lundi 28 juin 2010

Original Master Tapes... Or Not?

Depuis la sortie en 1985 de la mirifique compilation de Buddy Holly, From The Original Master Tapes (célèbre pour leur non-remastering de Steve Hoffman), l'appellation Master Tapes est entrée dans le langage audiophile comme un ingrédient indispensable à toute réédition qui se respecte. Certaines compagnies de disques s'en sont fait un Credo, et certains ingénieurs de mastering une garantie.

Mais voilà que la très audiophile Audio Fidelity vient de faire prendre la main dans le sac, lors de la réédition très attendue  du mixage original de Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme, chef d'oeuvre de folk bleuté de Simon & Garfunkel, par nul autre que Jamie Tate, un ingénieur de son de Nashville. Lequel se montre diplomate, mais extrêmement convaincant dans ce post qu'on peut trouver sur E-Bay et sur le forum de Steve Hoffman...

Hey everyone, 

When I first got this CD I thought it sounded really similar to the old CD I bought 20 years ago so I loaded a couple songs into Pro Tools to do some comparison listening. That's when I saw they were essentially the same thing. They sync'd up perfectly, the bits all lined up without drift and I could get a significant amount of null between them. The AF CD has been EQ'd slightly to reduce the upper midrange and give more emphasis on the bottom and top end. 
I'm not saying this CD is poorly mastered nor am I suggesting you shouldn't buy it, but... it should be known that this rather expensive CD was not sourced from the Original Master Tapes as advertised. It's not even sourced from analog tapes. They were given the old Columbia CD from the 1980s to use as their source. I made a discovery about its origins and thought it was important to share. 
And not only is it from a 20+ year old digital transfer they didn't even use the master tapes back then. It's a dub of some sort. Sounds like it's an EQ'd and limited LP tape. The song 'Homeward Bound' fades in on this CD unlike the recent Sundazed LP made using the true original analog masters. The AF came out after the Sundazed LP reissue so why didn't AF use them instead of an old digital dub that's at the very minimum three generations removed? 
There's nothing necessarily wrong with issuing CDs from older digital tapes. Every label has done it. But when you market to a specific audience like audiophiles there's going to be higher expectations. Add to that the statements found on Audio Fidelity's own website and the writing directly on the CD's slipcase that the $30 disc you just bought is "From The Original Master Tapes" and then discover it's untrue you can't help but feel deceived. 
I suggest Audio Fidelity would do a lot better if they were more open about these things. I have plenty of amazing sounding CDs that were sourced from tape copies. Nothing shameful in using safety dubs as long as you're not trying to pass it off as something it isn't. I'm sure everyone here agrees with that.

Le label a été plus prudent pour la réédition, très attendue, de Talking Book, le premier d'une série de chefs d'oeuvre de Stevie Wonder. Little Stevie n'autorisant jamais l'utilisation des bandes maîtresses originales qu'il garde scellées, le label a admis d'emblée utiliser une copie 30 ips préparée par Wonder à leur intention.

Tiens t'on là l'explication derrière l'absence de Steve Hoffman de plusieurs rééditions récentes chez AF?

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