Direct to disc recording


Direct to disc recording

Direct to disc recording refers to sound recording methods which bypass the use of magnetic tape recording and directly onto disc master; and record albums made using this process.

The term may refer also to modern video camcorders that are tapeless camcorders that allow users to record directly to other media including flash memory, optical disc recording technologies and hard drives.

Contents

Professional analogue sound recording

In order to make the recording, musicians would typically play one fifteen minute "live" set in a recording studio per side of LP using professional audio equipment. It would be made without the use of multitrack recording, and without overdubs. The performance would have to be carefully engineered, and mixed live in stereophonic sound. During performance, the cutting head engages the master lacquer used for pressing LP records, and is not stopped until the entire side is complete.

A recording may be simultaneously recorded onto a two-track master tape for subsequent pressing in the traditional manner, and although such tapes were often made to preserve the recordings in case the direct to disc process failed, or discs became damaged before the final product could be produced, direct to disc albums were almost never re-issued as standard albums made from tape masters.

Advantages

From the musicians' point of view, the advantages of direct to disc recording are a greater immediacy and interaction among the players. Technically, it gives rise to a cleaner recording through the elimination of up to 4 generations of master tapes, overdubs, and mix downs from multi-tracked masters. Conversion of the signal into digital form and its reconversion into analogue may be avoided, although some modern disc cutting equipment makes this step mandatory.

The method also bypasses problems inherent in recording tape: tape hiss, wow and flutter, and limited dynamic range.

Disadvantages

Although the spontaneity of performance is preserved, no overdubbing or editing is possible. It becomes more challenging for the musicians, engineers and producers, whose performances will be captured "warts and all". In the event of aborted sides, expensive lacquers are wasted and cannot be used again. According to Robert Auld of the Audio Engineering Society: "It was a notoriously difficult way to record; the musicians and all concerned had to record a complete Lp side without any serious musical or technical mistakes."[1]

Some artists also maintain that musical instruments may drift out of tune: it is not possible to keep musical instruments in tune for the length of the LP side.[2]

Albums and Public Reception

Most sound recording for records, prior to the 1950s, was made by cutting directly to disc. Recording via magnetic tape became the industry standard around the time of the creation of the LP format in 1948, and these two "revolutions" are often seen as being joined, although 78 rpm records, cut from tape masters, continued to be manufactured for another decade.

In the late 1970s, Direct to disc albums began to appear on the market, and were one of several short-lived attempts at establishing a market for audiophile editions, coming between the quadraphonic era of the early 1970s, and the various half-speed master, DMM (Direct Metal Mastering), Dolby encoded, and dbx encoded records of the 1980s.

Promoters of direct to disc recording believed consumers would be willing to pay more for high quality pressings. But many of these records ended up being sold at double the price of normal albums, resulting in poor sales.

Because of the limited number of copies that could be made, the format was shunned by established artists, and mainly used by obscure or unknown artists. Most of these albums could be classed as vanity records, and were not well promoted. Music genres included jazz, acoustic folk, classical (small ensembles or soloists), and alternative rock groups with a non-commercial sound.

Another turn-off for consumers was the short playing time. To reduce the risk of a technical glitch in the disc cutting process, sides were rarely more than 15 minutes in length, and could be as short as 10 minutes. When this problem was combined with the records' high sales prices, they were regarded as poor quantity for the money.

References

External links


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