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Half Speed Remastering - Great or Gimmick?

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I had a post on Facebook this morning advertising Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 1/2 speed vinyl remaster.

So, what it basically means is that the vinyl lathe is run at 16rpm instead of 33rpm.  The slower cutting time apparanttly means it can cut a deeper & more precise groove on the record, giving a more superior sound quality.

Now when this is going straight from the master tape to the record, I get the theory.  ButI believe Brothers in Arms was recorded digitally, so isn't the CD in theory going to be as good a sound as it's ever gonna have.

Is half Speed remastering, or even mastering worth it, or is it another one of the world of HiFi's snake oils?

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It's important to know whether the disc produced by this process is intended to be played at double speed.

 

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1 minute ago, xgsjx said:

I had a post on Facebook this morning advertising Dire Straits Brothers in Arms 1/2 speed vinyl remaster.

So, what it basically means is that the vinyl lathe is run at 16rpm instead of 33rpm.  The slower cutting time apparanttly means it can cut a deeper & more precise groove on the record, giving a more superior sound quality.

Now when this is going straight from the master tape to the record, I get the theory.  ButI believe Brothers in Arms was recorded digitally, so isn't the CD in theory going to be as good a sound as it's ever gonna have.

Is half Speed remastering, or even mastering worth it, or is it another one of the world of HiFi's snake oils?

It might be worth it if you have spent several thousand pounds on your turntable, tonearm, cartridge and stylus and have then perfectly set up and balanced, and your hearing is still good enough for you to be able to tell the difference. It still won't sound as good as as a decent digital file. It might even be unplayable on more budget systems.

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I have to say, I've wondered the same thing - it's stated like it's a thing, but if it was that good wouldn't everybody do it?

I do agree that vinyl which has been specifically mastered for vinyl sounds better, to my ears at least - the Nine Inch Nails vinyl remasters sound stunning, as do the Steve Wilson Jethro Tull remasters on vinyl, but as a rule of thumb CDs always sound better (but vinyl has an X factor that makes it more of a pleasure to actually play)

That said, "better" is subjective - I was playing a mate a vinyl copy of his band's last album which he'd never heard because he doesn't own a turntable, and he could hear differences to the CD and digital files, and he preferred the vinyl - a slightly warmer sound to some of the sharper guitar parts

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4 minutes ago, Monkey Steve said:

I have to say, I've wondered the same thing - it's stated like it's a thing, but if it was that good wouldn't everybody do it?

I do agree that vinyl which has been specifically mastered for vinyl sounds better, to my ears at least - the Nine Inch Nails vinyl remasters sound stunning, as do the Steve Wilson Jethro Tull remasters on vinyl, but as a rule of thumb CDs always sound better (but vinyl has an X factor that makes it more of a pleasure to actually play)

That said, "better" is subjective - I was playing a mate a vinyl copy of his band's last album which he'd never heard because he doesn't own a turntable, and he could hear differences to the CD and digital files, and he preferred the vinyl - a slightly warmer sound to some of the sharper guitar parts

Mixes should always be mastered specifically for the delivery medium as they are have different strengths and weakness.

If the vinyl versions sounds better than the CD it's probably because the CD version wasn't mastered properly (or it's purely subjective).

I can categorically state that all the recordings I've been involved in that have both the CD and vinyl versions the CD versions sound the most like what we were hearing in the studio when we were doing the mixing.

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6 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

If the vinyl versions sounds better than the CD it's probably because the CD version wasn't mastered properly (or it's purely subjective).

I think subjective plays a huge part here. 

In the case of my mate's album, the CD version is excellent, and I suspect most like what they heard in the studio.  I know they didn't do a specific vinyl master (there's no way the record company would have paid for that) but he liked the way the vinyl softened his guitar sound. I dare say most of their fans would disagree, but it's not a hugely noticeable difference in any case.  He certainly hasn't been complaining that the CD sounds dreadful for the last three years

As an aside, now that I do most of my listening to music on my phone, i have got used to the much better bass response that I have from my headphones and DAC, so vinyl, and even CDs, can sound a little lacking in comparison.  Again, so subjective...

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5 minutes ago, Monkey Steve said:

I think subjective plays a huge part here. 

In the case of my mate's album, the CD version is excellent, and I suspect most like what they heard in the studio.  I know they didn't do a specific vinyl master (there's no way the record company would have paid for that) but he liked the way the vinyl softened his guitar sound. I dare say most of their fans would disagree, but it's not a hugely noticeable difference in any case.  He certainly hasn't been complaining that the CD sounds dreadful for the last three years

As an aside, now that I do most of my listening to music on my phone, i have got used to the much better bass response that I have from my headphones and DAC, so vinyl, and even CDs, can sound a little lacking in comparison.  Again, so subjective...

If there was only one master, then it will have either been done specifically for vinyl, or compromised with a vinyl pressing in mind.

