| 'WHY CD IS A CON', or 'THE PRESERVATION OF THE ANALOGUE INFRASTRUCTURE'
What is the essence of digital recording/reproduction?
Digital recording systems work on the principal of turning a signal
into a series of binary numbers, which are then stored for reproduction.
This system of encoding averages the input signal to minimize the
amount of data generated. It was believed that 44,100 samples per
second was a high enough resolution to sufficiently encode any music
signal without the listener being able to detect the inevitable
Analogue encoding systems work by taking the musical information
as it is and turning it directly into mechanical movements ~as in
the case of vinyl or directly into magnetic modulations (as found
on tape) which in the replay stage do not have to be decoded or
mathematically reconstructed. There is no trickery involved; what
you hear is what you had.
The scientific community has, over the past 10 years, slowly come
to the startling revelation, that there are many systems in nature
that cannot be broken down or reduced to a set of simple component
parts. This realization has overturned the prevailing paradigm of
nature which as ruled for the last 200 years. T he death of reductionism
has direct implications for the field of audio, and confirms what
everybody has been feeling and saying in private for some time about
digital music systems; the resolution obtained at 44.1khz is not
high enough to reproduce music properly.
The resolution of analogue systems however, depends on the quality
of the materials and components used in the audio chain; in the
case of vinyl, the resolution goes down to the molecular level.
It is millions of times more sensitive than any digital system that
has ever been manufactured.
Because digital systems irretrievably reduce the input musical signal
to a series of numbers that is insufficient to encode all of the
music, there is a limit to how much you can upgrade your reproduction
system (hi fi) to obtain a better sound. No matter how much money
you spend, the original musical signal can never be retrieved belong
the fidelity at which the encoding took place. With analogue recording
however, the amount which you can gain is enormous. I he molecular
resolution of analogue tape and vinyl facilitate this upward mobility,
and even if you don't choose to upgrade your equipment, the quality
of the signal is still preserved in your recordings, if you should
ever desire to take advantage of it. Digital denies you this potential.
What's happening in the studios: engineers reactions
Studio engineers are consistently confirming that digital systems
do not measure up under close scrutiny. At a world famous audio
mastering facility which specializes in the preparation of lacquers
and PQ encoded tapes tot CD production, the verdict has been that
digital must be treated with extreme caution. At this facility,
the production of masters is carried out from many different sources;
DAT, Sony PCM 701, analogue tape @ 15ips and 30ips, 1630 U-Matic
and Cassette. The Monitoring systems that this studio employs are
among the finest in the world, custom built and calibrated by hand
by an audio genius. Constant exposure to different kinds of music,
heard through an exceptional reproduction system, from different
source tapes, has given these engineers the experience to be able
to judge audio. Here is the testimony of one of their senior engineers.
There appears to be an unquestioning
attitude to digital audio. It is generally and wrongly accepted
that digital recorders provide a true to original sound, however
there are many variables that can drastically alter the audio signal
and there is a widespread ignorance to the various permutations.
On the simplest level, one finds that comparable DAT players of
different makes have markedly different sounds. The variety of digital
interfaces also gives rise to further differences. The idea that
a digital copy is an exact copy of the original music is simply
not correct. One can look at all of the variables and reach a good
compromise but manufacturers still have a long way to go. There
is also a growing feeling that the digital sound is conditioning
people to accepting the digital sound as the TRUE sound whereas
in reality digital systems impart a texture to the sound which is
invariably 'restricted' and 'stifled' as opposed to 'open' and 'breathing'.
Sound engineers seem to be subconsciously working around the problem,
working towards a compromise that 'sounds good on digital'.
The analogue infrastructure
The knowledge gained in the manufacture and operation of analogue
recording systems is invaluable and irreplaceable. Research and
development into further improving the near perfect world of analogue
audio reproduction has virtually stopped, due to the destructive
influence of digital. It is not only the patents and designs that
must be carried into the future, but also the personal expert knowledge
of engineers, gained over many years, which must survive; knowledge
which can never be replaced once lost - the knowledge of what quality
to expect from the best possible analogue reproduction system.
