Sterling Sound Talks About Upcoming Dylan SACDs

As the September release of the Bob Dylan Remastered Series approaches, the mastering engineers at Sterling Sound have provided additional information about their approach to this project. In talks with Sterling Sound last week, they also confirmed reports that the release date for the first 15 albums in the Dylan Remastered SACD series has been moved back two weeks.

Sterling Sound Handles Dylan SACD Mastering Work
Sterling Sound has provided additional details on the mastering work behind the first 15 albums in the Bob Dylan Remastered SACD series. According to a statement from Sterling Sound “These fifteen titles mark the start of a long-term program to enhance and upgrade the sonic quality and packaging elements of one of the most important album catalogs in popular music.” As we noted in earlier articles on this project, Sterling Sound is handling most of the mastering work for the Surround Sound SACD, Stereo SACD and Stereo CD audio tracks on these discs.

Mastering Engineer Greg Calbi is handling all of the Stereo SACD and Stereo CD tracks on the series. Sterling’s George Marino is mastering the 5.1 Surround Sound SACD tracks on five of the six Dylan albums to be released in Multichannel SACD. All 15 of the Dylan Remastered SACDs will be Hybrid discs and will appear in digipak album packaging.

Greg Calbi’s Approach to SACD Stereo Tracks
Sterling Sound’s Greg Calbi was provided with master tapes from the Bob Dylan catalog in several different formats that were dated from 1962 to the present. Calbi said that he kept the songs in the “analog domain” until the final step when they were transferred to Direct Stream Digital (DSD) for creation of the SACDs. This was done by working on an analog console and then connecting the console directly to Prism DSD converters and then to the DSD editing workstation.

Calbi says that

“The analog signal processing in my room is ideally suited for SACD. It does a great job of taking the analog signal and transferring it into the best digital data that’s available. The low-end and all of the rhythmic elements are working in such a way that the combination provides a much more musical experience.”

Sterling Sound says that Calbi’s mastering suite was upgraded for the project with “new console wiring (featuring Wireworld cables), all tube signal processing, and a new patch bay to minimize signal path”. Calbi says that

“Those three elements created an immediacy of the sound on the Dylan project that just blew away anything that existed on the market before.”

As for the sound of the Dylan SACDs, Calbi says that “On all of the releases, the vocal quality, clarity and expressiveness is much more intimate than it ever has been. People are really going to hear things in his [Dylan’s] vocal that they have never heard before. SACD is much a marked improvement over the PCM Digital in terms of smoothness, clarity and fullness. It is a much more pleasurable and satisfying experience that has made me a complete believer in SACD.”

Sterling Sound Works on Dylan 5.1 SACD Surround Sound Tracks
On five of the six Dylan SACDs to be released in Surround Sound, Sterling’s George Marino handled the mastering work. According to Sterling Sound, Marino’s mastering suite was upgraded earlier this year with a “custom analog surround mastering suite” to enable him to handle Multichannel SACD, DVD Video and DVD Audio projects.

Marino describes his approach to surround sound mastering by saying that

“You have to create proper balance and imaging so that the audience will appreciate the desired effect. This way they can experience something refreshing and different from what they’re used to in the stereo environment.”

When creating the 5.1 Surround Sound SACD tracks, Marino worked from new surround mixes created by Michael Brauer and Chris Shaw under the supervision of Sony Legacy’s Senior Vice President of A&R Steve Berkowitz. Marino says that “It was a pleasure to work from the Dylan mixes brought in by Michael, Chris and Steve. They are faithful to the original two-track stereo mixes while adding a whole new element that Dylan fans will find very interesting.”

Dylan Remastered SACD Series Release Date Moved to September 16th
While it was interesting to hear more about how the first 15 albums in the Dylan Remastered SACD series were created, it was disappointing to hear that their release date has been delayed. The latest word we have is that the in store date for the Dylan SACDs has been delayed until September 16th. When I spoke with Sterling Sound, they confirmed that this is indeed the case.

In the meantime, Dylan and SACD fans may want to look for the special limited digipak edition of the Masked and Anonymous Soundtrack due out on Tuesday which will include a second 7 track SACD Sampler disc with selections from the Dylan Remastered SACD series (see the earlier article on this linked below).