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Re: Steel Wheels SHM-CD (Japan-only release)
Posted by: 24FPS ()
Date: September 1, 2021 21:12

I find the Steel Wheels SHM-CD version to be a mixed bag. Everything sounds good, but very few cuts sound much better than previous CD versions. The recent GHS on SMH-CD was revelatory, and a big improvement over previous versions. Maybe that's an indication for how lousy the original GHS mix was, as compared to Steel Wheels, done at a more advanced time production wise.

Re: Steel Wheels SHM-CD (Japan-only release)
Posted by: ironbelly ()
Date: December 8, 2021 14:22

OK, let’s do it technical way. I mean, let’s put aside our ears and audio systems and play with audio analysis software. I know (it was said by some users on this forum) that one supposed to listen to the music, to fill the music, to dance to the music etc. Search your feelings, Luke! (c) You do it winking smiley.

This usually does not work when it comes to similarly sounding CDs. I trust software only.

Anyway. I took a couple of Steel Wheels CDs from my collection, ripped them using EAC in secure mode w/o normalization and made a comparison using Adobe Audition.
The following CDs were used:
1. Austrian-made CBS CD [RSR 465752 2]
2. Holland-made Virgin CD [CDV 2742]
3. Japan-made SHM-CD [UICY-79250], this is so called ‘flat transfer’, digital clone to previous SHM-platinum CD [UICY-40162]
Also, for comparison I have accurate rips of Japan-made [25DP-5566] and EU Polydor/Universal 2009 remaster [0602527015675].

Here are the results. Austrian CBS CD [RSR 465752 2] and Japanese [25DP-5566] are digital clones. The only reason kowalski hear the differences could be – the CDs were pressed at different plants. This was explained by Barry Diament (the engineer who mastered the first editions of Led Zeppelin CDs and many other releases in the 80s):
_________
When I created CD masters for albums where big sales were expected, I often cloned the CD master and sent clones to several pressing facilities, including Japan.

Note that being made from the same mastering does not mean pressings from different facilities will sound identical. In my experience, how each facility cuts the glass master, the quality of the LBR they use to cut the glass, the duration of their injection molding cycles, etc. can all affect how the final pressing sounds. (Why? I wish someone could tell me. To my knowledge, there is little to no research being done on this. Most plants feel their product is ‘perfect’)

These will often not be ‘night and day’ differences and what differences there are can be eliminated (or at least lessened) if the data from both disks is (properly) extracted to a hard drive. But if you are listening to the pressings themselves in a CD player and have a good system, I would expect there to be subtle (to not-so-subtle) differences in the reproduced audio. How important this is, the individual listener must decide for him or her self.
[forums.stevehoffman.tv]
_________

The rest will be explained using graphs and track 01-Sad, Sad, Sad as a ‘Guinea pig’. All other tracks (I checked) show more or less the same tendency.

First thing, this track has slightly different length for different releases. But in general, the playback speed is pretty much constant, although, flat transfer runs a notch slower.

CBS 1989: 3.35.388
Virgin 1994: 3.35.666
UM 2009: 3.35.693
Flat transfer 2015: 3.36.595

As you see, there are variations that could possibly disturb people with perfect ‘A=440Hz’ hearing. This tendency is kept for the other tracks too.

Here are frequency spectra charts for Sad, Sad, Sad from 4 different CDs.

Kind of messy. But rather similar.

The next step is to separate them using a base line. According to booklet of SHM-CD [UICY-79250] the CD was prepared using the following linage:
Tape research: Mick McKenna
UK original master tapes by Mick McKenna and Richard Whittaker at FX Copyroom, London, in 2015
Edited in DSD by Manabu Matsumura at Universal Music Studios, Tokyo, in 2015
176.4kHz/24bit transferred from DSD by Yumetoki Suzuki at Universal Music Studios, Tokyo, in 2015
HR (High Resolution) cutting from 176.4kHz/24bit at JVCKENWOOD Creative Media, in 2015
If we accept that in 2015 a flat transfer was made and there was no further fuzzing with digital material, the spectrum of SHM-CD [UICY-79250] can be used as a baseline for subtraction. In this case the residual signal will reflect additions introduced by mastering.

The result of subtraction is presenter here.

As you see CBS and Virgin CDs have a kind of a ‘smile’ added atop of flat transfer. I.e., boosts around 200Hz and in the ‘brilliance’ range above 8kHz. On contrary, UM remaster had a dip in bass and roll off in high frequencies. Most probably, it was done to eliminate destructive effects due to increase in volume and compression.

Now the funny thing. If one will use the spectrum of CBS CD [RSR 465752 2] as the base line the following will be achieved.

I.e. Virgin CD is essentially CBS CD with volume shift of about 1.4 dB. Like it or not. Overall, both CDs are almost identical apart of level shift. Word ‘almost’ is used because some minor differences can be found if one will zoom and inspect wave forms of the tracks more closely. It is clear that a limiter was used for Virgin CD as some peaks are ‘shaved’, they have flat tops, multiple samples with the same value. The same peaks on CBS CD retain round shape of the tops. These details can be heard, probably, on very good audio equipment, but not on an average one (and for sure not using laptop audio card).

