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Sound Board Quality post 70's

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I am sure this has been discussed byond my own curiosity.  I know I have discussed it in person with some on here, but I would really love to get some definatives.  

 

Why, with the technological advancements in electronics, data transfer, and over a decade to improve on, did the Sound Boards of the 80's and 90's suffer a serious downgrade in recorded music .

 

Betty Boards, I get that, but was the knowledge not passed on?  Was it no longer cared about as much?  

 

It's very surprising to me.  I am listening to a 82 sbd from San Fran at the moment.  Good music, no doubt, the Althea is smooth, long, and groovey, but the his, the lack of detail, and the muffle vocals and music is just shit.  

 

Compared to just 4 years earlier.  

 

It sounds like a bootleg from 66.  If you just heard the Dead, you would not of guessed this is recorded music from the 80's as compared to a lot of 71 shows.  The music still rocks, the  recorded sound quality just sucks comparably.  

 

Please share your knowledge

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The major cause of degradation of SBD quality in the early 80s is, with the departure of Betty, there was nobody specifically mixing for a tape. In other words, since Healy was now running both the house mix and the feed to the recording, the recording was essentially a copy of the house mix. What was necessary to make the house sound work was not the same as what the recording deck wanted to see.  Betty had her own mixing console to create her legendary mixes. Coupled with that, the tape was being made on a cassette deck rather than on a professional reel to reel deck, taking the quality down another notch.

 

By the mid to late 80s Healy was running another kind of soundboard recording, the so-called Ultra Matrix. These utilized a custom build box by Ultra Sound which took stereo board inputs along with stereo input from a pair of large diaphragm AKG microphones attached to the rear of the board, and it had a simple knob for the relative balance of board to audience.  Some of these recordings, at least to my ear, resulted in some very compelling listening.  Go seek these out. As an example, I think 12-27-86 is a particular gem.

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5 hours ago, John A said:

The major cause of degradation of SBD quality in the early 80s is, with the departure of Betty, there was nobody specifically mixing for a tape. In other words, since Healy was now running both the house mix and the feed to the recording, the recording was essentially a copy of the house mix. What was necessary to make the house sound work was not the same as what the recording deck wanted to see.  Betty had her own mixing console to create her legendary mixes. Coupled with that, the tape was being made on a cassette deck rather than on a professional reel to reel deck, taking the quality down another notch.

 

By the mid to late 80s Healy was running another kind of soundboard recording, the so-called Ultra Matrix. These utilized a custom build box by Ultra Sound which took stereo board inputs along with stereo input from a pair of large diaphragm AKG microphones attached to the rear of the board, and it had a simple knob for the relative balance of board to audience.  Some of these recordings, at least to my ear, resulted in some very compelling listening.  Go seek these out. As an example, I think 12-27-86 is a particular gem.

 

What he said. 

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On 5/6/2018 at 6:58 PM, John A said:

The major cause of degradation of SBD quality in the early 80s is, with the departure of Betty, there was nobody specifically mixing for a tape. In other words, since Healy was now running both the house mix and the feed to the recording, the recording was essentially a copy of the house mix. What was necessary to make the house sound work was not the same as what the recording deck wanted to see.  Betty had her own mixing console to create her legendary mixes. Coupled with that, the tape was being made on a cassette deck rather than on a professional reel to reel deck, taking the quality down another notch.

 

By the mid to late 80s Healy was running another kind of soundboard recording, the so-called Ultra Matrix. These utilized a custom build box by Ultra Sound which took stereo board inputs along with stereo input from a pair of large diaphragm AKG microphones attached to the rear of the board, and it had a simple knob for the relative balance of board to audience.  Some of these recordings, at least to my ear, resulted in some very compelling listening.  Go seek these out. As an example, I think 12-27-86 is a particular gem.

Thank you for taking the time to help me understand this John!!    12-27 show is a wonderful nug.

 

I am super surprised to hear that GD went to memerox tapes then keeping the reel to reel.  

 

Perhaps this is why many don't talk fondly of Mr

Healy.  

 

It's amazing to me how much the sound guy, or gal,  really effects the music we love. 

 

I miss the music....hope you get some of DSO sounds while they are out west John A...

 

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!!

 

 

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Let me clarify a point on the Ultra Mattix Tapes which started in late 86. There was a pair of AKG 414 mounted in the front of the board on a rail that allowed it to move left or right depending on the center position. These mics we aligned in an M/S pattern. M/S stands for “middle/side”. What this means is one microphone was in a firgue 8 pattern. It is places to each side of the capsule faces left and right. This was plugged into the ultra box which was designed for M/S Recording. The other mic was in a standard cardiod pattern which sat directly above and on top of the other mic in figure 8. After these mics were plugged into the ultra box it would shift phase on one side of the figure 8 and create a 3D audience image. The SBD or Healy’s mix also ran into the ultra box. There was a delay control for the SHD feed to time align it with the M/S mic. Each room was different but at 200-200 feet the time difference is measurable. There was also a control that controlled the blend between the 2 sources. The early ultra mixes were 50/50. The eventually ended up with more of a 70/30 ratio..

hipe that helps. On my phone so if I’ve misspelled or have bad grammar sorry😱

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Thanks, Rob.  That's some good technical detail!  I wasn't aware of the movable aspect on the rail, and the delay control makes perfect sense.

