Introducing the Revelation Station

Use This….

Revelation Station - for playing all DSD and other HRA studio masters from downloads
Revelation Station – for playing all DSD and other HRA studio masters from downloads

To Hear This…

Studio Masters in DSD
Bob Dylan DSD Downloads at SuperHiRez.com

PayPal is Secure…$599 + shipping – U.S. orders only
Includes headphones as shown in photo above.
You provide the iPhone, iPad or iPod…iOS 7
We provide the remaining hardware and software
Play your iTunes playlists…Add DSD and other HRA tracks
Supports DSD64, DSD128, DXD, PCM to 24/352.8k

Revelation Station may be connected to home HiFi or PA System


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Revelation Station without Headphones….$499 – U.S. orders only
Headphones *not* included

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Plays DSD Downloads, HDTracks Downloads, Your HRA Stereo Masters!
Plays DSD Downloads, HDTracks Downloads, Your HRA Stereo Masters!

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Tired of Poor MP3 Sound?

Revelation Station - $599

FREE DSD album download!
David Elias “Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1” with all orders for the Revelation Station ~ Bestselling DSD Download Tracks

PayPal is Secure…$599 + shipping – U.S. orders only

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Revelation Station without Headphones….$499 – U.S. orders only

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Brought to you by Rev9

The Revelation Station setup - you provide the iPhone
The Revelation Station setup – you provide the iPhone

Rev9 did the research and the careful listening. We were interested in solving the problem of getting really good sound reproduction from audio files into a portable setup that anyone could use whether they were at home or elsewhere.

We found the solution… We call it the Revelation Station.It is a Hi-Rez Kit for your iPhone, brought to you by Rev9.

  • Pro quality DAC supports DSD and all HRA PCM bit rates
  • Pro quality headphones capable of delivering great music
  • Connectors for iPhone / DAC
  • iPhone app HRA player supporting DSD and PCM
  • DSD album download “Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1”
  • Shipping USPS Priority Mail with Tracking (US orders only please)
  • ….kid gloves for the “how-to” when needed….

It is a handheld or pocket friendly portable configuration for anyone with an iPhone iOS7 that likes to listen to music. We have selected small but professional hardware components and the best software available to allow any type of audio file to be played with outrageously good quality to your ears.

DSD download files, our Holy Grail of sonic bliss are supported in the Revelation Station configuration. So are all other PCM formats of tracks you have already downloaded and are listening to.

This plays from the iPhone but doesn’t sound like iTunes sounds…If you are tired of the poor sound of MP3’s and AAC’s you are ready for the Revelation Station.

PS – Don’t worry – we’ll help you set it up if you need us.

One More Cup Of Coffee

Many fine things in life started and evolved from a coffeehouse. Some of the music from coffeehouses of the 60’s remains in the air and through the ether today. I was influenced both then and now by many of those stark to warm images being generated at that time.

I soon enough found myself playing coffeehouse on acoustic at university in the mid-70’s in the midwest. Then before I knew it the world had already changed several times and it was the mid-90’s and I was thinking about again playing coffeehouse, this time in the SF Bay Area with many original songs I had written on acoustic. Coffeehouse and acoustic had already come and gone in popular music but I still felt the influence and had in fact continued to live in its comfy waves through those rock-pop-disco-metal-grunge decades.

So coming back to the coffeehouse in the 90’s was easy for me and I started approaching local coffeehouses with the idea of live music, usually on a weekend morning. I was soon playing at different places on the Hwy 1 coast and other spots in and around San Francisco.

At a similar time, independent home studio recording was taking shape as was the Internet in HTML browser form. In 1994 I started working on a home recording project of my originals. Inspiration and gear were fueled by Gus Skinas and Roger Powell.

The result was “Lost in the Green” as a 100% DIY CD that got played on radio stations ranging from Santa Cruz to Hong Kong. The idea for LITG was to deliver a coffeehouse experience on CD to anyone interested. At the same time, MP3 versions of the tracks were getting uploaded over 33k and 56k modems by me and downloaded at the same speeds by other musicians, DJ’s and listeners.  This was 1995.

The world changed quite a few times again and it seemed to be turning faster.

In 1999 and 2000 I started listening to a new digital recording format called Direct Stream Digital (DSD) that was being developed as an archive format by Sony and Philips. This alternative to analog tape was needed to preserve the master library of recordings to date. I was astounded by what I was hearing from the get go as transfers from master tapes to DSD on a prototype workstation.

Shortly after that I was experimenting with a bare bones 3-mic, 2-track, no mixer direct recording to DSD with Gus at Wind Over The Earth in Boulder. It was just me and a guitar and 3 of owner Mickey Houlihan’s excellent mic’s plus preamp. Stark images. Undeniably accurate and honest.

