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Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:06 am

Arpangel wrote:But have you checked it for DC offset? it can turn what you thought was an excellent Grammy award winning masterpiece into a worthless piece of plastic.

Just to be clear... The recording of Satie's piano toons is a very good one indeed. The DC offset is just a minor technical fault which won't affect anyone's enjoyment of the music in any way. I was just very surprised to spot it as it's such a rarity these days!

I've got The Box Hugh, would that show DC offset the same as the display you have, as a shift in image?

Nope, because it's an analogue meter.

The DC offset is something which affects the digital audio signal because the A-D converter is allocating the wrong quantising values to the audio signals. It's not audible in itself, although it can affect other signal processes and become audible in that way -- such as asymmetrical clipping etc.

You can think of it as the digital equivalent of a magnetised tape head on an analogue tape recorder. It also causes similar issues when editing -- clicks at butt edits -- and can lead to other problems with all kinds of signal processing, especially dynamics, and lead to inaccurate metering. These are all things that should have been obvious at the editing and mastering stages, and dealt with...

To spot DC offsets you either need a digital meter like the DK Technologies one I use, or a bit meter like the one that comes with RME's interfaces -- or their equivalents.

DC removal was built-in as an automatic process in a lot of mastering DAWs and processors back in the 90s... it's essentially just a high-pass filter with a very low turnover (1 to 5 Hz, typically) and a very steep slope.

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Thu Nov 14, 2019 12:18 pm

Arpangel wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:But have you checked it for DC offset? it can turn what you thought was an excellent Grammy award winning masterpiece into a worthless piece of plastic.

Just to be clear... The recording of Satie's piano toons is a very good one indeed. The DC offset is just a minor technical fault which won't affect anyone's enjoyment of the music in any way. I was just very surprised to spot it as it's such a rarity these days!

I know my sense of humour can be a bit strange at times, but it was meant "in the best possible taste" as Kenny would say" :)
All I can say Hugh is that I wish you were working for me sometimes!
A DC offset isn't in the same glaring league as a lot of other recording faults I'm guilty of, and that old photographic analogy springs to mind in my case sometimes, and that is, you're so intent on concentrating on that beautiful sunset, you fail to notice the electricity pylon blighting the foreground!
Talking of the Sony PCM/F1 system, it was very early digital, and things have moved on greatly, but, at the time, people were falling over themselves to buy them, for the main benefits of digital, low noise, increased dynamic range, but the electricity pylon was definitely there, like early CD, the actual overal sound may have left a lot to be desired.
But 16/44 is still good enough for a lot of things.
I've just ordered a copy of Johns recording, look forward to hearing this.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 14, 2019 1:21 pm

Arpangel wrote:Talking of the Sony PCM/F1 system, it was very early digital, and things have moved on greatly, but, at the time, people were falling over themselves to buy them, for the main benefits of digital, low noise, increased dynamic range...

I was amongst them, but I waited until Audio & Design (Recording) brought out their own 'professionalised' version of the PCM701 (which I still have, actually), with balanced I/O, calibrated operating levels, and a built-in all-pass filter to correct for the small left-right delay introduced by the ludicrous sequential A-D sampling system.

But the rush to 'go digital' was because the improvement in sound quality over the typical 1/4-inch analogue tape recorders of the day was massive. Yes, the noise floor was lower and dynamic range greater, but the more significant benefits were zero wow & flutter -- so piano and organ recordings were finally tolerable! -- and a consistent and extended (at both ends) frequency response. For the first time as a recording engineer, I could switch the desk monitoring between desk-out and tape replay and not hear a significant difference! It didn't come back with flutter or hiss or a reduced top-end.

And I could record entire live concerts without needing to do reel changes!

And I could carry the recording gear into the back of a church without needing corrective abdominal surgery afterwards! (To facilitate my own studio rebuild I've temporarily relocated my Revox PR99iii and Studer A807 tape machines to my 'man cave' lockup... and boy, I'd completely forgotten just how heavy those machines really are!)

...like early CD, the actual overal sound may have left a lot to be desired.

Sure... the technology was being pushed to its limits and it has been improved substantially in the intervening 40 years... but it really wasn't bad to start with and it was a lot better -- in several very important respects -- than the existing analogue recorders commonly employed. And, perhaps of more influence, it was all a very great deal cheaper too. That's what really encouraged studios and broadcasters to move to use it so enthusiastically.

I've just ordered a copy of Johns recording, look forward to hearing this.

As JW said, they really are lovely performances... and of the four recording versions of Satie's piano noodlings I have here, it's the one that is played most often.

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:14 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:As JW said, they really are lovely performances... and of the four recording versions of Satie's piano noodlings I have here, it's the one that is played most often.

