Elvis in Memphis Q8 - What the heck happened here?

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Q-Eight

2K Club - QQ Super Nova
Since 2002/2003
Joined
Sep 30, 2003
Messages
3,709
Location
Castlegar, BC, Canada
So, you know me always playing the revisionist historian here but I've been playing with this album trying to figure out what happened.

Firstly, the channels are all over the place. I've found the best is to put the two channels with the loudest bass in the front and the two channels with the loudest drums in the rear. This sort of jives with the early RCA cartridges, like the Guess Who's with bass in the front, drums out back.

But there's still something wrong, I wish I could show a picture of it from Audition, but it's so minute, I can't really show it visually. But the channels are out of sync! Not by much, but enough that:

A) It's very noticeable as there is no really defined phantom center channel
B) since the vocals are in all channels, there's no phase cancellation.

I think B) is the smoking gun. My speculative theory is that during duplication, not only did they mess the channel assignments up, they may have had some weird phasing issue. Delaying (what were essentially, NOW) the rear channels by 6 milliseconds killed that issue. But in the process, they cocked the whole bloody thing up! Like I said, 6 milliseconds is hard to show graphically. But by trying every trick in the book with this album, delaying certain channels by exactly .006 seconds made the vocals sound correct and emanate from a phantom center channel!

Through this process, I've also noticed some songs with ample instrumentation go four-corner discrete. Other songs that are more sparse still keep the drums and bass in the center channels, but go for the classic RCA "four-walls" style with say, backup girls in both lefts and strings in both rights.

One song I did have to invert the rear channels completely to stop a phasing issue..... like I said, this album is all over the place. But, I believe I'm on the right track to cracking it's code!

Elvis_Offset.jpg
 
So, you know me always playing the revisionist historian here but I've been playing with this album trying to figure out what happened.

Firstly, the channels are all over the place. I've found the best is to put the two channels with the loudest bass in the front and the two channels with the loudest drums in the rear. This sort of jives with the early RCA cartridges, like the Guess Who's with bass in the front, drums out back.

But there's still something wrong, I wish I could show a picture of it from Audition, but it's so minute, I can't really show it visually. But the channels are out of sync! Not by much, but enough that:

A) It's very noticeable as there is no really defined phantom center channel
B) since the vocals are in all channels, there's no phase cancellation.

I think B) is the smoking gun. My speculative theory is that during duplication, not only did they mess the channel assignments up, they may have had some weird phasing issue. Delaying (what were essentially, NOW) the rear channels by 6 milliseconds killed that issue. But in the process, they cocked the whole bloody thing up! Like I said, 6 milliseconds is hard to show graphically. But by trying every trick in the book with this album, delaying certain channels by exactly .006 seconds made the vocals sound correct and emanate from a phantom center channel!

Through this process, I've also noticed some songs with ample instrumentation go four-corner discrete. Other songs that are more sparse still keep the drums and bass in the center channels, but go for the classic RCA "four-walls" style with say, backup girls in both lefts and strings in both rights.

One song I did have to invert the rear channels completely to stop a phasing issue..... like I said, this album is all over the place. But, I believe I'm on the right track to cracking it's code!

View attachment 43804
What version of AA are you using?
 
Does the 0.006 delay affect the whole tape, or even that is on a track-by-track basis?
 
Quite a mess... please keep the good work.
 
Revisiting this album using cleaner than Q8 source files, I began to notice a pattern.

elvisQ8.jpg


Now, the Green coloured files are in their, let's say "as arrived" layout. The Blue files, I had to re-organize to match the others.

BUT, if we play the green files as they appeared on the Q8 Track 1 is FL, Track 2 is FR, Track 3 is Back Left and Track 4 is Back Right. But with that track layout, we get drums in Front Left and Back Right with Bass in the Front Right and Back left positions. Slightly unusual considering the American Sound sessions from whence these songs came were recorded on 8-track equipment. Bass & Drum were recorded on their own tracks but monaurally.

But what if the Master Tape is mislabelled or not labelled at all? We've been told such is the case from some other RCA titles.


So, humour me for a moment and let's play "Reassign the Tracks".

What if the person who did the Master Mixdown laid out his tracks as Track 1- Back Left, Track 2 - Front Left, Track 3 - Front Right and Track 4 Back Right?
If we follow this layout, then the Green tracks are in their correct positions and this gives us Bass guitar front center, Drums Back center.

I only had to change the four Blue tracks to make them match the rest of the album. It may have been intentional though that these tracks were just daring to be different and flip the arrangement to have drums in front, bass in back. If I re-arrange them to have the 1,2,3,4 layout then that's exactly what happens except with "I'll hold you in my heart" But, that song has sparse instruments and I believe it was intended to make that one Elvis in center, drums to the left and bass to the right. Sort of Super Stereo.

I believe the same mistake was done for the Japanese CD-4 as it too features the funky cross-channel parts. I strongly believe that either this albums Quad Master Tape is mislabelled or not labelled at all and to whomever receives it for duplication is simply assuming a channel layout.
 
In short:
1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11: Track 1- Back Left, Track 2 - Front Left, Track 3 - Front Right and Track 4 Back Right
2, 3, 10, 12: ????
 
2, 3, 10, 12 just swap the fronts for the rears if you want the whole album to follow the bass front/drums rear layout. That might not be the original intent, but makes the most sense to me.
 
This idea seems to work on other RCA titles. Been playing with Papa Nez's "Loose Salute" over last night and it works for the whole album. The old FL channel becomes the Back Left. FR changes to FL. BL to FR. Back Right is the only channel in correct location.

This makes the drums appear in the front channel for the whole album and the back corner become home to the guitars, etc. Loose Salute may have had it's channel levels played with during duplication as well. The new Back Left channel gets 2db of power removed while the new Front Left gets +3db. Some songs need Back Right to get +1db just to center things in the rear. A little bit of EQ to brighten things helps. It seems that drums were recorded to two tracks on this albums multi, kicker and kit. With the new right channel in place, Kicker is very front center with the kit sloped a little to the right. But there is drum echo on the left creating this narrow stereo spread of drums. It's quite ingenious, actually when you think about it. Vocals, bass and kicker are in the center, drums have this really groovy narrow stereo spread with the kit to the right and it's echo to the left. This leaves whatever instruments that appear in the BL and BR channels in the front corners panned hard, and at lesser power.

With the channels correct and some EQ applied.... it's not such a bad mix. It's not a Larry Keyes style, 4-corner, balls-out mix.... but it does open things up a bit.
 
That's really a good thing to know. It may be that when passing from studio mixing->4 channel master tape to the duplication plant there were some different policies on how to set up the 4 channels so the things mixed up. Something worth a try, i suppose, on others older RCA titles to check out how things comes out.
 
Some of this could be that tape head gaps are not all aligned the same way. This is especially true if the tape was recorded on one machine and played on another.
 
Some of this could be that tape head gaps are not all aligned the same way. This is especially true if the tape was recorded on one machine and played on another.

Nah. It's pretty much the typical GRT swapped channel issue. Whomever made the master mixdown tape didn't label the box and those at the duplication plant just assumed that the track layout was typical when it was not. Maybe the Elvis originally had some head alignment issue because from the Q8, that tape had some strange phase problems. This new source had no phase issues but still suffered improper channel layout. I think it can really all be summed up with the phrase "Typical 1970's quality control."
 
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