Some mastering and DDP observations

I have been slowly working on remastering an album I recorded, produced and mixed 17 years ago that is very dear to my heart. Because of the time spent on this process now, my ears have gotten very highly attuned to all the nuances of the sonic signature of these recordings.

After finally getting the right combination of mastering tools in use, I put together a montage that worked and does what I have always wanted to do for the sound…since the original CD was printed virtually at the dawn of time relative to digital CD mastering tools.

As I have become used to doing, I burned a CDR (MAM-A Gold, the only thing I use) from the montage and setup my simultaneous listenig rig: my reference CD player being clocked from the DAW and started simultaneously with the montage project, then A/Bed through my Dangerous Music “The Monitor” converters which sync instantly when you change digital sources.

I found the CD to be subtly, but unpleasantly, different from the montage. In order to make sure this was not simply the result of real time playback errors, I ripped the tracks back into Wavelab and lined them up in the montage so as to be able to AB them in the same environment. Although slightly better, I still heard the difference. Worse yet, when I zoomed in to get things lined up perfectly, I began discovering small differences in the waveforms between the project and the CD tracks (project tracks were already compressed and dithered before going into the montage, so there was no Master Section in use, and this was not a factor).

I then created a DDP file from the montage, and then burned a CD directly from the DDP file. This time, my comparative listening rig revealed that I was essentially unable to tell the difference between the CD and file playback from the computer. I have not had time to import the tracks back in to compare waveforms, but I am feeling certain that the subtle differences will be gone.

An interesting experiment that basically ended in good news…just thought others who have not been through this might find the info to be worthwhile.

Had I not been so thoroughly invested in this remastering project, I might not have noticed these subtle but important distinctions, nor discovered the superior transfer coming from the DDP file. Since the DDP file is created in just a few seconds, it seems like this is going to be standard practice from now on, even if I am only burning reference discs.