Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another bogus excuse for dismissing DSD and SACDs (Rev B)

Rev B (see notes)

"Tape is now the holy grail for musicians," he says, welcomed by both industry veterans who miss the format's sine-wave [analog] warmth and by indie twentysomethings who are experiencing full bandwidth after a lifetime of listening to highly compressed MP3s.
[...]
A vintage multitrack deck like a Studer A827 costs $7,000 or more, and and additional $10,000 to refurbish, but Spitz says demand continues to increase. The cost of the media is also rising -- a reel of 2-inch tape today costs $250 to $300, more than double the cost a decade ago. That reflects the scarcity of the necessary raw materials like base film and oxide, says Don Morris, director of sales for RMG Intl., the Dutch company that took over the assets of BASF's liquidated EMTEC tape manufacturing business. "But musicians are willing to pay that now, because they know how much better it sounds," he says.
[...]
Analog's attraction lies in its ultra-high resolution capability, Spitz explains. Direct Stream Digital (DSD), the high-resolution digital disc format Sony used for its audiophile SACD format, is capable of 2.884,000 transitions per track per second, but a high-quality mastering tape contains approximately 80 million transitions per track second. "And that's just for 1/4-inch two-track tape running at 15 IPS," says Spitz. "The resolution goes up substantially with wider tracks and higher (tape) speeds."

"Transitions per track per second?" What ever happened to frequency response, noise, dynamic range, wow, flutter, distortion, generational loss, irretrievable loss with age, etc.? By any real measure, including listening, DSD and DXD are superior to analog tape. So, there's some other reason or reasons for the preference for analog masters. I think it's partly because artists are leery of digital recordings, partly perhaps because they like the effect of tape distortions, and partly because having an analog master ensures that they'll have the best copy as long as it's in good condition.

Notes

Rev B - Removed all comments regarding consumer formats vis a vis pirating, and comments regarding media attempts to create a "retro" atmosphere, upon realizing that many albums are released on both CD and LP. (So, LP releases, which typically cost more that CDs, are apparently purely to satisfy consumer demand for pure analog sources.) Also revised remaining paragraph.