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Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

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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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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Aural Reject » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:04 am

The Elf wrote:We managed to scrape through - I had tricks to prevent the clicks!

I always find a good cough covers a multitude of sins....
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:10 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
...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! ...
Generational losses affected every aspect, but I wouldn't have said analog recorded piano and organ music had been intolerable. Poor W&F was more the problem in poorly maintained pro, or cheap consumer, gear. By the 80's even top amateur cassette decks had close to inaudible W & F. It didn't need to be 0% to be inaudible. This misunderstanding perhaps goes hand in hand with the idea that some people have (literally) perfect pitch. Nobody has that.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:39 am

Perhaps I exaggerated slightly for effect...

At the BBC we were obviously using top notch tape recorders all maintained to within a micron of their bearings... ;)

...but the sense of solidity and stability in musical sources like pianos and organs, when we first switched to digital recorders, was definitely noticed and appreciated by all of us recording engineers and the programme producers.

I doubt the public would ever have noticed or cared -- and as you say W&F on any decent machine was pretty low in the 80s -- but we all appreciated and preferred the micro-pitch stability when we did those A/B comparisons.

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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 15, 2019 12:09 pm

Did you do it with rigour and check each parameter separately? Eg: tape dropout is always there to some degree and increases with frequency. It can easily be mistaken for flutter.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 15, 2019 12:30 pm

Erm... let me think.... :headbang:
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:21 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: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...

It's not just mastering - I still remember receiving an audio interface for an SOS review some years ago and noticing its distinct lack of bottom end, which I subsequently measured at -3dB @ 45Hz.

I informed the manufacturers and they said I must have made a mistake, as this particular unit had already been shipped to two other magazines and received favourable reviews that had been published, and around 300 units had already been sold to end users with no complaints. However, they said they would check, just to humour me.

I got a phone call the next day to inform me that the production line had been halted, and that all 300 shipped units were being recalled to have various coupling capacitors increased in value :headbang:


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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:45 pm

:-) Good spot Martin. It's exactly that kind of careful thoroughness from reviewers that has given SOS the uniquely well deserved reputation it enjoys. When I read some reviews in our competitors' magazines I sometimes wonder if their reviewers even unpacked the product and plugged it in!
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby James Perrett » Sat Nov 16, 2019 2:40 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I doubt the public would ever have noticed or cared -- and as you say W&F on any decent machine was pretty low in the 80s -- but we all appreciated and preferred the micro-pitch stability when we did those A/B comparisons.

As a listener in my teens or early 20's I heard an obvious difference between live and recorded material on radio which was mainly down to sharper transients. These differences became less noticeable with the advent of digital recording.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby Arpangel » Sat Nov 16, 2019 9:47 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:By the 80's even top amateur cassette decks had close to inaudible W & F. It didn't need to be 0% to be inaudible. This misunderstanding perhaps goes hand in hand with the idea that some people have (literally) perfect pitch. Nobody has that.

I have to disagree with you there, that's simply not the case. Wow and flutter on cassette tape was always an issue, and still is regarding things like piano and organ.
I had high end decks from Tascam, JVC, Nakamichi, and Denon, and none of them had wow and flutter that wasn't obviously noticeable. Although the best of the bunch was Denon.
I have organ recordings made from the 60's onwards that sound very good indeed, made on reel-to-reel machines, even when played on vinyl. Good top notch analogue is fine, as long as it's well maintained, and you're using a good high end turntable for records.
But I was surprised at how much of an improvement I noticed overal regarding wow and flutter when I used a Technics SL1210 turntable, the direct drive, and tremendous torque really did improve speed stability, like going from analogue to digital in this respect.
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Re: Recording Steinway grand piano - damper noise

Postby The Elf » Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:17 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote::-) Good spot Martin. It's exactly that kind of careful thoroughness from reviewers that has given SOS the uniquely well deserved reputation it enjoys. When I read some reviews in our competitors' magazines I sometimes wonder if their reviewers even unpacked the product and plugged it in!
I can recall one review I did for SOS where I can be very sure the previous magazine's reviewer never even powered the device up!
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