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Old 08-14-2019, 03:38 PM
Mgrenwick Mgrenwick is offline
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Default Master Tapes: Can someone explain this

Hello all. I was wondering if someone can shed some light on "master tapes".
For instance, when Pink Floyd was in the studio in 1978/79 working on The Wall what all was produced? In my mind all the EQ etc is imprinted at the time of recording and what you end up with in a master of the complete album. Or do they have tape of all the tracks without any processing? Do they even have the master tape, and if so, is it still in good condition? I'm just trying to get my head around how we go from a 1979 UK 1st pressing from the original tape to the pressings coming out today.

Thanks!
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:53 PM
rnrmf1971 rnrmf1971 is offline
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I can't speak to "The Wall" in particular and realistically, "original tapes" is used kind of loosely.

But I think the very simplified version of the process is...

During recording, all the different recorded channels (instrumentation, vocals, etc.) are mixed down to L/R stereo (on tape, in the computer, etc). It has the effects as the artist, engineer, and producers intended.

That's made for every song. This can be called the mixdown master, the pre-master, unmastered, and maybe by other names.

The tape (or digital files) of all the songs are sent to the mastering engineer that puts final polish on it and gets it ready for each format it's destined to be on.

When something comes out today, the insinuation is that the pre-master is remastered again.
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Old 08-21-2019, 10:32 PM
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FreddieFerric FreddieFerric is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mgrenwick View Post
Hello all. I was wondering if someone can shed some light on "master tapes".
For instance, when Pink Floyd was in the studio in 1978/79 working on The Wall what all was produced? In my mind all the EQ etc is imprinted at the time of recording and what you end up with in a master of the complete album. Or do they have tape of all the tracks without any processing? Do they even have the master tape, and if so, is it still in good condition? I'm just trying to get my head around how we go from a 1979 UK 1st pressing from the original tape to the pressings coming out today.

Thanks!
Well, big question. PF recorded at Abbey Road in those years. I don't know for certain, but I suspect the master tape was 2" 24 track tape. What type of Eq'ing was applied at the time the masters were made we'll probably never know without inside info from the original recording engineers.

As to the condition,... bear in mind that there is only 1 true master and probably a couple of safety copies of the original master tape.

FWIW, Jon Anderson (of Yes and Vangelis fame) is interviewed in the current Stereophile magazine. In the interview he speaks of some old tapes that he made many years ago with a few other artists. He was asked recently about their whereabouts which he produced from his garage and sent them on to the studio. There they were properly baked and according to Jon, sounded fabulous after nearly 30 years of less than ideal storage conditions.

So, while magnetic tape is fragile, it's also quite durable. Every studio that recorded direct to tape had its own magic formula to apply. Some hit it spot on and some missed it by a mile.
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Last edited by FreddieFerric; 08-21-2019 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 08-22-2019, 03:19 PM
Soundmig Soundmig is online now
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There are several different versions that are called (rightly or wrongly) "masters". The multi-track master (generally 2" x 24 track) is the original tape from the recording session wherein the individual instruments and voices were laid down in synchronous fashion at one or more studio (or location) venues. There is very often (virtually always) a certain amount of EQ and compression applied individually on each track's feed so as to get the signal "on tape" as per the engineer's best judgement. Once the multi-track tape (which can be 24, 16 or even 48 tracks) is "laid down" then the 2 track "mix-down" tape is made via mixing sessions with the producer, engineer and sometimes artists in the control room making decisions on levels, EQ, effects, compression, etc. applied to each track and to the stereo signal outgoing to the "mixdown" 2 track deck (analog or digital). This is frequently called the "master tape". This mixdown master is then sent to a mastering lab where a mastering engineer makes broad stroke decisions as to how the mixdown tape should be EQ'd and or compressed to create the "master" (analog or digital or both) from which copies will be made (vinyl and or digital copies).

The multi-track master is often brought out of the vaults years later to do a new mixdown (now called a re-mix) 2 track tape or digital file. The re-mix is then "mastered" again at a mastering lab for final decisions on overall EQ and possibly compression. This master is used to make the copies from. These re-mixed and re-mastered versions are generally issued as "re-mastered" releases. Although a "re-mastered" release could simply be a different "master" (new EQ and other processing) cut off of the original Mixdown tape or file.
Sorry for rambling, but I hope this helps :-)
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