Mastering for radio vs. for audiophiles

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by MANTIK, Oct 19, 2002.


    MANTIK Guest

    I do transfers from vinyl to CD. The ones that I've done for regular people, they just love. However, when I've done it for someone who tells me they are an audiophile, I either don't get a second call or they tell me the sound that they get with their ultraexpensive turntables (think LINN) sounds more alive and real.

    I know some of you guys are redoing old recordings (ex. the recently released Rolling Stones on SACD). I want to know if you guys are getting negative feedback from the audiophile crowd like your high definition work doesn't sound as vibrant and real as the original version mastered for vinyl. Also, do you create different mastered versions of an album. One for mass consumption via CDs and one for the audiophile crowd through SACD or A-DVD? Do you guys gather a bunch of audiophiles together to give you a second opinion on what you're trying to do with the sound? What do you do different if it's the audiophile crowd that you're targeting?
  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Take a good vinyl recording and master it to Redbook standard. Then play both the vinyl and the ceedee at the same time switching back an fourth between the analog and the digital. Hear the difference. It's not your fault....Fats

    " The absence of frequencies above 20 kHz result in subliminal frustration and restlessness." Rupert Neve
  3. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Their are factors. First of all, many "audiophile loudspeakers" exibit a pretty large rise from 40 to 80 hZ..due to the rooms they are used in. They are use to it and if you run your final at a satisfactory eq balance, it may come out bottom heavy on the audiophile systems. Their goes your clarity.

    2nd, Phono Preamp. Some audiophiles have 5K or more in their phono preamp. Some have that much in just the wires going from the phono pre to the line pre. Phono preamps make a huge difference. If you are going to do a vinyl x fer, borrow their phono pre. Wires too.

    3. Tone arm. Stand alone tone arms can range from a couple of hundred to over 7K..without the cartridge. Vast differences in tonal color and control.

    4. Phono Cartridge. Most audiophiles use moving coil instead of Moving magnet. The speed of a moving coil (less mass) is much faster than a typical moving magnet. Vast differences in sound quality. Budget cartriges are under 500 dollars each. They go over 10K

    5. Table and Plith. Again, performance differences.

    If the client is critical, have them bring their gear for the transfer to hard drive. At least you have done everything to insure the closest possible chance of getting it close. Do the A/B test. You will have to work the upper harmonics a bit. Watch the bottom. Be sure the turntable is as isolated as possible. Even leaving a dust cover on can cause acoustic feedback..but then again, I have not seen a "real audiophile" table with a dust cover other than a cloth.

    Remember, the key is to please the client. Do charge audiophiles extra, they are use to it....and you may have to revisit your work a few it into the cost.

    It can be done really well.
  4. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    Bill's comments are right on. You may also want to take a look at what kind of A/D converter you're using and what kind of dither you are applying when you transfer to CD. The kind of media you choose and the quality of your CD burner will also impact the final sonic tone.
  5. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    For a mastering enginner, I must have missed something. I simply cannot hear differences in blank CD's. They either contain 0 bit error, or they are coasters. I use the cheap stuff too!

    To rephrase, I have not found a brand that is "better, that I use exclusively" If you have one you feel is better, name it. I will use that.

    EAC checks the error rate, Waves provides the dither if desired, and I do find the new Philips CDR (24X) I bought sounds a shade more fluid with punch than the plextor 12X that I always used before. I think I like the Philips!!!

    Pretty solid comparing it to the playback of an SCD CE775 Sony to the hard drive..the real test.

    Blank CDR's? Fill me in. Is their a few that you feel sound Better?

    That is for storebought cdr's.

    Now, the Mods.

    Watch out, here it comes, no BS

    Their is a guy with a lathe here that
    balances CDR's. He turns them at 20,080 RPM and uses a cutter to make them round. HE balances them. HE has a machine shop and is not an audiophile. I simply asked if it could be done..he said sure..

    They are out of balance, all of them, vibrating inside your cdr and even clamped, resonating nodes of flutter, focus situations..wonder how it works at all.....

