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Topic: Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques (Read 6376 times) previous topic - next topic
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Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Topic: "Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques?"

Some favorite classical-music performances of mine are from the early 1980s -- particularly, those from Deutsche Grammophon. In the intervening years, a few of these early digital performances have been re-released (e.g. in various compilations) and I have noticed an improvement in audio quality. But one can't really pin any/all particular improvements in one or multiple technological evolutions, such as:

- improved disc stamping/process(es)
- improved disc-material formulations
- improved analog sections and power supplies of (re-)mastering equipment (from any indiv component to entire  chain)
- improved digital sections of (re-)mastering equipment (e.g. processor chips (from any indiv component to entire  chain))
- improved coding algorithm (over-sampling, SBM, 4D ??)
- improved digital mastering techniques (e.g. human-level decisions, art-n-science stuff!)

Questions:

If they can digitally re-vamp old movies, can they "likewise" extract and re-process -- using advanced math techniques, interpolation, etc. -- early digital recordings? If this has been done, can someone point me to some specific examples? (I think a very-few Decca Legend re-issues were done this way, but I can't seem to find them in their catalog)

Can an audio hobbyist/DIYer (who doesn't have access to media companies' expensive equipment) process early digital recordings using open-source or commercial software?

(You may already know: Some early digital recordings -- made on equipment designed by Decca or Soundstream -- seem to be a bit better. But these seem to be the exception, not the "rule".)

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #1
Some very early digital recordings weren't sampled at 44.1kHz, but at arbitrary rates defined before CD.

More modern recordings were often made at 48kHz.


Better sample rate conversion to 44.1kHz could improve the sound compared to earlier releases.

However, it's more likely that the differences are imagined, or down to obvious things like re-eq, different (gentle) compression etc. - all things that a good mastering engineer might apply to a "cold" recording.

FWIW I have a couple of early CD releases from about 1984 and they sound great. Compared to typical vinyl at the time (which wasn't exactly at the height of perfection in 1984!) they must have been a revelation.

Cheers,
David.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #2
...I have noticed an improvement in audio quality...
That's very well possible. Can you describe the difference?
Quote
- improved disc stamping/process(es)
- improved disc-material formulations
Those two are not supposed to make any audible difference, especially when first transferred to hard disc, unless the data is different or the disc (data) is damaged.
Quote
- improved analog sections and power supplies of (re-)mastering equipment (from any indiv component to entire  chain)
That's very well possible if any analog processing was used. IMO not very likely for digital originals.
Quote
- improved digital sections of (re-)mastering equipment (e.g. processor chips (from any indiv component to entire  chain))
- improved coding algorithm (over-sampling, SBM, 4D ??)
- improved digital mastering techniques (e.g. human-level decisions, art-n-science stuff!)
Very well possible. Most of the cd masters in the early days were made on a Sony PCM1610/DAE1100 system. The system was transparent, but the digital fader was not dithered. So if the fader was used for level corrections, the sound quality might have degraded. If the level corrections would be redone with modern, correctly dithered faders it's possible to get a bit better results.
If the original recording was made on 16-bit digital multitrack recorders (mostly Sony 3324) it is probably possible to get better sound quality by remixing on modern equipment. I'm not sure if this is a feasible solution, since it involves a lot of artistic decisions, including artist approval, that already have been made long time ago. Most of the project's engineers and producers are probably not working for the company anymore, so the work has to be redone by others. Hardly practicle and probably rather costly.
Quote
If they can digitally re-vamp old movies, can they "likewise" extract and re-process -- using advanced math techniques, interpolation, etc. -- early digital recordings? If this has been done, can someone point me to some specific examples? (I think a very-few Decca Legend re-issues were done this way, but I can't seem to find them in their catalog)
De-noising is an option if the noise becomes a problem, but that has been possible since the late 80's. IMO the options for improving the quality of the old (hardly) 16-bit recordings are rather limited if the original wasn't at a higher resolution.
Quote
Can an audio hobbyist/DIYer (who doesn't have access to media companies' expensive equipment) process early digital recordings using open-source or commercial software?
If your only source is the cd, I don't see many options besides a bit of custom "mastering" (EQ, dynamic compression?), but it depends on what sonic aspects you want to improve.
Quote
(You may already know: Some early digital recordings -- made on equipment designed by Decca or Soundstream -- seem to be a bit better. But these seem to be the exception, not the "rule".)
IIRC Soundstream used 50KHz sample rate and Decca and Sony were amongst the first to record at 20 bits as much as possible.
I'm not sure if this made a great difference for the final 16-bit cd, unless some (digital) processing had to be used somewhere during the post production.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #3


I have noticed an improvement in audio quality...
That's very well possible. Can you describe the difference?


More focus, less grain on newer "masterings" of early digital recordings.


- improved disc stamping/process(es)
- improved disc-material formulations


Those two are not supposed to make any audible difference, especially when first transferred to hard disc, unless the data is different or the disc (data) is damaged


Disagree, to a point.

First: I have heard discs, pressed years apart (1987 and 1995, respectively), using the same stamping master. Hence, the only difference between the two CDs, TTBOMK, was perhaps improvement in the replication process: improved injection molders and/or polycarbonate formulation. Second, and more important, I can hear subtle improvements after using certain audiophile CD tweaks. Examples include: Mikro Smooth (a very fine, ceramic-based optical buffing compound) and Optrix.

Will reply to more of everyone's feedback shortly.

