Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Note From Your Doctor

Allow me a moment to address a specific issue (or two) that has been brought to my attention regarding the Dr. Ebbetts Collection. The first issue is regarding the presence of noise at the end of certain tracks on various titles throughout the Ebbetts collection. I must be honest and say that this is the first time anyone has actually made specific reference (that I am aware of) to any "noise" or "turntable rumble" on Ebbetts titles since the project's inception. However, it is a fair observation, and although it is has never been "an issue" until now, I am compelled to respond to the best of my ability.

Here is the original post:

"Lately I have enjoyed very much the Ebbetts Blue Box series. They are 99% perfect, but not 100%. The sound is generally fantastic, like making my old vinyl records come alive again in a new and perfect condition. But there is one small problem (at least with my discs, which are original Ebbetts discs
and not copies). At track endings, there is often some background noise appearing, very clearly during fadings like in Ticket to ride and Kansas City. Like turntable motor noise or whatever, I do not know what it is. It is not found on most other Ebbetts releases. I wonder what it is, why it has not been avoided, and whether other members of this forum have noted it? What does the good Doc have to say about it? I may be asking too much, but had it not been for this noise the EMI would never be able to beat the Ebbetts Blue box."

First, I am very pleased to hear that this individual finds the Ebbetts material to be 99% perfect. I would have happily settled for 80% in a heart-beat. Thank you tremendously. (By the way, I do NOT use a Linn turntable. I'm not sure how that got started).

First, as always, a short background before getting to the meat of it all -
The Doctor Ebbetts project is imperfect, like the music of the artists it tries to encapsulate for posterity. While the Beatles catalogue, for me, represents sheer brilliance and virtual perfection in an artistic sense, the recordings themselves are imperfect - we all know that. Thank goodness for that. It makes them more accessible, believable, genuine, etc (whatever earthy adjective you'd like to pop in here). That four young men, warts and all, could create such magic in a very very small window of time still astounds me beyond comprehension. (Stating the obvious here, right?)

I must say that I am NOT a fan of trying to change, update or sanitize the original material. For instance, I despised the "fix" of Day Tripper on the CD "1" from a few years ago. What exactly was the point? To create a more perfect onion??? Why??

Obviously, the original medium used to express these artistic expressions was vinyl. For many many people, this original medium still represents the best way to experience the Beatles music. For many, it doesn't. I thoroughly understand that. I am probably in the minority that way. The digital domain does NOTHING for me in terms of the original Beatles catalogue. This project is ONLY about preserving the original vinyl catalogue in the best possible way, not necessarily trying to create the perfect sounding representation of the Beatles material in total. That is a VERY IMPORTANT distinction. Believe me, I DO believe that the Ebbetts releases sound fantastic. I admit that and I stand by them. I am proud of them and I am fortunate that many agree with me.

To further my thought here, allow me to quote from the latest issue of the excellent magazine, Beatlology. I am very very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to write a little bit about the project for their always informative and interesting pages. In effect, I will quote myself here:

"I am very happy that EMI, in its categorically finite wisdom, decided that the American canon of Beatles material was finally worthy enough to tackle. I also believe that the new Capitol Versions boxed set (complete with the wrong mono mixes of two out of four titles), as well as the first Capitol collection released in 2004, sound excellent. In fact, I would encourage anyone and everyone within reading distance of this scribble (if they haven't already) to go out and pick up both sets. Additionally, I would further encourage anyone who has purchased Volume 2 to follow the prescribed procedures and obtain the corrected disc being offered by EMI. It's worth it. After all, these discs were created from the Capitol master tapes. Ted Jensen did a wonderful job. I applaude him.
The problem is (here it comes). they sound too digital to me. (What does that mean, Ebbetts? Come on, get a grip, you wordy dungeon-dwelling vinyl-jockey). Please understand, I don't mean that to come across as an inherently negative thing. There are many more people across the great blue ball who come down on the side of digital in the analogue-versus-digital debate. That's fine. I appreciate that. However, to my humble ears, despite the access Mr. Jensen had to the master tapes, and despite whatever EQing was done to enhance the listening experience, it still sounds like a digital recording to me. Yes, both Capitol sets are damn good, to be sure . but remember, I'm a vinyl-loving, tube amp, smooth-sounding audio kind of guy.
Okay, so what does all this mean in real, everyday language? Well, as good as the two Capitol collections sound, the simple way for me to describe their overall presentation is to say that they come across as somewhat harsh
- particularly in the ever-important mid-to-high range. Perhaps a more accurate description would be to call them abrasively bright - i.e., too much treble. Many will immediately snap at me, as they often do, "That means it's crisp, Ebbetts!" "That's a good thing, Doctor Moron!"
Okay, I know. Groovy. I'm hip to that.
On the other end, the songs are often bottom-heavy - i.e., a bit too
bassy for my taste. "Come on, Mr. Fossil, that means it's pumpin!"
Yeah, okay. I get it.
I also think, to a much lesser extent, that the mid range sounds somewhat tweaked. "What the hell does that mean, Doc Ego?" I don't really know. I just know it when I hear it.
Does any of this make sense at all?
Perhaps not.
Allow me to sum it up this way: Metaphorically speaking, the Capitol CDs seem to "cut through" rather than "glide across." They slap the skin rather than message it.
(I know. Forgive me. I'm writing this at the eleventh hour).
And as far as the LP artwork is concerned, I have two words:
It sucks.
Find a better Xerox machine, guys. It's an embarrassment, much like the first set was. This is the best EMI can do?