From there the coffeehouse feel and incentive stayed alive and well through a number of DSD projects starting with “The Window” SACD release in 2004. As equipment and costs continue to work their inverse magic, the power of DSD recording is now (suddenly?) a home studio and field reality. The same is true for playback of this beautifully natural sounding media. Gone is the box around the sound. The image is as live and fragrant as roasted Ka’u coffee.

So here is my own work from various DSD releases since those beginning years in High Resolution Audio (HRA). With Rev9 I have created my Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1 as a recognition of long trails of roots to some very fine sources of inspiration and art. Mahalo Nui Loa to all of those inspirations and guides.

Aloha!

– DE


 

REV9 COFFEEHOUSE DSD PLAYLIST #1
Native DSD Recordings by David Elias

1. The Old King (from “The Window“)
In contrast to the hootenanny spirit of the 60’s revival coffeehouse stage also lies in parallel the contemplative and meditative story teller and bard saga. This story in “The Old King” reaches back into the millenia to both recall and record the wisdom and folly of all of our passages through time and earth. Recorded live directly to DSD Sonoma at Immersive Studios in Boulder, I don’t recall any other take of this track. I do recall that all musicians participating took something of a deep breath after the take and then we all wanted to get to the control room to listen to what had just happened: A musical time capsule no one had quite anticipated.

2. Half an Hour Away (from “The Window“)
All tracks on all DSD recordings I released have been without edits or overdubs. This song has an age and timeless place somewhere in the midst of “The Old King”. The two songs are brothers in that regard. In writing songs I have had the freedom to release myself from all personal contraints and history and so become an open channel to other experiences I feel I’ve witnessed without knowing anything about how or why. “Half an Hour Away” is a comfortable natural place for me to visit repeatedly. Working with the ensemble of Matt Flinner, Eric Thorin and Ross Martin (Matt Flinner Trio) is for me quite simply, as good as it gets. This is true of all the live studio music experiences I’ve had over the last 20 years. It is truly one of my favorite places to be with all those present.

 

3. Rodeo on a Ridge (from “Acoustic Trio – DSD Sessions“)
This live take from Slipperworld Studios in La Honda, Calif was one of the 14 tracks presented in order of the takes, recorded as a trio session with Chris Kee and Charlie Natzke in Charlie’s studio. I think “Rodeo on a Ridge” is a great example of the ability of DSD to capture and articulately present the finer nuances of acoustic performances. This delicate song and story appear to fall audibly from the sky as lightly as feathery waves. We recorded with the windows open in the hills of Portola Valley among the redwoods. The natural decay and space in this song are to me reminiscent of those forests as well as some of the glacial panoramas reflected in the lyrics

4. Mend My Mind (from “Crossing“)
Another live session from Slipperworld but this time with a full band arranged in a full circle in the studio. An intimate setting for an introspective song. I believe Marc Dalio on percussion simply played the drums with his hands on this track. Matt Flinner on mandolin and Sally Van Meter on dobro are the translated musical expressions of the story being told lyrically. We all have our special places where we seek soul restoration. Here I’m singing about some of mine.

5. Close My Eyes (from “Crossing“)
As we imagine the world so it is and becomes. I believe this more and more, the more I witness in this life. With the same ensemble as in the track above, this song steps away from a careful examination of what we imagine to what we need and desire in a bolder statement. Lively pursuit, ignoring the scenes that distract and reduce our energy. DSD captures this as well without isolation of the instruments. In fact the natural bleed from minimal micing is what I had experimented with from the beginning and came to rely on as a natural way to record an acoustic band.

6. Morning Light / Western Town (from “Crossing”)
As another experiment we decided to overdub a few electric instruments on top of a live acoustic band performance.  In this track, the original session was recorded with Chris Kee, Peter Tucker and myself. We then added John Havard’s powerful electric guitar solo tracks (2 tracks) and David Phillips pedal steel. The result is a high impact DSD recording mixed by Gus for both stereo and 5.1 surround.

7. Vision of Her (“Acoustic Trio – DSD Session“)
Originally released as a Bonus Track on the world’s first DSD Disc album download (“The Window”,  Nov. 2009) this recording was done as part of the Acoustic Trio DSD Sessions at Slipperworld.  Myself, Chris Kee and Charlie Natzke were standing in a small circle almost at arm’s length from each other for these recordings. The trio just played songs standing up facing each other in the studio that morning in a single session less than 4 hours long. The entire album comes from that session which I mixed on Sonoma in a single long night. So this is “live” and spontaneous and accurate.

