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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Basic Disc Mastering by Larry Boden

A bible of seldom read and published, esoteric knowledge...

BOOK REVIEW from Clint Holley, professional disc-mastering engineer for Well Made Music / Gotta Groove Records in Ohio, USA: -------
Several months ago I was contacted about reviewing a copy of the new edition of Basic Disc Mastering. Not only was I flattered to be able to read this but also offer some insights into what new information was included.

Here you go:
Having read a borrowed copy of Larry Boden's Basic Disc Mastering when I was getting started as a cutting engineer, I was excited when I heard that a "new" edition of the book was being considered and I wondered what would be added to this already helpful text.
Although I have never met Larry in person, it becomes clear right away that he has a passion for what he does. As a writer, Larry has a gift for translating a topic that can be intimidating into some very common sense explanations without omitting essential learning points. The first part of the book contains the what seems to be the complete first edition which includes explanations of the core ideas and principles of disc cutting. I have been asked innumerable times by aspiring disc cutters where they can go to "school" to learn the craft. As we know, the only school for disc cutting these days is the school of "hands on experience". The first 50 pages of this book, however, supply enough information for somebody unfamiliar with the basic terminology and concepts to at least ask informed questions. This is not to say that the text is only for "newbies" or beginners. As an experienced cutter myself, I walked away with several insights concerning groove geometry that I had not thought about in quite sometime.
While the first section of the book may seem very basic, I believe in this case it works to the advantage of the text and for the reader. Mathematical formulas are kept to a minimum and pictures and graphics help to make crucial points concerning groove defects and phase issues. This, I believe allows the reader to keep reading without having to stop and digest dense math which might cause some to set the book down forever.
I am happy to see all of this information back in print, and due in large part to the public's renewed interest in the vinyl medium, I think the first section of this book will inspire a new generation of record cutters. But, what is NEW in this book? The addition of several hundred pages of information spanning the the spectrum of disc recording from the 1930's all the way to the end of the first age of vinyl. Articles range from old patent drawings to a discussion of QUAD audio, many of which have never been published before. It is these appendices that hold the largest appeal to the seasoned record cutter, the DIY record cutter and anybody interested in the the science and practical application of disc cutting procedures. I waded in and was blown away by the information I found. It was best for me to digest these sections in piece by piece instead of trying to read it "cover to cover". I found several very informative sections on the application of stereo cutting, troubleshooting and comparisons of various cutting systems. These sections tend to be more technical but are worth the time and effort needed to fully grasp them. Also interesting to note is that in a cutting world dominated by Neumann and a few Scully lathes, there is plenty of info on more obscure cutting systems and how they were developed.
This books sounds great, right? Yes, it certainly is and I would happily spend my hard earned dollars on a copy, but the one glaring omission from the book is any kind of nod to cutting in the digital age. Computers have taken over the audio world and there is no discussion at all concerning this shift. Those of us in the business know already that you just replace the words "tape machine" with "computer," but I think a discussion of two very important topics; disc cutting in the era of super hot "slammed" masters and digital to analog converters would be very helpful to a novice.
All in all, this book is a great addition to the experienced cutters collection and is essential to anybody interested in disc cutting but does not know where to begin. Included also is a list of active cutting engineers and pressing plants. Let me put it more simply, Larry expresses a love for single malt scotch...if I were to meet him in a small neighborhood bar, I would certainty buy him a double scotch on the rocks to thank him for getting this back into print!
Clint Holley
Well Made Music / Gotta Groove Records

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