There are plenty of mastering practices that work nicely for digital formats but which can result in unplayable/uncutable vinyl.

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55 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

... sound the most like what we were hearing in the studio when we were doing the mixing.

And even the mixing sounds different to the sound 'live', either as individual instruments or, even more so, when the whole band are playing together. There's nothing I can think of that can beat (for fidelity...) the 'live' performance. Even then, folks in different parts of the room will hear a different version. There is no 'perfect'. An orchestral conductor (or the sound tech for a group...) hears things quite differently to the musicians themselves whilst they're playing. Which is the 'true' version..? There ain't one; it's a chimère. All the version sound different; one prefers one or another, but they're all 'false' to some degree, whatever the System. -_-

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It’s probably not good for metal either - except for sludge.

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51 minutes ago, paul_5 said:

It’s probably not good for metal either - except for sludge.

'Sludge'..? Is that like 'grime', but wet..? :scratch_one-s_head:

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13 hours ago, Dad3353 said:

And even the mixing sounds different to the sound 'live', either as individual instruments or, even more so, when the whole band are playing together. There's nothing I can think of that can beat (for fidelity...) the 'live' performance. Even then, folks in different parts of the room will hear a different version. There is no 'perfect'. An orchestral conductor (or the sound tech for a group...) hears things quite differently to the musicians themselves whilst they're playing. Which is the 'true' version..? There ain't one; it's a chimère. All the version sound different; one prefers one or another, but they're all 'false' to some degree, whatever the System. -_-

OK i'll narrow it down as far as possible.

When I play both the CD and vinyl versions of recordings that I have been involved with, on my HiFi at home (so the final listening environment is the same) the CD version sounds, to me, much closer to what I was hearing during the final mix playback in the studio.

In a good studio control room the acoustics have been adjusted so that the sound is as even as possible throughout the room. There will be a "sweet spot" in front of the desk where the mix engineer sits, but it is in their interests for sound to be a similar as possible for all the listeners in the room otherwise their comments on the mix become irrelevant.

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So for me, who wears hearing aids & wanting a decent turntable for less than £500 (so the full system will be lucky if it tops £1500), a half speed remastered record is pointless. 

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As someone has kept his turntable and vinyl collection i still prefer it over cd though i do also have a cd collection.each has its own merits.i was lucky enough to record a 78rpm record direct onto a 1938 presto recording lathe.it sounded like it was recorded in the 30s though it was done in 2015.it really suited the carter family song we did.horses for courses to me

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, zitherman said:

i was lucky enough to record a 78rpm record direct onto a 1938 presto recording lathe

Interesting. I'd like to hear more about that!

Edited by Nail Soup
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1 hour ago, xgsjx said:

So for me, who wears hearing aids & wanting a decent turntable for less than £500 (so the full system will be lucky if it tops £1500), a half speed remastered record is pointless. 

Probably yes.

Also to get the best results out of vinyl the playback has to take place at the highest speed - for modern systems that will be 45rpm - and the grooves should be as close to the outside of the disc as possible; where each revolution occupies more linear space.

For instance on a 12" record the first groove containing music will be approximately 145mm from the centre which gives a linear distance of approximately 910mm for the first revolution. At 33rpm that means the stylus is travelling at 500mm per second. At 45rpm it's 683mm per second (which of course is better). However each subsequent rotation of the spiral is a shorter linear distance until you get to the last groove containing music which will be roughly 65mm from the centre and is 408mm long which is less than half the distance of the first rotation. At 33rpm this last groove is only 224mm per second and even at 45rpm it is 306mm per second. 

As can be seen with every rotation of the record the quality of the audio on it gets slightly worse. Every time I have had vinyl cut the advice was that for the optimum audio quality the playback speed should be fast (45rpm) and the duration of the audio should be short (ideally less than 13 minutes per side for a 12" disc) so that most of it can be close to the outside of the disc where the stylus playback speed is highest. Unfortunately there is also a compromise between how close together the grooves can be and how loud (better signal to noise ratio) the record can be cut.

Unfortunately with mechanical recording and playback systems everything is a compromise. You could spin the disc faster or have them larger, but the faster you go the more you have to counteract centrifugal force which in turn affects other factors. And ultimately there's no getting around the fact that with every revolution of the disc the playback speed and therefore the bandwidth is being reduced.

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Regarding the presto lathe.it is owned and operated by the Lathe Revival Company in the northeast.my bluegrass trio recorded "ill fly away" into a single mic while the operator brushed the cuttings away with a paintbrush.You start with a blank disc with no grooves.At around 2.5 minutes the lathe develops a whistling noise so you are limited as to the length of the song.its an experience i would highly recommend if you get the chance.the resulting record really has the 78rpm 30s sound but without the scratches developed over the years.im sure they have a site where you can hear their recordings done at various festivals and events.cheers.

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On 30/03/2021 at 17:38, Monkey Steve said:

I have to say, I've wondered the same thing - it's stated like it's a thing, but if it was that good wouldn't everybody do it?

