AF Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute

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Dob
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AF Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute

Postby Dob » Fri Jun 10, 2005 5:16 pm

This is the first AF gold CD I've heard, and it is a huge disappointment.

One of the reasons I picked this release is that I have an old Japan CD (probably the initial US release) which sounds pretty good and I was curious to compare the mastering (or lack thereof) with the latest "tonmeister" chef d'oeuvre.

Starting with the packaging (which is the only category where I can complement the AF at all)...the AF has the full album sleeve pictures, front and back, whereas on the Japan the rear photo is truncated. Also, the AF has the song lyrics printed in the running order.

However, the Japan booklet resembles the vinyl release (IIRC) more -- it has the front photo on a buff colored background, and the song lyrics have the same font. The AF booklet is stark black and white, with a generic font for the lyrics. The AF does (additionally) have a photo of the lyrics from the vinyl paper sleeve, which would be a nice touch if it wasn't tiny, washed-out and illegible. And I would be remiss if I didn't point out the de rigeur AF typo: "Write to: THE DOOBIE BROTHERS INTERNATION FAN CLUB."

The sound of the Japan CD is rather bright, but the overall tonality is smooth. It sounds as if a slight treble cut would set things right. The AF, however, is hollow and dull. Switching from the Japan to the AF resulted in a noticeable collapse of the soundstage, and the AF sounds far more processed. If it was anyone but SH at the mastering console, I'd guess it was substantially noise reduced. Vocals and percussion have poor presence and have an odd tonality.

I'd guess that the AF suffers from (primarily) a treble cut that is too wide and deep. Is this partially due to the use of an analog EQ, which doesn't give as much control as a digital EQ? Such are the pitfalls of stubbornly refusing to use a DAW.

I hope the others in the AF series are *much* better.
Dob
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Re: AF Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute

Postby lukpac » Fri Jun 10, 2005 8:36 pm

Dob wrote:I'd guess that the AF suffers from (primarily) a treble cut that is too wide and deep. Is this partially due to the use of an analog EQ, which doesn't give as much control as a digital EQ? Such are the pitfalls of stubbornly refusing to use a DAW.


HUH?

Haven't heard this one, nor do I plan on it. However, I seem to recall Steve saying something in response to my BotD complaints, namely that the Doobies tapes were copied for production with "smiley faced" EQ. A comparison of China Grove on the Rock of the 70's disc (copy tape of some sort) to the gold disc (master) seems to confirm that, assuming both are not tweaked that much. It's possible the same is true here. You could always ask...

That's not to say you have to *like* that - I generally don't on the best of. Yet I doubt it's from a big treble cut, and I certainly have no clue how it could be an analog/digital issue. DAWs can do some great things, but good analog EQ should be just as capable.
"I know because it is impossible for a tape to hold the compression levels of these treble boosted MFSL's like Something/Anything. The metal particulate on the tape would shatter and all you'd hear is distortion if even that." - VD

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Postby MK » Fri Jun 10, 2005 10:28 pm

"What A Fool Believes" is pretty good if you don't mind smooth adult contemporary. Not my favorite kind of music, but that single has got some real meat to it.
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Re: AF Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute

Postby Beatlesfan03 » Fri Jun 10, 2005 10:37 pm

Dob wrote:Starting with the packaging (which is the only category where I can complement the AF at all)...the AF has the full album sleeve pictures, front and back, whereas on the Japan the rear photo is truncated. Also, the AF has the song lyrics printed in the running order.


Doesn't the booklet also have "Manufactured by Columbia House" somewhere in its artwork. I thought was one of the other gripes over at sh.tv?
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Re: AF Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute

Postby Dob » Fri Jun 10, 2005 11:04 pm

lukpac wrote:However, I seem to recall Steve saying something in response to my BotD complaints, namely that the Doobies tapes were copied for production with "smiley faced" EQ.

Here's what SH had to say about remastering Minute By Minute:
Steve Hoffman wrote: D.L.'s original engineering notes were in the tape boxes and I pretty much agreed with him all the way...Heh, also in the boxes were the EQ notes for the first WB compact disk mastering: A 2:1 compression ratio plus minus 10db at 100 cycles (to kill any usable bass) and plus 8db at 8k (to kill any flying insects). Ear bleeding settings. Needless to say I stuck with Mr. Landee's original mastering ideas.

