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Re: [ARSCLIST] SACD for Real Collectors

The main reason for the fine sound of the Woody Guthrie tracks on the Alan Lomax Songbook are the initial transfers made here at the Library of Congress by Brad McCoy. I now work at the Library, but four years ago, I worked on the Alan Lomax Collection, and the Songbook album was one of the last discs that I worked on.

When the Woody Guthrie discs were delivered to the lab, Brad and I were pleased to see them in such good condition, and we were blown away by the sound Brad got out of the grooves, which was a far cry from the muffled and muddy sound of earlier reissues of the same material. But those reissues were made from copies of tapes made in the early sixties--two generations or more removed from these acetates, which were recorded in a professional radio facility at the Department of the Treasury in Washington, DC. 

While I was still at the Lomax Collection, I had a plain old CD dub from the transfer session that I played for people as a demo. Even in that state, without any equalization or other processing, the sound blew the other reissues out of the water. The Guthrie transfers were done at 24/44.1 kHz, as the Songbook album did not begin life as an SACD project.

This is the transfer that Steve Rosenthal and Bob Ludwig worked with, and their masterful use of the SACD process, which was very new at the time, brought out the  best of what was in the original recording, particularly the warmth and spaciousness you mention. I too believe that SACD represents a great improvement over standard CD, so I'm not trying belittle the format at all, just saying that you have to start with a good source and good playback for it to work to it's fullest.

Matthew Barton
The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20540-4610
email: mbarton@xxxxxxx

>>> Steve Abrams <steveabrams@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> 2/28/2007 5:49:09 PM >>>
In my experience SACD is a very worthwhile improvement over standard CD. 
Comparing the CD and SACD layers of hybrid discs I find that the CD, even 
when mastered with DSD, has a residual graininess; a touch or a ghost of the 
digital nasties remains even in the best efforts. The SACD layer has a much 
greater warmth and spaciousness, including all the virtues of the best LP 
sound. There have been very few SACD issues from mono tapes or 78s. However, 
the sound on the Alan Lomax Songbook is quite astonishing. The voice of 
Woody Guthrie, at his first session in 1940, leaps out of the groove with 
astonishing presence. I am afraid that this means that David Lennick, Mark 
Obert-Thorne, Ward Marston et al may have to start over from the beginning. 
At any rate I doubt - and I hope somebody will correct me and convince that 
I am wrong about this - whether their 16 bit PCM DAT masters will be usable 
in the new medium. 24 bit 96 k PCM is the minimum standard and not really 
good enough for mastering SACD.

More generally, the people who ought to be promoting SACD are doing the best 
they can to kill it off, insisting that it is dead in the water when there 
are thousands of titles available and superb new stereo only machines coming 
onto the market. SACD is so good that it cuts into the sale of expensive CD 
and LP gear. The company that sold me my Marantz 7001 KI (600 GBP) refused 
to put it on demonstration because the sound that it evoked from Fritz 
Reiner Living Stereo discs was too good.

The fact that SACD is not going to replace CD is beside the point. It is 
already the medium of choice if you are prepared to spend a reasonable 
amount to get good quality sound. I am afraid that the great majority of 
record collectors prefer to spend nearly all their available cash on 
recordings. I have always thought this was excessively foolish.

Steve Abrams

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