Originally Posted by brunk
The simplest way to put it is that I'm interested in comparing an actual digital master - no tape involved - the unaltered final product that the engineer keeps as their defacto master. Then comparing that to the standard CD or mp3 version. There are a few mastering engineers that have these available for purchase. Get it?
EDIT: It's not a silly debate of "oh 24-bit, DSD blah-blah" malarkey. Just something that is an unaltered digital-origin original vs whatever format that is different from it. Is it not something that could provide some significance somehow?
It would appear that you either didn't see or didn't understand my response (which is here). The so called "unaltered master" you are talking about exists only virtually, cannot be printed and therefore cannot be available for purchase. There is no way to directly compare this master with the distribution master (be it 16bit, 24bit, DSD or whatever) except with software measurement tools. So, any and every master version for distribution must be "altered"! It must be greatly reduced in bit depth even for a 24bit distribution master, more bits must obviously be removed for a 16bit distribution master and of course even more bits removed for a DSD master. This removal of bits will be entirely transparent to the listener though, at any reasonable listening volume.
Originally Posted by Don Hills
In addition to your good description of the process, there is one other reason to consider the CD as "lossless". The mastering engineer has a certain sound in mind. He knows when he hears it. Assuming he's producing a 44.1/16 CD master, if it doesn't sound exactly the way he wants he will tweak the input until he gets it. So the CD master is the "lossless" version(*). If he also has to produce a "hi res" version (e.g. 24/96 or SACD), he is again going to make the result sound the way he wants. (This is assuming that the two versions are intended to sound the same, which sadly is rarely the case.)
In practise the mastering engineer would create just one master with the intended sound and then print this master to 24/96, 16/44 and/or whatever other distribution format is required. The act of printing to different bit depths and sample rates should be entirely transparent to the listerner, so there is no need to create different masters for the different formats/resolutions.
This last statement of course does not take into account the fact that the record company employing the mastering engineer may actually want the recording to sound different on different formats, for marketing purposes. In which case a different master will be created for each different "sound" required. Linn Records has admitted in the past to doing this but I'm sure many others selling so called "hi rez" recordings also engage in this distasteful and misleading practise.