SACD provenance

It is well known that the Japenese still produce a large number of SACDs. However, as I don’t speak Japenese and am unable to research the matter thoroughly, I am interested in the provenance of a lot of these disks.

In the U.S., it is well known that MoFi (and others) use the original master tapes to re-master/press their SACD recordings. Are the Japanese doing the same? Now that I’m digging into the topic, I’m seeing a lot of SACDs that I didn’t know existed in this format, for example, this Tears for Fears disk (below). Does anyone have any insights on this? (thank you in advance).

As you say there is no provenance of the origin. However this goes for just about everything these days. For a start it depends upon what you mean by the original master tapes which is complicated by processes involved. So the precise origin of the source used for SHM-CDs is not clear and may vary from release to release.

I assume that your interest is not purely academic and your objective is simply good sound. The reality is that you can only find out by listening. The label “SHM - CD” does not in itself guarantee anything.

BTW, see the link regarding MoFi and “original master tapes”.

I have but a single SHM-SACD in my collection and it sounds wonderful. It was, however ,by the time I had paid the dutiy, VAT and carriers customs charges added to the Japanese price the most expensive disc I have bought ( outside of rare items) totalling ( from memory) over £50. Incidentally I foolishly purchased a single disc which meant it bore the whole of the carrier’s charges.

So I can only say that purchase will involve a degree of risk ,just as usual!

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Wow. Pete, I had no idea about this lawsuit (and admission/settlement). Thank you! I was about to purchase a bunch of disks from them!

I’ll dig in further…

More information below. This seems to only pertain to vinyl, however, I will continue to research:

If you purchased a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab “Original Master Recording” or “Ultradisc One-Step” vinyl record (the “MoFi Records”), you could get a payment from a class action settlement.

Ok, I’ve gone briefly down this rabbit hole and upon further research, this is what I believe I understand about the MoFi case and settlement, and I’m hopeful that if I have some (or all) of this wrong, someone can correct me:

(a) Original analog masters can only be played/used so many times or they will deteriorate;
(b) To make vinyl you need to press the plates into the raw vinyl disk, and each plate can only be used approximately 2,000-3,000 times
(c) So, if you want to make 5,000 vinyl records, you will need to make multiple plates/stampers for this purpose.

Instead of using the original analog master each time to make a new plate, which would destroy the original analog master over time, what MoFi did was:
(1) Made a very HQ digital copy of the analog master; and then
(2) Used that HQ digital copy to make the subsequent pressing plates
(3) Mis-represented that vinyl records were made from plates created directly from the analog masters, when, in fact, the plates were made from the HQ digital copy.

I certainly don’t view this as an honest mistake, and they were rightly sued for consumer fraud (and settled). However, IMHO, this does seem to be a practical solution to avoid destroying the analog masters. In essence, it appears to me that this was a practical, but deceiptful, way of solving a demand issue.

Accordingly, this does not appear to impact the SACDs, which would have been encoded from the HQ digital copy anyway, and this is why SACD buyers were not included in the lawsuit/settlement.

Therefore, you are fine buying the MoFi SACDs, but if you bought the MoFi vinyl, you were likely deceived. This seems corroberated by the settlement press release:

“This case arises from allegations that Defendants Audiophile Music Direct, Inc. (“Music Direct”) and Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Inc. (“MoFi”) falsely marketed and promoted certain MoFi Records as produced with “analog-only” methods, without the use of any intervening digital step, when in fact they were allegedly produced using an undisclosed DSD transfer step in the mastering chain.”

Do folks think I have this right? Any corrections/additions are very welcome!

Nearly. But it is a lot more complex.

It is not necessary for the making of stampers to destroy the tape.There is a difference between “mother” and stamper. So a stamper can be used for 3,000 records but the mother can make several stampers. BTW, MoFi records would be limited editions compared to ordinary pop issues which can run to millions. So I would be confident that MoFi would only need to make a single or a couple of mothers. Nevertheless making that mother does require a tape to be played with probably several passes over the heads as the cutting engineer selects the required EQ. So a digital copy in this century seems prudent or even necessary given that one is dealing with archive material often in less than perfect state. Remember it was a copy of the original master so it could IMO be claimed that the mother was made from the original master. there was what is known as an interstage used ( the digital copy). Personally I don’t think that they ever made a claim that plates were made directly from the analogue master ( I read MoFi ads from the beginning) but that consumers interpreted things that way. However I was not part of the judiciary :grinning:

This is all part of the numbers game where poorly informed people assume that certain technologies inevitably confer benefits or degradation. It ain’t necessarily so. For example are first pressings better then later ones? Are remasters better sounding than the original? It all depends.

