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Want To Make High Quality Copy Of Rare Demo

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Hello everyone,

 

My name is Colin. I'm this guy from Victoria, BC. I'm a moderate fan of Good's music, but I'm a fairly major fan of the 15 Hours on a September Thursday demos. I used to have every song, then there was a broken window in my car and my computer went missing. Now I have all but the song Blue Birds. But I'm not really interested in finding that song and downloading it, because all the songs are in .mp3 format, which isn't as super as having the original cassette tape. (Actually I've been looking but that album isn't around anymore, and I couldn't find it on this site's store either).

 

I talk a lot.

 

But I don't really want the cassette either. Ultimately I want to make a copy of one of those original demo tapes with my Macbook, recording at 192KHz, 32bit, in order to preserve the sound as much as possible.

 

What am I saying, then?

 

I guess I'm asking if there is anyone who knows of anyone who lives near me who owns an original 15 Hours demo tape that is in good condition -taking breath- who would be kind enough to let me copy the tape to a lossless digital format. I would be using Audacity software, my 2009 Macbook and a high quality Nakamichi cassette deck. The resulting files will be several gigabytes and preserved in my iTunes library as Apple lossless, but will also be on a nice shiny dvd disc.

 

I would love to throw money around, but being relatively poor, this isn't likely to be a paid operation. Except of course that I will make a copy of the audio files on dvd disc for the donor of the cassette. Also I am not looking to keep the cassette, I just want to preserve it's contents and keep a copy of the digital recordings. That means I'd be playing it once while the computer is recording, then go in and split all the songs into different tracks, enter the appropriate information into the tags such as band members, artist, track, lyrics and picture. I'll probably be able to sweeten the sound a bit for another, separate copy of the recording made, by reducing background tape hiss. I have experience with this - I recorded dozens of rare out-of-print classical albums the same way with a Rega Planar 3 turntable. I reduced the background rumble (not too much, that way the sound of the musical instruments doesn't change) then I went in and removed all the little clicks and pops one at a time by hand. A long process, but well worth it as the sound was beautiful. They were mostly old Dutch Philips records, very well recorded.

 

Cassettes die - none of my Glass Tiger, Eurythmics or INXS cassettes are playable anymore. The Men at Work album Cargo is almost dead. I don't want 15 Hours on a September Thursday to die too! Especially since it wasn't released hundreds of thousands of times like the other albums were. Besides, I'd really like to have the highest quality copies we can make instead of the nasty little .mp3s I have now.

 

 

Other than all that, gotta say it's nice you folks exist. I like the site as I've seen it so far. I know it's been useful many times over the years for lyrics ;) Thank you all for reading my novel. Hopefully there will be a miraculous connection with someone here and we'll be able to preserve these great songs :angry:

 

-C

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i don't think you're going to get much better quality than it already is. you can record it into whatever format you want, but the original source material is only so good. it's likely a 4-track recording and whether it is in mp3, or flac, or wav, you'll likely end up with the same sound in a bigger file.

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I understand what you're saying. It seems to be the norm for people to think that the sound of tape can't be improved upon any more than by copying with mp3 format. I can tell the files are mp3, the treble has a distinct warble and hallow quality. The original recording is heavy on the treble anyway, so listening to an mp3 version of treble is really no where near what it is to hear the original tape. Lo-fidelity as it may be, it's still better than mp3.

 

As far as the tape being four channel, that is not the case. Perhaps the original recording session incorporated multiple tracks separately, but the demonstration tapes are definitely either mono or stereo. Otherwise only two channels would play anyway as cassette players only use one half of the tape at a time.

 

Incidentally, remember that the two drawbacks to tape as far as sound quality is concerned are background noise and a relatively small dynamic range. Even the lowly cassette format has a much higher, more accurate and more pleasant frequency response than compact discs, which do not reach the claimed 20KHz. Indeed if you were to do a little experimentation yourself you would see that the 44.1KHz sample rate at 15bit depth (not 16 as claimed due to error correction) is only capable of reproducing sounds up to about 12KHz with any reasonable accuracy at all. Sounds much higher than this are lost to jagged lines that look like a connect-the-dots zigzag, and it sounds like it.

 

I wouldn't be searching for someone with a tape to copy if it didn't matter. I've recorded from many tape, vinyl and other digital sources before - mp3 is very much out-dated and, frankly so will cd format.

