Station to Station // David Bowie

Release Date: 27th September 2010 (28th North America)

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Station to Station
Production Notes

Due to the nature of the flat transfers of the original analogue master and RCA CD master compared to the newly mixed and mastered audio of the Station To Station 5.1 new stereo and Live Nassau '76, there is a considerable difference in level between the various formats. Please note that this is not an error and exists to maintain the integrity of the older masters used in the creation of this release. We hope that this does not in anyway detract from your enjoyment of this product.

StationToStation - original production sessions

Station To Station was originally recorded at Cherokee Recording Studios in Hollywood. The facility was just opened in 1975, and David was the first major British act to record there. I didn’t choose Cherokee because it was “the” state of the art facility in L.A., it certainly was not, but rather because it was unknown at the time. My thinking was that its anonymity would help keep us below the radar with the press, groupies and paparazzi.

We recorded in Studio 1 which was the first ever Tom Hidley-designed room and later redesigned by George Augspurger. Near-field monitors were JBL 4311s. The recording console was a Trident A Range.  There were only 13 of these boards ever made and Cherokee eventually went on to own four of them. This console probably has one of the best sounding mic/line/EQ combinations to this day. David was the first artist to use the Trident A Range in “Studio 1” which helped to establish Cherokee as a world class facility.

We recorded on MCI JH-24, 24 track analogue tape machines and utilized much of what is now considered “vintage” equipment; Eventide (delays and harmonizers), EMT Echo Plates, UA/Urie and Teletronix compressors, API EQs, and DBX noise gates and compressors.  Microphones were the standard array of Neumann, Shure, AKG, Sennheiser, and EVs. We also used the Dolby-A noise reduction system.

The project was mixed at The Hit Factory in New York which was my home studio and wherein I was chief recording engineer.  We had a custom built console utilizing the now classic API 550 equalizers in each channel module. It had no automation, so like all mixing in those days, the mix was somewhat of a performance in itself. Every pass had small differences and sometimes it came to editing different takes together to achieve the “final” mix. TVC15 is a classic example of this. The 24 tape tracks were packed with different instrument information ending up on the same track at times. This of course made it impossible to add EQ and dynamics processing to a track for a continuous mix pass. One cannot affect a piano, saxophone and maracas in the same manner; hence the song was mixed in sections. My assistant added a second pair of hands for the most demanding sections.  The multi-track machine was an Ampex MM-1000… a beast of a machine, but very reliable and the 2-trk machine was an Ampex AG-440. The outboard possessing equipment was very similar to what Cherokee had in L.A.

The Nassau concert utilized the famous Record Plant remote truck. I can’t really remember much about the equipment other than it had Ampex 24 Track analogue tape machines… probably MM-1100s. I used it several times when recording for King Biscuit, but I never concerned myself too much with the equipment. The most important thing to me in a remote live situation is having good knowledgeable assistants who know the meaning of urgency and getting the concert recorded.  The monitor mix in the truck may not be perfect, but as long as the information is recorded, I know I can get it to sound good when taken back to the studio.

The new Nassau mixes were mixed at Sweetersongs East Studios in Santa Monica, California (Michele Vice-Maslin, owner) utilizing direct transfers from the original multi-track analogue tapes to ProTools HD 24/96 and a vast array of “top of the line” Plug-Ins. An Avid Control-24 board was used as the interface to the dual quad core Mac Pro. Speakers are Yamaha self powered near field monitors.  

The 5.1 Station To Station was mixed at The Barn in Agoura Hills California. This was also in the Pro Tools HD 24/96 format utilizing an Avid Icon interface. Westlake monitors were used in the array. Again a vast selection of Plug- Ins from many top line suppliers was used.

