Saturday, August 27, 2011
Where does the audio for Earache's vinyl LP re-issues come from?
Question from Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) :
What is the audio on Earache's vinyl re-issues cut from? Is it re-mastered from the original tape or is it the same lacquer used on the original pressing?
Answer: Thanks for the great question Jase. We recently re-issued the first 4 Morbid Angel albums on gatefold LP wax, and the audio for them simply comes from the CD, but newer acts have their wax pressed direct from the studio masters (also known as "files") obviously. The recent Morbid Angel wax was certainly NOT advertised as "coming from original masters/tapes" or anything, but partly due to audiophile concerns we did re-issue the recent Napalm Death 'Scum' vinyl as Full Dynamic Range audio from original PCM betamax tapes, complete with rough mixes (from cassette tape!).
Earache keeps an archive of original analogue tapes and we also keep some metalwork (Mothers) used in making the original vinyls but sad to say, its just not practical to use them to produce new vinyl in 2011. For this reason the new LPs do sound slightly different to the original editions which were created using an all analogue signal path back in the day.
Analogue audio is a very temperamental format- playback of old tapes from the era is a real chore, that is if you can still find the right kind of tape player in the first place! Unless the exact speed, settings, EQ and other controls are set exactly like in the past -ie on the day of the original mastering session - the resulting audio coming off the tapes can be pretty unfamiliar.
I've mentioned in the past on this blog how we attempted to release a "re-mastered from the original tapes" version of Morbid Angel back when we last did a re-issue campaign, but scrapped the idea because it sounded so different. I really should dig those tapes out and post em here.
01 Maze of Torment (rough mix) by digearache
Another wrinkle in the process is that few vinyl pressing plants still exist these days- something like 75% of all European wax is made by one plant- GZ in Czech Republic - who prefer delivery of audio files over the internet, a fact which would shock the audiophile all-analog purist crowd.
The main reason for using the CD to make the wax is not the convenience but familiarity. Many thousands of copies have been sold in the 2 decades since release, so that is the sound that fans are used to, we'd get complaints if the vinyls sounded any different I think.
Newer Earache bands released in recent years don't have that kind of 'familiarity problem'. Hence Earache does aim to release all its newer vinyls as close to the original studio sound as possible - we go to great lengths to ban any digital FX added in the mastering process for vinyl. Our mastering engineer performs 2 mastering sessions, one for LP with emphasis on maintaining the studio dynamics, and one for CD/digital with a touch of EQ and compression for a tad of loudness. I should point out that Earache is not into the Loudness War and we master our Cds carefully, not brickwalled to the max.