 

In your defense most people don't care about the details as much as I seem to. This is kind of an important endeavor though, I think. To preserve the music from this tape. It's a lot to ask of anyone, to collaborate in this way, but the reward is helping to preserve some artistic and experimental sounds.

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Wow, where to start.

 

When he says "it was probably recorded on four-track" - he's talking about the studio recording, with the implication being that it was recorded on standard four-track equipment and then mixed down to stereo. That's how albums are recorded - multi-track first, then mixed down to stereo. His implication is that most of the early demos were recorded on home-quality four-track machines, which aren't known for being great quality. So, even if you made a 32-bit, 192k recording of it, the sound quality wouldn't be any better - you wouldn't be gaining anything (other than file size). The "missing" frequencies simply wouldn't be there.

 

But, actually, I believe 15 Hours was recorded at a local Vancouver recording school, so it's probably better than the average four-track recording. (If it was anything like the studios I used in those days, including the studio at American University in DC, it was probably either 8- or 16-track analog.) However, it was recorded so quickly (hence the title of the demo) that it's still not going to be much better. They weren't going for perfection; they were just trying to get it recorded.

 

It's not on sale in the Store because Matt only produced a handful of tapes back in 1994 and abandoned it shortly thereafter. Every great once in a while, a copy pops up on eBay, but not often.

 

 

But your points about audio recordings:

 

For starters, if I had a copy of any of the early demos, I would never entrust a transfer to the sound card on a laptop. Even if it reaches 192k (it doesn't - the Macbook's soundcard maxes out at 24-bit 96k - your 192k files are almost certainly upconverted 96k recordings), it's going to introduce artifacts because it's not a professional grade card - it doesn't have a professional grade analog-to-digital converter. That's the key in getting a transfer that's worth anything. (I wouldn't trust any card that didn't have RCA input jacks, for starters.) Try recording complete silence for a few seconds and playing it back at a high volume - I can guarantee that you'll hear digital noise. (Disregard this if you're using an external pro sound card.)

 

And that doesn't even touch the issue of using laptop hardware for high-end conversions. I would wager pretty heavily that if you listened to some of your 192k recordings very carefully, you'd hear some small skips from time to time.

 

What I'm getting at: for preservation purposes, you'd really need to have better equipment. The Nakamichi deck is probably way above average (assuming it's been kept in good condition), but the digital side isn't strong enough.

 

 

But that comment about cassettes having "more pleasant frequency response than compact discs" is absolutely insane. It's one thing to claim that about vinyl albums or reel-to-reel, but cassettes? If I had a 48k DAT recording and offered someone the option of getting a copy on CD (44.1k) or on cassette tape, no one would take the tapes. No one. Cassettes are too prone to dropouts - and, even if they might arguably have a wider frequency response, they introduce artificial compression, and, yes, tape noise. And don't get me started on what happens if the heads are out of alignment.

 

Even if you could make the case for a cassette maybe having "more pleasant frequency response", we're talking about absolute perfect circumstances - perfect decks, perfect cables, perfect source, etc. You'd also have to guarantee that the recording was analog throughout - recorded analog, mixed analog, duplicated analog. And I can almost guarantee that 15 Hours wasn't - in those days, EVERYBODY (except major-label studios) mixed down to 16-bit, 44.1k or 48k DAT. It was much cheaper and easier than trying to mix down to another reel. That, by itself, would completely eliminate the need for a 32-bit, 192k transfer - the final copy couldn't possibly be better than 16-bit, 48k.

 

And, even if it had been mixed analog, there's no way it was duplicated on the kind of equipment that would have to have been used to get the best results. That wasn't a high concern in those days. With my band's 1995 studio recording, we used a local duplication place (which still exists) that specialized in band recordings. I still have a few of those cassettes, and I wouldn't trade any of them for the CD I made from the original master tape a few years ago. The CD sounds substantially better.

 

By the way - it's unfortunate that your tapes are dying, but keep this in mind - a CD produced in the last fifteen years would be light years better than a mass-manufactured cassette from the mid-1980s. The major labels weren't using top-quality duplicators until the late-80s and early-90s - and, even then, they didn't come close to the quality of a Nakamichi deck. If you're going through this process with your old cassettes, you are absolutely wasting your time. Borrow a CD copy of one of those cassettes and play them side-by-side - the difference is substantial. CDs may or may not have better frequency response than a cassette, but they capture sound with much greater accuracy, which is far more important.

