Earlier this month Grammy award winning audio engineer David Glasser spoke to a standing room only crowd at Boulder Digital Arts in Boulder, Colorado. Dave shared the history of his professional audio company, Airshow, and his experiences mastering music recordings. A mastering engineer for 30 years, Dave’s album credits read like a history of modern music. Dave is widely known for his mastering restoration of the Grateful Dead’s European Tour of 1972, and he spoke of that experience.
It took 7 months to master the 73 CD boxed set, ‘Europe ’72‘ complete recordings. Luckily the original 16-track tapes had been archived and properly preserved. When mastering the Europe ’72 restoration, David had some raw, live recordings to work with. As Deadheads know, the set list, instrumentation and overall performance would change each night. That translated to every recording presenting a new experience. Luckily, the Dead worked with a pretty straightforward equipment setup. The band sang into Electo-Voice microphones, the kind that bands nowadays wouldn’t even consider using. Dave describes Jerry Garcia using a “hotrod strat plugged into a twin tube Fender amp.”
To demonstrate the affect of re-mastering the originals, he played samples of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of the recordings – and the difference was staggering. Dave attributes much of the quality of the restoration to the Plangent Process, which virtually eliminates wow and flutter caused by tape speed fluctuation. Transferring and using Plangent processing of all of the data took a year.
Dave doesn’t use many plug-ins; he uses compression to “glue stuff together.” When asked how much he relies on visual monitoring of a recording, Dave replied that he doesn’t look at or touch anything but the space bar (start and stop). Anything visual is a distraction. Along that line, Dave recommended the book “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman.
What does Dave see in the future of recorded music? “96k/24 bit” will be the standard, and he’s seeing an increase in the attention given to surround sound for video soundtracks. Thanks, Dave, for sharing your knowledge and experience. And thanks to Boulder Digital Arts, for hosting this informative and inspiring evening .