I find it curious that SH chose to stick with "Mr. Landee's original mastering ideas"...sorta defeats the whole purpose of having a set of "fresh ears" do the mastering when he ends up doing the same thing the recording engineer would've done. Also, since the EQ notes were in the box, is it safe to assume that the master tape was used for the first CD as well?

In any event, the proof is in the listening, and the Japan CD has a more transparent, open sound than the AF IMO. I'll be happy to email you a couple of FLACs with excerpts from both. I haven't yet compared the overall tonality of the AF to the DCC Best Of (which I don't like either).
Yet I doubt it's from a big treble cut...

Based on SH's comments, the AF is closer in tonality to the master tape than the Japan CD...but I'm thinking that SH did cut some treble. I'm also having a hard time with that anecdote about the EQ notes. Yes, the Japan CD is brighter than the AF, and it has less bass, but it doesn't sound anywhere near -10 @100 and +8 @8000.
and I certainly have no clue how it could be an analog/digital issue. DAWs can do some great things, but good analog EQ should be just as capable.

Generally speaking, digital filters are flatter and have more accurate frequency response. Analog filters are faster (which is only an advantage in "live" processing), have better frequency dynamic range (a factor if you're going well above 20k) and amplitude dynamic range (which is less of a factor with higher bit resolution digital filters).

www.innerlighttheory.com/ch21.pdf

In my (very limited) experience, I've found that digital EQs are better than analog EQs for doing narrow, "notch" boosts and cuts, as they affect the surrounding frequencies less.
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Re: AF Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute

Postby Dob » Fri Jun 10, 2005 11:06 pm

Beatlesfan03 wrote:Doesn't the booklet also have "Manufactured by Columbia House" somewhere in its artwork. I thought was one of the other gripes over at sh.tv?

Sure does, I forgot about that. You have to look close, though...it's in very small print.
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Postby Dob » Fri Jun 10, 2005 11:09 pm

MK wrote:"What A Fool Believes" is pretty good if you don't mind smooth adult contemporary. Not my favorite kind of music, but that single has got some real meat to it.

After all these years, I find that the single "Dependin' On You" has aged the best.
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Postby MK » Sat Jun 11, 2005 10:57 am

Generally speaking, digital filters are flatter and have more accurate frequency response. Analog filters are faster (which is only an advantage in "live" processing), have better frequency dynamic range (a factor if you're going well above 20k) and amplitude dynamic range (which is less of a factor with higher bit resolution digital filters).


Steve rarely, perhaps never, uses a digital workstation, I think he masters 'on the fly' after doing a bunch of practice runs (with a flat safety he makes from the master), so the analog EQ makes sense in that case (or to put it another way, he can ONLY use an analog EQ since he wants to keep it in analog). I think he may use digital EQ for digital recordings.
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Postby Dob » Sat Jun 11, 2005 11:27 am

MK wrote:Steve rarely, perhaps never, uses a digital workstation, I think he masters 'on the fly' after doing a bunch of practice runs (with a flat safety he makes from the master)...

That's my understanding as well. But if you're going to do practice runs to nail down the correct EQ curve, why not start on a DAW and then continue (or replicate as closely as possible) the EQ in analog? There are huge efficiencies to be gained by using a DAW.
I think he may use digital EQ for digital recordings.

IIRC, he hasn't yet found a digital EQ that he likes as much as his Sontecs/Massenbergs. Also, since he usually adds an analog stage to his mastering (tube amps and such) he might as well stick with the analog EQ.

Has he ever even remastered a digital recording? Maybe in one of his compilations...
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Postby MK » Sat Jun 11, 2005 12:54 pm

Not a whole album, just compilations. Those EQ moves for the original CD sound exaggerated, but it does make one think twice when reaching for the older CD of any WB release.
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Postby Dob » Sat Jun 11, 2005 1:43 pm

Now that I think about it, I seem to remember reading that Empire (Queensryche) was a digital recording.
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Postby krabapple » Mon Jun 13, 2005 10:44 am

Regarding SH's report, given that the mastering notes are available, one could apply the compression, and EQ moves to the AF, and see how closely it matches the original CD issue.
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Postby Andreas » Tue Jun 14, 2005 4:26 am

krabapple wrote:Regarding SH's report, given that the mastering notes are available, one could apply the compression, and EQ moves to the AF, and see how closely it matches the original CD issue.