When it came time to “Master” the two projects, the first engineer of choice that came to mind was Brian Gardner who had mastered the original Station To Station back in the ‘70s. At the time Brian worked for Allen Zentz Mastering in Hollywood.  In those days we were still using Neumann disk cutting lathes and once all of the audio decisions were made for each song involving EQ and compression one could expect to receive a test lacquer shortly thereafter that had been cut directly on the lathe by the Mastering Engineer. Of course, everything used in the mastering chain was analogue including the half inch tape on which the project was mixed.

 

Brian now works at the famous Bernie Grundman Mastering Studios in Hollywood. Visiting Brian today for a mastering session involves carrying your hard drive tucked under your arm. The drive for these sessions contained an enormous amount of digital information. Between the Nassau concert, the 5.1 Station To Station mixes and the stereo fold down mixes (all having been mixed in Pro Tools, High Definition) there were quite a few gigabytes resting comfortably on the drive.  Brian and I played through each track numerous times tweaking the EQ and dynamics. The digital information came out of the computer on their high end D/A converters and from there routed to the console for processing. All of the equipment in the audio chain at Grundman’s is still analogue, including the consoles. No computer plug-ins were used in mastering.

Finally, I think an important thing to know about both projects is that there is no Auto-Tune used on any mix. All of David’s vocals remain as they were originally recorded.

Harry Maslin
Co-producer of the original album and new mixes.

StationToStation (original analogue master) and Station To Station (1985 RCA CD master)

There are 2 versions of the original album, the very original that was used for the vinyl and a master made for RCA CD release in 1985. The transfer from the analogue tapes used for the very original album was made from the Hit Factory master tapes at a resolution of 96kHz 24 Bit, through an ADA 8 Analogue to Digital convertor. The master tapes were recorded with Dolby A. A Studer A80 was used for the transfer having lined up to the Frequency Alignment Tones on the masters and to the Dolby tone, with the heads and rollers first being thoroughly cleaned before the transfer and fortunately the tapes did not require baking due to the effect known as "sticky shed". There was no analogue processing during the transfer. Once in the digital domain, the audio was "topped and tailed" and the two sides joined together with an appropriate gap. No other digital processing was undertaken in the digital domain for the DVD 96k 24 Bit PCM Stream. The CD version was sample rate converted to 44.1khz and noise shaped to 16 Bit, with no other processing .

The RCA CD master version was taken from a 1610 digital master recorded at 44.1kHz 16 Bit, and transferred digitally to a digital audio workstation and a new master prepared for manufacture. No additional processing was done.

In both cases the digital audio workstation used was Sonic Solutions HD.

Peter Mew
Senior Remastering Engineer
Abbey Road Studios

StationToStation (original analogue master) and Live Nassau '76 vinyl cuts

Cutting Station To Station was quite special as we cut from the original 1/4" master tape with completely analogue signal path (Advanced Head Cutting) as they would have done originally when it was first cut. The tape machine has two playback heads and a series of rollers. The first (The Advanced Head or Control Head) to control the lathe (pre listen) and the second is the signal that gets cut (Program Head) onto the lacquer. The path the tape takes is dependant on the cutting speed and tape speed and is a very "hands on" affair.

Live Nassau '76 was cut from the digital masters, but to avoid using delay lines to provide the pre listen delay we set up two outputs from the DAW to provide the delay therefore enabling us to use the highest quality digital to analogue conversion for the cut signal. This configuration is the same in essence as the "Advanced Head" system used for the Station To Station cut. One signal (The Control or Pre Listen) and the second signal (The Program or Cut signal) arrives 0.9 seconds later.

Sean Magee
Mastering Engineer
Abbey Road Studios

DVD

A 96/24 DTS stream is essentially a 48k stream (to be backwards compatible with all DTS decoders) with a 96kHz extension able to be de-coded by the appropriate hardware/software decoders. All the flags (meta-data) are within the stream itself. Some BluRay players have what's called a True Master HD 'essential' decoder that doesn't have the full complement of de-coding options. This means that some players will show the audio specifications of the DTS 96/24 layer as 48kHz.