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Simply Unread, Or Just Never Heard?

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The disappointing things about digital downloads are:

 

-the quality is far inferior to the CD itself

-you don't get the booklet and presentation part of the deal. I know you can download the covers (and in some cases the pdfs of the booklet notes), but its not the same

 

I agree, a CD properly labelled with a booklet is a tangible thing to treasure for years to come. A music 'download' is, er, not. As for the quality, I won't even go there. Popular music doesn't really matter, especially when used in car at 70mph on the motorway, but for anyone listening to quality full-range complicated orchestral/organ/vocal music on a half decent Hi-Fi system there's a huge difference. Those with a really good system would not even touch a 'download'.

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:P

 

I doubt I'll get rich anytime soon....

 

The point is that I _do_ make something off of this (rather than it costing me to do it). The business model that I've adopted allows me to publish pretty much whatever I want and not risk financial loss. The caveat is that I don't have the advertising budget that a large publishing house has, so it is harder to get customers to my door or ever KNOW that I have music to sell. If larger publishers could be convinced to use a print on demand service in exchange for a smaller return, at least they would be making some money rather than having dusty single last copies that never get sold. I think someone would need to set up the process for them, though, since most publishers have no desire to invest in the equipment and personnel necessary to do this on their own.

 

As for the rare Polish/E European stuff.... bring it on!

 

I've been unsuccessfully trying to get copies of all of Feliks Nowowiejski's Organ symphonies, so far I've only managed to track down ONE (Sym.8)

 

Cheers,

 

- G

 

I've come across print on demand in scientific publishing. Artech House have been doing this for a number of years now - they have a very large number of out of print titles that they are prepared to reprint - I think the price was much the same as off the shelf books.

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As for the quality, I won't even go there. [...] for anyone listening to quality full-range complicated orchestral/organ/vocal music on a half decent Hi-Fi system there's a huge difference. Those with a really good system would not even touch a 'download'.

I have had bad downloads, and I have had bad CDs. But a compressed file using a recent MP3 or Vorbis encoder and a suitable bit rate will not be distinguishable from the original in a proper blind test by at least 99% of the population.

 

Paul

 

PS: Not quite the same, but related: a recent AES paper describes a very thorough series of double blind tests which showed that out of the large number of people tested (including some highly-regarded recording engineers, and some audiophiles who were allowed to specify the equipment used) not one could distinguish platback of a "high resolution" (24/96 SACD or DVD-A) recording of any genre from the same played through a system that reduced it to CD (16/44.1) resolution.

 

Paul

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I have had bad downloads, and I have had bad CDs. But a compressed file using a recent MP3 or Vorbis encoder and a suitable bit rate will not be distinguishable from the original in a proper blind test by at least 99% of the population.

 

Paul

 

PS: Not quite the same, but related: a recent AES paper describes a very thorough series of double blind tests which showed that out of the large number of people tested (including some highly-regarded recording engineers, and some audiophiles who were allowed to specify the equipment used) not one could distinguish platback of a "high resolution" (24/96 SACD or DVD-A) recording of any genre from the same played through a system that reduced it to CD (16/44.1) resolution.

 

Paul

Perhaps their copper wires were not sufficiently oxygen-free :). Seriously though, it is the quality of the recording equipment and the ears of those that make recordings, that determines the best that can be achieved during playback. If it isn't there on the tape to start with, the differences between playback systems become less significant. Unfortunately, much of what is on a tape is frequently discarded in the processing of files for download and even the cleverest algorithms cannot truthfully reconstruct it. My career was chiefly in the high-frequency end of the broadcasting business and the same applies to much of the video that hits our screens. Sadly 99% of the population doesn't seem to notice that either!

JC

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I've come across print on demand in scientific publishing. Artech House have been doing this for a number of years now - they have a very large number of out of print titles that they are prepared to reprint - I think the price was much the same as off the shelf books.

 

 

==============================

 

 

Yes, this is quite common nowadays, for those who want/need hard copy.

 

However, the music publishing argument is slightly different.

 

I'll make a guess at some of the costs involved per copy, and if I get it wrong, someone can correct me.

 

Take a piece of expensive music, at around £20.

 

The production costs diminish or escalate according to the popularity of the work......one copy takes a lot of time using traditional print methods, and a thousand copies takes just a little bit longer. So assuming a popular title, the print run may well cost about £5 per copy, including materials, time,binding and distribution. A single copy would be beyond financial reach, except as a photocopy.