8. Poor Polly (single)
Venturing away from a pure acoustic setting started for me also in the mid-90’s as I became good friends and musical brothers with a number of gifted players from the Celtic community in San Francisco. The influence of this music on me at that time was a complete revelation and return to some essential roots spiritually and musically. So along with fiddles and bodhrans, guitars and pipes came some good old fashioned R&B and roots rock sessions in the pubs and in our homes. Poor Polly is a derivative of that way of both playing and listening at the same time. Our electric quartet of The CasualTees with Scott Beynon, Charlie Natzke and Ken Owen also recorded this live in the studio to DSD Sonoma. It’s not a Celtic song, but it tells a darkened difficult story on a rambling road possibly as a lost cousin.  You can download this song in a variety of HRA formats to listen to and compare.

9. Aspen Rose (single)
Back to the basics. Aspen Rose was recorded with the handheld Korg MR-1 DSD recorder using the bundled condenser microphone. I recorded this in an offgrid cabin in Hamakua, a beautiful Hawaiian setting in the landscape looking out at the water. You can hear a gecko in the ceiling as well as some bamboo chimes outside on the lanai and even the far off sound of the outer island highway truck rolling by towards the end. There’s no studio involved here, just a guitar and voice and a recorder to capture the event. I hope DSD percolates to all levels of the spectrum as a great tool for music lovers anywhere.


 

SONG LYRICS for Coffeehouse DSD Playlist #1

 

1. The Old King (from “The Window“) – David Elias

Hear them cheering for your dying day
See them wipe your feet with dust and clay
Never mind the near ones where they lay
Memories of clear ones there they stay
There they stay

See them clear away your open grave
Watch them lower you down into place
Night will pass eternal into space
While the sun burns coins laid on your face
On your face

Consciousness returns to summer’s eyes
Windmills spin their patterns thorugh the skies
Heavy air returns to times gone by
No one meets your gaze or even tries
Even tries

Crows in pairs are sentries to your doom
Watchers of the seeds you plant too soon
Blackining the sky they leave no reoom
For the sun to shine down on your tomb

………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Matt Flinner – bouzouki
John Magnie – keyboards
Ross Martin – electric guitar
Eric Thorin – upright bass
Marc Dalio – percussion

 


 

2. Half an Hour Away (from “The Window“) – David Elias

I wish I had a field of corn
Or half a rag to keep me warm
A bag of bones to blow my horn
Time to fade away

I wish I had a bowl of wheat
Or half an ear to keep the beat
See me on a one way street
Half an hour away

Old time
Old time
Old time
Half an hour away

I wish I had a room of gin
And all the keys to lock me in
Never see my face again
Time to fade away

I wish there was a world of green
And half the time to be unseen
Never what you really mean
Half an hour away

Old time old time old time
Half an hour away

I’ll look for you in dreams come true
When all you see is what you do
Never mind the world you knew
Half an hour away

Old time old time old time
Half an hour away

………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Matt Flinner – mandolin
Ross Martin – electric guitar
Eric Thorin – upright bass

 



3. Rodeo on a Ridge (from “Acoustic Trio – DSD Sessions“) – David Elias

The water under the bridge
Echoes the rain outside
Morning and sun become one
Mile after mile
Wave with a smile
Rodeo on a ridge

The meadow we climbed was high
We didn’t know how high then
Glacier cut through that skyline
Blue ice on blue
How much of it you
Rodeo on a ridge

And prayers are for the poets
This song sings to that mountain time
All you knew and now you know it
Everything you left behind

………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Charlie Natzke – acoustic guitar
Chris Kee – upright bass

 

 



4. Mend My Mind (from “Crossing“) – David Elias


Mend my mind on a summer day
Arguello said what he had to say
No one wants it any other way
Mend my mind on a summer day

Mend my heart on the open shore
Where winds will blow and then they blow some more
Colors fade away from rich to poor
Mend my heart on the open shore

Clear my head on an autumn day
The sun is strong and the winds are grey
The party’s over ain’t no one would stay
So clear my head on an autumn day

There’s nothing wrong with a rainy day
The skies may cry for yesterday
Winds will sing to find another way
There’s nothing wrong with that rainy day


…………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Sally Van Meter – weissenborn guitar
Matt Flinner – mandolin
Eric Thorin – upright bass
Marc Dalio – drums

 


 

5. Close My Eyes (from “Crossing“) – David Elias

I close my eyes and criticize and sympathize
And rest upon my dying day
I breathe the words the ones you heard
That story blurred
I watch them as they drift away

And I close my eyes
To that cold and windy day
I close my eyes
I don’t want to see again
Close my eyes
To the higher window
I don’t know what time it closes

I paint that picture while they lecture pure conjecture
I deny that river why
I seek the desert for the love that lusts to wander
Through the womb of fire and sky

And I close my eyes
To that cold and windy day
I close my eyes
I don’t want to see again
Close my eyes
To the higher window
I don’t know what time it closes