Enter the Doctor Ebbetts Project."

Okay, okay ... What the HELL does all of this have to do with the noise issue thing?? (Can't you just get to the damn point, Doc?) I understand that the original poster made no reference to the sound quality of the discs, just the slight noise he is hearing (perhaps on headphones). Why go through all of this rambling about the project itself when he is simply addressing a spot of noise that is only audible upon a song's fade out? Feeling defensive, Doc?

Well, yes ... Kind of .. Sort of ... I gotta defend the project, no?

Again, why post a novel here when this guy (or gal) only wanted to know about some occasional noise that is only discernible at the very fade out of some songs??

Because it has EVERYTHING to do with this project.

Vinyl is imperfect. I am imperfect. The Beatles music is imperfect (in a perfect sort of way).

I listened to the two examples cited by his post. Yes, there is noise. Of course there is noise. There had BETTER be noise, or else I'm packing it in. These Ebbetts titles are being sourced from vinyl. This is analogue. I EXPECT there to be noise!

Indeed, some tracks are noisier than others. Some pressing are noisier than others. It is the way it is. It's the way it has ALWAYS been with this project. There is nothing new here and whatever noise one hears is inherent in the process. I attempted to use the best possible source material here. I was fortunate enough to have two unplayed BLUE BOX sets and one beat up set (used as reference only). I chose what I believed were the best transfers from the two sets I had to work with and created the titles. There is nothing definite or uniform about needle drops. Some LPs are as close to perfect as they can be all the way through, while others are near perfect for certain tracks only.


Regarding the HELP Blue Box RE-master, here are the statistics:

Two transfers of each of the two copies of the HELP LP I had to work with were performed on 11 January 2006. They were labeled as follows: T1S1D1 (transfer 1, side 1, disc 1), T2S1D1 (transfer 2, side 1, disc 1), T1S2D1 (transfer 1, side 2, disc 1), T2S2D2 (transfer 2, side 2, disc 2), etc. etc.... Each LP was up to that point unplayed when used for transfer. As it turned out, all of these transfers sounded fine and there were no egregious anomalies. I used T2S1D1 and T2S2D1 as the master for this title. There was no mixing and matching from different transfers because it wasn't necessary. Whatever pops and crackles were present were removed. This title was then sent out to FIVE Beatle aficionados (as is the normal procedure) to check for anomalies and blatant imperfections before offering it to the general public.

Noise was NOT cited as a problem. It never has been.

Understand this ... The Ebbetts project is NOT like some of the other masterful projects going on out there like Mirror Spock's, for instance. (I have never addressed the project of Mirror Spock before, so allow me a moment to do so).

Mirror Spock succeeds, quite brilliantly, at creating - not RECREATING. He meticulously creates the PERFECT SOUNDING representations of the Beatle material. He employs specialized procedures to produce what could be called the absolute examples of the Beatles material. He IMPROVES them - not to the determent of the material, but to its advantage. He tweaks, fixes, engineers and produces magnificent examples of how he believes (and many many others
believe) the Beatles material should sound and look. That is a marvelous way to approach this band's material, and no one - NO ONE - does that better than him. However, that is NOT the goal of the Doctor Ebbetts project.