 

Then there is promotion and advertising, which must absorb £2 per copy; working on around 10%.

 

Add all the fixed costs and salaries, and you could probably add a further £2 to whatever it is you are producing.

 

So around £9 to £10 per copy is swallowed up by things which do not allow you to eat a meal each day.

 

Add a suitable profit margin, of perhaps 30% gross, and you're now up to about £15 or so, and presumably, the profit margin to the retailer is going to be around 25%....unless it's a supermarket selling only Harry Potter books, and working on half that margin.

 

Now compare this to a data bank, the electronic transfer of material and so on, and what you have is something which is "almost" free. The actual costs would easily be covered by maybe 50p per item, and because you would be selling an absolutely vast range of material, the cash-flow would be constant. So by charging perhaps £3 to £5, depending on how extensive a work, you have not only made a profit, you have slashed your costs to almost nothing by going on-line.

 

With a suitable limited licence to print, it would be quite possible for performers to obtain their own hard-copy from the bespoke on-line printers.

 

I'm sure there are those who know the publishing business far better than I, and they can have fun juggling with the figures, but on-line publishing is the future, and a very profitable future to boot.

 

MM

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Having a .pdf file and having something you can play from are two different things.

 

The day may come when everyone has not just a PC but also a printer that does double-sided printing and a comb binder, but we are not there yet.

 

I watched recently as an organist played from copied sheets held in a folder of clear plastic pockets. Every time he got to the top of a page he had to crane his neck higher to avoid the reflected glare of the console light.

 

On the plus side, comb binding seems to me by far the best way of presenting sheet music. Every page lies flat, even in something the size of Muffat's Apparatus musico-organisticus.

 

Best wishes

 

J

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Having a .pdf file and having something you can play from are two different things.

 

The day may come when everyone has not just a PC but also a printer that does double-sided printing and a comb binder, but we are not there yet.

 

I watched recently as an organist played from copied sheets held in a folder of clear plastic pockets. Every time he got to the top of a page he had to crane his neck higher to avoid the reflected glare of the console light.

 

On the plus side, comb binding seems to me by far the best way of presenting sheet music. Every page lies flat, even in something the size of Muffat's Apparatus musico-organisticus.

 

Best wishes

 

J

 

 

========================

 

 

Did I not cover this?

 

Excatly HOW one obtains a performance hard-copy would be up to the individual, using a licence to print x number of copies, or a single item.

 

This can be done with computerised printing companies, very quickly and in a variety of formats.

 

(I want mine to have gold-leaf edging and purple notes!)

 

MM

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You can actually achieve a fair amount by having an A3 printer and a long-arm stapler. That's what I do and it works acceptably enough on booklets of up to 45-50 pages (though the thicker they are the less they like being folded).

 

The drawback is finding a decent A3 printer. I'm currently using a HP1280, which is cheap, but isn't really up the the job of printing booklets, mainly because of a totally naff software interface. The previous model it replaced was far more suitable. Hewlett Packard clearly don't give a fig about their non-business customers. End of rant.

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... but for anyone listening to quality full-range complicated orchestral/organ/vocal music on a half decent Hi-Fi system there's a huge difference. Those with a really good system would not even touch a 'download'.

 

This implies that a 'download' is always inferior to a CD track or similar. Lossy format downloads (eg. MP3) are certainly inferior, and I can almost always detect an obvious difference*. If downloads came in a format identical to the original master (eg. Lossless WMA) then there is no difference in playback quality - indeed there could be an improvement as there would be no format restriction imposed by the CD player.

 

In this case, the issue is purely whether you are prepared to pay 'extra' for the disc and inlay booklet. I for one believe that digital downloads are the future of recording, given a careful approach to quality and 'experience'. I hope to put this into practice myself in the next few years.

 

(*I recently bought a choral disc of a good UK cathedral choir from a well-respected UK choral-specialising label. One particular track, of unaccompanied choral singing beginning pianissimo, has very obvious audible artifacts normally heard on compressed format tracks (like MP3) - a sort of background 'sparkly' noise and strange-sounding 'edges' to notes. It's possible that this track was inadvertently compressed or badly dithered during the editing/mastering stages. Just because it ends up as CD audio on a shiny disc, it doesn't guarantee a particular quality in any way.)

