Which music gives you goosebumps?

Dries Van HooydonckListening, Music2 Comments

which music gives goosebumps - music is emotion

I was in the city of Leuven recently. I spent the afternoon working on my laptop in a cosy coffee bar.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend Clara was shopping with our son Tristan (two and a half) elsewhere in the city.

When the three of us were eating dinner in an Asian restaurant in the evening, I suddenly heard music coming from the street.

Tristan had finished eating and together, hand in hand, we went out to see what was going on. It turned out to be a street artist. Singing and playing guitar.

And then it happened: GOOSEBUMPS ALL OVER MY BODY…

And that was just the start of it…

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How to get lots of music files almost FOR FREE

Dries Van HooydonckMusic2 Comments

How to get lots of music files almost for free

Since the vinyl-revival, the comeback of the cassette and the rediscovery of the reel-to-reel, cd’s are totally not hip anymore. 

And that’s why I buy so many of them.


You can find them everywhere:

In bulk and for competitive prices.

You won’t believe how many amazing albums are up for grabs, at crazy low prices.

In this article I explain you how I collect an extreme amount of digital music and it costs me almost no money.

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Audiophile albums you must hear

Dries Van HooydonckListening, Music18 Comments

audiophile albums you must hear

What are audiophile albums?

Audiophile albums are music albums where focus lies mainly on the recording quality. During the recording, mastering & production process, high-end audio equipment is being used. Audiophile albums will sound phenomenal on a decent high-end audio setup. They can be used as a reference to test equipment, or to showcase your system.

What are our favorite audiophile albums?

Regarding most audiophile recordings, unfortunately most of the time focus lies only on the recording quality and on the sound of such an album, not on the performance of the musician or the music itself.

The big problem with many of these audiophile albums, is that the performance itself is sometimes insufficient, even plain boring or that musicians are portrayed that nobody ever heard about.

Let’s be honest, the most important thing regarding musical reproduction is the performance, the musicality of the artist and how artists translate their emotions by means of their music, right?

Therefore, in this article we give you a list – including description – of our most listened albums at the time of writing this article.

We focus not only on audiophile recordings or audiophile record labels, but also on rock-solid performances by world-class musicians, where recording quality sounds good as well:

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How Stockfisch Records has “reinvented” DMM (Direct Metal Mastering)

Dries Van HooydonckMusic1 Comment

Stockfisch records DMM direct metal master reinvented for cd and sacd

Stockfisch DMM CD & SACD: Vinyl sound in digital format

The past decade more music lovers discover the authentic sound of vinyl again. Proof of this can be found in the sales of vinyl records and record players that have increased every year, and more recently in the development of a new format on the musical horizon called HD vinyl, within a couple of years maybe sold besides regular LP’s.

Stockfisch Records has also experimented with a new technique in their mastering process recently. Actually it is an older technique, but they gave it a new usage, where the typical sound of vinyl can be digitally reproduced via cd and sacd without any of the negative effects associated with the vinyl medium such as distortion, groove noise, horizontal and vertical aberrations, rumble, clicks, pops, and so on. Vinyl lovers got accustomed to these negative aspects.

Of course the better the analog setup the less audible these artefacts become and the more qualities start to appear in the sonic picture. Nevertheless, these negative aspects will always occur in one way or another, unless you are a label called Stockfisch, using the Direct Metal Mastering technique to capture the authentic charms of the vinyl medium, but in the process eliminating the negative aspects associated with the medium.

While DMM has been around for a very long time already, Stockfisch Records has been the first audiophile record label using the Direct Metal Master technique, to offer their final product to the consumer not on vinyl, but in a digital CD/SACD format.

What techniques are used in the Direct Metal Mastering process?

