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ANALOGUE VINYL RECORDS

Though it may sound incredible to many, for the true LP connoisseur it is a self-evident truth: The classic vinyl LP can convey details of sound and music that a CD cannot reproduce. For this reason, we have now started to offer vinyl. Our ingenious combination of the best analog and digital technologies from 50 years of audio technology results in analog audio media with extraordinary qualities.

ACO-LP-20607_Schosta_b200ACO-LP-20908_Schehe_b200These records are issued under the product name ARTISTIC FIDELITY | REFERENCE RECORDING, providing a reference for reproductive fidelity to the artistic performance in front of the microphone. You can find out more further down or go directly to the catalog:

ARTISTIC FIDELITY | REFERENCE RECORDING

The vinyl record as a contemporary medium for culture-conscious music lovers

While some people are actually speaking seriously about the impossibility of hearing the differences between mp3 and CD and the music industry – conforming with the mainstream – is increasingly being deformed into a kind of "constant stream of sound to cover the silence" another community of listeners is forming for whom the sound carrier still represents a piece of culture and for whom listening to music is still seen as a special form of enjoyment. For audiophile hi-fi fans there is absolutely no question which medium represents the measure of all things. It is precisely these people who are currently causing a real renaissance for the good old vinyl record; just as much for its acoustic advantages as for its external appearance and the particular attraction of the apparatus on which it is played.

The CD marched to victory 25 years ago because it had some very tempting advantages from a superficial point of view. Some people always knew it but others – also including the younger generation who grew up only with CDs – are now re-discovering it: canned music can transport much more than we are accustomed to from the CD. This is true both for musical, artistic aspects and for matters of sound technology. The LP can transfer many more of the finest details of an artistic performance at the microphone and can therefore give the listener a far more intensive listening experience than a CD ever could. We must also never forget the lure that is emitted by the apparatus used to play the music, which is usually very aesthetically pleasing, the ‘celebration’ involved in placing a record on the turntable and, most importantly, the value that is expressed by the size and the design of a well-made record sleeve. The vinyl record in its entirety is simply a medium that awakens the emotions.

A development process

From around 1998 onwards ACOUSENCE was one of the companies at the forefront when digital technology finally entered into a stage of development with the introduction of 96 kHz technology in which it could be a real alternative to the best, professional, analogue recording technology. In the meantime, almost a decade later, there is no longer any question that the latest digital recording technology with double or quadruple sampling rate of 96kHz or 192kHz is superior to even the best analogue studio technology in every way and the achievable master quality has thus increased enormously.

Time, however, seems to have been at a standstill for 25 years with regard to consumer sound carriers. At ACOUSENCE it is, therefore, an everyday occurrence to observe how a substantial portion of the quality in the High Definition Master is lost on the sound carrier CD. Because we only convert to CD format at the very end of the production process our CDs do profit clearly from the high resolution studio technology – this is how these CDs display a really impressive spectrum of colour and high artistic and emotional potential – but we still have the desire to also transport the remaining facets of the master to our clients. Recent attempts by the industry to establish high resolution sound carriers such as SACD and DVD-Audio have not been widely accepted for various reasons: SACD is very problematic because of its sound in comparison to the analogue standard and DVD-Audio is rather the victim of a marketing error in the shadow of DVD-Video.

The situation today

Today there still remains a seemingly not so small group of people, the size of which appears to be increasing steadily, who are not willing to accept high-speed mass consumption via the ‘super-practical’ mp3 download as the future for all music consumers. These, obviously still particularly culture-conscious music fans are now looking more and more to the classic vinyl record. The largest group manifests itself – at least in the classical music sector – in strong demand for productions from the golden age of analogue recording technology from the end of the 1950s until the late 1970s, both second hand and as a current pressing. The direction that this demand is taking is surely partly related to a certain nostalgia but it is also partly inspired by the fantastic artistic quality of these old recordings. Since the introduction of digital technology and the CD this quality has been achieved increasingly rarely, approximately to the extent to which the budgets and the perceived value of the production process are diminishing.

Technical development versus music

An important aspect in technical terms is that CDs, including those with industry standard digital technology involving a 48 kHz sampling rate, disregard important capacities of the human auditory perception system (see next side). The technology was introduced in the 1980s primarily for reasons relating to the politics of the market. It has its own undoubted advantages and has indeed so far also acquired many satisfied customers. However it was not a true enhancement compared to analog technology and the LP, but – if we disregard for a moment the handier design and lower background noise – rather the opposite. Particularly in terms of musical potential proper it has even been a retrograde step.

The real evolution: ARTISTIC FIDELITY | REFERENCE RECORDING

As already stated there is, on the other hand, also a real evolution in audio technology and today’s digital technology is far better than its reputation in audiophile circles. In the end the real, future-oriented solution for LP fans cannot be to always be forced to fall back on older recordings.

