Sound engineer Ted Carfrae talks about his work remastering Doris Day’s 1950s radio showsOctober 20, 2008 4 Comments
Audio mastering engineer and multi-million selling producer Ted Carfrae talks about his work restoring Doris Day’s vintage radio shows from the 1950s.
I’ve known the guys from Zone Records for many years, in fact they were one of my first clients ever when I had my studio in London’s West End. Since then, they have become great friends and I have restored and mastered countless projects for them with artists including Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Madeline Bell and of course Doris Day.
When they asked me to restore and re-master some original Doris Day radio programmes from the early 50’s, it was very exciting because this material has never been heard since it was first broadcast, so I felt a great responsibility to get it right. The shows were recorded pre-tape, so they existed only on transcription discs, much like a 78RPM record that radio stations cut so that they could archive programming output and keep it for either future broadcast or in the library for posterity.
Zone Records had all the discs carefully transferred in Los Angeles from the original analogue transcription discs onto a digital format such as a DAT tape or CDR before being sent to me for restoration.
Restoration is a tricky business at the best of times because though you want to remove all the unwanted noise and artefacts from the audio, you have to be very careful that in the process, you don’t also remove the character of the recording. I’ve heard many badly restored albums on CD’s where you can hear a sort of metallic brittle sound where the processing has been far too severe. I would rather keep some of the unwanted noise and retain the original character of the recording, than end up with an uncomfortable sounding result. Thankfully, the transcription discs were in good shape and probably hadn’t been played more than once or twice since they were originally recorded, so they were pretty clean without too many pops and clicks to deal with.
I use a top quality audio recording and editing software called ProTools along with external standalone equipment such as my de-clicker made by Cedar. This is the first pass I do to try and eradicate the biggest clicks and pops. This can be a very time consuming process because I want to make sure that I retain the character of the recording as much as possible. Each pass is recorded directly into ProTools where I then use a series of high quality audio pluggins to remove even more unwanted noise such as surface noise, hum and other unwanted artifacts. This is done almost like a movie, frame by frame, layer by layer, hopefully resulting in crisp and clean sounding master.
The next process is editing which is all done digitally in ProTools before final mastering. Mastering is the final process in the production, preparing the actual master for commercial production. All my mastering is all done using the highest quality external analogue equalizers and compression. This is my last chance to add bass or treble and also to make sure that all the different parts of the recording are the same audio level making it an even listening experience throughout. Analogue mastering also adds a unique warmth to the final master which is much more like it would have been originally because everything was analogue back then. From here I can finally assemble the finished CD master ready for pressing plant adding full song titles text and other essential sub-code information which is be embedded into the final CD master.
Audio restoration and mastering are a passion and a challenge for me which is one of the reasons I launched my mastering services online at www.tcmmastering.com. I would like to thank Zone Records for the opportunity to work with them on these incredibly important and historic Doris Day recordings.
Sincere thanks to Ted Carfrae for taking the time to talk to the ‘Discovering Doris’ website.Features