 

Even if the CD format goes away, 16-bit, 44.1k music will be the standard for a long time to come. 99.9% of people are happy with what they have now - most of them can't hear the difference between that and a 24-bit recording. Honestly, most people can't hear the difference between 128kbps mp3 and a CD.

 

 

But the reality is this: you won't get any takers for this because nobody cares enough. Matt doesn't even care enough. No offense, but anyone with an actual copy of one of those tapes isn't going to send it to some random guy in Victoria. If you don't like the mp3, seek out somebody with a CD copy of the History Teacher bootleg that's the source of those mp3s - it'll at least be higher quality than the mp3.

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Hi uglyredhonda,

 

I think there have been a couple of misunderstandings, but also there will be a few things we disagree on. Such as whether re-copying the demos is even worth while. I'll try to go in order based on your reply. You're right, I didn't get that saturnine was talking about the original recordings. Although I do know that recordings are made on several tracks for the purpose of mixing and editing, I just didn't see how it could matter. But yes, the quality of the Matt Good demo was not likely to be first-rate, after all it was just a demo, right? I think I can glean that from the mp3s of the songs. Remember I said that they were heavy on the treble.

 

About the reason I want to make copies at the high sample and bit rates, the goal was less for obtaining lost high frequency response and more to obtain accuracy and details. I look at it like there are two things that aren't great about the mp3s: They are mp3, which means the treble response is characteristic of all mp3 sounds in that it has a warbling, chopped and reconstructed sound to it, though admittedly it is less dramatic then I make it sound. The other is that the sample rate of the recordings is 44.1KHz. Standard cd quality, but inadequate for obtaining undistorted copies of the sound. I think this leads to the next section.

 

Do we know what sort of a deck and DAC were used to convert the demos to cd and then mp3? Let me say that despite all this talk of high sample rates and bit rates and such, that I would in fact be happy with obtaining cd-quality versions of this demo tape. It would at least do away with the compression sound the mp3s introduce. Plus it would have adequate response. Most of my music collection is cd quality, and I keep it on my computer with lossless compression so I don't hear anomalies and so it is still editable without losing a generation of quality.

 

Thankfully my hardware does seem to be up to the task of recording in two channels at 192KHz with a 32bit rate. Four channels is limited to 96KHz at 24bit rate. This is just the digital I'm talking about, I am aware that the amplifiers (pre-in and output) are nowhere near top quality. They are just class C or D amplifiers I'm sure for the sake of power efficiency and to reduce costs. It's ghastly really - the things those kinds of amps do to the sound is awful! But I make do with what I have, and the digital side it seems is okay. Not, as you say, as good as professional equipment, but I have spent many hours listening closely to the recordings I've made at the maximum resolution when editing out noise from vinyl and I can say there have been no noticeable skips or jumps, however minute. I also had a good close look at the individual samples as I zoomed in to manually remove clicks, and the sound form was definitely not upsampled from 96KHz. The DAC is made by Intel under the name HD Audio. I know this introduces it's own cheapness to the quality of sound, but the resolution is certainly high and the results with recordings of almost previously unplayed Philips vinyl of classical pressed in the early 70's is very nice. The sound is close enough to the original vinyl that I can barely tell the difference, and I think the remaining indicator is the fact that the laptop's amp is being used as a pre-out.

Just looked back at your post and the part about recording silence. I have recorded silence and there is indeed a slight noise. By slight I mean that it is too low for my receiver at home to duplicate at full volume. (The receiver is a modestly powered Sansui G5500). I only know it's there when I zoom in until I can see the individual samples; it's very low and doesn't register on the vu meters in Audacity. I have read somewhere that the electrical noise can't be eliminated entirely from DACs, even when the chip has been well grounded.

 

Ideally I would have a better quality DAC that connects via usb or firewire. One that handles the same high sample rate but on four channels simultaneously would be awesome - my dad and I have a quad receiver we could hook up again. Ah the 70's....