The goal of the Dr. Ebbetts project is to offer the very best sounding representations of their original releases, as clean as pristine as they can possibly be, sourced from original vinyl with impeccable representations of the original artwork. There are many many who love the Ebbetts project, and I am thankful. There are many who prefer Mirror Spock's work, and I think that's wonderful as well. I ENCOURAGE you to go out and get ALL of his material. It is brilliant. As for me, I strive continually to recreate the original releases in the most accurate and faithful way I can. I honestly believe that the Ebbetts material is the best representation of their original releases in the world - better sounding and looking than anything that EMI/Capitol has put out, or ever will. That is MY humble opinion. I understand that I am probably in the minority here, but that's okay.

However, to address the original point ... I do NOT employ noise reduction and NEVER WILL. Tape hiss - and yes, some turntable noise - is inherent in ALL Dr. Ebbetts material. I will NOT remove it artificially. And while all precautions are taken to ensure that as little as possible extra noise is inserted in the transfer process, there invariably is some. The overwhelming vast majority of people don't even notice these things. It is, if I may say so, as close to negligible as it can be.

To quote myself again: "The purpose of this project, as is now well-known, is to represent the Beatles vinyl output in the best possible way. The audio is meticulously transferred into the digital domain using the original LP releases on state of the art equipment. The result is a sound that satisfies my small-minded, narrow perception of how the greatest band in music history should sound. I am most fortunate that many wonderful people feel as I do about this. Completing the Ebbetts package is the replication of the original LP artwork. The album jackets, inserts and labels are painstakingly reproduced in CD format to not only offer the best looking representations available, but the most accurate.
Every few months, I expand the Ebbetts catalogue with new titles and improve it with upgrades. This upgrade system, a now well-known element of this project, is something akin to a subscription service. Once someone acquires a title from Dr. Ebbetts directly, he or she is entitled to a lifetime of free upgrades. Simply put, if ever I decide to employ new and better vinyl transfers of a given title in the catalogue or improve upon the artwork, those who originally acquired those titles directly from me are entitled to upgrades, free of charge. (Yes, insanity runs in the family)."

I mean no disrespect to the original poster. (If I may address him personally here): I appreciate your investment in the Ebbetts catalogue. I sincerely do. I am here to please please you. Thank you tremendously for your continued support. I also appreciate the adamancy and attention-to-detail that is itself almost inherent in the souls of Beatle collectors everywhere. I assure you, no one is more adamant about these things as me. However, the noise you reference is not a determent to the sound. It does not detract, does not stand out and has never been referenced by any of the over seven thousand people who subscribe to the Ebbetts material. I am MORE than happy to refund your money, if you so choose. That is NOT a problem. If you are unhappy with the material, then I am unhappy. Ask for a refund through me directly and then keep the CDs, because I don't want them back. The purpose is to be faithful to the music. I mean that with every fiber of my being. (Next time, e-mail me directly. I answer every e-mail personally. You know that).

I can hear the retorts now. "So, you're saying ADDING noise to the recordings is good?" "Adding more imperfection to imperfect sound is better?"

Of course not.

In my most humble opinion, being the propietor and overseer of this project for over six years, ever trying to improve it, with a humbling world-wide frienship with thousands that include the greatest Beatle people in the world, whatever slight noise may be evident at the VERY END of these recordings during the fade-outs, discernible only after the music is either completely gone or almost gone, is NOT a problem. Some of the noise is original tape hiss, while some if it is the inherent sound of a vinyl record. This need to eliminate tape hiss and noise from original recordings ELUDES me. This desire to sanitize forty year old recordings to better fit into the modern mold of how many feel things should sound, ESCAPES me.

I like tape hiss. I LOVE tape hiss. (There I said it).

Be well.

Note: This is for informational purposes only. I am not affiliated with Dr. Ebbett's. I cannot put you in touch with him. Thanks.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fab 4 Radio - The Global Beatle Network

*Fab 4 Radio - Will be taking a break this week. 8/7 - 8/12
*We have loaded the one hitter up with a new playlist - so enjoy
*Check Out What The Internet Is Buzzing About Hamburg Jukebox
*Those of you going to The Fest For Beatle Fans Spread The Word (Love)