SACD is a real issue regrading provenance as, properly, SACDs should be made from original DSD masters. Mostly they aren’t.


Understood on the vinyl pressing process Pete. Re: the MoFI SACDs, in my (quick) research, I did not find anything that seemed to suggest that the MoFi SACDs were not made from DSD recordings of the analog masters, and therefore I think provenance on those is okay.

Do you agreed? Did you find anything to the contrary?

I have been trying to point out that the provenance of SACD is often very difficult to establish unless the record label is forthcoming which they usually are not or at least to the extent required.

It is impossible to prove negatives so not finding anything does not indicate the origin one way or the other. Given the fact that the LP pressings involved the making of a digital interstage tape to avoid wear or even destruction of of archive tapes would strongly suggest that an SACD issue of the same title would use that copy as master as you would not want further exposure of the original tape and if you have spent money digitising the analogue tape anyway why digitise it again when you are producing a digital issue? However the truth is I don’t know. The LP enthusiasts’ ideal of all analogue does not enter the picture in this context.

Are the products of MoFi considered worth it? Irrespective of anything I think that the answer is , yes, they tend to garner good reviews anyway. Although they seem not to be 1:1 copies of the original but seem to seek to improve the sound in some way. So there is a matter of taste involved.

I want to emphasise that the fact that even if a given record has a suitable number of buzzwords emphasising its benefits this offers no guarantee that it will actually sound great. It depends on so many factors virtually all of which are hidden from the view of the consumer. In truth you won’t know if it sounds good until you listen.

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I seem to recall reading one of the contested issues with SACD’s is that the mixing process tends to be done in PCM before converting to DSD. Is that true?

Basically , yes. The normal editing processes of record production are not always feasible with DSD. So the very high sampling rate PCM DXD was developed for this very purpose although it has become a recording format too. So for what is probably the majority of DSD tracks ( SACD or otherwise) the DSD master is transferred to DXD , edited, then transferred back to DSD for production.

In any case do I want a purist but unedited disc? " Sorry about the mistakes but you’ll have to put up with them as we can’t edit" :laughing:.

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I completely agree. I guess it’s the dichotomy of the format - it’s not possible to have the purism of DSD and be able to (easily) modify the audio files in the mixing process!

Here you go…

CDJapan : Songs From The Big Chair [SHM-SACD] Tears For Fears SACD

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Thanks Danny. However this thread is not about where to buy an SHM SACD but about the provenance of the release i.e. what is the source of the recording used for this issue? Is it ( for example) just the 16/44.1 PCM digital master that has been upsampled to DSD? Or is it, say, a DSD transcription made directly from the analogue master tape or a second or third generation copy of it? Have you any information on this aspect?

Thx @Soundboy.

Pete, this is in the description toward the bottom:

“Special-priced SHM-SACD reissue. Single layer. Features 2014 DSD remastering, using UK original analog master tapes. This series features the albums with the following product numbers: UIGY-15001 through UIGY-15010.”

Not all the details one would like but at least something…


Yes that does gove some indication. Honestly my sight has really degraded :-(. So thanks again @Soundboy .

Regarding Japanese SACD reissues, there is a wide range of source materials used. I’ve seen at least the following types:

  • DSD master directly from the original tapes
  • DSD master from Japanese local copies of the original master tapes
  • DSD remaster from 24/96 PCM masters made from the original master tapes

The third one is more common that you might expect. The good thing is most of these releases will state in the fine print on the obi what type of master they used.


Thx Jeff,
If I may ask, how large is your SACD collection?

I’m only around 30, but adding some of the classic recordings to fill in, now that I have an effective ripping mechanism…

I think I have around 350 now. Mostly Japanese releases, as I lived in Japan for several years and they were reasonably priced there.

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