However, the AF is already mastered. I don't think Steve claimed that he mastered this one flat. He says he used Landee's original mastering ideas, which are not publicly known.

Also, we can not rule the possiblity of another CD master out. Maybe Dob's CD is not identical to that "ear-bleeding" first WB CD?

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Postby lukpac » Tue Jun 14, 2005 7:51 am

Andreas wrote:However, the AF is already mastered. I don't think Steve claimed that he mastered this one flat. He says he used Landee's original mastering ideas, which are not publicly known.


Maybe I'm off the mark, but I'm guessing:

- if it wasn't flat, it was close to it
- "Landee's original mastering ideas" means the sound of the tapes, or close to it, as he was the original engineer

Also...

Dob wrote:I find it curious that SH chose to stick with "Mr. Landee's original mastering ideas"...sorta defeats the whole purpose of having a set of "fresh ears" do the mastering when he ends up doing the same thing the recording engineer would've done.


Is that really any different from listening to a bunch of LPs and saying "ahh, yes, I like what they were going for on this one"?
"I know because it is impossible for a tape to hold the compression levels of these treble boosted MFSL's like Something/Anything. The metal particulate on the tape would shatter and all you'd hear is distortion if even that." - VD

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Postby Dob » Wed Jun 15, 2005 7:26 pm

lukpac wrote:Is that really any different from listening to a bunch of LPs and saying "ahh, yes, I like what they were going for on this one"?

Well, Luke, I can't disagree. But I was referring to the (apparent) contradiction between what SH did for this album and what he stated here:
Steve Hoffman wrote:Pull 500 of your favorite albums out and pull 500 of your favorite CD's. Look at the credits. See? I didn't make this up. The mastering dude is always different from the recording engineer. When engineers second guess their own creations in mastering the result is always "questionable". Engineers realize that. Of course in the old days, the mastering engineer was the "cutter" or the guy who made the music fit on vinyl. Even in the CD era the tradition continued of having a separate engineer.

http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showp ... stcount=21

To be fair, though, SH did say he "pretty much" followed Landee's instructions, which means that there was some deviation. We should also keep in mind that Landee's instructions were likely directed towards the LP cutter and (mostly) wouldn't apply for CD mastering anyway.
lukpac wrote:Maybe I'm off the mark, but I'm guessing:
- if it wasn't flat, it was close to it
- "Landee's original mastering ideas" means the sound of the tapes, or close to it, as he was the original engineer.

I suppose Landee's instructions may have been something like "master this one flat, it's perfect as is!" (which hardly qualifies as "second guessing," heh). But if this was a flat (or nearly flat) transfer, how did SH justify his credentials as one of the premier mastering engineers? The master tape was not hard to find (it was used for the first CD) and SH (pretty much) followed the notes left by the engineer. That was an inspired decision? I could understand a respectful "hands off" treatment if it was engineered by Alan Parsons, but Donn Landee? This album didn't win any Grammys for sound.

However, we shouldn't overlook SH's "proprietary" tube A/D converter ("I bet we have the only A/D conversion process that uses Western Electric 300B tubes from 1940!!!!"), his "proprietary" use of HDCD, and his WAVAC tube amplifiers. Hey, maybe being a great mastering engineer is simply a question of money -- buying the "right" (high-end tube) equipment.

But what do I know? Although I think this AF release is a turd, I've read nothing but rave reviews and statements like "restoration and remastering...the technical aspects of which were managed by Steve Hoffman and which rise to his usual standard of excellence."

I guess I shouldn't discount the importance of convincing the majority that everything you touch represents a "standard of excellence." Maybe that's the real secret of greatness.
krabapple wrote:Regarding SH's report, given that the mastering notes are available, one could apply the compression, and EQ moves to the AF, and see how closely it matches the original CD issue.

I'd be more interested to apply the inverse of that EQ to my Japan CD and see how it sounds, as I doubt that EQ curve was used. If Luke is willing to put some clips on his site, I'd be happy to provide them.
Dob

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