New York, January 30, 2012 —Masterdisk, one of New York City’s foremost mastering facilities, has installed several of Antelope Audio’s Isochrone Trinity Master Clock and 10M Rubidium Atomic Clock units in its mastering suites, to maintain stereo imaging and the overall sonic integrity of projects passing through its studios. Masterdisk is installing multiple Antelope Audio Zodiac D/A converters at listening stations throughout the facility for quality control purposes.
According to owner Scott Hull, Masterdisk’s mastering suites were constructed with very high quality acoustics and solid grounding, and were already well clocked —therefore they did not appear to be candidates for improvement. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he says. Yet, the Antelope 10M — which incorporates a reference generator that is 100,000 times more accurate than the quartz oscillators in most equipment — and the Trinity, which offers 64-bit DSP and up to 384 kHz audio streaming, have had a noticeable impact on performance clocking the digital audio converters in the rooms.
“Image stability can’t be generated, and it has to be maintained through the process,” explains Hull. “You can undo certain effects or jitter but you can’t ‘reimage’ something; you can’t get that image back once you lose it.”
As he further elaborates, any component within the signal chain has the potential to degrade the accuracy of the soundstage. “A lot of processors and many, if not all, workstations give you something back that isn’t quite as stable, as rock-solid, as what you put in,” says Hull. However, driving every component in the system from a high quality master clock can reduce the likelihood of any degradation. “Workstations simply work better by being clocked with a more stable clock. Every step along the way where you can give yourself a tenth of a percent, it adds up to something pretty noticeable at the end. And there’s a marked and audible improvement in the final product when everything is Antelope powered,” he states.
Keeping True Quality Control at the Helm
Hull believes that true quality control at the mastering stage has become increasingly overlooked as budgets have become tighter and clients’ time and involvement have decreased. “We really have to know exactly what we’re sending out the door. We have to have at least two sets of ears on every product that we send out. So we’re putting Antelope Zodiac DACs into several listening stations in our facility just to facilitate quality control passes. Suffice it to say we consider that to be one of the best and most open and accurate DACs we can get. Coupled with the headphone amp, this gives us really good functionality for hearing exactly what’s going out the door at 192 kHz or 96k or 44.1.”
As Hull recalls, one of his mastering engineers initially heard about Antelope Audio’s clocks from his clients, and had a unit brought in to evaluate. He also notes that veteran mastering engineer Vlado Meller, who joined Masterdisk when Universal Mastering Studios closed in mid-2011, was a longtime Antelope Audio user. “Once we’d worked with it and got more of the boxes in more of the rooms we came to like what it did,” Hull reports. “The integrity and sonic experience was better overall, and everyone was happy.”
What matters, he continues, is the integrity of the system from beginning to end, and utilizing a high definition master clock can make a difference to the end result. “Sometimes it’s analog, sometimes it’s digital, sometimes it’s digital and analog. But they do like to play together better when they’re locked to a common master reference. When you’re working from a 96k file or a digital device at 96k, through an analog console and back out to a CD master at 44.1, the fact that everything is resolved to a common reference seems to work.” He comments, “I’m just trying to get to an end result that makes the client nod their head.”
“Mastering Your Favorite Records Since 1973”
Established in 1973, Masterdisk has handled projects by a who’s who of the music business over the years, including – to name just a few mastered by Hull – Bob Dylan, Sting, Lou Reed, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen, Panic at the Disco, plus many, many others. Hull recently mastered “25 Years”, a retrospective 4-disc box set from Sting, and Vlado Meller recently mastered new albums for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction — including iTunes-optimized masters to go along with the vinyl and CD.