Complete Classical Music workflow

I think classical (and a few other genres, including traditional music) is one area where many people still buy CDs. I’ve read in other forums that there is also a growing audiophile market for DSD files and of course people do buy and download high-quality uncompressed audio in a variety of formats.

The CD is becoming a niche product, though, as most cars now don’t even have CD players; many hi-fi home stereo stores have gone out of business. But many people who like classical music have invested in high-quality listening equipment, including CD players, and a lot of people still like having physical media (and liner notes in booklet form). In my world, traditional Irish music, CDs are still more popular than downloads. I suspect it’s true with jazz as well, and of course there’s a growing niche market for vinyl LPs too.

I think offering both CDs and high-quality digital downloads is a good strategy for the next five years or so. The main drawback to CDs is that they are costly to produce; my partner and I have never made back the money we spent on ours and view our CD more as promotional material than a source of income. Our CD is also available on all the streaming platforms, but that’s a joke, we’ve made about $75 in streaming sales since 2015.


It is $75 more than I’ve made (though my family has generously bought multiple copies of discs to hand out to willing victims).

I was reading a few snippets from John Eargle books this evening. I highly recommend them for classical engineers even though they were written many moons ago:

There are updated editions but I don’t see a need, honestly. If you do want an up-to-date general audio engineering book which seems to cover a whole lot of stuff, go for this (I don’t think I mentioned it before with the classical-oriented ones):

In any case, a few ideas began to form tonight:

  1. Analog + DAW

I really want to explore a hybrid setup of analog mixer + Ardour. I was looking at one of the Soundcraft Signature series: and thinking it would be a great backup “interface” with multi-track USB out but also to take my four analog outs from the iD44 so that I can blend classical arrays and/or spots with real faders, apply some external effects, perhaps use the onboard Lexicon effects, go through real analog circuitry etc. and then get back into the iD44 via the returns on channels 1 and 2 to bypass the Audient preamps. It’s an expensive crazy idea but I like to dream at least. Perhaps it flies in the face of “pristine” classical? I also hear that the Ghost preamps on the Soundcraft are quite excellent for the price point. Plus, in the unlikely event I was using more tracks in the DAW, my UMC1820 would allow me to send out 8 separate channels to the Soundcraft…Or, I could just use Mixbus :wink:

  1. Move entirely to Linux

Having gotten into an analog frame of mind, the complementary part of my brain wants to make the switch to Linux-only sooner rather than later. Not sure why it is “complementary” but the connection is there in my mind, at least. As I said previously, I have some time to freshly install antiX 19 etc and decide exactly how to proceed with plugin choices and workflow. It’s not like I haven’t worked fully in this fashion a good number of times but there are several reasons I was holding onto my Win10 partition that I’d need to work through (like becoming a Jedi master at Audacity-based spectral editing).

In other news, I found this video series and thought it might be useful fodder for us classical folk: (video links are down the page). It is for “live” classical but I think many of the ideas are clearly transferable. It goes on for multiple hours so it achieves a satisfying level of detail.

I’m not really sure.
Offering both CDs and high quality digital downloads is still the norm, however it makes the release of the recording quite expensive, I think that nowadays almost nobody buys CDs, only family, friends and a few nostalgic audiophiles. The others are to give away, also to friends…

I myself haven’t bought CDs in a long time.

Bachstudies your project about Bach you only have it in BandCamp or can you also buy it?

Thank you for the info. :ok_hand:

I did around 10 years ago. Even for photography. I use Rawtherapee and Gimp.

Thank you one more time.
From that series I only knew the video where he talks about microphones. I will see the others when I have the time, although my English is at the limit to understand everything well … :slight_smile:

Not sure, really. Here’s a good read: Classical seems to be holding on better than most. Perhaps this should be expected given the desire/need for higher audio quality for playback and as @bradhurley mentioned, the enjoyment of reading a physical booklet? Also, while I’m a unique human being, my listening habits are far from that having been conditioned by my upbringing as a Xennial in the UK. There are more of me out there :wink: I assume CDs will go the way of Vinyl and not completely die. They may even make a comeback with the next generation.

There are plenty of options for making physical discs. I personally have used both on-demand like Amazon’s CreateSpace, local companies like, bigger companies like Discmakers and, my favorite way: created at home. I invested a small amount in some wood-free paper (corn-based), eco-bags etc and can make a reasonably professional origami disc packet (I can provide my template if you are interested). I used the usual Linux tools of Gimp and Scribus.

For my Bach Project, I’ll probably end up making a multi-disc set through Early days…

Yep, classical audio is the last stronghold in the Windows world. Everything else is Linux for me, too.