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Guest Cynic
This implies that a 'download' is always inferior to a CD track or similar. Lossy format downloads (eg. MP3) are certainly inferior, and I can almost always detect an obvious difference*. If downloads came in a format identical to the original master (eg. Lossless WMA) then there is no difference in playback quality - indeed there could be an improvement as there would be no format restriction imposed by the CD player.

 

In this case, the issue is purely whether you are prepared to pay 'extra' for the disc and inlay booklet. I for one believe that digital downloads are the future of recording, given a careful approach to quality and 'experience'. I hope to put this into practice myself in the next few years.

 

(*I recently bought a choral disc of a good UK cathedral choir from a well-respected UK choral-specialising label. One particular track, of unaccompanied choral singing beginning pianissimo, has very obvious audible artifacts normally heard on compressed format tracks (like MP3) - a sort of background 'sparkly' noise and strange-sounding 'edges' to notes. It's possible that this track was inadvertently compressed or badly dithered during the editing/mastering stages. Just because it ends up as CD audio on a shiny disc, it doesn't guarantee a particular quality in any way.)

 

 

I know very little about the technology, but one thing I do know, and this may relate to your problem above. That is that a certain UK firm (active in the area you describe) have taken to making shortish runs of discs on CDR - these are not proper pressings in the same way, and their life is likely to be more limited. Since this famous company still charge full price, I am tempted to cry 'RIP OFF!' when I see these.

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I am tempted to cry 'RIP OFF!' when I see these.

Have you ever compared the error rate from a typical pressed CD with that from a typical burned one? Thought not. You might be surprised.

 

Paul

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Guest Cynic
Have you ever compared the error rate from a typical pressed CD with that from a typical burned one? Thought not. You might be surprised.

 

Paul

 

Ah well....and you're going to tell me that the burned ones are better?

[Even though they aren't as durable.]

I suppose that this is just proof of one of life's great rules: You can't win!

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Guest Barry Williams
I know very little about the technology, but one thing I do know, and this may relate to your problem above. That is that a certain UK firm (active in the area you describe) have taken to making shortish runs of discs on CDR - these are not proper pressings in the same way, and their life is likely to be more limited. Since this famous company still charge full price, I am tempted to cry 'RIP OFF!' when I see these.

 

 

How did you discover that this was taking place please? I am not asking you to reveal confidential information, but can the different process be discerned from information available to the general public? Is there any way that a non-expert could readily tell the difference and thus avoid being ripped off, in the same way that a certain music house rips people off with bad quality photcopies?

 

Barry Williams

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Ah well....and you're going to tell me that the burned ones are better?

[Even though they aren't as durable.]

I suppose that this is just proof of one of life's great rules: You can't win!

Paul, why do you believe CDRs are not as durable? I have seen no scientific research that suggests this. I have read a study that states a pre-recording shelf life of five years and a post-recording life as around twenty years, but this did not discriminate between commercial and consumer blank media. Not very long, though, compared with shellac or vinyl!

JC

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Paul, why do you believe CDRs are not as durable? I have seen no scientific research that suggests this. I have read a study that states a pre-recording shelf life of five years and a post-recording life as around twenty years, but this did not discriminate between commercial and consumer blank media. Not very long, though, compared with shellac or vinyl!

JC

A French archiving institution (I forget the name) did a survey on the durability of pressed CDs and the results were surprisingly variable. A lot of people know of 'bronzing' where the reflective layer oxidised as a result of faulty chemical composition, although this was a one-off fault, but there were others too. Most cheap consumer CD-Rs have a limited shelf life depending on method of storage. HHB, however, claim a life of over a hundred years for their Gold CD-Rs, so these would be the ideal for long-term archiving.

 

That said, I use CD-R a lot and there shouldn't be any deleterious effect on the sound unless the writing process was faulty. I bought a disc from Priory once that used CD-R, but I queried it and Priory replaced it with a pressed CD with apologies, so I guess that it was a mistake rather than a policy in that case.

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I bought a disc from Priory once that used CD-R, but I queried it and Priory replaced it with a pressed CD with apologies, so I guess that it was a mistake rather than a policy in that case.

How do you make a mistake like that? :blink:

 

Not so very long ago I was talking to a Tonmeister who edits music tracks for the big screen (he was doing one of the Harry Potter films at the time) about some recording probem or other I was having (can't remember what) and he assured me that I might just as well buy cheap, unbranded CD-Rs as there are only two manufacturers of them in the world and the branded ones are exactly the same product. Is that right?