    High end tweaks.

    We mastering engineers will put a layer of rubber under a cd player and hear the difference, or brass cones.
    The Lunacy of it all....

    Their is a difference, I have not been able to measure it..but it sounds solid. I do not hear the cd in the machine with balanced blanks. We top them off with a "marks a lot red magic marker" on the outside edge to seal them (inside too) and since my burner uses 710nM wave output, red is the color, not green. My buddy Curt at Eglin AFB is in charge of the Laser lab and the 1 million dollar photospectrometer "says" this color blocks 710nM waves the most. We waisted 7 hrs in 1986 testing this. We also tested some suglasses. The cheap polarized did just well as the 300 dollar $*^t.

    Go figure...

    How about that $*^t folks. LOL, but true stories. Mastering engineers are "out there: At least I am..I can bouch for a few here...right Michael???

    Seriously, it is about the music and exploring new ways to vibe harder. Remember, if you are not getting goosebumnps each gotta change some things....

    I am!
  6. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I would agree with Bill about the rig some guys use to play vinyl. I've listen to a techniques TT with tube pre's and a $20,000 setup... WoWWWWW. It's unbelievable! Here is what I've done with some really good results for a buddy of mine that has a very nice setup. He had a bunch of great vinyl that he wanted to transfer to CD, I had a sunday free and he offered all the steak and beer I could consume. I brought a panasonic dat machine, apogee a/d 1000 converters. I hooked it up at his place to his rig and did some comparing and tweeking. On some records we liked the uv 22 and some we didn't, changed out some cables and power chords. Over all we were really happy with the results. i took the dat back to my studio and compiled the dats and burned away without anymore processing. Burned them to a few different brands of CDR and took them back to his place for some more beer and a listening test. now we were to see how his CD player differed from the dat which i also brought back. Still great sounding but different none the less. Mostly in the high end and imaging. Now maybe we were drunk but I could hear a difference between media. TDK blue die stuff sounded better to me and read better in his hi end player. I also sent several types of media with the same program to the polygram plant and they tested them and TDK came back as the winner on that end also. In my studio it was a toss up between TDK and Fuji. Burners do make a difference too, I have 5 burners and IMHO the richo at 2X sounded better than my 2 yamaha's , sony, pioneer. We could have gone crazy with different rigs, all which sound different, but with this setup, we were coming close to what he was used to and familiar with. he was happy, I was full and we both learned a lot about his system and it came out much better than i could have achieved with a $300 TT.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    I have found that the blue ink plays in a wider range of players. I have a dvd player that won't play green ink Fats

    MANTIK Guest

    I'd like to thank all of you for your input on this topic. I've been doing a lot of research on it the past few months and I've found answers on the best phonocartridge and phono-preamp to use. The truth is I don't have the budget that these audiophiles have to purchase all this costly equipment. Most of them tend to be CEOs or CFOs of major corporations. So to that amount of money is pocket change to them.
    Based on the opinions given, I think the rational route would be to purchase the best quality field recorder and use the audiophile's own equipment in their home.

    Now can I get some recommendations on the best field recorder? Would it be CD, DAT, minidisc or harddrive based with the best a/d d/a converters? I've heard that the Alesys masterlink 2.0 has great converters but what about the frequency response? I would prefer if it could record way beyond the 20hz - 20khz range. The cartridges and preamps the audiophiles are using can extract sound from 5hz - 55khz on average. There is even a preamp made by Graham Slee Projects of the UK that can go as high as 2.7 Mhz
    Also, if you guys could recommend a PC audio card or an audio interface that has at least a 5hz - 55khz frequency response for recording that would be great.
    I guess it wouldn't be a bad idea to get "audiophile" type speakers. It would allow me to hear roughly the same thing they are hearing.