…………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Sally Van Meter – dobro guitar
Matt Flinner – mandolin
Eric Thorin – upright bass
Marc Dalio – drums


6. Morning Light / Western Town (from “Crossing”) – David Elias


Morning light, western town
Morning light, western town
Roadside crosses lay me down

You can read it on the red brick
When you are up against the wall
Some said they saw you flying
Some said they saw you fall
No matter where you’re walking
You’re underneath it all

Is that a piece of paper that you’re holding
Is that a prayer book in your hand
Written in some foreign language
From some obscure promised land
No matter what they’re saying
You still don’t understand

You can’t beat the big prediction
You can’t estimate the odds
You can’t treat a false addiction
With some even falser Gods
You wander cross the planet
With your head up in the clouds

Morning light, western town
Morning light, western town
Roadside crosses lay me down

………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
John Havard – electric guitar
David Phillips – pedal steel guitar
Chris Kee – upright bass
Peter Tucker – drums

 


 

7. Vision of Her (“Acoustic Trio – DSD Session“) – David Elias


Sitting on the edge of your world
Holding on your legs where they curl
Looking for the vision of her
The vision of her

Staring down the year inside out
Making do within and without
Never finding reason to doubt
The vision of her

………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Charlie Natzke – acoustic guitar
Chris Kee – upright bass

 


 

8. Poor Polly (single) – David Elias

Settle down the question now poor Polly
Was it you who rode away or was it you who drowned
Was it Halfway Jim who did you in poor Polly
Or did he sweep you off your feet
And ride to higher ground

Settle down the question now poor Polly
Was there silver in that wedding dress
And diamonds on the ground
Were there three horsemen who knew you well poor Polly
Did they tie you in that chair
And bid you never make a sound

Settle down the question now poor Polly
Did you ride out with your lover straight across the border
Where’s the papers that he left behind poor Polly
To vindicate your brother
Identify your daughter

Settle down the question now poor Polly
How many days before we hear your cross chain on the floor
Why waste your time with such small time poor Polly
You could have had most anyone
And struggled never more

Settle down the question now poor Polly
You hunger for the truth as you drink from every stream
Will we ever see your pretty eyes poor Polly
Or do you leave us running endlessly
Right back into your dream


…………………………

Musicians:
David Elias – acoustic/vocal
Charlie Natzke – semi-hollow electric guitar
Scott Beynon – electric bass
Ken Owen – drums

 


 

9. Aspen Rose (single) – David Elias

Aspen Rose your toes remind me of a summer lost
Beauty in the wilderness unspoiled and untamed
Aspen Rose your ruby nose reminds me of another frost
Straight down from the north comes forth
We’re boiling tea again

Aspen Rose your blond hair glows as sunrise
Easing up the mountains you’re wandering through the pines
Aspen Rose your youth shows silent as the twilight
Settling through the window calming down my inner mind

Aspen Rose recall those nights when we were strangers
Unknowing to the dangers that surrounded us like thieves
Aspen Rose nobody knows how things could not change
We flowed like a river right beneath October trees

Aspen Rose I’ll go I’m sorry that I’m weary
Afraid that I have come too far in far too short a time
Aspen Rose your heart’s the slowest burning fire
I’ll ever know, it’s time to go
I love you more than I


…………………………
David Elias – nylon string acoustic/vocal

Thoughts from an Audiophile

Many years ago I discovered a high-end stereo shop in the suburbs of Philadelphia where I grew up. It was called “Music & Sound”, and what I experienced there led me to become an audiophile. The name says it all about this hobby for it involves a passion about these two things. In the beginning, for me, it was mostly about the sound. I was mainly attracted to playback that I felt sounded like musicians were actually in the room. It didn’t much matter what was playing, so for years I was obsessed with “demo discs” (it was all LPs back then), recordings that sounded real. Of course much depended on what equipment was being used and in this shop, then, it was the exotic and expensive gear that sounded most realistic to me. Obtaining all the components of such systems became the quest. And I sought out the demo discs to show it off to friends and to myself.Music appreciation took me a lot longer. I grew into it, helped by audiophile friends who shared their music knowledge and discoveries. I found the genres and artists that appealed to me and learned more about the music and musicians. Today, music and sound are twin obsessions, with one or the other holding sway at different times. I need and demand the best of both.There is a rich vocabulary to describe the sound quality (SQ) of playback systems. Much of it was codified in the 60s by Gordon Holt, an early pioneer audiophile who published a then ad-free magazine called Stereophile. One important attribute is called “imaging” or “sound-staging” and I’ve doggedly pursued its improvement in the systems I’ve put together over the years. It is that three-dimensional character of SQ that adds to realism — that allows me to “place” each instrument and voice in space (in the room) in front of me as I listen from the “sweet spot”.

