Asked Questions (FAQ) for DCC Compact Classics
edition was last updated on November 11, 2001.
is not copyrighted in and of itself, however, the information was
derived from many sources—some copyrighted, and some not. This is
purely for the non-commercial use of people who want to know about DCC
without having to ask the same common questions that have already been
asked and answered before. One more thing. You get what you pay for.
This is free and not to be sold and while efforts have been made to
ensure the information is accurate, no warranties or guarantee is being
given or implied in any way, shape or form as to the information
provided here. Most of the answers are direct from Steve Hoffman being
interviewed for various magazines.
Company And The Discs
or what was DCC Compact Classics?
is an offshoot of the old Dunhill Records. The founder of the company,
Marshall Blomstein, was the President of Island Records and of Ode
Records and he formed this company, DCC Compact Classics, formerly
Dunhill Compact Classics, in 1986, for the purpose of re-issuing things
that had been long unavailable, kinda like Rhino Records but a little
more, er, serious-minded.
Marshall recently left DCC and started Audio
was an article in Billboard that you were going to work at a company
called MIRANDA making DVD-A and SACDs.
I will consult for Marshall.
[NOTE: As of January 27, 2001, new things are expected to be happening
at DCC so the web site and forum are not in operation. Steve's new
place: www.stevehoffman.tv is
the place for information about Steve and what he is up to. The
following is on what WAS in place.]
When it was running, how did DCC decide which CD’s to put out?
it has to be a classic album that someone has fond memories of, it has
to be licensable, it has to be something that we can make a big
improvement on, and it has to be something that we know will be
saleable; but basically it comes down to what we like around here. And
we put these big, endless lists together and send them over to the
companies to see what they think. And they look down the list going,
"Yes, No, Yes, No, No, Yes". Then we say, "Well, why did
you say ‘No’ to this one?" Sometimes they say, "Well, we
have to go through the artist or their management company…" and
we can come back with, "OK, we can do that." So sometimes a
"No" can become "Yes", but that’s essentially how
we do it, but there is no set answer to that. Every great piece of
music, almost, is owned by some big label somewhere and we have to deal
with them. And we have to make sure they understand what we are trying
to do and that we aren’t trying to compete with them. And it usually
was the first CD you ever mastered?
first was called “Buddy Holly - For The First Time Anywhere”. It was
basically the un-dubbed versions of a lot of his early things, It sold
incredibly well, so I decided to do one on everyone else I could find
there. From Bing Crosby on.
Of course, that wasn't your first ever
mastering project ever--just for CD on MCA. What's
the earliest recording you have worked on mastering wise?
Good question. Deanna
Durbin "Memories" 1982. Those
albums in the "1500" series on my discography
pages are the first batch I ever did. Mainly from pre-tape sources. I
remember the first album that I actually CHANGED MY CAREER OBJECTIVE on
was an "Ames Bros." album. The mastering engineer had actually
mastered the album with the tape INSIDE OUT, because it was
"A" wound back in the 1950's (with the oxide out) and it never
occurred to him to reverse it. After that, I learned how to master.
Back to the Buddy Holly CD for a
understand that was the easiest to master as well.
It took me just four hours to master that disc. No EQ or tricks of
any kind needed, just level adjusts, and that great Norman Petty sound
poured out of the speakers. Of course, it took me two years and
three months to find all of the tapes, but that's another story....
come you don’t just put out what you want?
always get permission.
come some labels like K-Tel and Time-Life, etc. get to put stuff out
that DCC doesn’t?
actually owns a lot of famous oldies. The rest of the stuff is licensed
by them with ease, because they can sell a million copies at one time,
so they can "bribe" (not a good word, but I can't think of
another before dinner) the record companies with a goodly amount of
dough. Simple. DCC could do it too, but we can't sell as much...We would
lose profits if we licensed 20 songs that way!
the case of Time-Life, they have a HUGE mailing list; is it 30 million
addresses? Something like that. They could sell the phone book. Also,
they put it in writing in their contracts to the record companies that
they will ONLY sell their CD's MAIL ORDER, and not in retail stores. It
is much easier to license product that way. No conflicts with already
existing retail albums.