Stockfisch Records DMM Direct Metal Mastering techniques used

The DMM technique Stockfisch applies starts with cutting the recording onto a copper plate, the so-called “Metal Master”. Immediately after cutting, this copper master record is played and with the best possible transfer technology the result is digitalized. Stockfisch uses a Neumann VMS-82 cutting machine as the original record player. With a normal living room setup tracking errors of the stylus are inevitable because (to some extend) there will always be horizontal and vertical aberrations. With the metal master this is not the case since it is held firmly on the lathe by vacuum suction and no aberration of the tracking stylus can occur.

In the complete process Stockfisch uses only the best possible components. Here’s the complete audio chain in a nutshell:

  • EMT TSD-15 pickup – a custom made version of the EMT’s legendary TONDOSE TSD-15, incorporates a diamond made from a square natural rod. This diamond is refined with a highly sophisticated shape with multiple facets resulting in a frontal parabola measuring 17 x 25 µ. This diamond quality secures not only very little distortion, but also very low FIM (Frequency Intermodulation Distortion).
  • EMT 997 tone arm
  • EMT JPA66 valve preamplifier – in the highest segment of the manufacturer.
  • Meitner EMM Labs ADC 8 MK IV – this A/D converter is still regarded as a reference for the best possible conversion to the 1-bit Direct Stream Digital (DSD) format.
  • SADIE DSD8 mastering system – records the 1-bit DSD signal in a sampling rate of 2.8224 Mhz.
  • Hybrid SACD – the final product is a Hybrid SACD, with both a layer that has the 1-bit DSD information as well as a layer with the 16 bit / 44.1 KHz cd format.

To enhance the tonal quality of the DMM transfer for the DMM-CD, Stockfisch cuts the music programme at 45 rpm and basically only uses the area between the two zero crossings of the cartridge arm. This is the area where the geometry of the pick-up arm is optimal. However, this decision costs a few copper blanks more, as it reduces the running time per side as opposed to the pressed vinyl LP.

With critical listening tests, this combination has proven Stockfisch to be the optimal chain when it comes to obtaining a sound as close as possible to the master.

Stockfisch Records Direct Metal Master video explains the complete process

You can watch the DMM process from start to finish, in a short informative movie made by Stockfisc Records. Especially for fans of the record label, the voice-over is done by none less than Stockfisch troubadour Allan Taylor.

How does DMM sound?

Since we heard about the DMM technique, we were very curious about its sonic results. Günter Pauler – head of Stockfisch Records – was in a kind mood and sent us a copy of the two compilation albums the label has made using this new technique, the Stockfisch DMM-CD/SACD volume 1 & volume 2.

Both volumes of these compilations have an impressive track listing, with representation of most artists that made Stockfisch famous over the years and are well known performers for fans.

This is quite convenient. In this way one can compare the original recording with the DMM version of the songs. My personal favorites on “volume 1” include Chris Jones “No Sanctuary Here” – with lyrics still on topic of todays vast stream of refugees seeking asylum in Europe, and Sara K. with her live performance of “Stop Those Bells”, recorded during her 2002 Nautilus tour, sponsored by B&W. On volume 2, one of the tracks of preference is Paul O’ Brian who covers Joni Mitchell with his version of “Big Yellow Taxi”, yet another song that’s completely “on topic” in ecological terms.

Stockfisch Records DMM CD SACD vol 1

The Stockfisch DMM-CD / SACD vol. 1

Stockfisch Records DMM CD SACD vol 2

The Stockfisch DMM-CD / SACD vol. 2

How do these DMM albums sound? Well, to be honest they sound quite nice. Although the original Stockfisch recordings are already of pristine quality there’s something special about these DMM recordings. The sonic signature can be best described as just about how vinyl is supposed to sound if no artefacts or distortions were in the signal path. The recordings  are characterized by a charming, slightly warm tonal balance, but without any loss of resolution or inner detail from the original recording. So the DMM technique lives up to its expectation. In our opinion Stockfisch has succeeded in bringing to life only the positive aspects of vinyl. It makes these recordings quite a treat to listen to.

