Tubular Bells Producer/Engineer Opens DSD Mastering Studio

Simon Heyworth, best known as the engineer and co-producer of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album as well as the man who brought Tubular Bells to Multichannel SACD, has announced the opening of Super Audio Mastering (SAM). According to Heyworth, SAM is a “new and revolutionary mastering facility” that is located in the foothills of Dartmoor in England’s West Country.

Located in a historic Devon Roundhouse on Heyworth’s converted farmstead, what makes this facility unique is its focus on Direct Stream Digital (DSD) for not only Super Audio CD (SACD) releases but also other recording, editing and mastering projects at the facility. Heyworth notes that while DSD is the core enabling technology used in Super Audio CD production, he has been using this advanced audio system in the mastering and remastering of a wide range of products, including Super Audio CD, CD and DVD Video releases.

As an example, this summer he has worked at SAM to DSD remaster the entire Simple Minds catalogue of 12 albums for CD release. He reports that Super Audio CD releases of the same albums will follow next year. He is currently working on a new King Crimson release, which just finished the final recording sessions in Nashville.

Advantages of the SAM Facility
The Super Audio Mastering facility at Dartmoor is “literally rock solid” with 3 foot thick granite walls. Heyworth says that it offers facilities that “would be impossible to reproduce in London.” He adds that

“Locating in Devon removes the London overhead, gives me more time on projects and creates a unique environment in which to master great music.”

Heyworth Talks About His Focus on DSD
Turning to his focus to DSD, Heyworth feels that DSD mastering “sets a new standard in high quality audio reproduction”. He says that

“As a mastering medium, DSD sounds so good and instantly brings alive the original masters. This is critical to me especially when I am re-mastering. My motivation in opening this facility is to turn clients on to great sound quality and put the music back into CD. We are able to offer the unprecedented quality of the Super Audio CD format.”

“The perception of DSD, the tempo, the harmonics and the way the music hangs together with it are spot on. Recording engineers attempt to capture the moment as it happens – whether you are recording live in the studio, or at a live concert.”

“PCM distortion can be subliminal, in that it’s not obvious to the ear but you can grow tired of the PCM sound. On the other hand, DSD reproduces the timing between the musicians and the instruments exactly. It captures that space and the moment.”

“I’ve been working with Super Audio CD for over two years and now its time has come. My intention at SAM is to use my Sonoma DSD workstation to do all my mastering, all the time. My goal is to turn people on to Super Audio CD and DSD as the future production format of choice.”

“For producers hearing a DSD master for the first time, I believe it’s important that they hear a distinct difference – a master that has more space. DSD is just so much better than PCM.”

1 Giant Leap Wins Surround Sound Award at Popkomm
Within weeks of opening the SAM multi-channel mastering facility, Simon Heyworth was celebrating the studio’s first major award. The multimedia project, 1 Giant Leap, was honored at this year’s Popkomm music convention in Cologne, Germany for ‘best surround sound production’.

Heyworth worked with British producer/artists Jamie Catto (Faithless) and Duncan Bridgeman on the mastering of the soundtrack of 1 Giant Leap. Equipped only with a PowerBook, a DV-Camera, some mics and a Logic Audio Platinum, Catto and Bridgeman traveled the world and created a global jam session with artists such as Baaba Maal, Brian Eno, Neneh Cherry, Robbie Williams, Dennis Hopper, Kurt Vonnegut and die Mahotella Queens.

“Although 1 Giant Leap is a DVD Video sound track, I still used Direct Stream Digital to master and enhance the sound quality and also manipulated the Dolby Digital to provide optimum performance,”

said Heyworth.

“We are talking about possibly releasing the actual 5.1 surround soundtrack on Super Audio CD. Many people have commented on the good sound quality and I can say that it has a lot to do with DSD, in that it has more depth of field. Mastering like an album was crucial to the impact.”