will the albums you have been able to license be out?
all depends on the record label and what they want. On more than one
occasion the entire process was going fine and then permission was
either withdrawn or a request was made to hold off on releasing
something for several days, weeks and even months.
come some DCC titles go out of print?
have a three-year contract for each title. Sometimes an option for two
more, which we will take advantage of if the title is a big seller.
much money does it cost to put out a Gold CD?
than it did when we started over 10 years ago, but not as much as it
will in the future since prices always go up.
do the discs cost so much?
extra time and expense in only using the original master tapes and then
making them sound the best they possibly can without changing that
are they gold?
does not oxidize like aluminum and it has a smoother surface for the
laser of the CD player to bounce off of.
are DCC CD’s and Vinyl Records different from others?
mastering engineer at any major record label has enough time. I spent
five weeks on Joni Mitchell's Blue. It was a complicated one. But that's
DCC -- they let me. A major label like Warner issues 35 titles a month.
They don't have time to muck around.
do the artists think about DCC versions of their music?
Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker all heard Wheels Of Fire, Fresh
Cream, and really loved them. Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger (from the
Doors) were very enthused about the gold CD's we did.
start with the Master Tape. What is that?
few exceptions like special recordings made with only two microphones,
the music released on CD by DCC Compact Classics was originally recorded
on a multi-track tape machine. Instead of the traditional left and right
channel like on a stereo, it began with two and three tracks in the 50s
to up to 48 or more in the 80s. Each instrument or group of instruments
is recorded onto separate tracks—many times on different days or in
different locations around the world. Those separate tracks are then
mastered down to two tracks—like on a stereo. This first generation
mix-down tape is the actual original master tape of the album.
why didn’t the record companies use these master tapes to begin with?
the old days, you couldn’t just cut a record from the master tape or
the stylus would just jump right off the record when you tried to play
it. So in the old days, mastering was cutting a record so you could play
it on an average phonograph. Unlike the CD’s of today with wide
dynamic range (difference between the softest and loudest volume), the
LPs had a much smaller range so you had to use a compressor to limit
that range to an acceptable level. Also you couldn’t load up the bass
too much or the stylus would jump off of the record. So you had to use
an equalizer to back off on the low end or turn up the high end and you
had to ride the levels so it didn’t get too loud. You essentially did
what you needed to in order to have the best sound that would fit into
the grooves of the record. And that being a very subjective thing--every
mastering engineer had their own way of achieving that. In addition,
while they were playing the master tape onto a record lacquer for use in
making vinyl records, a tape was running to capture this version of the
album. That became the EQ Dub or Cutting Master and was then sometimes
incorrectly labeled the Master Tape and they put the real master tape
away since it didn’t need to be used. So then any time another lacquer
needed to be cut, you just pulled out the "LP master" tape.
And depending on how long ago the recording was made, there might be a
different tape marked master made for reel to reel duping or 8-track
tape duping and that led to a lot of confusion when asking for the
this about "baking" master tapes so you can use them?
it or not, the tape manufacturers used to lubricate their tapes with
whale oil. That natural lubricant worked so well that you can pull out a
tape from 1949 and it will still play and it’s wonderful. After the
energy crisis in 1974, the tape manufacturers said they could make a
synthetic lubricant that would work just as well. And that is what they
did. And every tape from 1974 to around 1986 is made with that synthetic
lubricant which starts to break down after about five years and then you
can’t play the tapes any more. Now they didn’t know that was going
to happen, of course, but that is what happened. So at first they tried
to re-lubricate the tapes, which without it is like trying to rub sand
paper on a fragile surface without any lubrication—and it didn’t
work. So rather than destroy all of these tapes, Ampex Corporation
discovered that if you heat up the tapes in a convex oven to a certain
temperature, then they will be playable for a short period of time. The
other good thing they discovered was that you can heat them again every
time you need to play them. I don’t like to think about doing that,
although I have had to before, but it’s good to know that you can do
that or you might as well throw the tapes in the trash. And our entire
musical heritage from about 1974 to 1986 is plagued with this problem.
