Today Up On Christmachine Audio Reference Music Server :
Is It Not A Contradiction To Simultaneously Support Vinyl And Hi-Rez Digital Formats.
Here Is Why It Is Essential That We Do!
I have a lot of other things I have been itching to address, but when I saw someone post this question, “Is it a contradiction to support vinyl and digital formats?”, it Immediately caught my attention. The reason being that when I first read it, my mind was in a clusterfuck, as I already do support both simultaneously. The thing is, as I began to think about it more, I could understand why someone who may be new to Hi-Res Audio (HRA) may struggle with this reconciliation. It is a common theme that many think the move to Hi-Res Digital Audio, and it seems logical, is meant to free us from need to use vinyl as a source of High Quality Audio. That may be true, but thinking that we are there would be a big mistake.
As we know Hi-res Audio is becoming a widely recognized format, but aside all the controversy and looking at the facts. It is essential that we entertain both formats for several reasons…
1. It is because of Vinyl and High Quality Vinyl Rips (as well as advances in technology), that we now have the growing demand for Hi-Rez music that we have today.
2. In many cases, High Quality Vinyl rips Still, are the nearest representation to the Original Analog Studio Master Tapes, that is, obviously when the Vinyl is sourced from the Original Master Tape. When an All Analog Signal Chain was used in the Transfer to Cut the Original Vinyl Masters and thus is from what the Vinyl is “Properly” Pressed. In the case of Digital Hi-Res it is Optimal for a Direct Analog To Digital Conversion from the Original Analog Studio Master Tapes to the digital domain. Even with Hi-Rez being offered for purchase at online stores, it is still hit or miss as to the lineage of the new digital recordings.
3. Because of point Number 2, we can use these superior pieces of vinyl, as well as the their High Quality Vinyl Rips, to Compare against Current and Further Digital Hi-Res Releases as well as Re-Issues of Vinyl. This comparison is relevant whether the Vinyl Re-Issues or Hi-Res Digital is a Straight Flat Transfer from the Original Master Tapes, or they have been Remixed and or Remastered and then subsequently Transferred and then Pressed to Vinyl or Converted to Digital. Then a High Quality Vinyl Rip to Digital by a seasoned ripper may be up for consideration as a Hi-Res “Reference Recording” amongst the community. This means that it must have the Characteristic Sound Signature audio enthusiasts look for in excellent recordings. When a Vinyl Rip has these characteristics and there is a consensus, it can be considered to have the nearest representation of what the artist intended us to hear, as well as nearest available source to what the artists heard in the studio.
4. Just because an artist is an amazing or legendary musician, in most cases, does not automatically make them an excellent producer or mastering engineer. As a matter of fact they usually are not, even if they think they are. I am not going to name names so as not to unnecessarily offend anyone. The reason I can come to this conclusion is because of years of listening with a trained ear to the “Right” Reference Recordings. Obviously you come to your own conclusions about which I spout, but what I do know for sure is that this skill does not come from a few months or even years of listening, because it is dependent on “What Recordings” you are listening to and knowing “What Sound Signatures” and “Set Ups” hold weight. How can anyone come to a complete decision if they have not experienced it for themselves? These Vinyl Rips are available for anyone to search for and find, however their acquisition is unconventional and time consuming, but the rewards are immense. Having the ability to “Cross Reference” from a number of Sources in your listening tests is Essential to coming to an “Educated Conclusion”.
5. The recording industry does not make this easy for us, as a matter of fact they would rather we remain confused so as to continue to buy sub par recordings. I am confident and hopeful with the coming Pono releases from the Pono Music Store, overseen by legendary producer Bruce Botnik, will streamline and perfect the process of lineage and quality of transfers to the Hi-Res (HRA) Digital Domain. Those of us who know the difference remain vigilant.
6. I implore CD and Digital Mastering Engineers to check their work against High Quality Vinyl Rips from Seasoned Vinyl Rippers, that have perfected the Art of Vinyl Transfers over years of tweaking set ups and searching every corner of the globe for the Finest Vinyl Pressings Available. In the private communities their rips have evolved exponentially before our eyes and ears, and over time have held up against and withstood intense criticism and discussion from the most trained and particular listeners in the world. In fact although I consider myself to have a very good set of “trained ears”, they are eclipsed by the ears of even more seasoned veterans from nations again around the world. These vinyl rippers have all the experience and techniques to rival the best known and revered audio and mastering engineers.
7. To underscore the strength of High Quality Vinyl Rips…I am not going to name names but I do have knowledge that there have been recordings (especially re-issues) from famous artists that have been released to the public with the Understanding that they were Sourced From High Quality Vinyl Rips. Further murking the waters, there have been Artists (living or dead) who had No Knowledge that this was done by Their Mastering Engineers or Labels because the Particular Vinyl Rip was Better than the Source that had been given them by the Artist or Label in the studio.
