November 1999

SoundStage! Talks with Bob Ludwig

On October 5, 1999, EMD released  the "CD Album Replica" and "Limited Edition Vinyl" versions of music from popular artists of the 1970s and 1980s. Artists include The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney & Wings, R.E.M., Heart, Steve Miller, Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad and Roxy Music. With an emphasis on sound quality, EMD recruited renowned mastering engineer Bob Ludwig (shown right with Doug Schneider at HI-FI '99).

If you take a look at many of the current CDs in the EMD collection as well as LPs from days past, chances are very good that they have been through Bob Ludwig's Gateway Mastering studio. Bob was gracious enough to answer a few questions and give some insight into how he improved the sound of Roxy Music's Avalon re-release.

SoundStage!: What was used as the source for mastering?

Bob Ludwig: The original master, a 30ips 1/2" with no noise reduction.

SS!: The CD is HDCD encoded, but were any other types of digital-processing techniques used in remastering to attempt to improve what was on the source?

BL: Yes. As always I try to improve upon the master source if I feel more musicality is hidden in the tape. Some of the toys I use include things like a Manley tube compressor, etc.

SS!: Can you give us a list of the general equipment used to evaluate sound quality when you were doing the remastering work for Avalon?

BL: I have four different analog tape machines from which to choose. For this one I used a modified Ampex tape recorder that has two playback heads. One feeds class-A solid-state electronics and the other head feeds tube electronics, and I use whichever sounds best.

Without giving away my secrets, the basic path is: the tape machine goes into what I think are the best electronics in the world. It is a custom-built system using parts and engineering from George Massenberg and Sony Studios in New York. It is a true audiophile piece of gear, even the output fader can be switched out of the circuit if it is not needed! That feeds the Pacific Microsonics HDCD analog-to-digital converter. I monitor with two EgglestonWorks Ivy loudspeakers in stereo, and five EgglestonWorks Andra loudspeakers for 5.1 surround. The Ivys (serial numbers 1 and 2) retail for $100,000. They have 23 drivers in each cabinet operating in an isobaric mode. They are powered by two bridged Cello Performance Mark II amplifiers (6000-watt peaks!), and I use the top-of-the-line Transparent Audio speaker cable. I use Transparent Audio cable throughout the studio; we probably have a few kilometers of it installed in my one mastering room, three production rooms and DVD-authoring room.

The main key is the room itself.  I tried to make it as acoustically perfect as possible. The computer calculations for locating the speakers and the wave analysis of the room design were done by Peter D'Antonio of RPG Diffusor Systems, Inc. We have the world's first third-generation Diffractal.

You can see photos of the room with my older Duntech Sovereign 2001 speakers on our website

SoundStage! wishes to extend our thanks to Mr. Ludwig for his hand in bringing better sound to us all.

...Doug Schneider