Thanks Hugh,

Do you have the original Earthsounds version? or the Classic FM one?

Just to see if the DC offset was corrected in the re-release.

It was edited on SADiE I think (in 1992 remember) and I forget who did it.

I was taljing to a friend recently (who used to work with Classic FM) and he said that they ought to re-release it.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:23 pm

John Willett wrote:Do you have the original Earthsounds version? or the Classic FM one?

This one: Image
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Thu Nov 14, 2019 3:33 pm

The Classic FM one.

So they took the original master and just re-released it without removing the DC offset then.

Though it would never get noticed by a user, I think, and there are no clicks in the editing - it's only you ;)
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 14, 2019 3:41 pm

It's always 'only me'... :lol:

I've picked up so many mastering 'faux pas' over the years that have apparently slipped by some of the most famous, experienced and professional of mastering engineers.... It does make me wonder sometimes...

Most aren't that obvious to the casual listener -- things like left-right reversals, no dither, inter-sample peaks, DC offsets, clicks, duff edits... but they should be obvious to a professional mastering engineer with the right tools and experience! Some are very obvious though: for example, I have a Diana Krall CD which has blatant comb-filtering throughout caused by incorrect routing when the master was run off. It sounds really horrible... yet it went completely unnoticed, apparently.

The annoying aspect is that spotting these things is usually just about having the right tools, looking at them regularly, and knowing how to interpret what they are telling you. It's really just about paying attention... :think:

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby The Elf » Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:42 pm

When I spot things, from dodgy audio on TV to mis-used apostrophes in the local cafe, poor synth design choices to repeated mis-pronunications ("could of", "would of")... I'm told by most that it 'doesn't matter'. And the handcart takes another few yards along the rocky road down...

Don't let your standards slip, Hugh. Some of us are right there with you. :thumbup:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby blinddrew » Thu Nov 14, 2019 5:22 pm

Absolutely! There's nothing wrong with working to budgets and tight deadlines, but it should always be an informed decision against what should be possible. General sloppiness should be avoided at every opportunity. :)
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby MOF » Thu Nov 14, 2019 7:18 pm

I could switch the desk monitoring between desk-out and tape replay and not hear a significant difference! It didn't come back with flutter or hiss or a reduced top-end.

When I started ENG sound recordist work in 1985 there was a dreadful ‘confidence head’, later it was un-decoded dolby but always a mix of both tracks, never switchable.
Digital camcorders’ audio, later on, was not off-tape monitoring, just input to output, some recent ones do give quality off-tape monitoring.

P.S. The rot set in when sound recordists were no longer required to carry the combined video and sound recorder to which the camera was connected by a multicore cable.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:16 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Oooh er...

Because of the discussion above, I've just been playing John's Satie album... and discovered it has a fairly hefty (-46dB) DC offset on some of the tracks... Don't see that very often these days! Dodgy converter or mastering process somewhere along the line.

A 1Hz high-pass filter cures it.

H
46db is a lot. Does it clip?
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:45 pm

No.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby John Willett » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:53 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:Oooh er...

Because of the discussion above, I've just been playing John's Satie album... and discovered it has a fairly hefty (-46dB) DC offset on some of the tracks... Don't see that very often these days! Dodgy converter or mastering process somewhere along the line.

A 1Hz high-pass filter cures it.

H
46db is a lot. Does it clip?

-46dB - and no.

It was a 1992 PCM-F1 recording after all ;)

Oh - on the original CD it says:-
Recording engineered by: John WIllett
Edited and mastered by: Tony Faulkner, Tim Handley and John Willett

So you can blame Tony Faulkner and Tim Handley for the DC offset getting through ;) :mrgreen: And Tony and Tim are among the best in the business. :thumbup:

I did the live recording and then passed the PCM-F1 masters to the record company who passed them on to Tony and Tim for editing and mastering.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:56 pm

blinddrew wrote:Absolutely! There's nothing wrong with working to budgets and tight deadlines, but it should always be an informed decision against what should be possible. General sloppiness should be avoided at every opportunity. :)
Yes sometimes poor standards are due to ignorance of what to expect. Expectations of older recordings can be either wildly too high or wildly too low. I'm currently dealing with a customer's wildly low expectations. Their digitized transfers of recordings I was involved in 30 years ago contain nothing above 2.5 kHz. Not even tape hiss! A person "paying attention" as Hugh rightly mentions would immediately notice the absence of tape hiss as a sign something is not right. Another person might just shrug shoulders and say "Oh well, what can you expect? They're old recordings."...
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Fri Nov 15, 2019 9:47 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Talking of the Sony PCM/F1 system, it was very early digital, and things have moved on greatly, but, at the time, people were falling over themselves to buy them, for the main benefits of digital, low noise, increased dynamic range...