When the compact disc was marketed in the eighties and nineties, one claim of the manufacturers was a “crystal clear sound”, free from the distortions that were present in vinyl. Indeed, digital playback does not suffer from such distortions. Vinyl was then abandoned as inferior and music passionates around the world sold their collection in exchange for the replacement compact disc version of their favorite albums. But on the downside of the compact disc, to be able to reproduce this medium in a profound manner, a decent source and digital-to-analog converter is necessary, something only the last decade raised in attention. A cd transport is also vulnerable to aberration, so with the cd medium, perfection is still hard achieved. Further evolution in the digital domain has made the compact disc replaceable by digital streaming and high resolution files, vinyl now on a rebound and more popular than ever. I believe this evolution will continue to surprise us, with new media around the corner, and old ones on a revival.

But when comparing the Stockfisch cd versions with the DMM, one thing is certain: they both have got that “crystal clear sound” with which the compact disc got advertised in the past. But the DMM has another pleasing factor: that sweet analog sound of vinyl, without its limitations, in a digital form most of us are still accustomed to. Is this the perfect format? No, it is not. Is it a delightful listening experience? Absolutely!

Enjoy a new musical discovery every day?

Free Audiophile Albums

Time to expand your musical horizon…

I want to take things to a complete new level with you:

Every day – for the upcoming 60 days – you can receive a new audiophile album recommendation from me.

So, for the next 60 days you will know exactly what music to play.

Completely free of charge, for you to enjoy.

I call it:

60 Days of Audiophile Quality Music Albums, and where to find them

Click on the link above to discover this AMAZING product

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Stockfisch Records: Closer to the Music

Dries Van HooydonckMusic2 Comments

audiophile record label stockfisch records

Stockfisch Records is an audiophile record label situated in the small town of Northeim, Germany. By using superb recording and mastering techniques Stockfisch Records produces highly acclaimed albums, appreciated by both an audiophile audience as well as professional musicians and sound engineers around the world, and made Stockfisch a reference quality record label.

Stockfisch Records: record label and recording studio

Stockfisch records was founded in 1974 by tonmeister Günter Pauler, who later also founded Pauler Acoustics. The label and the studios are located in an old mansion, once served as a monastery. Pauler first rented this location, then bought it. Apart from a recording studio, the mansion also houses a cd & sacd pre-mastering studio and a DMM cutting studio. (DMM = Direct Metal Master).

Stockfisch Records recording studio

Recording studio of Stockfisch Records in 1000 year old basement of monastery. 5.1-control room with NEXUS 28bit A/D-Converter, Strauss MF-2, STUDER Vista5 Digitale Console, PYRAMIX Virtual Studio V8 incl. HORUS/Ravenna, SADiE DSD8, TC System 6000, Weiss Gambit, emmLabs ADC8 Mk IV, Bricasti, Elysia, Avalon-EQs,…

Stockfisch Records DMM cutting studio

DMM cutting studio with 2 NEUMANN VMS-82 DMM, Tannoy Canterbury loudspeakers, Sonic Studio™, weiss gambit, STUDER A820 …

Stockfisch Records mastering studio for cd and sacd

CD-PreMastering and NoNoise-processing with SonicStudio™, SADiE DSD8, PYRAMIX Virtual Studio, CEDAR, Weiss Gambit EQ1 + DS1, bw 102, Bowers & Wilkins 801 D, L2 waves, Klark DN-60, SONY DRE-S777, Saracon, Mutec Reclocker, …

Stockfisch – the art of recording

In the studios every link in the audio chain is optimized with utter precision. Stockfisch posesses about the best audio equipment available, in terms of recording, monitoring as well as mastering. For instance the studio has a very large collection of exclusive microphones, some of them are not available in any other studio in the world. Pauler can hereby choose the right solution in any given situation. This choice of microphones can make a night and day difference, he claims in Stereoplay (edition 1/2015). Naturally not only the quality or correct placement of such microphone is of importance. Anybody can place a microphone, but not everybody can analyse the sound image and can come up with a satisfactory result. Experience is key factor here. Further reading of Stereoplay (same issue) reveals Paulers opinion about eliminating interferences in the studio. According to him the main culprits are WLAN, wireless networks and mains power contamination. These items are completely banned from his studios, the mains power is filtered and Pauler has deliberately chosen LED lighting in the building instead of (the more commonly used) light bulbs.