There are also cases where the Mastering Engineer was given Vinyl Ripped Sourced Tape or Digital Recordings, and Low Level Audio Mastering Engineers as well as their Labels had no knowledge that they were using said Vinyl Ripped Sourced Masters for Re-Issues and either Willfully or Unknowingly Distorted Lineage on Packaging For Sale. There are many cases where the Packaging and Print on a vinyl pressing or piece of vinyl either confuses the purchaser into thinking that they were buying a pressing sourced from the “Original Analog Master Tapes” when they in fact had not. The details on this underhandedness is again murky and short on details but it is known to have occurred. Please do not ask because I cannot comment further on this…I can promise you that someday someone will write the book.
7. Again to underscore the strength of High Quality Vinyl Rips…There have been Specific Releases by Artists who have Requested to use a Particular Vinyl Rippers High-Quality vinyl transfers for their vinyl pressings and CD releases without the Vinyl Purchasing Public having knowledge. This however, in comparison to point number 6 is a good thing. It seems counter intuitive that certain releases would be sourced from a High Quality Vinyl Rips, but the Consumer are inadvertently getting Quality Sound Because of a Vinyl Ripper. Both points number 6 & 7 have had this result happen quietly for a number of reasons, usually because of Lost or Damaged Original Master Tapes to Unlabeled Masters Without Known Lineage, and a High Quality Vinyl Rip just Sounds Better than what they have available. This practice is not widespread but it is known to have occurred. Again someday someone will write the book. Remember the first rule of fightclub is…and the second rule of fightclub is….
Now with all those points made I hope to address point number 1 sufficiently. To properly describe the movement it seems necessary that I make a long story short in reverse. Again, it is because of Vinyl and High Quality Vinyl Rips that we now have the emergence of demand for “Quality Controlled” Hi-Res Audio (HRA). In some ways it was inadvertent by default, and in others a direct result of deliberate actions from the Vinyl Rippers in the Audio Enthusiast Community. This has been reported and discussed at length in previous articles and forums around the web. All the information is out there for your research…I was able to find it all through search engines, and it is therefore available for you with some dedication. We must make a distinction that there is Good Quality Hi-Res and Poor Quality Hi-Res.
Over the last decade as the music industry was in turmoil, and “The Loudness Wars” took over the stage front and center, savvy music enthusiasts found that they could extract the music from vinyl and render a superior sound signature than the music industry was releasing on CD, .mp3 digital, or on a significant portion of vinyl re-issues. As a matter of fact it was often highly superior, although this phenomenon was not universal, as a piece of vinyl and it’s resulting rip, logically is only as good as it’s original source. The idea that “You can’t polish a turd”, comes into play in this realm. In those cases where the vinyl is as close as possible to the original analog source studio tapes, after a decade of tweaking their setups, rigorous testing of rips that hold up in large listening communities, and finding the best quality vinyl pressings in the world has become in some respects an “Objective Pseudo-Science” in the last few years. Try and wrap your head around that, don’t think too hard as your head might explode. When you find yourself amongst that precipice, it is a truly astonishing event. I must reiterate that all these events are a result of a desire for quality that was not available, so it goes that Quality Hi-Res vinyl rips were born.
Fast forward to recent months…
So the industry was unable to control this underground viral movement, with the collapse of the music industry and as nature abhors a vacuum, there was not much choice left for them to come on board. That is not to say that the record industry came aboard easily. It has also been said that there are two factions in the music industry, one which fights to do quality control of released recordings Vs. the business or money side of the industry. In the end it’s sadly all about money over art, and as a result of the recent growing demand for Portable Hi-Res Audio Players (DAP’s) already on the market, as well as the opening of Hi-Res Audio online vendors such as HD Tracks and others, made it critical that the music industry take notice.
The final piece of the puzzle, was the insistence of the Legendary Musician Neil Young and his new Pono Player (To be released in October), the Coming Pono Music Store, as well as it’s streamlined Ecosystem…which finally shifted the tide in our favor. It took all these factors to finally bring the music industry to the table. It was only a matter of time as well, after convincing the recording industry to see the advantage of a new revenue stream, before they folded.
There has been a lot of Hi-Res Audio that has been officially released over the last few years and what we music junkies have found is that there is still many cases where the best known sourced vinyl still beats out the official Hi-Res Audio releases. So as a result of the desire for the highest quality audio, which can only be sourced from vinyl, it still remains an important tool in our arsenal.
So all of the aforementioned still, for the most part, holds true. It is because we can use High Quality Vinyl Rips as a source of “reference recordings”, that keeps the bar yet raised very high. There is still a lot of change that needs to come from the artists and music industry before we can say that we have an adequate amount of “Reference Recordings” in Hi-Res Digital Format. This is the goal which Pono Music and it’s “Quality Control Ecosystem” will attempt to meet and I believe they can do it. Some have said that a lot of the music that the Pono Music Store will have access to will in many cases consist of what the Artists and Music Industry has already made available for Hi-Res purchase. A lot will depend on the many famous artists stumping for Pono and the influence they have with their labels. Again I prefer to remain optimistic.
To finish we must ask ourselves have we answered the original question, “Is It A Contradiction To Simultaneously Support Vinyl And Hi-Rez Digital Formats?”. In answering, amongst the current surge in vinyl collections and nostalgia for a physical item as well as it’s strength as a indispensable format for comparison, we must remember one thing, that while we for a time gave up on vinyl, just know that vinyl never gave up on us. Again my process my review.
Cheers and Bless Bless!
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