was almost perfected in the late
>1950s. The main improvement since then has been the introduction of
>Sony's DSD system, and although welcome and audible (especially on piano
>solo) it is not a big improvement. (Not comparable to the move from
>acoustic to electrical recording.)
>What was then missing was a good reliable method of copying,
>distributing and archiving recordings. 
>I think Blu-Ray audio provides that.
>Don Cox
>doncox at enterprise.net
>78-L mailing list
>78-L at klickitat.78online.com

More information about the 78-L mailing list