At ACOUSENCE we therefore came up with the idea of manufacturing real, new productions of the good old LP using the very latest technical developments. In doing this there were to be no ideologically initiated prohibitions on thinking or purism at any price. Beyond the nostalgia of old recordings, which really is sometimes a bit romantically glorified, the LP should prove that it has the potential to become one of the most modern sound carriers in the best possible sense. Only the LP can transport the master quality that we are able to achieve with a sophisticated combination of the best technologies from the past 50 years of audio technology to the listener; seasoned with all the popular characteristics of a good, old, analogue record. A plea for a real future for the LP, which continues to be the best sound carrier, and also a plea for the sound carrier as a cultural artefact in its own right.

At the end of a process of approximately one year of preparation and optimisation we now have our first sample. The record will be released as part of our LIVING CONCERT SERIES, which is already established on CD but it will have the additional designation ARTISTIC FIDELITY | REFERENCE RECORDING, and it now really opens up whole new dimensions of music enjoyment: with a distinctly sonorous sound, majestic dynamics and rousing musical intensity.
Its content offers symphonic music of the highest quality: Dmitri Shostakovich’s 15th symphony in a recording with the Duisburg Philharmonic under Jonathan Darlington. The production was carried out, as with all the recordings in the LIVING CONCERT SERIES, under live conditions. This guarantees the highest possible level of genuineness, spontaneity and emotional expression. The performers prove their international class both artistically and technically.

Diagrams

These diagrams illustrate the technical superiority of the LP and therefore also provide a good illustration of the audible differences: (please click for a larger view):

Schosta15tuttiSatz2_Master260

 

x-axis = time axis / y-axis = frequency axis / colour = level (white = loud / black = quiet)

The diagram on the left shows the frequency distribution of the original master at 192kHz/24Bit.

 

 

Schosta15tuttiSatz2_LP260The diagram on the right shows the signal that was re-recorded digitally, played by the LP. It is easy to see that the LP is capable of reproducing even the highest frequencies. Overall the playback on the LP is almost identical to the original!

 

 

As a comparison here is the CD playback:

Schosta15tuttiSatz2_CD260

 

On the CD the high frequency portions, from which our hearing can deduce the finest detailed information, are totally cut off.

 

 

 

These three diagrams show the grand tutti of the 2nd movement of our Shostakovich recording.

Background information on the production process

ARTISTIC FIDELITY is the name of the transmission system developed by ACOUSENCE that combines the best technologies in 50 years of audio recording, whether analogue or digital, into a pioneering complete product. At the end of the process the classic vinyl LP remains as the ideal medium for sound and musicality. The ARTISTIC FIDELITY LP is a very modern sound carrier in the best sense that sets new standards for high quality enjoyment of music and does this with the all the popular characteristics of the analogue record.

ARTISTIC FIDELITY in detail

The recordings are always made in concert halls with performers of the highest quality and usually in live conditions in order to obtain both artistically high quality results and a degree of intensity and atmosphere in front of the microphone.

The technical transfer chain begins with the best microphones, be they tubes or transistors, with or without transducer, but simply the right one for each purpose. The amplification of the microphone signals is carried out by a microphone amplifier that we have developed ourselves and that has the highest musical precision. The multi-track recording is made digitally in 192kHz/24Bit. Direct Metal Mastering (DMM) is used to cut the LP. This is now clearly the superior technological process with regard to detail resolution, fine dynamics, overall dynamics and signal to noise ratio thanks to the highest copper quality and it therefore transfers the quality of the sound and musicality of the master onto vinyl in the best possible way.

Analogue signal transfer and digital recording

Analogue technology is used at the decisive nodes in the production process, the conversion of the airborne noise into electrical power using the microphones and the microphone amplifier, the creation of the sound and the final musical result at the mixing desk and the cutting of the LP master because this technology is still superior in these processes.

The recording of the electrical signals, on the other hand, should join these nodes together in the most ideal manner. The recording is ideal if the playback delivers an exact copy of the signal from the recording. The latest digital technology at high sampling rates of 96kHz or even 192kHz allows the achievement of this ideal more perfectly than the best analogue tape recorder ever could, even under optimal working conditions. Conventional sampling rates of 48kHz or even 44,1kHz are, however, absolutely taboo as these rates already mean a first stage of data reduction and would therefore reduce the final LP product to absurdity.

The converters, which convert the analogue vibrations into digital signals, were selected in extensive listening tests and behave ideally in this sense. The format 96kHz/24Bit is actually sufficient in order to store the information of each individual microphone, but in the meantime it has been extended to 24/192, too. At the analogue mixing desk the various individual signals are then combined to a higher information density, which is why the format 192KHz/24Bit is solely used for the stereo master from the very beginnig. In the end this delivers exactly the same initial signal as the analogue mixing desk even with the most complex, highest quality, analogue initial signals.

The cutting machine for the LP thus receives the sum of the initial signal from the microphone almost without recording loss. Analogue tape, on the other hand, could provide interesting sound effects but would substantially falsify the recorded signal.

ACOUSENCE – the acoustic experience

We have now created a sound carrier that is completely faithful to our label philosophy ‘music as an acoustic experience’: the intensity and atmosphere of the best music paired with an unbelievably vivid and natural reproduction of the sound corpus in a space, great dynamics and the particular appeal of the black disk, but above all else the highest level of artistic fidelity.

ARTISTIC FIDELITY | REFERENCE RECORDING – the new reference point in vinyl!

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