Japan Sony To Release "Birds Of Fire" from Mahavishnu Orchestra/John Mclaughlin on Multichannel Hybrid SACD

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4-earredwonder

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The problem actually lies with AF's decision not to master the quad layer of their SACDs, except for in a handful of instances. A kind of orthodoxy seems to have sprung up from the Hoffman forums that says "flat transfers are the best!" and while I'd take a flat transfer over an overly-compressed / smiley-face EQed mastering, flat transfers have their own issues (which most of the AF discs exhibit) from a flat and lifeless sound (Loggins & Messina self-titled, the two Earth Wind & Fire discs) to downright muddy (Guess Who greatest hits) to channel assignment errors (Birds of Fire, and about half the tracks on the 'The Collection' V/A disc).

I have the AF version of Birds of Fire but I'd gladly re-buy this version as the Sony Japan masterings are considerably better than earlier-issued versions, from Abraxas and Beck, Bogert & Appice (compared to the DTS CDs) to the Jeff Beck Group 'orange album' (compared to the AF SACD). Aside from the channel-assignment error on the AF BoF, it also exhibits some of that lifeless sound (especially in Cobham's drums, which have almost no punch) and I hope/expect the Sony Japan mastering will remedy much of this.
Hardly surprising, Dave, since Mr. Hoffman has been pro stereo and anti surround for years. IMO, he did AF NO FAVORS .... nor in the end, US, as well!
 

ssully

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The problem actually lies with AF's decision not to master the quad layer of their SACDs, except for in a handful of instances. A kind of orthodoxy seems to have sprung up from the Hoffman forums that says "flat transfers are the best!" and while I'd take a flat transfer over an overly-compressed / smiley-face EQed mastering, flat transfers have their own issues (which most of the AF discs exhibit) from a flat and lifeless sound (Loggins & Messina self-titled, the two Earth Wind & Fire discs) to downright muddy (Guess Who greatest hits) to channel assignment errors (Birds of Fire, and about half the tracks on the 'The Collection' V/A disc).

Hah, I have listened to the AF Collection disc but rarely....which other tracks have mis-assigned channels?
 

par4ken

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In another thread I said that I wasn't going to bother with with this release as I already had the AF version. I guess that I did preorder it and just forgot! I got my shipping notice the other day. It'll be interesting if the issues with the AF release are fixed on this one. I'm really waiting on the Santana release though!
 

marpow

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I just ripped the new Japan version. I will compare the two in a bit. Any suggestion as to what is best track to compare, I don't want to make an all night thing.
 

ssully

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If phase issues corrected, Baggy is in.
There was no phase issue to begin with. The issue is front channel mix-up.

To recap from the other BoF thread
1) the front Left and Right on the original stereo (and Q8) mix has violin left, guitar right.
2) the AF quad mix front Left and Right has guitar left, violin right

and alas now I must report (from a quick check of 'Celestial Terrestrial Commuters')
3) the Japan SACD quad has guitar left, violin right, like the AF

So unless that track is an outlier, this will have to go through the front L/R swapping process. Lovely packaging though. I haven't compared the EQ to the AF's
 

par4ken

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There was no phase issue to begin with. The issue is front channel mix-up.

To recap from the other BoF thread
1) the front Left and Right on the original stereo (and Q8) mix has violin left, guitar right.
2) the AF quad mix front Left and Right has guitar left, violin right

and alas now I must report (from a quick check of 'Celestial Terrestrial Commuters')
3) the Japan SACD quad has guitar left, violin right, like the AF

So unless that track is an outlier, this will have to go through the front L/R swapping process. Lovely packaging though. I haven't compared the EQ to the AF's
Did anyone ever compare it to the original SQ mix. I guess I'll have to pull it out to see were the guitars are on that version? Then we will know that the channel swap was either intentional or the mistake was there from day one.
 

ssully

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As I mentioned above, the Q8 quad is reported to have the same layout as the original stereo mix. I would consider that more definitive than a matrixed release.

The SQ is discussed somewhere in this long thread as is my analysis of the drum pattern in 'One Word', which does a bizarre zigzag on the AF release, but forms a circle when the front channels are swapped to match the stereo mix.
 

par4ken

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As I mentioned above, the Q8 quad is reported to have the same layout as the original stereo mix. I would consider that more definitive than a matrixed release.

The SQ is discussed somewhere in this long thread as is my analysis of the drum pattern in 'One Word', which does a bizarre zigzag on the AF release, but forms a circle when the front channels are swapped to match the stereo mix.
There have been Q8's released with incorrect channel placement. I would think that the SQ mix would be the most accurate, they were monitored via an SQ decoder at the time of mixing, no real chance of swapped channels. But I'll pull it out and play/rip it to the hard drive just to see. No reason that an SQ decode would be problematic for comparison. Lf is encoded as full L and Rf as full R in SQ!
 

ssully

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- How does one determine which assignment is 'right' (in, say, the Q8)? Is it by reference to another quad format (say, the SQ), or to the original stereo mix, which is the one the artist is most likely to have personally approved? That is the key question.

- I have a Dreaming Spires decode of the SQ , and it has the AF layout*. Which doesn't prove the SQ is 'correct'; it conflicts with both the Q8 and the original mix.

-and of course, the whole drum circling vs X-crossing thing

- If the channels were crossed between output of the quad tape and encoder, --i.e.., if the encoder was fed crossed channels -- then monitoring the decode would not detect it. It would need comparison to an entirely separate monitoring of a verified-to-be-correct master quad tape output.

In any case, a swapped channel is not a huge deal if you deal with ripped files, rather than disc media and SACD hardware for playback (so old fashioned!). With files, you can just run them through MMH or do a simple channel swap in e.g. Audacity, to generate corrected files. The more interesting question is whether the Sony Japan SACD is a new mastering or is simply a copy of the AF -- i.e., same levels/EQ -- but I seem to have left my hard drive elsewhere today. So, I'll have to answer that later.





* the instrumental L/R separation is less distinct on this than on the SACDs, or on the original mix, which is not surprising, regardless of the fact that 'Lf is encoded as full L and Rf as full R in SQ '.
 
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