What’s amazing is that the early stuff, recorded on cheaper
tapes—that stuff works great still.
what I understand it seems like as time goes on, it will get harder and
harder to find the original working mix, because tapes are added to the
vaults periodically. Different mixes, copies of copies, layer upon
layer. An analogy comes to mind. Digging up fossils and dinosaurs. How
to know which species came first. I've heard you had to go through
hundreds of tapes to finally get to the master. Well, what do you think
it will be like 30 years from now, with remixes and different generation
copies coming at us right and left all the time. Eventually it will
probably be like finding a needle in a haystack. It's good to know that
the Doors have their masters organized, but tell me Steve is there a
label or an artist besides Dylan, that was just a hellish experience in
locating the right tape? And did you offer them advice on keeping the
master from the rest of the heap after you returned it?
You know I won't say what is chaos and what isn't out there, but I think
most Record Companies now realize that their vault means $$$ to them and
will try to get organized in the end. The best I ever saw was Capitol
Records LA. PolyGram has it together as well. Atlantic, Elektra,
Warner/Reprise all have fantastic vaults, with the possibility of
finding the correct tape at a MOMENT'S notice. Other companies are (with
the help of their Special Markets departments) making "Cosmos out
of Chaos" (as an old professor of mine used to say).....
SPECIFIC QUESTION ON BAKING TAPES FROM
THE STEVEHOFFMAN.TV FORUM:
Great board you have here! I have a question regarding mastering 1/4 tapes to a computer and then onto CD. My mom has been recording throughout her career in her home studio and she has a ton of 1/4 tapes that badly need to go onto CD before they
disentegrate on her. They have been stored in a dry basement at about 60 degrees in their 1/4 tape cases for 10-20 years. But obviously they have gone through some wear since they haven't been stored in the proper conditions. So my question for you is if these tapes can be saved with equipment she has. She has Paris Ensoniq computer software (DAW) and these tapes are 1/4 inch Ampex 456 tapes that are 10-20 years old. Her 1/4 inch player has new rollers, etc. What does she need to do to master these onto CD. She knows how to run her computer software but she needs to know how to play her tapes w/o losing the sound quality when running them through the computer software. Does she need to bake the tapes, etc. Any advice is greatly appreciated!! Thanks!!
Ampex 456, eh? Yeah, needs to be baked. Read this first:
Baking Magnetic Recording Tape to temporarily restore old tape for playback.
Over time, magnetic recording tape becomes unplayable because the binder used to adhere the magnetic material to the backing or a chemical added to the binder becomes unstable. Tapes in this condition will leave a gooey residue on the tape transport. This residue is comprised mostly of the magnetic material, and playing a tape in this condition will destroy the recording without accurately playing the recorded audio.
There are many individual recipes for baking tapes. For the most part, they are all similar in their process in that they are used to dry the tape at low heat. Once a tape has been baked, it should be dubbed within 24 hours. In most cases it is possible to re-bake a tape as necessary to retrieve the audio, but this should not be a substitute for copying the material, preferably to a digital format that will preserve the audio in its highest possible quality.
Stored tape should always have a smooth wrap. Tapes stored tails out after being played will naturally have this. Tapes that have been rewound at high speed typically do not have a smooth wrap. If the tape to be baked does not have a smooth wrap, try to rewrap the tape by transferring it from one reel to another without running it through the tape guides. This is not easy to do on most tape machines. You may have to do your best with what you have and rewrap the tape after baking it.
Several methods are listed here for your reference. BE Radio makes no claim as to the suitability of any of these methods, nor is BE Radio responsible for any loss resulting from the use of these methods.
Place the tape in a convection oven for three to eight hours at very 135 degrees F to 150 degrees F. Remove the flanges from the reels to prevent melting the tape.
baking, remove tapes from the oven and allow them to cool to the control room environment for 24 hours prior to working with the tapes. This allows the tapes to cool, relieves pack stresses, gives the binders time to re-adhere to the base film, and allows residual lubricants deep in the layers of the tape to exude to the surface to make the tapes playable.
Time: 2 - 8 hours, depending on tape thickness.