Thx to everyone for responding thus far.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #4


- improved disc stamping/process(es)
- improved disc-material formulations


Those two are not supposed to make any audible difference, especially when first transferred to hard disc, unless the data is different or the disc (data) is damaged


Disagree, to a point.

First: I have heard discs, pressed years apart (1987 and 1995, respectively), using the same stamping master. Hence, the only difference between the two CDs, TTBOMK, was perhaps improvement in the replication process: improved injection molders and/or polycarbonate formulation.

Here is a link to a pdf that examines the differences between pressings of a CD.  My interpretation of the paper is this:  If the digital audio bits are the same on two different discs, and they are played back on reasonably good equipment, then they will sound the same.

After you read the paper, you might come to a different conclusion.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #5
I use Audacity do edit my tracks sometimes. I am able to "improve" them (to my listening tastes.)

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #6
Disagree, to a point.

First: I have heard discs, pressed years apart (1987 and 1995, respectively), using the same stamping master. Hence, the only difference between the two CDs, TTBOMK, was perhaps improvement in the replication process: improved injection molders and/or polycarbonate formulation. Second, and more important, I can hear subtle improvements after using certain audiophile CD tweaks. Examples include: Mikro Smooth (a very fine, ceramic-based optical buffing compound) and Optrix.


 

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #7
A bit is a bit is a bit, and it stays a bit....... until it enters the digital-analogue converter - then it begins to become unique - at every play.

No exceptions. No "but". Its digital, not analogue. Its a CD, not a vinyl.

Repeat 50x, before continueing to post in a "Scientific/R&D Discussion".
I am arrogant and I can afford it because I deliver.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #8
A bit is a bit is a bit, and it stays a bit....... until it enters the digital-analogue converter - then it begins to become unique - at every play.

No exceptions. No "but". Its digital, not analogue. Its a CD, not a vinyl.

Repeat 50x, before continueing to post in a "Scientific/R&D Discussion".


Now come on, be fair, there are plenty of mechanisms which could cause pressing differences of bit-identical recordings to become audible, e.g. interaction of the laser tracking mechanism, power supply, and audio output.

The fact that even on the worst players these things have been shown to be inaudible is a completely different matter.

(There's a link somewhere on HA - you don't expect me to provide it, do you? I bet it's in the FAQ).

Cheers,
David.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #9

A bit is a bit is a bit, and it stays a bit....... until it enters the digital-analogue converter - then it begins to become unique - at every play.

No exceptions. No "but". Its digital, not analogue. Its a CD, not a vinyl.

Repeat 50x, before continueing to post in a "Scientific/R&D Discussion".


Now come on, be fair, there are plenty of mechanisms which could cause pressing differences of bit-identical recordings to become audible, e.g. interaction of the laser tracking mechanism, power supply, and audio output.


Okay, let me rephrase that - it is either a 0 or a 1. Nothing in between. Either a part of the audio is corrupted or not. The effects arent ala analogue vinyl, where the sound may become "more warm", or "have more focus" or stuff like that. We are talking about blind data corruption here, not about changes in the "character" of sound.

- Lyx
I am arrogant and I can afford it because I deliver.

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #10
Now come on, be fair, there are plenty of mechanisms which could cause pressing differences of bit-identical recordings to become audible, e.g. interaction of the laser tracking mechanism, power supply, and audio output.


Those and other things can lead to jitter and linearity-based distortions (corruption) of the original data. And, FWIW, these issues are taken seriously -- i.e., investigated and problem-solved -- by scientists and engineers at a few major electronic/media companies. E.g., JVC's XRCD is a systemic, engineered process that attempts to reduce the impact of these problems:

http://xrcd.com/tech/xrcd24a.html

(See bottom of page. For English version of this site, click "English" on upper right-hand corner of page).

Do these steps really affect audio quality? Some audiophiles think so. Hard-core objectivists do not. My personal view is that the diffs are subtle at best...and are important only to those who "care" about these diffs, as in the case of pursuing audiophillia as a satisfying hobby/pastime.

 

Early digital recordings: can they be improved w/modern techniques

Reply #11

Now come on, be fair, there are plenty of mechanisms which could cause pressing differences of bit-identical recordings to become audible, e.g. interaction of the laser tracking mechanism, power supply, and audio output.


Those and other things can lead to jitter and linearity-based distortions (corruption) of the original data.


The point is that the original data is perfectly intact on the disc, and the same data is found on the different discs in question.

In this case, _if_ an audible difference is found (to my knowledge, no one has proven one exists) it's because dubious equipment is allowing factors other than the digital audio data to effect the audio output.

"Audiophile" equipment, if it lived up to its claims, should be the last place you would hear differences.

It's only the "hard of thinking", even in the audiophile community, who don't understand this. While genuine differences in the audio signal may become more audible on more revealing equipment, differences which are or can be made independent from the audio signal (e.g. temporal/longitudinal jitter or lateral wobble in the pits on the CD itself) should become less audible on better equipment. Anything else suggests shockingly bad equipment being sold at an inflated price (not uncommon, unfortunately).

Sorry to sound so harsh. I probably am a hardcore objectivist, but do believe that spending more and more on a hi-fi system can make it sound better. The sad thing is that people usually spend the money on mumbo jumbo and magic. While it's this, rather than genuine improvements, which make a (little) proffit, it means we all get to hear poorer quality reproduced sound than we might if the industry was focussed on real improvements.

Mind you, it probably says more about the human condition than audio!

Cheers,
David.

 
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