There are also a couple of minor variations over Virgin CD here and there. But they do not affect the sound drastically. There was no additional equalization, the CD was not remixed, hardly compression was added. The digital files were just a bit tweaked in volume and limited.

So, a simple level shift tricked some people. Well, it is a known fact that a simple 1dB change can make people think the sound is richer and more detailed. That what happened here. So do not throw away your CBS CD when you read on the forum that Virgin CD sounds fuller and better. Just adjust volume on your stereo and you will make Virgin from CBS.

Flat transfer 2015 is different as is UM 2009 remaster too. I would skip UM remaster from consideration. Those excessive compression, +5dB with respect to CBS CD and roll off at the high end are no good at all. It can be used only for ‘nomad’ listening in a subway on the way to work using cheap earbuds.

Flat transfer (if it is truly flat) represents what was on the tape. It is unmolested digital material in the initial form. Just accept it as is. If the sound of the disc does not suit your taste – play the knobs on your stereo and make adjustments you like the best.



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 2021-12-08 14:39 by ironbelly.

Re: Steel Wheels SHM-CD (Japan-only release)
Posted by: Irix ()
Date: December 8, 2021 16:20

Quote
ironbelly

3. Japan-made SHM-CD [UICY-79250], this is so called ‘flat transfer

Are you sure it's a flat transfer? Sounds EQ-ed to me. It was at least edited in DSD by Universal Music Japan and then glass-mastered using JVC's XRCD technology:


Booklet of UICY-40162

Re: Steel Wheels SHM-CD (Japan-only release)
Posted by: toomuchforme ()
Date: December 8, 2021 17:48

very interesting.
I often heard that the CBS were good (I have them of course)
The Virgin were considered as a very good result
The ABKCO for its period released as SACD or DSD was told by Keith "the way you should here the music"

Interesting are the half speed masters for vinyls released 2 years ago by Abbey Road. I Would like to hear the TT YOU vinyl

"we know it's a bit late but we hope you don't mind if we stay"

Re: Steel Wheels SHM-CD (Japan-only release)
Posted by: ironbelly ()
Date: December 8, 2021 18:13

Quote
Irix
Quote
ironbelly

3. Japan-made SHM-CD [UICY-79250], this is so called ‘flat transfer

Are you sure it's a flat transfer? Sounds EQ-ed to me. It was at least edited in DSD by Universal Music Japan and then glass-mastered using JVC's XRCD technology:


Booklet of UICY-40162
We should buy what is written. That 'Edited in DSD...' note is present in booklets for all CDs in the series - from Sticky Fingers to Flashpoint. But it is not known know what exactly it means. One can only guess or accept that editing does not mean mastering.

Steve Hoffman on his site confirmed for Sticky Fingers that SHM-SACD represents flat transfer
_________
The SHM SACD (which I will refer to as the "new" version so I don't have to keep on writing SHM SACD all the time). is a flat transfer from the tape, yes.
_________
But he also mentioned that it needs good mastering
[forums.stevehoffman.tv]
I.e. flat transfer does not mean the best possible sound. It is the sound that was fixed on the tape. But it can be weird, muffed or whatever. The discussion on Sticky Fingers was rather long.

I believe he also confirmed flat transfer for Black And Blue.

Anyway, for Sticky Fingers there are two tracks that allegedly appeared on CD mastered flat. The one is Wild Horses, the other is the 'one that should not be named here' due to recent restrictions. Both were on old West German CD Hot Rocks 2 [London 820 142-2]. Those were transferred flat by MFSL back in 1985. In terms of loudness they are about the same as current flat transfer, but tonally are a bit different above 2kHz. It could be anything - play back machines were aligned slightly differently, MFSL used dub tape but not a master, digital files were altered in Hanover during production etc. In any case, those are very similar.

For other albums it is more difficult to find earlier version of 'flat transferred' tapes. Guess, only Tattoo You [CP35-3032], Undercover [CP35-3087] and (probably) Still Life [39113-2] could be considered as other flat transfers. But this is not certain because little to no information exists about the linage for those CDs.

Re: Steel Wheels SHM-CD (Japan-only release)
Posted by: Irix ()
Date: December 8, 2021 20:00

Quote
ironbelly

We should buy what is written. That 'Edited in DSD...' note is present in booklets for all CDs in the series - from Sticky Fingers to Flashpoint.

The 2011 SHM-SACDs from Sticky Fingers to Dirty Work (UIGY 9066 - UIGY 9074) state in all Booklets:

Similar stated on [www.Universal-Music.co.jp] : "Latest 2011 DSD master based on the original UK analogue tapes".

Yes, a ‘flat transfer’ preserves the sound of the recording tape, can sound flat and can use some EQ-ing. It depends on the personal taste and the used Audio-equipment.

For the Steel Wheels 2015 Platinum-SHM-CD (UICY-40162) I agree with Toru A about the sound: "It becomes brighter and thick as pea soup" - [iorr.org] - in comparison to the 1994 Virgin-Edition with the Bob-Ludwig-Remaster. It's of course a matter of personal taste - but Steel Wheels remains a typical 1980s production with just such a sound.

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