An On-The-Scene Account by Kevin Gray
Kevin takes us inside AcousTech Mastering and shares some of the details that comprised the recent Dark Side Of The Moon LP mastering and cutting session. Most of this information originally appeared on mastering engineer Steve Hoffman's web site, www.stevehoffman.tv. Here is the info., observations and corrections regarding the pressing info. (pun intended) on the upcoming Pink Floyd vinyl release.
The remix was just for the 5.1 surround layer. The original master was used for the stereo on the SACD and the vinyl release. The same tape machine, Dolbys (theirs, not mine) and E.A.R. tube EQ was used on both releases to insure that they match. Only my console output (necessary for level control and a master fader) and cutting electronics were used. The master was re-boxed in order to fit both sides on one 14" reel, and yes, in the photo (click here to see photos from the session), Doug is only handling the leader between the sides. With a tape as valuable as Dark Side it is wise to make sure that both sides and the critical Dolby alignment tones are all stored on one reel to "keep it all together," and to facilitate international transportation. The recording tape is, I believe, either EMI or possibly BASF. I saw a lot of this tape from England in the early '70s. It has dark brown oxide and light brown back coating.
As I said the EQ had pretty much been "cast in concrete" for the SACD release (mastered by Doug and James Guthrie), but I think it sounds amazing, overall. Any changes I might have suggested would have been very minor. James was out of state, working on another session, but sent his assistant engineer, Joel, to oversee the project. James actually called in about 4 times over the course of the thirteen (!) hour session. Setting up, and interfacing their equipment with mine presented some challenges that we had to work out. We cut 2 A sides and 3 B sides over the course of the session, to insure we wouldn't have to do this marathon again. Arnie Acosta, another fine mastering engineer (and great guy!), who mastered for The Mastering Lab, A&M, and Warner Bros. Mastering, helped out with some of the EQ changes between cuts. This lead to the joke: "How many engineers does it take to cut Dark Side of the Moon?" Answer: "4!" Doug handled levels and fades, Arnie and Joel made the EQ changes, and I ran the ol' lathe. The reason that Doug didn't cut it himself is that the lathes were retired at the Mastering Lab almost two years ago.
Collaborating with Doug on this project was a dream come true, as I have always respected his work. Doug (and in particular, his Direct to Disk work) is the main reason I chose to go into mastering in the first place, and I told him so. It was a very gratifying experience. One unique finding that came from this session was that with my large subwoofer at AcousTech we heard some subsonic information that nobody had been aware of before. And also when I heard that opening heartbeat on "Speak To Me" with the gain turned up, it just sent shivers down my spine. Working with a record as monumental as Dark Side of the Moon was a real kick because it's one of my favorite '70s albums. - Kevin Gray AcousTech Mastering