I do agree that vinyl which has been specifically mastered for vinyl sounds better, to my ears at least - the Nine Inch Nails vinyl remasters sound stunning, as do the Steve Wilson Jethro Tull remasters on vinyl, but as a rule of thumb CDs always sound better (but vinyl has an X factor that makes it more of a pleasure to actually play)

That said, "better" is subjective - I was playing a mate a vinyl copy of his band's last album which he'd never heard because he doesn't own a turntable, and he could hear differences to the CD and digital files, and he preferred the vinyl - a slightly warmer sound to some of the sharper guitar parts

My ears give me the opposite. CDs sound thin compared to Vinyl that sounds richer and has more "Heft". Ha.

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8 minutes ago, mikel said:

My ears give me the opposite. CDs sound thin compared to Vinyl that sounds richer and has more "Heft". Ha.

Is this base on a source you know - i.e. one of your own recordings - or on recordings that you happen to own on both vinyl and CD? In the later case unfortunately there is no real way of telling whether the various formats have actually been produced from the correct master version. 

Also IME "heft" is generally caused by distortion. Vinyl is very good at adding extra distortion to the signal, but it's not what the makers of the record intended you to hear.

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20 hours ago, BigRedX said:

Is this base on a source you know - i.e. one of your own recordings - or on recordings that you happen to own on both vinyl and CD? In the later case unfortunately there is no real way of telling whether the various formats have actually been produced from the correct master version. 

Also IME "heft" is generally caused by distortion. Vinyl is very good at adding extra distortion to the signal, but it's not what the makers of the record intended you to hear.

Of course its based on recordings of same material on vinyl and CD. As I said, "to my ears". I think there are a lot of bassists on here who would disagree with your take on heft. Distortion can still be thin, like the difference between a valve amp with the master on full, and a distortion pedal through headphones.

 

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On 31/03/2021 at 14:21, BigRedX said:

Also to get the best results out of vinyl the playback has to take place at the highest speed...

This is also slightly complicated. There were linear tape recorder trials where the tape speed was 76 cm/s and even higher. Bass response started to suffer. Yes, really. Mechanics were complicated and required service.

Another story is the rotary head system, like DAT. But higher speed is not the answer automatically. Tape width helps with SNR.

Optimal record player could be the Japanese www.elpj.com but the price...

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2 minutes ago, itu said:

This is also slightly complicated. There were linear tape recorder trials where the tape speed was 76 cm/s and even higher. Bass response started to suffer. Yes, really. Mechanics were complicated and required service.

Another story is the rotary head system, like DAT. But higher speed is not the answer automatically. Tape width helps with SNR.

Optimal record player could be the Japanese www.elpj.com but the price...

As I said mechanical recording and playback systems are full of compromises. Improve one thing and something else suffers.

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4 hours ago, mikel said:

Of course its based on recordings of same material on vinyl and CD.

 

 

That's most likely because, as said earlier, the original master was made for vinyl and it wasn't processed as well as it could have been when transforming it to CD media. When CDs started to become popular there were a lot of albums reissued quickly on CD, and many were very poor by comparison. Then they'd be 'remasters' etc but it would be up to the people doing the remaster to make it sound one way or another.

As @BigRedX was hinting, unless you know how the original source sounded, comparing a vinyl to a CD version doesn't really tell you much about how the different media compared.  

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1 hour ago, mcnach said:

 

That's most likely because, as said earlier, the original master was made for vinyl and it wasn't processed as well as it could have been when transforming it to CD media. When CDs started to become popular there were a lot of albums reissued quickly on CD, and many were very poor by comparison. Then they'd be 'remasters' etc but it would be up to the people doing the remaster to make it sound one way or another.

As @BigRedX was hinting, unless you know how the original source sounded, comparing a vinyl to a CD version doesn't really tell you much about how the different media compared.  

And there are masters and there are masters.

Back in the days when vinyl was the only serious delivery medium, a master was little more than a stereo 1/4" tape with the tracks in the correct order and at roughly the correct relative levels. All those processes that we now think of as "mastering" were actually done when the the record was cut. Sometimes at the time of cutting a "mastered" tape would be made so that when the discs were being cut for a different territory they would sound the same as the next cutting engineer could cut directly from the tape without having to apply any processing. Unfortunately this would mean that these "master" tapes already had the RIAA equalisation curve required for vinyl applied to them. 

When CDs started to go mainstream and record companies realised that they could make more money by selling the same albums all over again but on CD, they rushed to get CD versions made. Unfortunately sometimes these would be made from the wrong "master". Even it was spotted that a vinyl production master  was being used and the CD mastering engineer EQ'd the tracks to reverse the effects of the RIAA EQ curve it was never as good as it would have been if the original stereo mix master had been use as a starting point.

I would be very vary about any CD produced before the mid 90s with regards to this.

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