My transition from analog to digital, from LPs to CDs, took years and involved a lot of overlap, listening to both for quite some time. In recent years I’ve moved almost exclusively to digital files played from a Mac. Fortunately, ripping CDs to a computer can actually improve the SQ of the resulting files. This is a boon to audiophiles as CDs tend to sound worse than LPs (less realistic).

Songs from the iTunes Store were not and, so far, are not appealing to me because of their even less-than-CD sound quality. But I find iTunes to be a great tool for managing all my song files. Recently I’ve added lots of high-resolution (hi-res) audio files to my collection. More and more hi-res music is available for download from several online services. Its SQ can be amazing. In the past two years, a hi-res format called DSD has also been offered and it offers the best SQ since LPs. Especially in the area of sound-staging, it is superb. DSD is the icing on the cake of the new hi-res audio revolution.

It is my relationship with musician and hi-res audio pioneer David Elias that has led me to more fully appreciate the joys of this new technology, and especially DSD. I too have recognized that the sound quality of DSD is best realized by “un-learning” my approach to digital music formatted as PCM, both on CDs and as hi-res files. One helpful image of the character of PCM playback is that it is presented with an “edge box” that impedes realism. When that box falls away with DSD playback, its startling absence can best be perceived and enjoyed with “new ears”, unburdened by the habits and expectations developed during years of listening to PCM recordings and the signatures of associated mastering techniques.

It’s a new day for both music and sound and their power to enrich our lives. The real hi-res audio revolution is about awareness and opening the doors of perception.

– Dez

The Art of Listening – Take 1 – DSD 2002

[This was first published online at http://positive-feedback.com. The heart of “The Window” recording project was the honesty, clarity, and realism of a studio performance being recorded to a digital media (DSD) for the purpose of later recreating that session for any listener in both a 5.1 multichannel and stereo format. In a similar fashion, the heart of the Revelation9 system is to recreate the very high quality hi-res (HRA) studio master playback of many music genres and formats for listeners in a mobile society such as ours.

Aloha, David, May 12, 2014]

 

My recollections and thoughts on recording The Window and on DSD/SACD for independent musicians like myself…
by David Elias, Oct 25, 2003

dewindow

Not Qualified Here…

First of all, I can’t find my notes on The Window recording sessions. I’m not sure if that is all bad, as far as these paragraphs are concerned. I had written down a lot of technical detail about what mics, preamps, mixing and other equipment were used to capture The Window recordings, prior to feeding everything to the Meitner converters and recording to DSD on the Sonoma DAW. No matter how many notes I may find, I believe this description will be more accurate if I just explain things from my layman/musician’s point of view. I am not technically competent enough to write any heuristic justification for DSD recording, SACD productions, SBM Direct processing and the like. What I do have are my experiences as a music lover and a musician since I was 8 years old.

I have been a DSD believer since I first heard bits of 2-track remasters on an early Sony prototype workstation at least 5 years ago. I am not used to listening to analog tape masters; but then again, I have trained my ears to listen to a lot of detail, having recorded my own songs and some other projects for 20+ years. To give you a timeframe reference, the first multitrack recordings I made were on Teac 4-track machines in an electronic music lab in 1977 where Ron Pellegrino helped introduce me to the world of Moog components and controllers, the acoustic foundations of music, and the art of synthesized music. I’ve recorded myself on everything from a 4-track cassette, to 2-track DAT, to 8-track Hi-8, to even a Waveframe, and worked within the limitations and benefits (to my ears) of each.

elias1

Breaking Homegrown Ground…

I began writing, performing and recording my acoustic music for CD presentations in 1994. I released my first independent CD in 1995 which is called Lost In The Green. It was recorded on a Tascam DA88 loaned to me by Roger Powell along with some other gear. I mixed it myself on a Mackie 1202 using the 2 bands of EQ and nothing else more than L/R pan. I created a master DAT tape on a Sony TCD-10 also loaned to me by Roger. I created a website at that time and begain communicating with radio DJ’s all over the world via e-mail. They played songs from Lost in the Green on their folk and acoustic shows; most of them were public and college stations such as KALW in San Francisco. Shortly after that, I listed Lost In The Green and my second release Time Forgets on a brand new online CD store run by a crazy and loveable musician named Derek Sivers. I’ve been selling my discs on CD Baby ever since.

The true instigator for all of the CDs and other audio projects I have worked on is my good friend Gus Skinas who has been part of the Sony SACD Project. I met Gus in a coffeehouse on the coast south of San Francisco in 1994. He heard me playing my music early in the morning one Saturday. I was accompanied by only an occasional espresso machine. I have always loved playing acoustic guitar in the morning. Many of the places I have performed in had no live music prior to me starting it up, usually because nobody had ever wanted to play that early in the morning!