Well, I may end up admitting that I’ll need to make physical cd’s :slight_smile:
In that case, it wouldn’t be a good idea to make the recording with a “higher sound quality”? thinking of the audiophile market.
Perhaps better than just a resolution of 44.1-16?

There’s no need apparently: 32bit floating point recording question.

I tested myself with a recent project and found 44.1/16 not only adequate but “perfect” to my ears. Indeed, as others have pointed out, the 96/24 FLACs ended up sounding less good on my system (best I can describe is slightly “edgy”). And that 44.1/16 was after SoX SRC and regular triangular dither too! There will always be dissenting views but I’m now definitely convinced. Record to 44.1/24 and dither down to 16-bit for export. Here is the original article I read:’s videos on this are excellent too.

44.1/16 was an error, I meant 44.1/24.

Yes, I think so, I think it’s practically impossible for a human to detect the difference. I only thought on a commercial level… Lately there are many recordings that use the resolution as a claim…

It seems a great option, although in my case I would have to look at advantages and disadvantages from Spain.

This has definitely been troubling for me. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I have the greatest respect for Linn Records but this was dampened slightly by the reality that their studio master downloads at 192k are essentially a pure marketing scam (unless you claim bigger file sizes = more money :wink: ) I don’t own a Linn system myself but I assume that even if they are fully capable of 192k playback no human can hear the difference. Oh well. At this point, I’ve decided to only make available 44.1/16 digital files from here on out. Also note that over the internet many people say the standard CD layer on the hybrid SA-CD is often preferable to the hi-res layer for whatever reason.

Um, CDs are by definition 44k1/16 and even at that, 60 to 70 minutes is the maximum size. If you walk away from a format every CD player out there knows how to play into some a place where some other format is used, first a great part of the audience is lost due to lack of equipment. Second, either the CD will have less content, or the content will have to be compressed. If the compression is of a lossy type, it is no longer high def :slight_smile: if it is lossless compression then compression amount is less and content amount is less too (this may be ok). But really, if going to the trouble and expense of printing CDs, I would want my CDs to be playable anywhere (even in a noisy car). I had only heard of high res audio on DVD before, I did not realize there were non-standard CDs for this purpose too. DVDs already have a standard for high res audio. Also note that those who sell high res/low res audio generally do two masters/mixes one for low res and one for high res. The normal mix and a mix to “bring out the extra band width available in the high res”. This mix may have more dynamic range and perhaps EQ and/or an exciter to bring out the high end a bit more. People should be able to hear a difference. Of course both mixes should be good mixes. Believe it or not, this post is not meant to be sarcastic but rather to deal with the realities of the market.

As a side note, I have a DVD player that can play “blue ray” discs. I have found I get a better experience if I use DVDs instead, they load faster, their video resolution is still better than our screen and they are less likely to be damaged than blueray discs. On top of that they are cheaper. Even when they come with both discs in one package, I generally play the DVD.

I was just thinking about the possibility of downloads. For example like these CDs:

Or, to record at 44.1/24, dither to 16 for the CD and offer 44.1/24 for losless download, like this:

He means that in addition to standard 44.1/16 physical CDs he might add hi-res 44.1/24 lossless digital files for download.

EDIT: I wrote this before I saw that @Aleph had responded similarly.

I’d be surprised if classical engineers are further engineering their MP3 downloads. They offer them generally at 320kbps which for all intents and purposes is so close to CD-quality that you’d struggle to reliably tell the difference every time. The one major downside (and I mean major) is that MP3s don’t allow gapless playback which for many classical albums would be a disaster.

I think you might have it backwards. Blu-ray discs have superior error correction and therefore better scratch resistance.

Nobody does anything special for mp3s :slight_smile: The scenario I was thinking about is release CD first, then release on DVD (perhaps with video) at big sample rate/big bit depth. The high res is often remixed “to take advantage of the higher resolution”. In other words to make it sound better or at least different so the customer does not feel they wasted their money… sort of a value added thing. (“But wait, there’s more…”) The real reason of course is that there would be no audible difference if they didn’t remix and people would not buy them for long. Remember that one of the selling points of the blueray (and other) disc is “high res audio”. So all the cheap DVD/Blueray players have a high res audio label on them even though after the DAC the analog circuitry is the cheapest thing they can get by with and nobody has a listening space with even 50 or 60 DB dynamic range (assuming 85 dB SPL listening level which is on the high side). Add 20 dB for peaks (again over the top for most home listening systems) and 16 bits of depth is still almost 20dB overkill. All it takes is one kid who is a screamer and the listeners hearing bandwidth is cut off at 12k and even the young adult who doesn’t use headphones and likes quiet likely can’t hear anything beyond 18k either. Ya, making a hi-res audio product sound different is a must.

