Merlin SuperDiscs

Merlin Fidelity+

MERLIN FIDELITY+ records have been produced to enable the high fidelity enthusiast to enjoy good music of all kinds, without the frustration he may frequently experience whilst playing most ot the records in his collection, His enjoyment may be marred by high surface noise, tape hiss, lack of dynamic range and distortion in any of its many forms.

Our recording and manufacturing techniques have enabled us to minimise these problems without compromising musical ideals.

Many people who have heard our records ask us, "Are they direct cut?" When we answer "No", they invariably ask, "Why then do they sound so superb?" So many have reacted in this way that we feel we should give a brief account of our methods.

Having first chosen the music to be recorded and engaged the finest musicians to perform it, we then make the very important choice of recording location. We feel that a fundamental requirement of a successful recording is to choose a location which will enable us to obtain the best possible musical and acoustical results. This varies for different types of music and musical combinations. To give an extreme example, we would never use the same location to record a string quartet, a solo piano, a symphony orchestra and a big jazz band, although other companies have tried, often with disastrous results.

There are many theories on microphone techniques, ranging from the simple "Blumlein pair" (which utilises two microphones to cover the entire musical combination) to multi-microphone techniques, which may assign a microphone to each instrument, placed as close as possible to the instruments to achieve maximum separation. Recording engineers and producers tend to favour one microphone technique; either one of the extremes quoted, or a compromise between the two, and to use it in every situation. We are flexible and creative in our use of microphones and find that different techniques are required for different kinds of music and in different locations, in order to achieve the best results. The quality of these results is judged by the extremely critical ears of our production team, who spend much session time making fine adjustments to microphones to ensure the best over-all sound.

Most music is now recorded on multi-track tape machines. Individual instruments and groups of instruments are assigned separate tracks, and are recorded in MONO. These mono signals are later mixed onto two tracks. At this stage the music is balanced, and the signals are equalised to correct the deficiences caused by incorrect microphone positioning and inadequacies of the recording location. The mixing and balancing take place at any convenient time after the recording sessions, no musicians having to be paid during this process. This is obviously a tremendous financial advantage, and is the greatest single reason for the popularity and almost universal use of multi-track recording. Unfortunately, multi-track recording causes a degradation of signal to noise ratio, introduces distortion and often does not give true stereo image, as the final stereo master consists of panned MONO signals. We eliminate these problems by mixing DIRECT to STEREO. This means that all the balancing has to take place during expensive session time.

After preparation of the final master tape we come to the critical stage of cutting the master disc. This is where many good recordings are distorted beyond recognition. The cutting engineer knows that a high percentage of the lacquer discs on which he cuts the masters contain tiny flaws which it is impossible to see, even under a microscope. These cause ticks and pops on the finished records. He also knows thet most pressings suffer from the high surface noise. In order to mask this noise he must put as much level onto the disc as possible. The usual method is to raise the over-all level so that the softer passages provide some masking, and to lower the level of the louder passages to prevent distortion when the record is played. The latter may be achieved manually, or, more commonly, by using a compressor-limiter. The result is a compression of dynamic range, and in concequence the music sounds flat and lifeless.

Our pressings are so quiet that we are able to cut the full dynamic range of the music, resulting in records which sound much more alive.

We process our lacquer masters, and produce test pressings which we carefully check, and if there are any imperfections we cut again. This procedure continues until we are satisfied that we have the best possible results, and only then do we press the records which come to you, each one containing a full 160 grammes or the highest quality vinyl.

We make every endeavour to ensure that our records reach you in perfect condition. In order to preserve them it is essential that they are kept free from dust, and are never played with a chipped or worn stylus.

Written by Merlin Record 1977.

Last modified: 20-Aug-2002