Anyway, Gus heard me playing for an hour or so and when I stopped, he asked me who wrote some of the songs he’d just heard. When I told him they were mostly mine, he seemed relieved! Maybe that’s because he thought he should have known the songs, given his background in recording and popular music in general. Maybe it was because he was glad to hear something new that he liked, I’m not sure which is correct. But from that day, Gus became a regular member of my small or non-existent audiences. He encouraged me to record my first CD within that same year and was soon mastering it on an Studer-Editech Dyaxis II workstation. Gus even did the layout for the insert, disk and tray card in PageMaker. We worked with Discmakers at the time to get the homegrown art and DAT production ready and printed. It was all pretty new for everyone involved. The first disc was recorded and produced in the summer of 1994 and released at the beginning of the year in 1995.

Gus Skinas and David Elias
Gus Skinas and David Elias

Why DSD…

Maybe none of this matters or relates to why DSD is the right media to record and master to, but I think it does. Since that first CD release, and throughout 4 other full releases and numerous compilations and informal projects, I have been recognized as the creator of authentic, honest, acoustic music. I can point you to tons of quotes and reviews that affirm this, written by all types of people either in or out of the music business. I’m always happy, no, ecstatic to receive this type of recognition because it is the entire source of desire for me to record and perform in the first place. I strive to create an authentic portrait of lyrical images mixed with acoustic backgrounds and accompaniments. I am always interested in discovering how poetic lyrics can be strengthened and supported by the instruments and vice versa.

The only way I know to achieve this in a recording is to create the right space in it, working with the musicians involved. Space and texture are the two words that immediately come to mind for me when I think of Direct Stream Digital (DSD). After years of recording at 44.1 and 48KHz in 16 and later 24 bits, I breathed MY big sigh of relief when I first heard Gus’s first DSD recordings of me solo, being played back. Finally there are no limits or boundaries on the audio spectrum’s edges. The ringing of a guitar string continues until your ear can no longer hear it. The resonance of the wood and other vibrations created from that string continue to reverberate in the same fashion. Each note’s decay is as natural as the attack. The vocal quality is startlingly accurate. Breath is heard as breath. You can easily locate the parts of the anatomy being used from nose to throat to chest. All this is summed exponentially in a way when you record a true stereo image.

The very first DSD experimental recordings I did with Gus a few years back were in Boulder at “Wind Over The Earth”, a place for pro audio gear and other services. The founder Mickey Houlihan was kind enough to help with this. The idea was simple: set up a few good mics and preamps and see if we could recreate the original performance of an acoustic guitar with singing and a harmonica using the DSD recorder. We ended up using 3 mics positioned from a listener’s point of view and recorded directly to stereo. Those recordings were brutally honest. Perhaps too honest. They are startlingly “close” and intimate. There were no EQ or effects added. It didn’t need any. Perhaps DSD recording will create a common acronym WYHIWYG, who knows… I’ve heard bare-bones creations similar to this by great songwriters and players like Dylan, Springsteen, Dwight Yoakum, Norman Blake and others played back on standard CD. Neil Young’s newest release “Greendale” has a great 5.1 DTS Surround mix on a DVD of his show in Dublin, Ireland. It is almost frightening to consider the impact of SACD stereo or surround presentations of these types of works.

Open the Window…

Having had the experience of playing bare-bones acoustic into the DSD recorder a few times in a few different studio environments, I was convinced that the right acoustic band could be recorded in the right studio in an “audio verite” live fashion with amazing results. Those results would be the synergistic summation of what an audience in the studio would hear if they had attended the recording sessions. But instead, the audience would be spared a lot of casualties if they didn’t have to sit through a lot of tunings, retakes, wisecracks, and technical timeouts. This is the basis for The Window as a 5.1 surround sound recording. The musicians were physically arranged in a wide semi-circle, as they might be presented on stage at a performance. I am used to performing my music live with anywhere from 3 to 7 or more people. Some people have asked me if I always have a different band every show. The truth is, I am always working at matching the venue with the right kind of band and the right kind of set.

So with Gus again as the instigator, the extremely talented songwriter and musician KC Groves helped me prepare the two ingredients I mentioned above for combining the right musicians with the right studio setup. KC became familiar with my music by listening to all my earlier CDs. With that, she did a miraculous job connecting me with the best musicians I could possibly hope for to back me in the project. Even more chemically-correct was the fact that these people had all worked together many times before in bands and in the studio.