I was amongst them, but I waited until Audio & Design (Recording) brought out their own 'professionalised' version of the PCM701 (which I still have, actually), with balanced I/O, calibrated operating levels, and a built-in all-pass filter to correct for the small left-right delay introduced by the ludicrous sequential A-D sampling system.

But the rush to 'go digital' was because the improvement in sound quality over the typical 1/4-inch analogue tape recorders of the day was massive. Yes, the noise floor was lower and dynamic range greater, but the more significant benefits were zero wow & flutter -- so piano and organ recordings were finally tolerable! -- and a consistent and extended (at both ends) frequency response. For the first time as a recording engineer, I could switch the desk monitoring between desk-out and tape replay and not hear a significant difference! It didn't come back with flutter or hiss or a reduced top-end.

And I could record entire live concerts without needing to do reel changes!

And I could carry the recording gear into the back of a church without needing corrective abdominal surgery afterwards! (To facilitate my own studio rebuild I've temporarily relocated my Revox PR99iii and Studer A807 tape machines to my 'man cave' lockup... and boy, I'd completely forgotten just how heavy those machines really are!)

...like early CD, the actual overal sound may have left a lot to be desired.

Sure... the technology was being pushed to its limits and it has been improved substantially in the intervening 40 years... but it really wasn't bad to start with and it was a lot better -- in several very important respects -- than the existing analogue recorders commonly employed. And, perhaps of more influence, it was all a very great deal cheaper too. That's what really encouraged studios and broadcasters to move to use it so enthusiastically.

I've just ordered a copy of Johns recording, look forward to hearing this.

As JW said, they really are lovely performances... and of the four recording versions of Satie's piano noodlings I have here, it's the one that is played most often.

H

When I went on sessions with Mike we used two Sony systems, as Mike always insisted on running a back-up. He also had the Audio & Design mixer, and the Level Modifier, which enabled him to do crude digital editing, fades etc. Was the PCM/F1 fully 16 bit?
I had to make do with a Casio portable DAT machine, which TBQH, was pretty bad, you could hear digital break up on reverb tails quite clearly, as it run out of bits!
Wow and flutter, yes, was a thing of the past, and it always annoyed me on organ recordings, but it's typical that now I've got pedals, and plug-ins that pride themselves on how realistically they can produce wow and flutter!
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:00 am

Arpangel wrote:When I went on sessions with Mike we used two Sony systems, as Mike always insisted on running a back-up.

Very wise. I used to run two video recorders, but I only had the one PCM701 adapter. And I still try to have a backup recorder for anything live.

He also had the Audio & Design mixer, and the Level Modifier, which enabled him to do crude digital editing, fades etc.

I still have the little digital mixer. Useful little box, actually, even today!

Was the PCM/F1 fully 16 bit?

Designed originally as 14-bit machines (although not adequately dithered at 14 bits, actually) but switchable to 16-bits which is what everyone used. Because these were the days of questionable A-D quality, they also employed permanent pre-emphasis which boosted the high end enormously on record, and then pulled it back on replay. Consequently, it was really easy to clip recordings accidentally on things like cymbal hits and applause, because a generous headroom at mid and low frequencies really wasn't at high frequencies!

I had to make do with a Casio portable DAT machine, which TBQH, was pretty bad, you could hear digital break up on reverb tails quite clearly, as it run out of bits!

No... that's a classic sign on not being dithered properly. Dithering wasn't commonplace in recorders, A-Ds converters or digital editors/workstations until the end of the 80s and into the early 90s.

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby The Elf » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:03 am

I used the cheaper PCM501 and Betamax VCR for mastering. The problem I always faced was avoiding stop/start clicks between recordings. It was a relief when DAT arrived!
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:16 am

It wasn't designed or intended for professional use -- it was a consumer unit. Sony had the PCM1600 (and later the 1610 and 1630) systems recording to U-matic tape for professional use, complete with a dedicated editing controller (which was actually a modified video-editing controller!)

So editing on the F1 format t was a serious challenge to say the least, and clicks were a common problem. HHB came up with their CLUE editing system which helped, but it was extremely clunky by modern standards https://americanradiohistory.com/hd2/IDX-Audio/Archive-Studio-Sound-IDX/IDX/80s/Studio-Sound-1984-09-OCR-Page-0026.pdf#search=%22clue%20editor%22
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby The Elf » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:30 am

We managed to scrape through - I had tricks to prevent the clicks!
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:41 am

:lol:
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