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Author Topic: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?  (Read 21779 times)

JGreenslade

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Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« on: March 23, 2008, 08:21:27 pm »

Hi,

Having spent the evening routing through some records that are due for revival, I stumbled upon an underrated number by the late vocalist, Donnell Rush (MAW records – recorded days before he sadly passed away).

Having been more accustomed to hearing the record on club-type systems, hearing it through a hi-fi cartridge made me realise what a good cut it was (it always sounded really dirty through a DJ cartridge). Upon reading the printed credits, Herb Powers Jnr’s name was on it (nothing surprising there - he’s been cutting quality masters for decades now).

However, when I read the text inscribed on the lead-out track, it clearly says “Europadisk – DMM – NY”... The printed credits read “Herb “Pump” Powers Jnr for Hit Factory Mastering”...

There’s probably an obvious explanation here (like Herb did a stint @ Europadisk – doh!), but I’m curious because the record doesn’t sound like a DMM to my ears... It sounds like Herb (or should I say “Herb”?) *just slightly* hit the threshold where the treble starts to distort. However, I think this suits the material perfectly; you definitely wouldn’t notice the distortion on a club system (the EQ will see to that) - and without the record being cut this loud it wouldn’t be ‘competitive’ in the club, nor would it have the presence on a ‘smiley-faced’ club system EQ. The distortion is slight and doesn’t detract from the enjoyment - in fact, it probably enhances it as it’s slight and makes a relatively minimal drum track have more ‘character’ (more ‘pump’...).

Anyway, excuse my rambling... My point is that the 12” doesn’t sound like a DMM cut...maybe I’m totally wrong and Herb loves a DMM??? Maybe Herb has challenged my perception of what a DMM cut sounds like?


Justin  
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TotalSonic

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2008, 09:51:24 pm »

AFAIK Herbie Powers Jr. never cut any sides at Europadisk.

The cutting engineers there were Jim Shelton (Europadisk's president and founder) whose scribe would generally say "Europadisk DMM NY" - and then from 1993 until 2004 (when he left to briefly become a staff engineer at Masterdisk) Don Grossinger (whose scribe would say "Europadisk DMM NY USA DG" or "Europadisk DMM NY USA Don Grossinger") and then finally for 2004 & 2005 (when it closed) myself (with a scribe that said "Europadisk DMM SB" - with the first part in stylized block letters but with my initials in cursive).

There possibly might have been other cutting engineers besides Jim Shelton prior to Don starting (I believe there was at least one whose name I can't recall) but I'm still pretty positive that Herbie never cut sides outside of Frankford Wayne, The Hit Factory or his own rooms ("Powers House of Sound").

It's also extremely doubtful that Herbie would have cut a side without including his own personal and unmistakable scribe in the dead wax:

http://www.disco-disco.com/images/herbiegraffiti.gif

SO: what I really think happened with the record in question is that Herbie did the PRE-mastering for it - and then the vinyl mastering was actually done by either Jim Shelton or Don Grossinger.  In my experience all too often (actually in the majority of cases) when pre-mastering was done at a different facility only the pre-mastering engineer would receive any credit on the packaging and the cutting engineer would go completely uncredited.

One thing I do know for a fact is that Don Grossinger cut the masters for the vast majority of Masters At Work's releases.

Anyway - as far as the "sound of DMM" goes - I think that many records out of the huge catalog of dance sides cut at Europadisk definitely can defy peoples preconceptions of what this really means.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

JGreenslade

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2008, 07:32:00 pm »

Hi Steve,

Thanks – your explanation makes perfect sense. Thinking about it, MAW’s label was run by Strictly Rhythm and all SR's cuts went through Europadisk. MAW Records was effectively a SR label, but with Kenny D and Louie V on A+R / Production duties.

To be honest, I can’t really think of a better example of a ‘club cut’. In terms of level, the cut touches the line, but doesn’t exceed it – a text-book club cut.

Maybe, with it being Donnell Rush’s last record, MAW aimed to make a piece of vinyl that was a fitting tribute. If this were their intention, they succeeded admirably. I wonder how many labels today are prepared to employ Herb Powers for pre-mastering, and then Grossinger for the cut? That’s a heavyweight mastering team.

What I find interesting is that I jumped to the conclusion it was a lacquer cut...

What do you think gave Europadisk the ability to challenge preconceptions about what constitutes a DMM? I guess the evidence is in my 2 posts here.  

BTW – The scribe says ‘Europadisk NY USA’. The record is ‘Perfect Day’ by LOOD – produced by Lem Springsteen, John Ciafone and Louie Vega.