Temperature: 130 degrees F, +/- 5 degrees, 10% humidity +/- 5%
After heating cycle, let stand overnight to cool and stabilize. Should be good for a month or more.
Time: 4 hours for 1/4", 7 -12 hours for greater than 1/4"
Temperature: 130 degrees F. +/- 5 degrees.
According to 3M, there is no need to worry about electric fields generated by an electric oven.
After completion of the heating cycle, allow the oven and tape to return to room temperature naturally.
Rewind the tape at normal playback tension both directions. Leave the tape tail out if it is not to be copied immediately. Otherwise, copy the tape to another medium immediately, or at least within two days. The copy playback should be done on a machine as perfectly aligned as possible.
NOTE: There is no chart that specifies a certain time/temperature for a given tape thickness or condition. Bake it for a few hours and give it a try. If there are still problems, repeat the process. You aren't trying to restore a tape -- just make it playable for a couple of passes so you can transfer the audio to a more stable medium.Be sure to use a good thermometer. Let the oven stabilize before you bake. Check the temperature every hour or so.
Food dehydrators, such as the Snackmaster Pro model FD-50 from American Harvest, can be used. This particular model has four trays, which will easily hold a reel of 1/2" tape. Thicker tapes can be baked by cutting a tray to make a sleeve.
Food dehydrators have an adjustable thermostat and a fan to circulate the air.
Your mom's tapes would need baking no matter what their storage was like. It's the tape manufacturers fault, not yours.
Places do baking for you. Don't try it yourself. Here are a few off hand:
Regarding transferring, just get your level, hit "start" and let her rip. Should sound fine once the tapes are ready to be played.
I bought a snackmaster for the purpose and I'm gratified to find that it works great! (But the tapes need to be on 10" reels with large NAB center holes). 7" reels with the standard small hole won't fit on the trays.)
A Snackmaster. Isn't that the thing they advertise on TV? Or am I thinking of something else?
I use an Easy Bake Oven myself.
(Actually RTI/AcousTech has a baking service; they also bake the record labels so they will fit more snugly on the vinyl. THAT'S NEAT!)
Out of curiousity, why can't she bake it herself?
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!!...only specifically built convection ovens can be succesfully used to bake tape...DO NOT put tapes in your kitchen oven.
It's a food dehydrator - I've seen some advertized on TV, but I'm not sure if they were the same - and it has several trays that are just dandy for 10" reels. (I bought it after reading an article in Mix Magazine about it - it's probably still available on line.) Provides temperatures cool enough not to damage the tapes, and far enough from the fan motor not to demagnetize them.
now we have the Master Tape then we need to Master it. What’s that?
mastering is…let me use an analogy that sometimes people can
understand and sometimes they can’t. Mastering is sort of like: The
Louvre in Paris, France is loaning me the Mona Lisa. OK. So they send me
the Mona Lisa and I get excited and decide to invite all of my friends
over to see it. Now, am I going to take the Mona Lisa outside and show
it in the direct sunlight so it looks all old and crackly? Or am I going
to set it up inside with the right kind of lighting. It’s all in the
presentation. That’s what I do in mastering. It’s taking the
original and polishing it so it can sound the best it can sound. And
that involves making sure that the tape is played back correctly on the
correct sounding machine. I have to make sure that all of the things on
the tape machine are taken care of and that the heads are in alignment
and all that boring stuff. And also making sure that when it’s played
the levels of the songs are relatively the same, there are no dynamic or
impedance problems, and everything is running smooth. And while that
stuff may not sound like a lot of fun, getting that stuff right is what
actually makes something sound better than it actually has before.
[The following came up on the DCC Forum concerning master tapes
since the original Bob Seger "Night Moves" CD was essentially
a flat transfer of the two track master tape with no alteration. Steve
altered it for the DCC release so I asked:]
What is the purpose of that two track master tape? Isn't that the one with the "karma" so that is what we should all want copies of just the way it is? (provided it hasn't been damaged over time so it needs restored to the way it originally sounded) Or is that simply the storage mechanism that regardless of the sound is later mastered for whatever playback medium will be sold in stores.
