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Old 25th November 2009, 11:08 AM   #1
Mooly is offline Mooly  United Kingdom
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Default Question on opamps/mixing desks and production of CD's/records.

Prompted by a long running thread on "opamp sound"

The best sounding audio integrated opamps

I wonder if anyone knows just what processing a typical CD may have been through.

Many of us say that we like the sound of a particular opamp... and I am no exception... but it's also said many times that the signal will have been through dozens of NE5532 type devices etc.

How true is this ?

Does anyone have definite "proof" of this... ?

What would a "typical" big label (Decca/Deutshe Grammophon etc) large scale classical recording say done in the 80's have been through device wise.
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Old 25th November 2009, 11:24 AM   #2
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I have worked in the audio industry and at one of the companies they were working on a studio mixing desk to compete with the big names such as Neve. NE5532 was indeed the industry (at least in the UK) chip of choice and I'd estimate that going from mic to mic compressor/eq to desk to recording device would be as short a chain as you could get, and that would involve about 10 op-amps (per left/right channel) I'd say. And in the case of a big studio/hall recording for classical about 100 metres of cable

Most of the time the chain would be a lot longer and could easily double the number of op-amps.
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Last edited by richie00boy; 25th November 2009 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 25th November 2009, 11:46 AM   #3
Mooly is offline Mooly  United Kingdom
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Richie00boy,
That's very interesting... and this is a fascinating subject because I "know" from my own experience that opamps do alter the sound in a good system... but the question I suppose is what are we actually doing when we swap that NE5532 in our CD player for an OPA or whatever and think how wonderful it now sounds and "why did the designers use such a poor device" in the first place. If the material has been through many 5532's etc it just seems bizarre (but true) that what we use afterwards can alter the perceived sound so much.
Again my own experience tells me to be wary of random mods and component swaps and to ask "is it really" better but the answer is yes when it comes to those final opamps.

I remember reading something by Doug Self (who is a great fan of the NE5532/4) about it being used in consoles and mixing desks etc.

It would be really interesting to have some known commercial recordings where it was known for 100% definite that the signal had been through many such NE5532's etc.
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Old 25th November 2009, 02:08 PM   #4
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Well to be honest you could take any classical recording that was recorded between say 1988 to 1995 and it would be subject to at least 10x NE5532, if not those then something comparable.
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Old 25th November 2009, 04:04 PM   #5
Mooly is offline Mooly  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richie00boy View Post
Well to be honest you could take any classical recording that was recorded between say 1988 to 1995 and it would be subject to at least 10x NE5532, if not those then something comparable.
So this is where it gets interesting. Accepting what you say, it is a fact that myself and others will testify too, that replacing the NE5532 in say a CD player output stage subtly but significantly (to an audiophile or music lover) alters the sound for the better in most cases.
Comments such as "more detail" or "more musical" are made... and I have to agree... I don't want too, but it seems a fact.
How can that be ? when the signal has passed through all those 5532's.
Are we saying that the device we choose as the final link in the chain "colours" the sound so much. The later devices should be "better" than the 5532 in all respects and essentially totally transparent.
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Old 25th November 2009, 04:16 PM   #6
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10 opamps is certainly not going to be sufficient. Ever seen a recording studio? There is the big mixing console with big tool rack (compressor/expander, limiter you name it, tools to manipulate the stereo image). Every recorded track (guitar, drums, whatever) runs separately through a long processing chain. Today it's certainly worse with the easy availability of digital effects. Finally a master copy, in the 80ies often on tape, fed into the cutter that cuts the vinyl master. Chances are that the cutter (expensive) is an old one and still works with tubes.

I would be more afraid of the fact that current mass productions are mastered using boom boxes (ontop of the mixing console of course). This is done to shape the sound for car audio as most people, especially in the US, enjoy most of the music in the car.

Proper mastering, including knowing the limitations of the used medium, has certainly much bigger influence on sound than the exact number of opamps in the chain.

Have fun, Hannes
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Old 25th November 2009, 04:31 PM   #7
Hennie is offline Hennie  South Africa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h_a View Post
I would be more afraid of the fact that current mass productions are mastered using boom boxes ..........
Yes, this is the real issue. Targeting mass replay devices and EQ'ing and compressing for them.
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Old 25th November 2009, 04:34 PM   #8
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Having worked in both the high end hi-fi industry and the pro-audio/recording sector, I can back up Richie00boys statements 100%.
In fact he is, if anything, being too kind! (although for a purist classical recording maybe not much of the mark).
Most more mainstream recordings will have gone through parametric eq, graphic eq, compressor, de-esser, limiter, reverb (analogue or digital) etc, etc and may well have been put through the producer/bands/editors etc favorite pet 1950's valve gear 'cos they like the sound of 2-3% 2nd harmonic distortion!
It's quite possible (in fact likely) that it's been through 100 NE5534's and maybe a few TL072's, LF351's, 4558's etc for good measure. Then there is all the processing done in the digital domain these days using Pro-Tools and a myriad of other software!
It often amazes me that recordings can sound so good (sometimes ) and that we can hear any differences between amps, cd players etc when the sound has had to travel such an obstacle course already....
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Old 25th November 2009, 04:38 PM   #9
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"I would be more afraid of the fact that current mass productions are mastered using boom boxes (ontop of the mixing console of course). This is done to shape the sound for car audio as most people, especially in the US, enjoy most of the music in the car."

Very true!!
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Old 25th November 2009, 04:51 PM   #10
Mooly is offline Mooly  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jez View Post
It often amazes me that recordings can sound so good (sometimes ) and that we can hear any differences between amps, cd players etc when the sound has had to travel such an obstacle course already....
This is what I can't figure too.

Fact... swapping the NE5532 etc in a CD player etc for something better does alter the sound.

Why ?

Why should it make such a difference
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