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How do you make a mistake like that? :blink:

 

Not so very long ago I was talking to a Tonmeister who edits music tracks for the big screen (he was doing one of the Harry Potter films at the time) about some recording probem or other I was having (can't remember what) and he assured me that I might just as well buy cheap, unbranded CD-Rs as there are only two manufacturers of them in the world and the branded ones are exactly the same product. Is that right?

I believe there are about 20 manufacturers of blank CDs worldwide. Some are almost certainly better than others and in general, you get what you pay for! Storage conditions are important as extremes of temperature, humidity and exposure to UV light have a bearing on longevity. Thinking further about your Tonmeister's advice, I suspect the majority of lower price CDRs come out of the same factory

JC

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Paul, why do you believe CDRs are not as durable? I have seen no scientific research that suggests this. I have read a study that states a pre-recording shelf life of five years and a post-recording life as around twenty years, but this did not discriminate between commercial and consumer blank media. Not very long, though, compared with shellac or vinyl!

JC

 

Putting aside the question of static shelf life between pressed CDs and CD-Rs, the latter are much more suspectible to unrecoverable errors caused by minor surface damage as the audio data written to CD-Rs is not interleaved (Reed-Solomon error correction) as it is on pressed CDs, so, yes, CD-Rs are not as durable (in active use) as pressed CDs.

 

On the other hand, some 'Golden Ears' have been known to claim that CD-Rs 'sound better' for the very same reason! :blink:

 

Gary Cole

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Putting aside the question of static shelf life between pressed CDs and CD-Rs, the latter are much more suspectible to unrecoverable errors caused by minor surface damage as the audio data written to CD-Rs is not interleaved (Reed-Solomon error correction) as it is on pressed CDs, so, yes, CD-Rs are not as durable (in active use) as pressed CDs.

 

On the other hand, some 'Golden Ears' have been known to claim that CD-Rs 'sound better' for the very same reason! :blink:

 

Gary Cole

Thanks Gary, I hadn't considered that. It's a very interesting point.

JC

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audio data written to CD-Rs is not interleaved (Reed-Solomon error correction) as it is on pressed CDs

Wrong. Audio CDs are written the same whether pressed or burned - which is why CD-Rs can be played on players built before they were invented. The encoding has two layers of error correction.

 

There is a range of CD-ROM formats for recording data on CDs; these can also be used on both pressed CDs and CD-Rs. Some of these formats (e.g. CD-ROM mode 1, CD-ROM/XA Mode 2/Form 1) have an extra layer of error correction through interleaving, and some do not (e.g. CD-ROM mode 2, CD-ROM/XA Mode 2/Form 2) - but this is nothing to do with audio.

 

The reason some golden ears have claimed that CD-Rs sound better than pressed CDs is that they typically have a lower error rate, which on some inadequate players favoured by these people (for fashion or fancy price reasons) can make a difference to the sound (this is actually a fault in the player, of course).

 

Paul

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Wrong. Audio CDs are written the same whether pressed or burned - which is why CD-Rs can be played on players built before they were invented. The encoding has two layers of error correction.

 

This is also what I understood. I believe that a Red Book standard audio CD contains identical data regardless of whether it is pressed onto CD-A or burned onto CD-R. The only difference is the method used to physically store the data concerned.

 

Therefore (and with a tremendous screeching of tyres, Nachthorn attempts to steer the subject back on track) several of my standard pressed CDs, including the Jennifer Bate Messiaen cycle recorded at Beauvais by Unicorn-Kanchana and more than one Hyperion organ disc, are now unplayable due to 'bronzing' of the reflective layer, whereas the same audio burned to a decent brand of CD-R would probably be perfectly playable today.

 

The big problem seems to be a divergence in consumer expectation versus industry marketing. While the mass market is demanding tracks available at relatively low quality downloadable to tiny portable playback devices, the industry is still fighting over the winning standard to provide surround sound at audio quality significantly better than CD-DA. DVD-A versus SACD is probably a lost cause, as Blueray versus HD-DVD is the next battle of the audio standards to be fought. So while a handful of 'classical music' audiophiles strive to make ever-better recordings in the latest formats using highly expensive equipment, the 'pop music' mass market clamours for tracks recorded in someone's garage studio, audio-compressed to the point of fatigue and data-compressed to fit on the latest phone/mp3 player/satnav device. I think that downloads are the future of music delivery, but how do you connect that with the higher quality reproduction associated with the latest super-size formats?

