Recently, there has been quite a bit of online chatter about the “analogness” of some record pressings. There are several parties involved at this point, but the basic breakdown is that somehow there was some assumption (either by accident or implied by some pressing labels) that special release re-issues, which usually cost quite a bit more than the originals, were pulled from directly from analog tapes – and no sort of digital step could land in between that process.
This has led to a multitude of confusion and some hurt feelings along the way. But over the course of interviews with mastering engineer and PartTimeAudiophile writer Dave McNair, it has become apparent that certain realities for the industry almost require that some digital tinkering take place along the signal path for the sound quality to be its best. You can see more of Dave McNair’s direct writing on the subject – but also worthy of note was this interview he did on “How records are Made” with The Occasional Podcast.
Along with a detailed description of what it really takes to bring an album to life on the very finicky vinyl medium, Dave really cuts to the chase regarding the whole “straight to tape” promise. He eludes that very few of his vinyl mastering clients actually utilize it in these modern times. In the comments section of the PTA post, he elaborates even further.
I have a one or two clients that still send tape and I love to work from that format. But from my vantage point it’s about the same ratio to digital as film camera users to digital camera users – maybe even less.
This of course, is only representative of the work that Dave McNair receives from his client base and doesn’t necessarily present the same process as some of the parties involved in the online melee at the moment – but it does perhaps shed some light on the possibilities. If you are interested in learning more, I highly suggest you check out the episode yourself in its entirety. There are more than a few interesting nuggets of production surprises hidden in the conversation.