    By the way, Bill. I would very much like to get in contact with that friend of your's that rebalances CDR blanks. Can you supply contact info?
    Oh, for your information, I use two Plextor CD writers: 8/4/32 and 48/24/48

    Now I know that I probably should have created a new topic string for this but since I have your attention, here goes:
    For mastering I use mostly Plugins. I want to purchase external equipment also but there's that budget issue I mentioned earlier. I would like recommendations on what I could buy to have a definite impact on my product if each component were in the $500.00 - $700.00 range? (ex. aural exciters, multiband compressors, parametric EQs, etc.)
  9. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Hi Mantik!

    Actually,plug-insby far can be more consistant than outboard equipment. Outboard equipment you have to contend with wires, going outside the digital domain (unless it is digital outboard equipment) but seriously, most important is your monitors, room and translation. This is where the rubber meets the road.

    I always offer to share tracks via mail or d load to show my direction (although some I sent to Michael were for entertainment purposes only) of how I like things to lay.

    We can discuss RMS levels VS Peak, eq on the bottom is most important and placement (imaging)

    Actually, send me somthing you did before and after, I promise to listen to the before and do it for you the way I do it..then I will listen to your "after". That way we can get a feel for where it all stands.

    I have all kinds of equipment andplug-ins but there is no magic bullet. I treat each project independantly..and clear my mind between them (unless it is a complilation and that takes interaction to keep one track from killing the others)

    I can d load wav files of 60 megs in about 10 mins so go for it.

    You can master in the 24/192, or 32/384 or even the 16/44.1K

    To get fQ above 20K on 16/44.1 you must involve analog stages, keep the waveshapes of the upper harmonics intact, and fool the ear into thinking the 60K stuff is there..when it is not.

    (damn, that was a powerful sentence..and some of my secrets revieled as well)

    Get it on my Brother!
  10. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Great, great information here. I am humbled by the knowledge being shared in this thread.

    But I do wonder about something here that I've been asking about for a while and still have not received a satisfactory answer to.

    There's lots of talk these days about frequencies extending beyond our hearing capabilities (20k +). But, in the recording world, and especially looking backward to the types of recordings being discussed here, the microphones used couldn't "hear" anything beyond 20k anyway.

    So then is it really that important to have the technical capacity to deal with such frequencies? Or is it more about what you've said, Bill, in fooling the ear into believing that they're there when they're not.

    I realize I'm off-topic for this thread, but anytime I see extended frequency capabilities come up, I always gotta ask.
  11. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Oh yes they could!

    I have a 565sd Shure dynamic that can record 30K with no problem, abiet down some db's

    Ribbon mics have been around for 30 + years and some of them (RCA) could do the 40K + harmonics..again a few dB down.

    Face it, harmonics and tones above 25K are point source or reflected. They simply do not disperse as lower freqnencies do. Even my 58 can record a 40KhZ signal at 22dB down. That is pushing the limit there folks but the B&K's I use are basically the same design in 1968 and the rate them flat to 30K.

    Yep, these upper harmonics have been recorded since around 1955 (give or take)

    Microphones that can exceed 25K, almost all condensers, ribbons and a few dynamics. Even cheap condensers can do this. They not ,only capture them, they excell in capturing them

    My old 1959 amp is rated flat to 50K
  12. MANTIK

    MANTIK Guest

    I get the feeling that what I'm asking for isn't made, yet!

    Where exactly do I aim my web browser to upload those files to you?

    What audio cards ( for the IBM clone PCs)allow one to record at 24/192 and 32/384 ? What software audio editor records at those rates and can then downsample to 16/44.1?

    As far as monitors go I plan (and can only afford) to get the bluesky 2.1 desktop pro combo.
    They need four xlr cables (not supplied) and I need two custom cables made to convert from xlr to 1/8" stereo miniplug and 2 1/4" mono plugs for both my audio cards.

    I really would like the info. for the best field recorder to use for these audiophiles.
  13. jdsdj98

    jdsdj98 Active Member

    Thanks Bill.

    That's the most definitive and convincing response I've gotten thus far.