 

Okay moving along here... About the differences between cd and cassette, I think you might be incorporating other things than sound quality in the argument for cd's. What cd's offer for the most part is convenience. Much much more practical to have a cd to take along or copy to computer than a tape! And yes, tapes do age. But I was talking about the quality of the sound. Okay, tape has a background hiss. A generation is lost when duplicated or even played back. But a high quality recording on a high quality cassette has a more accurate reproduction of high frequencies when played on high quality equipment than the best cds on high quality equipment - I admit though that that is my opinion, and it may even be mine alone. My argument is this: The artifacts and distortion introduced by tape are sort of akin to that introduced by tube valves in amplifiers: It still has all the high frequencies, it still has almost all of the detail, and it sounds good. The artifacts and distortion introduced by cd digital is different. No background noise, which is awesome, but the sound lacks the frequency range and detail, at least in the upper treble range. Do we always hear this? No. Compare the two, assuming both the cassette and cd are as accurate a duplication of the original as possible, and I find the cassette sounds better.

 

But not by much. We are dealing with admittedly small points that, as you say, most people don't notice let alone care about. The old cassettes I have that are dying are not worth copying to digital. I only copy cassettes that have content that isn't available, such as one I copied a couple of years ago that was a copy of a copy of a radio broadcast by the CBC of a jazz band called the Rainbow Gardens Jazz Orchestra. I've since found an unplayed record by them and copied it to high resolution digital. Rare stuff. Anyway, the reason my tapes are all dying is because they were indeed poor quality. Very few pre-recorded tapes were made to good standards. Philips classical was an exception. On the other hand Denon made the very best broadcast cassettess from the 70's to the early 90's, and those are still just fine after all this time. My dad still has a few from when he worked in Radio and they are only just beginning to deteriorate in sound, but mechanically they are still good.

 

That reminds me - you ever want to hear tape that will give cd a run for it's money hunt up a broadcast Akai reel-to-reel and get some 1-inch tape platters! Wow! The bandwidth and detail are hard to beat.

 

Just reread part of your post, about mixing down to 44.1 or 48k digital after recording to tape during a session. I agree that that limits the detail available to copy from the demo tape, but - this is just a hypothetical here - would copying a tape whose source was 48k to digital at 48k not introduce some odd sounds where the sample rates didn't align? I guess the tape would sort of suppress that.

 

Finally, I realize cd is here to stay for a while yet, and that there are compelling reasons besides the fact that it's a very widely adopted standard. I'm saying that higher resolutions are now available for a lot less money than ever before, and that the resulting definition would benefit a number of people who can tell the difference, or who want to edit and modify the sound and require more detail. Musicians perhaps? People who play with the sounds as much as members of Massive Attack might find the extra resolution gives them more freedom to alter the sound of their compositions. But ultimately I came here to seek out someone with a copy of an old demo so that I could see what detail I could squeeze out of it while hopefully preserving it in a lossless digital format. Even if it's just cd resolution it would be nice to have.

 

I hope I haven't come across as a snob or a jerk. If anybody has a tape or cd copy of the demo please consider allowing me to copy it. Sorry I can't offer money compensation - I would if I was better off these days. In any case, I hope everybody has a good valentine's day ;) Thanks for your time.

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I definitely agree with uglyredhonda here. For fidelity purposes, seeking out the History Teacher CDs would be more simpler and superior to trying to find a 15 year old cassette tape.

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If anyone in the general vicinity of Victoria, BC, has a cassette or cd copy of the "15 Hours on a September Thursday" demo, I would be interested in making a copy with my computer. The purpose of this copy is both for my enjoyment and for the continued preservation of said demonstration session. Though I would be unable to offer money in return, I would be very grateful. If by the time I receive a reply I have more money, then I would be happy to give a small amount as a thanks.

 

Tomatoes.

 

Would anyone else like a cup of tea?

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maybe if you could condense it further. maybe into like.. one line

 

then i'd be willing to read it

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Haha.. ya

 

I wish I had a copy of one of the tapes, but I've never seen them anywhere.. not even on ebay.

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If I had a copy, I would definitely send it to you. But I only have the mp3s. Thanks History Teacher!

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ive seen the tape on ebay a long while ago. i think 15 hours went for something like $120. my $30 bid wasn't even close

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Is there any version of this that doesn't have a lot of fuzz/noise in the background? I'm probably imagining things but I thought I had one once that wasn't so hard on the ears.

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