Using "Night Moves" LP master tape as an example:
The original Capitol CD's were mastered "flat" from the original tapes. Now, for me, that's great, because I can fix them up the way I like, with no nasty Digital EQ/No Noise to try and undo. In other words, I can "play" (like a kid in a sandbox).
I realize that for most of you, that ain't what you want to do. OK. Now, as you know, the actual master tape of "Night Moves" is mucho dull. So, even though it is the master tape, I don't like the way it sounds. They must have mixed that very very loud, or on monitors very, very bright.
On the DCC Gold CD version of "Night Moves", I just made this rather dull original tape sound more like I felt it should.
Still very important to use the actual master, but of itself, it is not always the best it can be...
Then another person on the forum followed
So...your first impulse would be to find out what gear/monitors the tape was mixed to, hook them up and go from there? Or do you just like you said, "play" until you get what you like? If the latter happens it means that you are giving us your subjective opinion. So, all these DCC fans like what all of your work sounds like JUST because you did it. Now, if I say I don't like the sound of the DCC "Elton John Greatest Hits", my subjective opinion differs from yours. So, is your opinion more right than mine?
Grant said: "So...your first impulse would be to find out what gear/monitors the tape was mixed to, hook them up and go from there? Or do you just like you said, "play" until you get what you like?"
Grant, that IS playing for me. I call it playing when I do it for fun, not work, but the idea is the same. I don't try and change someone
else's' work, I just polish it to the degree of shine that I like. Most folks seem to like it too. If someone doesn't agree, well, it's a free country of course!
But you must realize that mastering (as well as engineering) is totally subjective. I do it as part of my job (Senior VP of A&R). I also do it because I think I can improve the sound of recorded music that an engineer or producer might not have been able to originally, due to a number of reasons.
Essentially, most folks like my efforts. There could be some who don't, but I doubt he or she would post on the DCC Forum.
You mentioned that when you mastered the recent Bob Marley
compilation that you bypassed the mastering console. In another thread
you said it would be best to bypass that mastering console in the case
of the Beatles albums. So this is two-part question:
1. What is a mastering console and what does it do?
2. When would you want to use it and when wouldn't you?
I realize in your case we would be talking about an analog console and
not some Sonic Solutions console or some other DAW. Thanks.
Well I'm certainly not Steve, but this is a fairly straight ahead
question. A mastering console is basically like a recording console but
smaller and designed for mastering. It's basic function is to control
and process the source material before presenting it to the master
recording device, whether digital or analog. For stereo analog
mastering, there would generally be a couple of faders to control the
incoming level of the signal, as well as equalization, possibly
compression, and sends and returns for outboard processors. One can
bypass the console to eliminate it's effect on the signal if desired. To
do this means that the signal may have to be controlled by other means.
For example, supposed the level of the master tape is deemed too low.
Since the console is bypassed, there is no easy way to increase the
level, so the output of the playback tape deck might have to be
increased. Generally the input and output levels of studio equipment is
pre aligned and not varied. Of course, this is not a rule etched in
stone. The same would go for eq. If eq is deemed necessary by the
mastering engineer, you either have to go through the console or patch
in an outboard equalizer.
This is the same concept as bypassing the recording console in search of
better sound. Many people will take a microphone, run it through an
external preamp, and hook it right up to the tape deck, hence bypassing
the recording console. While this eliminates a lot of options for
control, it also bypasses a lot of electronic circuitry which can have a
degrading effect on the signal. Of course one has to go through the
console for mixing. When you look at a signal flow schematic for a
recording console you'd be surprised how many active components you go
through. Some consoles might have 20 amplifiers or more between mic and
tape recorder. Many audiophiles would cringe at adding 1 extra amplifier
to their systems, so you can see why the premise of console bypass has
Doug is right. Although the mastering console I use is very purist in
approach, if I don't need it, I don't use it. In the below picture you
see a bunch of stuff on the console. Normally I don't use most of it but
in the below right part you see (by Kevin's arm) four big knobs, green
and red. That is the main mastering console; left and right level
controls set up in an "A&B" configuration for easy switching between two
different volume set ups.