 

Discuss. :blink:

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All this technical stuff is leaving me way behind, so please forgive me if I am on the wrong track entirely. The implication I am picking up from the comments above - no doubt wrongly - is that there is not inherently any difference between a pressed CD and a burnt one. Yet experience tells me otherwise. True, my Denon hi-fi, which is now about 27 years old, has never complained about anything I have stuffed into it, but even today many cheaper CD players still come with a warning not to try playing CD-Rs. One, a CD alarm clock, certainly couldn't cope with them (it would start making funny "hissing" noises halfway through) and the CD changer in my last car was apt to jam and lock up if you put one in. I can understand that one should perhaps blame the players rather than the discs, but surely there must be differences between CDs and CD-Rs for this to be an issue? On the other hand, I do have three branded CDs (one from Priory, the other two French) that do not play at all well in my car - the player actually spat out the Priory disc the other day. Is it just down to error rates or what? I'm completely confused.

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All this technical stuff is leaving me way behind, so please forgive me if I am on the wrong track entirely. The implication I am picking up from the comments above - no doubt wrongly - is that there is not inherently any difference between a pressed CD and a burnt one. Yet experience tells me otherwise. True, my Denon hi-fi, which is now about 27 years old, has never complained about anything I have stuffed into it, but even today many cheaper CD players still come with a warning not to try playing CD-Rs. One, a very cheap, CD alarm clock, certainly couldn't cope with them (it would start making funny "hissing" noises halfway through) and the CD changer in my last car was apt to jam and lock up if you put one in. I can understand that one should perhaps blame the players rather than the discs, but surely there must be differences between CDs and CD-Rs for this to be an issue? On the other hand, I do have three branded CDs (one from Priory, the other two French) that do not play at all well in my car - the player actually spat out the Priory disc the other day. Is it just down to error rates or what? I'm completely confused.

 

The big difference between the two is how the data is physically stored. On a pressed ('traditional') CD, tiny holes are pressed into the reflective layer, so a hole represents a digital '0' bit, and the absence of a hole represents a digital '1' bit. When the reading laser passes over the disc (in one long spiral line, like an LP) the holes don't reflect the light back, but the areas where there is no hole DO reflect the light, so the pattern of reflections and non-reflections are used to construct a stream of data, i.e. zeros and ones.

 

On a CD-R, in front of the reflective layer, there is a layer of coloured dye. The writing laser 'burns' this dye where a digital '0' is required, and leaves it untouched where a digital '1' is needed. The end result looks the same to the reading laser, i.e. the burned area on a CD-R looks the same as a hole on a pressed CD. The problem is that light reflected from a CD-R with the coloured dye layer is less strong than light reflected from a normal CD. Some players, particularly older players, have difficulty reading CD-Rs because of the lower level of light reflecting back off them. This effect will vary with the type of CD-R and the model of player used. Modern players should be able to cope with all types of CD-R, but as you say, not all do.

 

If a player can't play various pressed CDs, either the CDs are faulty in some way, or more likely, the player drive needs cleaning :unsure: (I'm assuming you've checked the surface for scratches.)

 

(To explain the other formats I mentioned, you can only fit so many zeros and ones onto a standard CD. DVD and SACD discs allow 5-7 times the amount of data to be stored, and Blueray and HD-DVD allow another magnitude again. The larger the space is to store data, the more data can be stored, which can either be used to store more minutes of recording, more data to reproduce the recording at higher quality, or some combination of the two. Of course, as we know, this has so far not translated into many recordings using these benefits, as not many people own players capable of playing them. Herein lies one problem for the recording industry. The other is how to join up these new high quality standards with the demand for low quality downloadable tracks, as mentioned by Cynic at the start of this tangent.)

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On a CD-R, in front of the reflective layer, there is a layer of coloured dye. The writing laser 'burns' this dye where a digital '0' is required, and leaves it untouched where a digital '1' is needed. The end result looks the same to the reading laser, i.e. the burned area on a CD-R looks the same as a hole on a pressed CD.

Just before we get back on topic, how does a CD-R differ from a CD-RW?

JC

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