Justin  
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TotalSonic

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2008, 09:04:06 pm »

Afaik the signal path for club cuts in 1996 at Europadisk's studio was something like:
16bit DAT ->
Neve Digital Transfer Console (with onboard snapshot automateable digital attenuators, eqs, filters, compressors & limiters) ->
Studer 16bit digital delay ->
Neumann SP-79 analog transfer console
w/ OE-DUO eq's, U473 comp/limiters, HT75 HPF/LPF's, Elliptical EQs, VAB-84 vertical amplitude limiter ->
Neumann BTT-84 acceleration limiters ->
Neumann SAL84 cutting amps ->
SX84 cutter head in VMS-82 DMM lathe

I can't remember the exact year that the TC M2000 replaced the Studer delay and the TC Finalizer Plus for additional processing was added - but I'm pretty sure that it came a year or two after 1996.  

From your description I'm almost 100% positive that Don Grossinger cut these sides.  Jim Shelton was fairly conservative with levels and generally a little heavy handed with the LPF's/HPF's/EE's usually going for "clean" over level - while for club cuts Don Grossinger was all about pushing the envelope as far as he could - going for +6dBVU levels (occasionally even above!) and sometimes a little bit of an "edge" on the tracks.  Don definitely knew how to get the most out of that system and he ended up doing tons of house cuts for Strictly Rhythm and lots of other labels - although I think he probably is most proud of his work doing more high fidelity sounding stuff, such as the Rolling Stone limited edition vinyl remasters or the vinyl masters for Brian Wilson's "Smile".

As far as the scribe - I think Don started adding the "DG" in the scribe in response to never getting credit for vinyl mastering on the packaging or label - and due to even more frustration with this later in say around 2000 he started writing his full name in the dead wax.  If you post a pic of the scribe I can tell Jim's and Don's handwriting pretty easily so I could tell you who cut it.

As far as DMM - what you get with it is less pre-echo, a tiny bit less inner diameter tracing distortion, better high frequency definition, subtly sharper transients, and with the VSM-8x lathes one of the best pitch/depth computers ever made - so you could generally get higher levels when dealing with longer sides.  What is sacrificed is a bit of the ability to handle uncorrelated bass frequencies as well - but with dance cuts you generally are dealing with kick right up the middle as the main element anyway (although admittedly a good number of the cuts done at Europadisk had the EE set at 300Hz and the VAB84 in the signal path as well).  I've seen some lacquer cuts done at The Exchange or Heathmans that were hitting +7dBVU that admittedly it would be hard to get to the exact same level with DMM (then again - I rarely see other mastering houses issuing cuts these hot but still relatively clean and trackable) - but otherwise I think a DMM lathe is perfectly suitable for cutting any type of material and is more than capable of cutting a great sounding dance side.

Anyway - I know of only a few producers who were able to do a/b's of the same sides cut on lacquer and DMM - and while I did hear from a couple of them that did this that told me they preferred the lacquer versions as "warmer" - I think DMM got a bad rep from a few dance producers simply out of hearsay and rumor rather than actual experience in real world comparisons.

In my own collection I have tons of DMM cuts many of which I think show particular excellence in sound.  

I really miss getting to use that lathe!!

http://www.totalsonic.net/image/lathe.jpg

Best regards,
Steve Berson

Gold

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2008, 09:42:09 pm »

TotalSonic wrote on Mon, 24 March 2008 21:04

 a tiny bit less inner diameter tracing distortion


I don't know why this would be as tracing distortion is a function of playback not recording.

The general reason the DMM is considered less desirable for very loud cuts is that it doesn't like to cut deep. It's hard to pull all that copper out of there. So instead of cutting a 4-5 mil groove you end up cutting a shallower groove which provides less stable tracking.
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TotalSonic

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2008, 11:45:16 pm »

Gold wrote on Mon, 24 March 2008 21:42

TotalSonic wrote on Mon, 24 March 2008 21:04

 a tiny bit less inner diameter tracing distortion


I don't know why this would be as tracing distortion is a function of playback not recording.


Well, I admit that I am just repeating an old "company line" regarding this point and don't have empirical evidence regarding this at all in fact - but I can say that there is indeed a possibility that the more defined grooves with DMM might lead to a tiny bit subtle difference in what is actually played backed in the inner grooves.  

Quote:


The general reason the DMM is considered less desirable for very loud cuts is that it doesn't like to cut deep. It's hard to pull all that copper out of there. So instead of cutting a 4-5 mil groove you end up cutting a shallower groove which provides less stable tracking.