When I mastered the WHO'S NEXT that everyone seems to love here, I
bypassed the console at Bruce Botnick's DIGITAL MAGNETICS studio and
used the analog playback tape machine itself to set the correct levels
of the songs and I also used it to fix a few EQ problems. So, I could
get a "level corrected" and EQ'd signal directly to the A to D converter
without any other sonic manipulations. It's a pain but the end result is
sometimes worth it!
Please note that the mastering console at AcousTech sounds really
wonderful and it's just the purist in me that wants to bypass it at all.
How good does this mastering console really sound? Well, every LP and 45
RPM lacquer I've ever cut with Kevin Gray at AcousTech uses this
mastering console and I think you will agree that the disks sound pretty
there was only one artist Steve would like to be able to master…it
said, and knowing you like all kinds of music, does it matter to you
what you are mastering? In other words, are you objective or do you take
a different approach when mastering an artist you like as opposed to one
the case of a favorite group, I'll take the mix that sounds the best to
me, mono or stereo. Example: "Can't Buy Me Love", or "I
Want To Hold Your Hand". Both stereo mixes are very weak. The
mono's however, really kick ass. Amazing difference. I do find, however,
that whether I like the artist when I begin, after listening to their
work over and over, I always find SOMETHING to like about them.
approach mastering everything in the same way, actually. Music is music,
and it must sound the best it can (to me). What I do make a choice on,
is what is the actual (IMO) most important element of the song. The
drums, bass, vocal, strings, etc. I concentrate on giving the breath of
life to one thing, and, if I'm lucky, other things start to fall into
place. If I'm not lucky, I pick what I think is the most important thing
and try to work with that alone...Example: Creedence. Impossible to get
the vocals lifelike and the music lifelike because of the way most of
the things were mixed. Since the Fantasy folks chose to "crisp
up" the music/drums on their regular CD's, I chose on the DCC stuff
to make the vocals less harsh and more lifelike. To me it works, but the
percussion suffers. Oh well...
about when you do independent projects for other companies (like Razor
& Tie), do you take whatever tape they hand you or do you only do it
the Steve Hoffman way?
never use "whatever tape they give me". I always request
exactly what I want. Whether they send me the original, or I get a DAT
or an analog safety, it's always the version that I request. Never had a
problem, but I've had to send stuff back many times before I received
the correct version...
quick example: The Razor & Tie "Don Covay & The Goodtimes"
CD. Cliff and Mike gave me about two weeks to master it. A DAT was sent
to me from Razor & Tie that they had received from Atlantic.
Atlantic got some of it right, but some of the mono stuff was an obvious
"echo'd" dub. No way I'm going to use those---Don Covay
deserved better. So, I got an extension (they held back the release
date), and I got Atlantic to do some more research. Rather than waste
time, they just sent me a big pile of original tapes to go through, mono
and stereo. Took about a week, but I did the mastering and that was it.
It came out great, something to be proud of, and I could sleep at night.
I just wanted to do right by the artist, ya know? Razor & Tie were
always very good about that; allowing me my time. Geez, I didn't do
those CD's to get rich. I didn't get paid extra on the Don Covay, nor
would I have demanded it. I just did it to help the music and the
artist, or their kids.
Razor & Tie even let me pick some songs for The Beach Boys
disc....That's how "Little Saint Nick" got on there! Neat
On some projects, you can't get the
actual masters, but a good copy. What kind of copy have you used before?
Sometimes, for one reason or
another, the true first generation tape isn't available. For some Razor
& Tie stuff I used the next best thing. "Flat 30 IPS non dolby 1/2" NAB transfers of the master tapes."
This means a tape made from the master tape.
The tape is one half inch wide instead of one quarter like most tapes.
NAB is the EQ for North America.
Non-Dolby means no signal processing.
Flat means machine to machine.
30 IPS is the speed of the transfer, faster for better signal to noise.
Of course the actual master is the best,
but this is high on the list and workable.
you’re mastering, what constitutes the official length of a song?
Invariably when I listen to a song on CD (LP or single versions), the
time never matches the time listed on the label. Is there a standard or
is the time listed just an arbitrary one picked somewhere along the line
between multi-track and final product?