Digital computing is only an evolutionary step in the development
of computers. There exists today, the working components of a new
type of analogue computer which will revolutionize computing, and
make digital computing obsolete. With the establishment of analogue
computing, all tasks that are now being handled by digital computers
will be switched to analogue computers, including the recording
and reproduction of music. Much experience has been gained in the
field of optical discs. High density optical discs will, without
doubt, be a major resource for data storage and retrieval when analogue
computers come on line. I he advantages of optical disc storage
(when the disadvantages of digital encoding are stripped away) are
many; durability, pitch stability, low distortion and track numbering
to name a few. When these advantages are combined with the perfection
of analogue encoding, we will have a system of playback and recording
with a quality beyond all expectations. Such a system however will
be of no use to anyone if the analogue infrastructure has been dismantled,
and there is no one left who knows first hand what real, true to
life audio sounds like.
The mass destruction of masters
For the moment, digital is here with us, and a terrible price is
being paid. l he entire history of recorded sound and music is being
systematically 'saved' into digital formats . . . at 44.1 khz. This
disaster is taking place because of the life span of recording tape;
the glues that have been used to bind the magnetic material to the
flexible substrate of most recording tape have been found to be
decomposing, putting at risk most of the master tapes that have
been recorded in the last 50 years. In what seemed like a sensible
move, all of these master tapes have been scheduled for saving to
digital; (also, conveniently, this ties in with the re-releasing
of the back catalogues of most record companies onto CD) I. What
nobody bothered to tell these companies, is that digital sounds
like shit; and so, thinking that they have permanently saved their
masters, the record companies are THROWING AWAY their original analogue
master tapes. . . to save space. When the penny drops it w ill be
too late. All of~our favorite music will be lost forever in a quanitized
quagmire of brittle, cold, shitty sound, and for no good reason,
because analogue machines could just as easily be used to preserve
The proper place for CD
CDs are very useful, just as cassettes are useful; they have a place
in the audio chain, and should be used and sold; BUT NOT TO THE
EXCLUSION OF ANY OTHER FORMAT, and certainly not to the exclusion
of vinyl, which is the best mass produced reproduction carrier ever
Who's in control?
You have to wonder how this sham has continued for so long, and
of course, we all know who is behind this insane state of affairs.
The audio equipment manufacturers have realized that if they design
and manufacture the hardware i.e. CD players, mini-disc, l)CC, they
must control the manufacture of the software I music) to ensure
that their investment in time and R&D pays off. Sony learned
this the hard way, with the failure of Betamax; it failed because
there was no software available to watch; they tried to push the
system, licensing movies from film companies at huge cost, but it
was too late. NOW Sony owns Columbia Pictures, and every picture
they have ever made, so if they want to launch any type of new hardware
to play movies, the availability of software will be no problem,
no matter how good or bad the system is; they can even release films
on reels of spaghetti if they want to. Sony also own CBS records
and the CBS back catalogue. Phillips own Phonogram and A&M.
This is a terrible situation, not only because the production of
music is in the hands of a small number of giant companies that
are also the exclusive manufacturers of all audio equipment, but
because these companies are deaf to sound quality, due to their
need to launch more and more new playback formats. Mixed with the
profits to be made from re releasing hijacked back catalogues, the
resulting brew is poisonous; companies that profit from reissuing
old music again and again into a never ending stream of different
and inferior devices to a public addicted to electronic novelty.
GOD SAVE US ALL.
It's not too late
Most of the engineers and companies involved in the production of
analogue recording systems still exist and are working. If we stop
the digital disease now, music and sound in all of its intricacy
will be saved for everyone. Keep buying turntables and vinyl records.
Keep buying cassettes. Boycott any release that is on CD only for
no good reason. Make sure that the labels you buy from are not controlled
by the manufacturers of music systems. It is the only way we are
going to save sound.
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A MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLIC SERVICE INFORMATION DEPARTMENT OF IRDIAL-DISCS
Our new motto: Analogue Adored. Digital Deplored.
Copyright 1992, Irdial-Discs.
Po Box 424