Pauler Acoustics

Stockfisch Records Pauler Acoustics professional audio

When Günter Pauler is asked in Stereoplay to describe his typical “Pauler” trade sound he answers: “I recently dug in the archives and came up with a very old recording of mine. I was surprised how good it sounded. Through the years the same tendens is apparent. The most important thing to me is to record as clean as possible.”

This typical “Pauler” stamp, which Günter presses on all Stockfisch recordings, succeeds beyond the borders of Stockfisch and beyond the borders of Germany. In the last couple of years he has become a big name in Asia, more specific in China. Forty percent of Stockfisch revenue is due to his work in the Far East. They entrust him with ancient recordings on tape, which survived the cultural revolution, and which Pauler then revives.

To illustrate that this musical “Orient Express” pays off: in 2015 Pauler and his sound engeneer Hans-Jörg Macksch were nominated for a Grammy Award in the category “best surround sound album” for their recording of Chinese singer Song Zuying.

Stockfisch Records Song Zuying China Philharmonic Orchestra recording album

Pipa (lute), Gu Zheng (zither) & Song Zuying during recording sessions in Beijing

DMM – Direct Metal Mastering

Furthermore Pauler delivers on demand for external clients, for instance by applying DMM (Direct Metal Master) – a technique he has developed himself. With this technique the digital mastertape is cut on a metal platter. This “metal master” is then read and directly digitalized in SACD format. This way the final musical result has all the charming sonic advantages of a record, without any of the disadvantages. Stockfisch cuts 8 record sides each day, either on demand, or for their own productions.

More info about the DMM technique can be found in our article “Stockfisch Records Direct Metal Mastering”.

Stockfisch Records DMM direct metal master to SACD

DMM – Direct Metal Master

Musicians at Stockfisch Records

Stockfisch Records mainly focuses on singer-songwriters. Examples of such artists are Chris Jones, Allan Taylor, Paul O’Brian, David Roth & Steve Strauss. In 2001 Pauler managed to sign “Queen of Audiophile” Sara K after her contract with that other audiophile label – Chesky Records – had finished. Sara K. mentions that she was convinced to sign after Pauler had gotten Chris Jones as accompaniment and sent her a fair but unheard of one-page record contract. The live album Live in Concert (2003) which resulted from her 2002 Bowers & Wilkins-sponsored “Nautilus” tour was chosen as the best audophile CD of 2003 by the readers of the German magazine Stereoplay and received their “Hifi Music Award 2003”.

Stockfisch Records Sara K B&W nautilus tour 2002

Sara K. – B&W Nautilus Tour, 2002

Credit where credit’s due

Stockfisch Records personnel staff

Stockfisch Records staff, from left to right: Percy Chan, Hans-Jörg Maucksch, Günter Pauler & Inés Breuer.

Although Günter Pauler is the face of Stockfisch, his lifework would have never been accomplished alone. Luckily Pauler  is assisted – in the studio and beyond – by a select team of dedicated collegues.

Enjoy a new musical discovery every day?

Free Audiophile Albums

Time to expand your musical horizon…

I want to take things to a complete new level with you:

Every day – for the upcoming 60 days – you can receive a new audiophile album recommendation from me.

So, for the next 60 days you will know exactly what music to play.

Completely free of charge, for you to enjoy.

I call it:

60 Days of Audiophile Quality Music Albums, and where to find them

Click on the link above to discover this AMAZING product

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