The world famous Abbey Road studios brought to fame by being the studios where The Beatles recorded their legendary albums are back in the spotlight again with Universal Music's new Half Speed Mastering Series.Award-winning Abbey Road mastering engineer Miles Showell has been commissioned to Half Speed Master the first batch of limited edition releases of six bona fide rock classics.The albums in this release are Cream's Disraeli Gears,The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street,Free's Fire And water,John Martin's Solid Air,The Police's Ghost In The Machine,and Simple Mind's New Gold Dream.
The beauty of Half Speed Mastering is that you don't need a ridiculously expensive audiophile hifi to be able to hear the difference.This specialist process involves playing back the master recording at half it's normal speed,with the disc cutting lathe running at half speed therefore giving the cutting head more time to carve a more detailed and intricate groove into the intricate lacquer.
It's not as simple as just pushing a button on the lathe to make it run at half the speed,it's much more involved than that.The end result is a record that is capable of extremely clean and unforced high frequency response along wwith a strong and stable stereo image.In short,Half Speed Mastering helps to create a very high quality record.
The Half Speed Mastering technique was created by Decca in the 1950's for it's stereo classical releases.In the sixties,notoriously Motown cut it's singles at half speed for maximum impact and most famously Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs made the high quality Original Master Recording Series.Miles was inspired by listening to Mobile Fidelity recordings.
Interestingly,whilst there are some of the original master tapes in the UK,but if they are not,no insurance company will insure their trip across the Atlantic.That means they have to be digitally transferred with high end digital conversion to maximise content and minimise the loss.There is much concern about damaging the master tapes,some of which are up to 50 years old,by playing them over and over,so high resolution digital transfers are being used in clever ways to extract the maximum without loss.
For the uninitiated,there is also process of de-essing to control the "sss" and"t" sounds on vocals,eliminating unwanted sibilance and distortion when the record is played back.Miles has special devices to achieve de-essing.....he listens to each track on the album with special attention to detail and ending up with a record that sounds fantastic.....after his techniques and mastery are applied he then applies a RIAA filter......a format agreed back in the 1950's ...the result is that we all get the artist's intention of experiencing their impression....of experiencing their album.....in the best way....a pretty special brief.....and there is more than a rumour of HD analogue.....there will be more soon....very exciting!!!!!!!
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