Well, the length of a song could change every time the song is faded
out, (a little sooner, a little later), or the written label copy is
copied from the tape box incorrectly, etc. The "official"
length of a song used to be (in the days before album long versions),
the length of the single mix, exactly on the lacquer fadeout. If the
single mix was reissued later, or an earlier version of the mix was
found with a longer fade, it was kept in sometimes, to give us whacko more of our favorite song. Thereby throwing off the official
"time". When album versions came in, things changed. What is
the "official version" of a hit song? Let's say "Light My
Fire" by The Doors. The 45 edit was the actual hit. The album
version is the version that most people heard later, after the song hit
the radio. So, which is it? I'm thankful it's not up to me....
wondering what you do as far as getting tapes played back at the right
speed. And rather than let you off easy, and have you say you match the
original LP, let's say you have two versions of an LP and they are
slightly off from each other. What do you do?
Tape speed is tricky. Did the engineers mean to speed something up or
was it an accident? That's the main issue. I have been going through
some Dobie Gray master tapes. When I got to The 'In' Crowd" and
songs like that, I saw notes in the tape boxes in engineer Larry
"One wrap", or "Two wraps", or "Three
What the heck did that mean? So, I asked him. He looked at me blankly
for a second and then his engineering partner Stan Ross chimed in:
"You remember, Larry. Masking tape!
Ah, yes. One wrap of masking tape on the cap and pinch roller sped it up
a smidgen, two wraps sped it up more, etc. So, in THAT case, I did the
same, 'cause the three-tracks were all at normal speed; too slow. In
another case, where the tape is just off due to a crappy machine, I
MIGHT correct it, if we aren't all used to hearing it that way for 30
years. I always do it with classical or jazz recordings. I use a piano I
have upstairs, or a electric pitch checker... If I have two LP's that
are slightly off, I just adjust to the actual key the music is supposed
to be in. In the case of mastering engineers adjusting speeds, that
hardly ever happens. Once in a while. It's the mixing engineer that gets
the speed the way the client wants it. Tape machines are always off from
each other. Can't be helped. In the case of the Dylan, I would have used
the stereo straight, and then I would have tried to figure out why the
mono was off. If they wanted it that way, so be it. If not, I would have
fixed it. Remember, you have a first generation tape to start with. That
is mixed once, and the speed goes off. A dub is made of that on another
machine, and the speed of the dub is off. If a dub is made of THAT copy,
well, you get the idea...
of the record companies…when it comes to requesting master tapes for
projects, are they hard to work with?
They all honestly want to make money and they are all as cooperative as
they can be for big giant corporations. We’re a small, independent
record label here in Chatsworth, California. It is a small musical
community and the majors know us because we get so much press. So they
know us and know what we’re trying to do. But, they are still big
record companies and they are dealing with what is happening
"now". What we are dealing with is what was happening
"then". And for their lawyers to stop what they are doing in
working on the most current contracts to go look up some contract in the
files from 25 years ago and trying to contact the artist that, perhaps,
they owe say $2000 in royalties to is never the first priority for them.
But they are good people and are OK with what we want to do—they
aren’t always willing to just drop everything. But, they do understand
the value of good press and so they try in their own way so we have no
1. Interview from Issues 108 and 109 of The Abso!ute Sound by David
2. THE ALL-TIME BEST BOB DYLAN RECORD? by John Bauldie
3. The Steve Hoffman Interview: DCC's Vintage Remastering Guru Sounds
Off by Ken Wait Originally published in the The 910, Volume 6, No. 4.
4. Tuesday, October 31, 2000 L.A. Life For CD guru, masters are his
domain By Fred Shuster
5. Interview with Steve Hoffman conducted on November 13, 2000 By:
Douglas Hess, Jr. WLTP Radio News in Parkersburg, WV
6. From The Absolute Sound Issue 128 Remastering the Greats: Steve
Hoffman of DCC Compact Classics by Richard Boesser
7. dcc compactclassics and www.stevehoffman.tv discussion forums (with name references
removed to protect the innocent).
to Interview page of www.netassoc.net/dougspage/
for more Steve Hoffman interviews.