As data density goes up error correction must follow because a smaller scratch destroys more data. So a small scratch that on a DVD would not cause problems would on blueray without the extra error correction. A scratch that is big enough to be a problem on a DVD is likely more than enough to also cause problems on a blue ray disc as well. My experience with blue ray discs has not been stellar.

As a side note, I have a number of different mics (not a large number) of different types. They are not top of the market models and nothing was beyond $300. I have also listened to audio where I know which mic was used for other reference. It is interesting to me that the mic that has put me “in the room with the instrument” is the inexpensive ribbon mic that starts rolling off by 15k or so. True, the one condenser mic I do have has a small diaphragm and is not the best (AT2020). However, I do wonder if striving for even a 20k signal is worth while in the real world.

Edit: I think what I am trying to say about the mic is: when looking for a mic that faithfully captures the high end of the audio range (above 12k), it is very important that the lower range below about 14k right down to 100hz is still very accurate. The range below 14k is what will make the mic sound good or not.

I have a real-world test case for this exact situation. My three-year-old removed both DVD and Blu-ray from the same case and proceeded to “polish” the hardwood floors with them. While one test does not make a water-tight case, for us the blu-ray continues to play flawlessly while the DVD skips/stutters/freezes like crazy on the same player. Take it as you will. She’s right-handed but I don’t know which disc was in each hand :wink: We may be getting off topic!

As a classical engineer, I have made a few videos for artists (or at least matched audio to video and re-rendered with a bit of color correction) and in each case they wanted the exact same audio master presented. One client asked for same loudness and the other wanted -23 LUFS in case it ended up being broadcast (actually we used the BBC PPM max of 6). Given I’m normally aiming for c. -20 LUFS, this doesn’t present any major issues with zero need to change dynamic range.

I enjoy your side notes. I probably agree with you about the microphones and what frequency range is important to human hearing. The other thing to bear in mind that is extremely relevant to classical recording is the selection of microphones that have excellent off-axis response. Any old microphone can pick up good signal from the front but only the best microphones (I hope this includes some mid-range options) have equally good off-axis response. ORTF wouldn’t be nearly as effective if the off-axis response was rubbish. Think of it this way: When I set up at typical ORTF distances where the choir or orchestra fills the whole of the SRA, none of the direct sound is hitting the capsules head on.

That may be a large part of what I like about the ribbon mic. I don’t know. I do record with greater mic spacing than when dealing with live sources. So the ribbon at 18 inches sounds more open than the sm58 at 2 inches on stage for vocal work even though the sm58 picks up higher frequencies. (no I don’t have any sm58s at home to compare in a recording environment)

What monitors do people use for classical mixing/mastering? I looked at a Yamaha HS7 pair as I thought they might be suitable candidates. I’m not really interested in having a separate sub-woofer…

I use ESI-nEar08. Maybe not the best but I think they are neutral enough.

How can we calibrate them properly? How to generate pink noise in Ardour?
Any good tutorial?

Looking the plugins by autor I have found the Robin Gareus “Test signal generator”. You can generate pink noise with this plugin.
Many plugins can be found only by “…autor” or “category”, all the plugins are not displayed at the “Plugin manager”…

I have no experience with these but the SOS review was positive. Detail is good but not sure how Paul White’s “a little forward-sounding” comment would work for classical. If you recognize the intricacies of your flute-playing on playback that’s probably a good thing :wink:

As per that SOS article I posted a while back #187. Use the x42 noise generator or some pre-recorded pink noise WAV at -20 dBFS and use a SPL meter to measure output from each speaker separately. SPL level will depend on room size so that you can keep your hearing for a little while longer.

1 Like

Oh, yes. Sorry, I forget this article.
Well I have calibrated my speakers following the indications however now I have to turn down the volume of my system again because it is quite high.
What is the purpose then?
I did the SPL level at 80db, my room is very small and the speakers are wide separated but very near in my table. Maybe should be less than 80dbs?
I missed something…

Yes, way less. Look toward the end of the SOS article as there are recommendations for SPL based on room size. You might start at 74 dB SPL c-weighted.

You should be aiming for an equilateral triangle created by your head and the two speakers. If that’s impossible then do the best you can.

I missed the end of the article, sorry.
I used the app “DB ABCD” in my iPad, c-weighted/slow.
The iPad was in my music stand at the position of my head.
I also did the equilateral triangle.
74dBs is much better, however is still a bit loud, in my opinion. For chamber music is ok but for jazz or pop is still a bit loud, I think.