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Sheffield Lab Albums - yay or nay?

typericey

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#1
I grew up with these. My dad tried collecting the entire catalog, be it on CD or vinyl and I was the direct beneficiary.

To this day, they are my favorite old school "audiophile" record label (vs. Reference Recordings, Telarc, Chesky, etc.). I just love the sound of their recordings in general and I think they hold up pretty well to this day.

Too bad they were to focused on the direct-to-disc thing when they should've also done direct to digital (assuming the tech was already available then, I'm not sure.) Today I still listen to their CDs which is from analog tape and wonder how much limitations tape made to their recordings (tape saturation, etc.). I wonder how the recordings would've sounded if they were direct to 24-bit, 44.1k digital.

Anyway, I just wanted to get everyone's thoughts about Sheffield Lab recordings. Good? Bad? Ugly? Fire away.
 

egellings

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#2
I liked the sound quality, but the music was somewhat uninvolving. Maybe the musicians were trying too hard not to make a mistake while playing, since a whole side of a direct-to-disk LP would have to be played & recorded over if an error happened. That could have crimped their style somewhat. Sound quality is superb, however. I have some of the LPs.
 

JeffS7444

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#3
They're generally well recorded, and I particularly enjoyed the Harry James albums, and Thelma Houston's is worth a listen too IMO. Some of the others seem to be pretty big-time Hollywood talent, if behind the scenes.
 

amadeuswus

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#4
I've come across a few articles about Sheffield's recording technique and gear. I don't have the links at hand, but some or maybe most of them were done in Blumlein. Doug Sax liked to use tube mic preamps. And there was the classic Sheffield Lab "Stop Digital Madness" T shirt... withdrawn after they started issuing CDs, I suppose.

Sheffield made several of the very few full-orchestra Blumlein recordings. The ones with the LA Philharmonic were made on a film music scoring stage and sound somewhat dry acoustically. But I still like how natural they sound.

By the way, Town Hall Records seems to be a sister label run by the pianist/arranger Lincoln Mayorga. The piano recordings I've heard on Town Hall have a similarly naturally sound signature.

http://townhallrecords.com/
 

DonH56

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#5
Good. Great examples of how good recordings can be in any format.

They did record a number, maybe all, in parallel to an early digital recorder (gigantic thing!)
 

JoachimStrobel

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#6
I grew up with these. My dad tried collecting the entire catalog, be it on CD or vinyl and I was the direct beneficiary.

To this day, they are my favorite old school "audiophile" record label (vs. Reference Recordings, Telarc, Chesky, etc.). I just love the sound of their recordings in general and I think they hold up pretty well to this day.

Too bad they were to focused on the direct-to-disc thing when they should've also done direct to digital (assuming the tech was already available then, I'm not sure.) Today I still listen to their CDs which is from analog tape and wonder how much limitations tape made to their recordings (tape saturation, etc.). I wonder how the recordings would've sounded if they were direct to 24-bit, 44.1k digital.

Anyway, I just wanted to get everyone's thoughts about Sheffield Lab recordings. Good? Bad? Ugly? Fire away.
I own a couple of their direct to disc recordings. The three Harry James albums recorded in a chapel are the best recordings ever made for me. Beats 9x/2y. They are optimised so that the disc‘s distortion meats the big bands chapel hall. Sure, they reissued them on CD, but that misses this harmonized distortion thing. The 45 rpm Randy disc was too much for my taste, but 45 rpm was fashionable then but I lost interest as they could not line up any great jazz bands for DD as others did with Woody Herman, Buddy Rich etc.... Golden days. Mch Blu-ray with video is the only valid succession for me.
 

watchnerd

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#7
I liked the sound quality, but the music was somewhat uninvolving. Maybe the musicians were trying too hard not to make a mistake while playing, since a whole side of a direct-to-disk LP would have to be played & recorded over if an error happened. That could have crimped their style somewhat. Sound quality is superb, however. I have some of the LPs.
+1

Like a lot of audiophile record labels, they're more noteworthy as examples of great recordings than as great musical performances.

I rarely listen to them these days.
 

Blumlein 88

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#8
They were done in Blumlein. These have less sense of space than near coincident techniques with some calling them dry and distant sounding. Some of this wouldn't be so if people played them back with speakers further apart. The proper way to reproduce a Blumlein recording is with the speakers at an angle of 90 degrees. 60 degrees being more common in speaker set up a Blumlein recording sounds a little smaller and indistinct than if optimum speaker spacing is used. Finally Sheffield labs used Teldec rather than RIAA EQ which makes the top end a little softer if you play it back with RIAA EQ.

At least some of the time they used an AKG C-24 stereo mike which is a pair of condensers. It allows you to change the mic pattern on the fly and remotely. Others have stated on some recordings they used ribbons, but I'm not sure that is correct. Later they used a custom designed version of the C24 where they bypassed the transformers for their own buffering circuit according to some involved in the recordings.
 
OP
typericey

typericey

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Thread Starter #10
I liked the sound quality, but the music was somewhat uninvolving. Maybe the musicians were trying too hard not to make a mistake while playing, since a whole side of a direct-to-disk LP would have to be played & recorded over if an error happened. That could have crimped their style somewhat. Sound quality is superb, however. I have some of the LPs.
Thanks for the reply. I would have to disagree though. I think the performances were quite entertaining and foot tapping, even if they're not my favorite music genres I listen to. I'm referring to the following albums:
- Dave Grusin Discovered Again
- JNH and Friends
- Don Randy and Quest - top of the heap for me
- Thelma Houston
- Lincoln Mayorga and Amanda McBroom
- Tower of Power
 

Fitzcaraldo215

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#11
I had most all of the Sheffield’s. But, really, I’d sold them. They were one or two generations back in sound, ridiculous analog. I agree that they totally non-involving musically, except for the Harry James. Hey, he was married and divorced from Betty Grable, and it was 70 years since he was popular.

But, how does it sound? It blows digital away enemy on a super, high fi turntable and cartridge? I am far from thinking so. I sold it.
 
OP
typericey

typericey

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Thread Starter #12
Doug Sax liked to use tube mic preamps.
This is another one of my what ifs. Reading the CD inserts I did see some mention of tube electronics. We all know how tube adds distortion. I wonder how they actually affected the sound of the recordings and if it would've made a difference if they used solid state instead.
 

mhardy6647

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#14
The "Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues" albums are painfully cheesy.

I... umm... do own one of them. :cool:
 

Kal Rubinson

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#17
Thanks for the reply. I would have to disagree though. I think the performances were quite entertaining and foot tapping, even if they're not my favorite music genres I listen to. I'm referring to the following albums:
- Dave Grusin Discovered Again
- JNH and Friends
- Don Randy and Quest - top of the heap for me
- Thelma Houston
- Lincoln Mayorga and Amanda McBroom
- Tower of Power

Still love this one.
 

Blumlein 88

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#20
I think you had it right at 'cheesy'. ;)

It sounds like music from an old Benny Hill sketch.

Or something from vaudeville.

Yikes that turntable? Someone render it some aid. You can hear the mis-tracking. Doesn't appear to be optimally aligned. Or possibly the disc suffered damage and it isn't this TT. Despite that the sound quality actually is pretty good in the main.
 

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