Well - with this issue I can say there is 18 years worth of thousands of loud 12" dance singles that were cut to DMM at Europadisk that I believe refute this belief in good part.  DJ's all around the world spun Strictly Rhythm's records in particular - many of which were some of the best selling 12" dance singles in history.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

Gold

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2008, 08:10:32 am »

TotalSonic wrote on Mon, 24 March 2008 23:45

Well - with this issue I can say there is 18 years worth of thousands of loud 12" dance singles that were cut to DMM at Europadisk that I believe refute this belief in good part.  DJ's all around the world spun Strictly Rhythm's records in particular - many of which were some of the best selling 12" dance singles in history.




How does this refute the "belief" that the DMM doesn't like to cut a deep groove? When these thousands of loud sides were cut what was the base depth? You can cut loud sides at a shallower depth. It just leaves less play to deal with tricky cuts. With operator skill of course it can be done. You can also cut good sides with the AM 132 tube pitch and depth system. It doesn't mean it's the best.
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bruno putzeys

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2008, 08:40:06 am »

Gold wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 13:10

You can cut loud sides at a shallower depth.

Provided the bass content is in phase.

I'm following this discussion with interest as a complete vinyl nitwit - I've only dug up my black disc collection three weeks ago but after some listening it struck me that each time I thought the sound was edgy I found a DMM logo somewhere on the sleeve. I'm very curious to learn what factors are involved.
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Gold

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2008, 11:45:19 am »

Bruno Putzeys wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 08:40

Provided the bass content is in phase.



Yes but with loud dance cuts it almost always is. And if it isn't you can make it so with processing without any complaints. A more common problem would be a bass drum with a lot low end and a lot of snap on the attack. This produces a double S curve like waveform. A large velocity swing with a fast acceleration at the attack. This is all lateral and in phase. It is difficult for a sylus to track this. The deeper the groove the better the tracking will be (up to a point).


Quote:

I'm very curious to learn what factors are involved.


IIRC there is a good JAES paper on it. I think it's in the Disk Recording Anthology. I'll take a look when I get home.
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TotalSonic

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2008, 03:25:29 pm »

Gold wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 08:10

TotalSonic wrote on Mon, 24 March 2008 23:45

Well - with this issue I can say there is 18 years worth of thousands of loud 12" dance singles that were cut to DMM at Europadisk that I believe refute this belief in good part.  DJ's all around the world spun Strictly Rhythm's records in particular - many of which were some of the best selling 12" dance singles in history.




How does this refute the "belief" that the DMM doesn't like to cut a deep groove?


That's not what the intent of my statement was at all.  I do not question that you can cut deeper with lacquer.  The belief that the real world performance of loud DMM sides refutes to me is that you need 4 mils of depth in order to have loud sides easily trackable.

Here's the facts:
* the test records would never have been approved for these 1000's of sides if the levels on them were not "competitive" with the levels being cut for the genre to lacquer
* the producers of these tracks were actively testing these in real world conditions of playing these in clubs (typically with Technics 1200's & relatively inexpensive cartridges)
* DJ's would not have bought these records in droves if they were having problems tracking them in real world conditions of club play, or if they were lacking in level and impact

Quote:


When these thousands of loud sides were cut what was the base depth?


I figure around 2 mils.

Quote:


You can cut loud sides at a shallower depth. It just leaves less play to deal with tricky cuts. With operator skill of course it can be done.


I participated in a few sessions where I was asked to match level and transients to references that were cut to lacquer - and honestly it didn't take that much finessing to get the client to give very quick test pressing approvals for these.

Don Grossinger was probably the best out there in terms of getting DMM cuts loud - so I agree with you that operator skill does play a factor in pushing the envelope on this though.

Quote:


You can also cut good sides with the AM 132 tube pitch and depth system. It doesn't mean it's the best.


I never said it was the best! I just was trying to state that the belief that DMM was incapable of creating a loud side that tracks well are unfounded based on a long track record of actual performance versus belief based on technical theory.  

Again - I'm not debating that many producers if given the same side cut to lacquer and DMM might choose lacquer as subjectively sounding better to them - but I do challenge the assumption that "competitive DJ levels" can not be cut to DMM.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

TotalSonic

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2008, 03:36:04 pm »

Bruno Putzeys wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 08:40

Gold wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 13:10

You can cut loud sides at a shallower depth.

Provided the bass content is in phase.

I'm following this discussion with interest as a complete vinyl nitwit - I've only dug up my black disc collection three weeks ago but after some listening it struck me that each time I thought the sound was edgy I found a DMM logo somewhere on the sleeve. I'm very curious to learn what factors are involved.


