The Stereophile Test CD Letters

Letters commenting on the first Stereophile Test CD appeared in various issues between June 1990 and September 1992:

Thanks for the Test CD

Editor: I am writing to highly praise the duo of Bruce Dunlap and Dan Kolton—I hope they come out with a record, CD, or tape—excellent cats were bemused by the dog recordings!—Brian Paulsens, Grand Forks, ND

Copyright & a long memory

Editor: Do I get residuals for playing in the 1948 High School Band whose recording was featured on the Stereophile Test CD? I can tell you stories of J. Gordon Holt's appearance in the US and of my introduction to hi-fi. In fact, I still have a schematic he wrote out in 1946 or '47 for me.

I was an original subscriber and have every issue up to several years ago, when the bounds of equipment costs got out of hand. Nonetheless, keep up what some see as a real need.—Dr. Pierre Marteney, Manchester, CT

Tweeter & Woofer

Editor: I received the Stereophile Test CD yesterday, and immediately had proof of its unmatched fidelity. Our cat, Tweeter, was deeply asleep on a favorite chair in the next room. When Ralph the Christmas Dog began to identify the audio channels, Tweeter came off her chair with a bound and stalked warily, in full hunting stance, into the music room (she is the nemesis of all neighborhood canines, utterly belying her sweet and benign appearance). She examined both speakers carefully, then walked cautiously around each in turn (they are Maggies). Bewildered, she continued her search behind every other piece of furniture, then extended her safari to the whole house. At length she decided that Ralph was outside, investigated from a handy windowsill, and then demanded out. Her exterior search continued for several minutes. She gave up reluctantly.

The CD includes some gorgeous music—especially the Chopin Scherzo and the Schumann flute music. EAR's The Mic is certainly a beautiful pickup, much superior to the other microphones in the fascinating JGH reading. But the transfer to CD of Peter Mitchell and Brad Meyer's recording of the Bach Concerto after Vivaldi is awful. I am a lifelong amateur organist, I know the organ at Busch-Reisinger quite well, I have heard that piece played on it, and the reality bears little resemblance to the thin, overbright sound on the CD. I heard the LP when it came out some years ago, and that was warm and convincing.

Thanks for this imaginative project—it's a winner!—Kenneth LaFleur, East Vassalboro, ME

Although the first production run of CDs had the pre-emphasis flag correctly set on Track 19, we found out that the pressing plant had inadvertently omitted this flag from the second run of 5000 CDs. This would explain what Mr. LaFleur heard from Peter Mitchell's organ recording. We are sending replacements free of charge to everyone who has a copy of the Stereophile CD, with this and other errors corrected.JA

Putting the record straight

Editor: I'd like to clear up some ambiguities in the description of Peter Mitchell's and my contribution to the Stereophile test CD, the James Johnson organ piece.

First let me express my appreciation for Bob Harley's good ears in spotting and correcting the missing pre-emphasis flag in his digital transfer/assembly of our segment. Sony PCM-F1 tapes all have high-frequency pre-emphasis unless the unit is modified to give the user a choice. The new Macintosh-based digital editing systems are handy, and much cheaper than their bigger brothers from Sony, Lexicon, and so on, but they don't always attend to all the details; dropped emphasis flags seem to be a common problem.

The Johnson recording was shared to an unusual degree. Two microphones were Peter's, two mine; he supplied the mixer and monitor speakers, I the mike stands, mastering recorder, and noise reduction (dbx type II, which works especially well with the Revox). We placed the microphones, adjusted levels and balances, and set up the monitoring system by consensus, with remarkably few arguments. I edited the analog submaster tape for the LP, and later made the transfer to digital on the F1, in my studio. Northeastern Digital Recording handled the transfer of the digital data from F1 to PCM 1630 format, and Toby Mountain and I assembled the master tape.

For those who are sufficiently interested to track down the original: the LP, of which a few remain, contains only the first four works (eight cuts) of the CD. The final five short pieces were recorded in concert by William Busiek of WGBH-FM, Boston, using two Schoeps cardioid microphones. I later equalized these cuts and adjusted the stereo image to match the first ones, but did not attempt to correct for the audience soaking up the room's reverb.

Congratulations on an ambitious and interesting project. I'm looking forward eagerly to hearing the entire disc.—E. Brad Meyer, Lincoln, MA