The Stereophile Test CD Letters part 4

Where's the jewel box?

Editor: I was extremely relieved to discover your little note packed with the Stereophile Test CD. You know, the one that says a free replacement will arrive within 8 weeks. The reason for my gratification? My CD arrived cracked in half (due to the misdirected efforts of the letter-carrier in attempting to make sure the parcel fit in my mailbox).

While I in no way intend this letter as a commentary on the postal system (when confronted by me, the letter-carrier said "he didn't hear it crack"), the simple fact is, the CD was enclosed in an ordinary, flimsy envelope, with absolutely nothing in the envelope to provide stiffness or in any other way resist bending or breakage. Furthermore, absolutely nothing on the envelope calls attention to the fact that its contents are fragile and should not be bent or otherwise mishandled.

Considering Stereophile's penchant for detail and avoidance of any factor which would degrade the sound (even if the disc hadn't cracked, the warpage would surely have affected the tracking), I cannot understand how you would allow such flimsy, unmarked packing for such a precision product...I urge your staff to consider using an improved medium in which to transport your next mailing of discs.—Bruce M. Scheiner, Levittown, NY

We made the decision to send the initial mailing of our Test CD in a plastic CD-ViewPak enclosed in an unmarked envelope because a) we were wary of the jewel box breaking, b) we were concerned about theft, and c) we didn't want to raise costs to the point that the price would have to rise above our target $6.95. Despite these worries, however, we were able to send out the free replacements to purchasers complete with jewel box.JA

Test CD paranoia

Editor: Such a deal?!!

As part of a promotion designed to lure me into subscribing to your publication, I was sent a copy of the Stereophile Test CD. My copy has a small, gold, oval sticker—"Special Subscriber Edition"—on the CD Viewpak.

Naturally I was suspicious. Not paranoid (yet), just suspicious. I filed the CD for future listening.

I received the August issue of Stereophile to find in LA's "Final Word" column mention of "the just-released, corrected version of our Test CD" (emphasis mine).

Now the paranoid little voice began (very distracting): "Gee, whaddya suppose they did with all those defective/flawed/irregular Test CDs? Hmmm? I mean, they couldn't just throw them away, now, could they? That wouldn't be very responsible (environmentally speaking)..." ad nauseam.

Anyway, if my paranoid delusions are, in fact, justified—please don't deny it! Just tell me (and all the other "Special Subscribers") exactly what is wrong with these Test CDs—what was "corrected," in other words. If, on the other hand, the "Special Subscriber Edition" is from the new run of Test CDs, just say so.

As long as it's true!—Glenn Gaudis, Chicago, IL

Mr. Gaudis's paranoia seems to me symptomatic of late-20th-century America: "You're offering me a gift—where's the catch?" There is no catch, Mr. Gaudis; the CD we sent you should sound exactly as we intended. To check, note whether it was pressed by JVC; if it was, then you should live long and prosper.

The story behind the Test CD is thus: Despite our best efforts, the first and second pressings, made by Disctronics, had a number of flaws, mostly due to the fact that every track that had been recorded with a 48kHz sampling rate and had therefore to be processed by a sampling-rate converter had been disfigured by a gross treble rolloff. (The pink-noise track had more of a deep rosy hue!) The 1kHz tone turned out to actually have a frequency of 920Hz; there was also a spurious interchannel time delay in one of the monophonic JGH microphone-test recordings. In addition, the second Disctronics pressing had had the pre-emphasis flag left off for Peter Mitchell's and Brad Meyer's organ recording (track 19).

One of the great things about LPs is that you automatically get test pressings to check that the mastering and metalwork has been done correctly. Although we had requested Disctronics not to press our entire order until we had checked the "first CDs off the press," the CDs had already been manufactured by the time we discovered the flaws, and had been sent to the fulfillment house who had started mailing them to readers. Our only option, therefore, was to: continue sending out the flawed CDs; send everyone who received the CD a follow-up card informing them that it was faulty and that a replacement would be sent; completely remaster the CD; check the cut by listening to a CD-R disc copy made before the presses rolled into action; and send everyone the replacement CD free of charge. Which is what we did. The "Special Subscriber Edition" label is for internal bookkeeping purposes; otherwise, the CDs sent to new subscribers are identical to those we sell for the munificent sum of $6.95 plus shipping and handling. Both are manufactured by JVC in Alabama, as is the CD version of Stereophile's Poem LP.—JA