    Of course that leaves the performance of the other end of the chain to be addressed, the monitors we listen to all this stuff on.
  14. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Yeah, all this is mute if you can't hear what's going on. IMHO, I wouldn't buy any additional outboard until you get a good pair of monitors. Otherwise your shootin blindfolded. I made this mistake Starting out with a pair of good but not great monitors(westlake BBSM6's). Now these are very good monitors but still were not right. Your monitor chain should be the highest quality component in your chain. Then spend on room treatment. After you get these up a few notches, you can get twice as much out of the gear you have. It's a never ending upgrade path for the rest of your setup. There isn't a week that goes by that i'm not trying to improve a link in my chain. Another big step to make is wiring. These items shouldn't be considered luxuries that would be nice to have. These things are more important than anything else you can buy.
    for a remote setup, I think the masterlink would be something to look into. I don't know how durable it is to haul around but it can be a very good piece of equipment for you to have. You can burn a HD cd in the unit and then pop it into your computer and pull the files into your system, eliminating a transfer especially if you don't have a great I/O into your system.
  15. MANTIK

    MANTIK Guest

    Thanks Michael,
    I forgot that the masterlink can burn 24bit CDRs. And, yes that's brilliant;it get's around the audio card issue at the same time.
    I guess I'll have to get a custom made case to haul it around.

    Now, I don't have my own "studio". I am in an apartment. What exactly is the model for treating a room like that(without pissing off the landlord)? Oh,by the way, the neighbors just love it when I crank up the music. I got a letter about it from the landlord. What was that? You want me to turn it up higher? No problem! Ha! Ha!

    Can someone clue me in? What is a IMHO?
  16. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    there is a company called acoustics first that is reasonbly priced. there are a couple of others like rpg and such. I had a setup in my apt about 6 years ago and had the same problem with neighbors. I found this material called vinyl barrier which is this super dense material about 1/8" think that dropped the transmission of the sound about 30db. I put this on all the walls and ceiling in the second bedroom and covered both sides of the door. worked good enough to keep the neighbors happy and it cost me about $800 to do the whole room. it is very heavy and your landlord may not like you putting it on his walls. low end is tough to keep in, you'll have to do some research to find out what can and can't be done in your apt and how much time and money it will cost. But I have to say that it is nice not to have to worry about something other than the music when your working. RPG makes some great in room treatment stuff that's not permanent and different priced packages. But if you have more time than money, a lot of this stuff can be done by you with a little sweat and homework.
  17. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Tubedude just turned us on to a great resource for acoustical ...Great prices and free shipping. We have been talking about room treatments in "Small Steps", check it out. As far as saying you can set up a truly accurate listening environment in an apartment, it isn't really possible. I know you don't want to hear this but unless you have a room with a minimum dimension of about 14 feet, there isn't room to allow a full 20hz wave to form. Can't be done, no matter how much trapping and treatment you do. I'm not saying you can't do something to help the room sound better, I saying you won't get real "world class", "state of the art" mastering room response. This is part of what you are getting when you pay for pro class acoustics, and it ain't cheap....Fats
  18. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Wow, a lot to answer...not sure I want to... :)

    Just kidding of course...

    I have a major news flash I discovered today.

    Details below..

    It will change a lot of what we think about acoustics, you are first to hear about it. Experiments tomorrow.

    Ok, answers...
    From Mantik,

    Where exactly do I aim my web browser to upload those files to you?

    Use ICQ. 43786958
    Let me know in response what time to jump on it.

    If you do not have it, get it at

    It is not the fastest, but it will do 40KBS

    Cycle 60,

    Thanks Bill.

    That's the most definitive and convincing response I've gotten thus far.
    thanks, glad to help.


    What audio cards ( for the IBM clone PCs)allow one to record at 24/192 and 32/384 ? What software audio editor records at those rates and can then downsample to 16/44.1?

    I use an inboard/outboard ADD 7 Sony prototype from 96 that never was released. It can go from 12K to 2Megs, 10/12/14/16/18/20/24/32/ and even 40 bit float. They made 2 that I know of. It uses SPDIF (coax) and Fiber SPDIF was an option I did not do. I was doing loudspeaker R&D and came across the project, got involved. It was the precursor to DSD (direct streme digital)

    It is PCM.

