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Thursday, May 20, 2010

F.I.M. - First Impression Music

Stan Ricker and Winston of F.I.M.

Why do FIM CDs sound superior?

How is a FIM CD born?

The audiophile community knows that FIM CDs sound audibly superior!

But do you know why? Please take a minute to find out the answer.

A normal CD is generally produced through three major steps:
A producer finds the music.
An engineer records the music, and another engineer masters the recorded material in a format that is suitable for production.
A replication plant manufactures the discs in quantity.

How FIM does it

We seek out music that has special quality and uniqueness, and arrange for its performance by unsurpassed artists.
We find the best engineers available. Winston Ma often works with engineers who are professors in recording technology, and chief engineers of mastering studios. Winston works with the engineers throughout the process and attends all master sessions to ensure that the sound quality meets the standard he wishes to achieve.
The normal replication process follows this pattern: the mastering engineer sends a CDR/CDCR containing the mastered music file to the replication plant for glass-stamper making, then CDs are pressed with the stamper, packed, and shipped to the label company.

From the viewpoint of FIM, this process can create uncertainty in several areas of quality control:

The music file is dubbed from the hard drive onto a CDR through a CD burner or similar equipment in the mastering studio. The quality of the burner, the power supply, and the cable cannot be ascertained. In addition, two generations of transfer of the musical signal are incurred, i.e., from the hard drive to the CDR burner/recorder, and then onto a CDR. The quality of the CDR varies from disc to disc, sometimes quite significantly. This is true for the burner as well.
The technical staff at the replication plant dub the music file onto their equipment, such as a hard drive or the glass-stamper making machine. The quality of the transfer is not consistent due to the possibly unsatisfactory condition of the machines or other technicalities. Two more generations of transfer of the music signal are also incurred. This is often part of the reason why a good recording may result in an inferior sounding disc.

FIM’s requirements

(i) The music file in the master engineer’s hard drive is uploaded to the computer of the glass-stamper machine directly via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), bit by bit, at no loss, eliminating two generations of transfer and lowering the jitter rate. (FIM believes generations of transfer will lead to possible loss of information and increase in coloration.)

(ii) FIM specifies that the average block error rate (BLER) of each disc is below 20. In fact, in most cases, the BLER is below 10. The Red Book industrial standard is 220. Hence, the quality of FIM discs can easily excel normal CDs by 22 times.

(iii) From October 2008 onwards, all FIM regular discs are made of 99.9999% silver; all Collectors’ Edition and Direct-from-Master Edition discs are made of 24 K gold.

Why silver and gold?

Because of FIM’s research in metallurgy.

The laser head of a CD player employs reflection to read the musical signal from the metal foil of the polycarbonate disc.

It is well know that silver, followed closely by gold, yields the highest reflectivity among the metals. Aluminum is commonly used material because it is less expensive, however it is also less durable over time compared to pure gold and silver. In addition, 24k gold is an inert non-corrosive metal which will not oxidize over time, extending the CD’s lifetime.

Furthermore, gold, followed by silver, provides the ultimate in malleability, meaning the foil has a smoother surface and fewer pinholes, and thus more linear reading and less drop-out can be achieved. A visual inspection shows that FIM discs are thicker and stronger (for less fluttering and resonance); the foil is much less transparent (thicker foil improves data storage capacity while reducing BLER and jitter); and nearly free of pinholes (for less drop-out of information), in comparison with other kinds of discs.

(iv) FIM maintains a high level of quality control:
A test run is required for every new album.
Winston Ma personally auditions the test pressing before giving approval for production.
All production discs are then subjected to a stringent final visual inspection before being packed in-house.

Digital how it should be done!

Thanks to Fabio for hinting this...

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