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The band consisted of:
Sally Van Meter – dobro, weissenborn, lap steel
Matt Flinner – mandolin, bouzouki
Ross Martin – electric and baritone guitars
Eric Thorin – upright bass
Marc Dalio – drums
John Magnie – accordion, keyboards

Matt Flinner drove out to Boulder from Nashville. I drove a similar distance from California. Everyone else was local to the Boulder/Denver area. In addition to the musicians, KC contacted Jeff Shuey to be our studio engineer. A live mix was critical to the project since we were going to record the ambient front and rear stereo images on 4 tracks for direct use in the final mix. Jeff had done a lot of great work with live acoustic acts and we were lucky to have him join us.

On Learning to be a Prep Cook…

We planned to rehearse in the afternoon on November 23rd, record for 3 days, and “get out” for the Thanksgiving weekend coming up. I had made a reference recording of a number of songs, at least 15, some weeks before and mailed it out to each of the musicians. KC and I had spent a lot of time in preparation discussing the song list and what instruments we considered appropriate for each song. Then we booked time at Immersive Studios in Boulder for 3 days and tried scheduling each of the musicians’ time around those days. Everyone except Matt and Jeff (don’t go there) had other commitments mixed in with the days we were to record. I knew we weren’t going to overdub anything, so getting the schedule right was critical.

David Elias and KC Groves
David Elias and KC Groves

The day before rehearsal, KC and I spent an afternoon of coffee (and COFFEE) and discussions with Sally Van Meter. This was invaluable in laying out how we were going to approach the different songs, once we got in the studio. Sally has an incredibly wide peripheral vision for this and raised many issues that were best confronted before attempting the recordings. The three of us worked further on arrangement issues, mostly regarding instrumentation for each song, as well as the importance and priority of each song. I wanted to get 15 songs recorded in 3 days from a possible list of over 20. There were a lot of reasons to assume this would not be possible, so we had to set them up in an acceptable conditional order.

Sally Van Meter
Sally Van Meter

Leap of Faith…

The real truth test for our recording project was the evening of rehearsal (there was only one!). This was the first encounter with reality in terms of actually performing the songs. I had never met any of the other musicians before! We arranged the band in an audition room in the same type of semi-circle we planned to record in (at least the way I planned to record). From there we jumped into the first song planned for the next day and proceeded to learn and arrange the songs as a band…We went into the night on this as it began to snow 8 inches or more outside. I don’t remember how far through the list we got but by the end of the session, it really felt like the good old days to me, whatever that means to you. The only way to describe it is to say I believe we all felt ready to record.

One rehearsal the night before
One rehearsal the night before

Close Encounters…

We met with Jeff Shuey the next morning and proceeded to setup the studio. The first hard question I heard was, “How are we going to isolate the drums?” I said that I didn’t want to isolate the drums. I’d prefer that the drummer sit behind me like he does in a live show. There were a number of perspectives on why this would or wouldn’t work. Since there was no complete agreement that it wouldn’t work, I suggested we try it with no isolation and see what happened. If necessary, we could move the drummer, setup panels, or put him in another room. My goal for the recording was still to recreate the band with spatial accuracy. We spent quite a few hours setting up the room to record in the semi-circle fashion we had rehearsed in. The 2 front channel stereo mics were setup in an MS Stereo arrangement in a central position. The rear channel stereo mics were positioned higher and further back about 4 to 5 feet apart. All instruments and amps were then mic’d once or twice and fed to the Euphonix analog desk console. It is interesting to note that analog mixing was required. The digital conversion occurs at the last stage in the path where the Meitner Mark IV ADC-8 converters fed a digital signal to the DSD recorder.

Jeff Shuey
Jeff Shuey

The Sonoma DSD recorder has 8 tracks to record on. 4 tracks were used for the front and rear stereo mixes from the Euphonix board. The remaining 4 tracks were used to isolate these instruments: vocal, mandolin/bouzouki, bass, dobro/weissenborn. That was it. Our live mix was the main feature for obvious reasons. There was no potential for overdubs, punch-ins, etc. We had to do each song as a complete take and either use it or lose it.

Live session from Immersive Studio control room
Live session from Immersive Studio control room

We recorded in this fashion for 2 full days and most of a 3rd day. We spent time in between takes listening to our performances to determine whether we wanted to try the song again, or move on. I believe there was a group consensus throughout every step, starting with the final arrangement decisions, through the choices to repeat the previous, or play the next song. I have to say, it was invigorating to be surrounded by that much talent.

Into the Future…

I can’t speak for anyone else who was there, but my impression and recollection of those days is one of growing awareness on everyone’s part of the power and potential of the medium we were working in. DSD teaches artists, listeners, producers, engineers, doubtlessly everyone connected to it, to re-learn or at least re-think their listening skills. It can deliver a pure, unprocessed sound. Even more revolutionary is that it can return to you exactly what you put into it. In fact, it’s likely the artists will hear more of what they actually recorded than they remember. Amazing but true!