    Sonys software was not ready..but what they had was good. Believe it or not, SB live' console software is close architechure and it works. It does not do 384 or 24 bit..but the Sony does...and this...

    As far as software running 384K, it is custom, intended for video by Silicon Graphics and modifyed (by an astute and kind SCG engineer) for audio use. It can go up to 575K but the hard drive must be very clean to do that. I actually cannot hear the difference between 32 bit 384 and 24 bit 192. It just wastes a ton of space. Their are better (finer increments) tools avalible in dynamics at those rates..but I meet some rather "out there" indiviguals that will try anything..and I like to think I am cool with the designers that are doing the stuff we all can buy 6 years from now.

    I am a tester, tweaker and evaluator.

    As much as this sounds like bragging (it is)...some of the work I did this weekend simply renders stuff I did a year ago "dynasauric" and pales in comparison. The only thing I have not changed is my loudspeakers. I am overwhelmed by them daily. I use Kimber cable.

    Acoustics first, Bermuda traps and sound channels two. It is fully involved in my room.

    About Portable, a damn hi fi vcr works well.

    Go to a mini tower and good mic pre, aardvark card and sound forge. It will surpise you. You can get a computer tower and flat screen for around 800 and then do the card, mic pre and damn good mics. Record to HD via SF or CPE. Set it for 24/192. Does it get better???????

    Well.......That is one way...

    You know your monitors are kicking serious ass when you lean over to the console and the rythum guitar track in the mix is tickleing your fingers with vibration between the faders , the board and your fingers..Damn this place sounds great! Bass is moving the collarbones about 1/16th of an inch , blurring the monitor (feedback note waves in the monitor) and the highs are so fast and real...and all the while you are only at 98dB A ave. (peaks of 115 though)

    I still drag the modded adat and console out if I am serious.

    News flash.

    This could get huge.

    Today I was packing a bunch of stuff for shipping and I ordered 4 huge rolls of bubblewrap (48 inches by 177 feet). Bubblewrap. That is some dead ass stuff.

    I took a small quilt of it and put it close to my was like someone plugged my ear at 30dB down. Scary. I am bringing home several sheets of it to place around the studio and see what happens..bubbles out. These are 1" bubbles that are 1/2" tall.

    Friggin bubblewrap is serious deadning, cheap and the texture kills standing waves and other anomilies.

    Makes perfect sense. Ugly, yes but cover it with double knit material!

    Cat is out of the bag folks..but if your chick starts popping the bubbles, the effect will go to zero.

    Cost, 50 a roll, shipped. Not shabby. The stuff is killer, better than foam I assure you, preliminary tests have proved insane.

    How about those apples!!! Discovered first by me...(I hope)
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Hey Bill,

    When you order a roll of bubble wrap, does it come wrapped in bubble wrap? :D Fats
  20. MANTIK

    MANTIK Guest

    I went to an audiophile website ( to get a second opinion. I was referred to this guy by Mr. Graham Slee himself of the UK
    ; the creator of that phono-preamp that I mentioned earlier with a frequency response up to 2.7 Mhz. His preamp is supposed to create an audio resolution extremely close to the original master tapes when coupled with the right phonocartridge. Link removed By the way guys check out the "bespoke audio design" link on this page. I'm sure it will interest you creative types. Anyway this is what Mr. Geoff Husband, a regular article contributor, at TNT AUDIO had to say:

    Thanks for the mail...

    I don't pretend to be any kind of authority on this but...

    >My situation is that whenever I do transfers for people claiming to be audiophiles, they never seem to be happy with my work. Regular people, on the other hand, are thrilled with it.

