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Discussion: Peter Gabriel: So

Posts: 5

Post by fausto K July 7, 2014 (1 of 5)
I've seen somewhere on this forum someone refer to this recording as a digital one. At first, I thought this is a mistake, as unlike Gabriel's earlier "4/Security", which is one of the first full digital recordings (as the sleeve to the original Geffen CD I have proudly announces)Peter Gabriel: Security, "So" is generally known as an analogue recording, also because the SPARS code on the original European CD says AAD. The inner sleeve of the 2003 Classic Records vinyl remaster would appear to make this pretty clear: it consists of a shot of the spines of the Ampex 1/2" master tapes of all the songs on the album.

But that's just appearance, as it turns out. I read below interview with Kevin Killen, the original recording engineer of the album, and it becomes clear that, though everything was initially recorded on two Studer A80s, mixing took part from the get-go with the help of the Mitsubishi Pro Digi 32 track digital recorder, to facilitate editing. Which means that resolution of the files based on the final master tapes is limited to 22kHz max at 44.1 kHz sampling rate. (The same, btw, applies to the great Talk Talk album "Spirit of Eden", which was re-released on excellent sounding vinyl (+ DVD video) two years ago.)

here's the link to the interview with the engineer:
http://www.mixonline.com/mag/audio_kevin_killen_recording/

So, "So" is a part digital/analogue recording. It's a great sounding recording nonetheless, at least on SACD. -- I think the sound of the aforementioned "4" is more impressive though -- perhaps because it was a full digital recording; I'm equally impressed, still, by one other full digital recording of the 80s, i.e. Sting's "Nothing like the sun", sadly never been released on SACD, although there is a decent DTS release from 2000. I think it deserves a SACD.

Post by AmonRa July 7, 2014 (2 of 5)
fausto K said: Which means that resolution of the files based on the final master tapes is limited to 22kHz max at 44.1 kHz sampling rate.
If somebody wants to discredit a disk because the frequency range is limited to 22 kHz by 44.1 kHz sampling, he/she should realize that typical microphones used for pop/rock type productions (also many classical ones) are limited to less than 20 kHz, 16 kHz being a fairly typical -3 dB point. Real life tape recorders also have less than flat response at 20 kHz, some taking a deep dive already at 10 kHz.

Not to mention home speakers, radiation patterns etc etc.

Besides, what it this fixation with high frequencies? High frequencies are easy to record and reproduce with digital but difficult to reproduce or actually HEAR. Meanwhile true lows are relatively easy to reproduce but impossible to record with old analog gear, still nobody is complaining about the fact that old technologies have problems with those. Even with 22 kHz cutoff the lowly CD has over 3 octaves more of flat frequency range than real life studio analog tape.

Post by fausto K July 7, 2014 (3 of 5)
AmonRa said:

If somebody wants to discredit a disk because the frequency range is limited to 22 kHz by 44.1 kHz sampling, he/she should realize that typical microphones used for pop/rock type productions (also many classical ones) are limited to less than 20 kHz, 16 kHz being a fairly typical -3 dB point. Real life tape recorders also have less than flat response at 20 kHz, some taking a deep dive already at 10 kHz.

Not to mention home speakers, radiation patterns etc etc.

Besides, what it this fixation with high frequencies? High frequencies are easy to record and reproduce with digital but difficult to reproduce or actually HEAR. Meanwhile true lows are relatively easy to reproduce but impossible to record with old analog gear, still nobody is complaining about the fact that old technologies have problems with those. Even with 22 kHz cutoff the lowly CD has over 3 octaves more of flat frequency range than real life studio analog tape.

I think you misunderstood my comments. I didn't discredit the disk at issue at all. In fact, I wanted to imply that transferring from full analogue isn't the holy grail that some would want to claim it is. The last thing I wanted to suggest is that analogue is always better than digital. I hope I made that clear by referring to those excellent early full digital recordings. All the early DDD pop/rock cds I have (Fagen, Gabriel, Steve Winwood's "Roll with it", The Chills's "Submarine bells", first Chapman, Jennifer Warnes "Famous Blue Raincoat", various Neil Young etc.) are without exception sonically supreme recordings, better than many analogue from the same era (80s). That's as much to do with good engineering as with the use of digital technology, perhaps, but I've the impression that even back then digital (the lowly CD, as you say) superseded analogue. So, all in all, I agree with you regarding the general superiority of digital over analogue.

The reason I talked about 22 kHz in this context is because I wanted to point out that one is often given the impression (by record companies, vinyl fetishists, the DSD orthodoxy, or whoever) that LPs or SACDs are flat-transferred from analogue master tapes, whereas this doesn't necessarily mean all-analogue, as is shown in the "So" case, disregarding even the limitations of gear that is used when recording (e.g. microphones, as you point out, or various "digital" electronic equipment).

I started out collecting music on CDs in the mid-80s, rather than vinyl (which came much later for me). I still believe in the format (I'm talking about RBCD).

Post by AmonRa July 7, 2014 (4 of 5)
Ok, my barking up the wrong tree was triggered by the quoted sentence. Unfortunately there still are a lot of right trees to bark up to.

To me even the early DDD CDs (getting my first player in 1984 if memory serves) vastly bettered vinyl especially what came to dynamic range, transients and solid lows, not to mention lack of hiss and clicks.

Post by fausto K July 8, 2014 (5 of 5)
AmonRa said:

...

To me even the early DDD CDs (getting my first player in 1984 if memory serves) vastly bettered vinyl especially what came to dynamic range, transients and solid lows, not to mention lack of hiss and clicks.

fully agree. Not to mention the inherent mechanical disadvantages of a turntable (proper alignment etc.). No matter how much one tries to maximize all the parameters involved, vinyl playing will never ever achieve the precision of digital. I have a turntable just because a lot of music that I'm interested in is unfortunately solely available on vinyl.

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