There's generally less smearing of the smaller movements when cutting into the copper so high frequency transients tend to remain sharper and more defined with DMM. This might be a factor.  Of course the sound of the source (a lot of cuts then coming from F1 and PCM1630) could be a greater factor also.

I think some of the edginess in some of the cuts done at Europadisk's were the result of the 16bit (and I believe also non-dithered) DSP that was in the Neve Digital Transfer Console.  Ergonomically the Neve DTC is one of the best laid out pieces of digital hardware I've ever used - but sound wise it left a bit to be desired.

When I was at Europadisk I ended up bypassing the Neve DTC and using a SAWStudio workstation sending to matched Lavry Blue DAC's for the last few months of cuts I did there, so that I could cut directly from hi-res 24bit/96kHz sources.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

JGreenslade

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2008, 03:53:23 pm »

Bruno Putzeys wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 12:40

Gold wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 13:10

You can cut loud sides at a shallower depth.

Provided the bass content is in phase.

I'm following this discussion with interest as a complete vinyl nitwit - I've only dug up my black disc collection three weeks ago but after some listening it struck me that each time I thought the sound was edgy I found a DMM logo somewhere on the sleeve. I'm very curious to learn what factors are involved.


Bruno - I didn't want to ruffle feathers by saying that I tend to associate DMMs with having a more edgy top-end!

What got me curious enough to post the initial question is that the cut in question - to my ears - doesn't sound 'DMM' at all. When I saw Powers' name on the credits and Europadisk on the scribe I wanted to try and figure out what had gone on. It should be noted that the cut in question sounds pretty raw in terms of distortion on a DJ cartridge; although in a club, the 'smiley' EQ will make it sound clean (a clinically clean cut is rarely a good thing for the club - you want a relatively thick mid to compensate for the club EQ + the ear's natural compression – overtly clean cuts can sound ‘anaemic’ in the club).

The record I'm talking about doesn't sound like the other hundred-odd Strictly records in my collection (which all sound good I should add, although they obviously have the ‘DMM sound’) - bass-wise, it sounds more akin to a lacquer cut. I suspect one or two things: firstly, Herb Powers has a few tricks up his sleeve in terms of EQ and general processing; secondly, I haven't looked at the record on an FFT yet, but it could have some harmonics in the bass region that are making me think the bass is deeper than it really is.

Either way, if you can afford to employ both Powers and DG for a cut, to my ears, it's a recommended strategy!

Steve - thanks for the chain info!

You can see copies of the record for sale here if anyone's interested: http://www.discogs.com/sell/list?release_id=8418&ev=r2

I think the record makes for an interesting case study in terms of hitting the 'line' loudness-wise.


Justin
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Gold

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2008, 04:34:56 pm »

Steve,

I think we are talking past each other. My point is simply that a deeper groove tracks better and a DMM doesn't like to cut a deep groove. This is why it has the reputation for not doing loud cuts. At no time did I mention anything about sound.

Like most things in disk cutting the difference between "great" and "terrible" is small. Especially with Neumann lathes. Whether a cut comes out well has more to do with the operator than the machine. You can get a good loud cut out of a DMM and you can cut a long side with an AM131. The DMM was purpose built for cutting low noise sides at a shallow depth. To get fantastic performance it sacrificed the ability to easily cut levels that are far outside the EBU standard.
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TotalSonic

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2008, 04:42:37 pm »

Gold wrote on Tue, 25 March 2008 16:34

Steve,

I think we are talking past each other. My point is simply that a deeper groove tracks better and a DMM doesn't like to cut a deep groove. This is why it has the reputation for not doing loud cuts. At no time did I mention anything about sound.

Like most things in disk cutting the difference between "great" and "terrible" is small. Especially with Neumann lathes. Whether a cut comes out well has more to do with the operator than the machine. You can get a good loud cut out of a DMM and you can cut a long side with an AM131. The DMM was purpose built for cutting low noise sides at a shallow depth. To get fantastic performance it sacrificed the ability to easily cut levels that are far outside the EBU standard.


Hey Paul -
It's all good cause it's in the 'hood!

Anyway - I agree with you on all the points above.

PS - we definitely need to do a Greenpoint ME's beer night sometime soon.

Best regards,
Steve Berson

jason goz

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Re: Did Herb Powers Jnr Cut DMMs @ Europadisk?
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2008, 03:14:44 pm »

So do we all agree that DMM is shit for cutting dance music then? Laughing  
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