    To be expected. It's all about 'losses'. You use a less good turntable than they have, probably an inferior pre, then pushed through a load of cables - many losses, then through a ADC then through a burner all then probably well below the best quality and with inevitable losses - plus you're adding the faults of vinyl to the faults of CD with the advantages of neither. Someone with a $500 stack system ain't going to notice, someone with a $10,000 sure as hell will. And by definition an Audiophile is fussy about the sound quality, it's inevitably going to be lower than the original LP and so they're going to moan. Just make them aware of the inevitable losses and that it's IMPOSSIBLE to do a perfect transfer and they'll be happy, but if you advertising byline is "perfect copies from your record collection" then you're in trouble.

    >One mastering engineer's recommendation was to purchase a high quality field recorder and just go to the audiophile's home and use their equipment instead.

    DISASTER AREA! You record though their system, which inevitably modifies the source input hugely (room/speakers etc) then you replay that modified (distorted) sound through the same system which will then double all the changes - don't do it...

    1. Audiophile speakers ( as opposed to audio engineer studio monitoring speakers) are designed in such a way that they boost up the 40 hz - 80hz frequencies. So what sounds like a decent amount of bass to me, sounds like too much to them and it turns the music to mud on their speakers.

    Very debatable point, I've had several speakers here that measure 'flat' anechoically, trouble is the room then adds the 'bloom' - studios are often treated to reduce this, though just because a speaker is 'pro' doesn't mean it's good - often quite the opposite. Generaly it's only the bottom end of the hi-fi market that have this boost for the 'ting and boom' sound poor systems need. My personal advice would be not to fiddle with frequency response at all, just do the straight transfer from deck to burner, again frequency tailoring will cause losses that an audiophile will pick at.

    2. As recommended to me by Graham Slee the Music Man 2 "moving iron cartridge" sounds the most musical $800.00

    Agreed, but the Shure V15 is a good cheaper alternative if price is critical. Combine either with a Hadcock 242SE ($800?)

    3. Graham Slee's phono preamp seems to be the best to use. It claims to give a noise resolution very close to the original master tape recordings. It has an outrageous frequency response range. JAZZ PRO $1000.00

    It's got to be the perfect tool for the job - there's no real competition. - He'll also sell you the Hadcock

    4. Of course I'm going to have to buy a pair of audiophile speakers too, so I can hear the same thing they're hearing.

    You won't. Different system, room etc. The difference between audiophile speakers in terms of presentation and ultimate quality is vast - lucky too because otherwise we'd never find a speaker to dovetail to our room. Trying to balance the mix to make a perfect sound in your room with your equipment will cause more problems than it will solve - just give them back the same balance they gave you in the first place. If you feel the process itself has a major effect on balance (in which case it's not a good process) then rebalancing should be done with reference to the original recording NOT to get the best possible sound. Then the Audiophile will get back a 'copy' of the original. My advice is to buy a pair of conventional good quality 'Audiophile speakers' secondhand - something from Mission/KEF/Spendor etc around $700. It needs to have the bottom octave to spot screw-ups in that area.

    5. Then there are all the other factors connected to a turntable. All the various vibration dampenning techiques. And of of course there's that tone arm which can cost up to $7000.00

    Well having spent only $800 on the arm then you've rather more flexibility on the turntable:)

    Personally I'd think long and hard on the second hand market. Decent LP12's, Elite Rocks, Oracles, VPI's etc will be well within budget, even with an arm (though watch for compatability with the Music Maker - it likes unipivots.) and usually a decent cartridge. Unlike CD players a good turntables is a good TT even if it's 20 years old, learn how to spot a good'un and save a fortune.

    Hope that helps


    Thanks to everybody for their advice on the sound insulation.

    Yeah Bill, I have " I Seek You" installed. I let you know when I'm sending it.

    Yeah, I have a Hi-Fi VCR. Amazing! There's still a use for those relics. I'll give it a shot and see if there is an improvement.

    I had previously sent an email to aardvark inquiring about one of their breakout box/ pci card combos. It supposedly has a very wide frequency response. No reply yet.

    Acoustics first, foam by mail and RPG may put out a contract hit on you for leaking that info. Likewise all bubblewrap manufacturers may start charging a premium to buy there stuff now.

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