That is not necessarily what a large part of the market has catered to for the last few decades. It is both new and wonderful. It restores the act of listening to audio recordings as one of pure enjoyment and fascination. I know there have been countless great recordings made since the 80’s! This is the next step people… For that reason, I believe DSD will, over time, affect the way musicians write and the way studios and producers arrange and record popular music. This is equally true for stereo SACD as it is for multichannel SACD. It is an extraordinary sensation to allow your ears to go beyond the limits of conventional audio processing. I have heard this excited and animated response to DSD recording, if I paraphrase, from nearly every person who has spent time listening to The Window, regardless of their musical affiliations. It has already been expressed to me many times with words like: “unbelievable”, “stunning”, “amazing”, “superb”, “silky and spacious”, “nice air”, “spectacular art”, “reference quality”.

First Sonoma DSD playback - we are all ears
First Sonoma DSD playback – we are all ears

PCM & DSD Bedfellows…

Another crucial layer of this onion to me is the CD layer of the hybrid disc. The Window used the Sony Super Bit Mapped Direct (SBM Direct) process to convert the DSD recording to a PCM equivalent for playback on standard CD players. I was fully aware that the majority of listeners to this recording would not hear it anytime soon, if ever, on an SACD player. Believe it or not, I don’t think that detracts that much from the total impact of the quality of the recording. I think all the “work” was done here by DSD as the native recording media, and SBM Direct as the magic translator to PCM for the standard CD layer of the hybrid SACD.

If you remaster a good analog tape or any good recording to DSD, you will experience the same result. The stereo image of the hybrid layer is stunning! In my opinion, Sony has nailed the consumer transition puzzle from standard CD to SACD with a sledgehammer. A quality DSD master recording can be produced today as a high quality hybrid SACD. That SACD can be played anywhere on good and bad audio systems alike. It will sound excellent relative to any other recordings played on the same system. Over time, more and more consumers will be buying hybrid SACDs with this quality without necessarily even knowing or caring about the details. They will immediately benefit from the virtues of DSD regardless of whether or not they are playing them on SACD systems.

When the time comes for a consumer to upgrade to a new CD player, he or she will have the option to choose an SACD player. Who wouldn’t? It can play all your standard CDs as well or better than your older player (money is the issue here). In addition, it will add dimensions to the hybrid SACDs you’ve collected that you might not have imagined (recording quality is the issue here). There’s even a third free bonus wildcard called 5.1 Surround Sound for those interested and for those SACDs that are multichannel. I think this brings huge value to the entertainment and enjoyable aspects of listening to music. Bravo Sony and Philips!

Eric Thorin, David Elias, Matt Flinner recording "Freedom on the Freeway"
Eric Thorin, David Elias, Matt Flinner recording “Freedom on the Freeway”

Out the Door…

The Window started as an idea to record a good live band in a good studio and see if the playback could be realistic to the original session. It went from this idea to becoming among the first, if not the very first independently released hybrid multichannel SACD in the world. There were more than 6 months of elapsed time between the recording sessions and the final SACD mastering and authoring. Gus Skinas worked on this on his own and with me in Boulder and San Francisco. We got opinions from some very helpful and knowledgeable people. We gave it time to sink in and resurface. I think there were at least 3 different mixes on most of the tracks before we were happy with the resulting images. Dawn Frank helped us QC each round of masters. Additional assistance came from others in the Sony SACD Project team including Dr. Andrew Demery and Colin Cigarran. In that time, I also prepared the package layout, working with Oasis CD Manufacturing to provide the Digipak template design which I preferred but did not yet exist, as well as endless details for the color accuracy and quality of the printing of the disc, package and insert booklet. When people ask me what type of music I play I have to say “Independent Acoustic” which is the closest description I can come up with for what goes on in my world as a musician producing my own CDs and performing each week without a label, manager, booking agent, PR person and so on.

I’m proud of the work that went into The Window and very proud to be associated with each and every person involved in the project. I believe in DSD as a source of inspiration to artists and producers looking for a holy grail called honesty, space and texture in their recordings.

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Back: Matt Flinner, Sally Van Meter, Eric Thorin, KC Groves, Marc Dalio, Ross Martin,
Front: Jeff Shuey, Gus Skinas, David Elias

Visit http://www.davidelias.com to download the hi-res DSD64 and FLAC 24/88.2 tracks from “The Window” including the Bonus Track “Vision of Her”.

Article by David Elias, copyright 2003, All Rights Reserved

Photos by Gus “Guinness” Skinas, copyright 2003, All Rights Reserved

Web Site: http://www.davidelias.com
Contact David about this article: http://www.davidelias.com/contact.html