 

Charlie Miller recently came into possession of Don Pearson's (co-founder of Ultra Sound) entire collection of master Ultra Matrix cassettes, and many of these have been put into circulation in the past year or so.

 

I also wasn't aware that Healy apparently continued these recordings into the 90s. As I said, many of them sound truly excellent.

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I actually had those Don Pierson tapes for the last 15 months transferring them as well.

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As far as how we do it (or I do it I guess)? I take the mix from Cotter and the Archive mix from the Monitor board (more like how Betty would have done it). Then I take 2 pairs of Audience mic’s. One from the stage facing out the other From the Soundboard facing the stage. I phase align all the sources, blend them , process them and creat one stereo mix. That’s the short version

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Rob - do you know the method that Healy used to determine the proper venue to venue delay to dial into the Ultra Matrix box?

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Rob Eaton, ladies and gentlemen. Dropping dizzying technical knowledge by day and pushing the music to great heights at night like it's no sweat.

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John, I was listening to these Healy ultra matrix and I don’t think they are even in the same ballpark with Betty boards of 75-79. I can “see” Phil running his left hand down the fret board, the sound quality is so amazing in the 77 boards. It seemed that she emphasized Phil’s bass in 77. Some of those 77 TLEO have the most perfectly replicated bass sound I can imagine.  I’m not sure if she changed how she liked the mix in 77, but there is a definite change with how she mixed his bass from earlier. With the advancement in tech, it’s sort of crazy to think that 75-79 dead boards are the pinnacle of sound quality. I think even the 69 boards, besides the little bit of hissing sound, are better than the 90’s boards but Jerry’s voice was so fresh that that may have influenced my opinion. 

 

And on another note, after listening to some JRAD shows, that their boards don’t hold a candle to Dso boards. Eaton seems to mix the boards with similar levels to Betty. JRAD boards are fairly low quality when listening on good speakers. Their sound is also not mixed well imo at their live shows. I like JRAD a lot but they need someone like Cotter running the boards. Dso’s sound live is far superior to jrads. JRAD is way too heavy on their mids and the sound can be hollow at times. I never get that from a Dso show. 

 

 

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I just listened to 12-27-86. thanks for the tip. good sounding recording. Second set felts a little aimless to me but that Comes a Time is one of the best i've heard, definitely the best after 77. open to arguments...

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I'm partial to 12-27-90 as the modern Comes A Time.  It was the first one in  3 1/2 years, so the sense of extreme rarity/surprise helps with that, as did being in the sweet spot next to a digital tape deck. But it truly is a beautiful version. Check out the gradual intro. I love it when Garcia takes his time like that.

 

The fall of the soundboard happened in conjunction with the rise of the audience tape!

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Also good but i was more touched by the 86. Jerry coming off the coma and all....pretty special feeling and his voice sounds so tender. 

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On 5/14/2018 at 4:09 PM, Rude said:

John, I was listening to these Healy ultra matrix and I don’t think they are even in the same ballpark with Betty boards of 75-79. I can “see” Phil running his left hand down the fret board, the sound quality is so amazing in the 77 boards. It seemed that she emphasized Phil’s bass in 77. Some of those 77 TLEO have the most perfectly replicated bass sound I can imagine.  I’m not sure if she changed how she liked the mix in 77, but there is a definite change with how she mixed his bass from earlier. With the advancement in tech, it’s sort of crazy to think that 75-79 dead boards are the pinnacle of sound quality. I think even the 69 boards, besides the little bit of hissing sound, are better than the 90’s boards but Jerry’s voice was so fresh that that may have influenced my opinion.

 

I won't argue that the Ultra Matrix boards are at the level of the Bettys.  Far from it. There is a reason her recordings are legendary. Now on the other hand, if we're talking about mimicking the sound that one might have heard at the show, these Ultra Matrix tapes have at least one category in their favor.

 

As for the early Bear recordings, they belong right up there with anything.  So clean and open.

 

I've long argued that, despite it making sense on the face of it, the greatest Dead recordings are Fillmore '69, Europe '72, and Spring Tour '90.  Quite a spread there!

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On 5/16/2018 at 11:43 PM, John A said:

 

I won't argue that the Ultra Matrix boards are at the level of the Bettys.  Far from it. There is a reason her recordings are legendary. Now on the other hand, if we're talking about mimicking the sound that one might have heard at the show, these Ultra Matrix tapes have at least one category in their favor.

 

As for the early Bear recordings, they belong right up there with anything.  So clean and open.

 

I've long argued that, despite it making sense on the face of it, the greatest Dead recordings are Fillmore '69, Europe '72, and Spring Tour '90.  Quite a spread there!

 

I like a lot of the spring 90 but the sound variation from the best to worst quality show is large. Those may 77 have very little quality variation imo. The 2/27-3/2/69 are maybe my fav shows. Time machine me back to that run!!

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