MasterDigital is a leading provider of audio mastering, preservation and restoration services worldwide.
Audio is our passion.
Based in the New Orleans area. Since 1991.
Audio recordings are an important part of the world's culture. Unfortunately, formats and media containing audio have changed constantly over time, often mercilessly. The major objective in current audio preservation practice is to properly transfer valuable audio recordings to secure, digital media; this will reduce the uncertainties associated with using and maintaining proprietary playback equipment in the future, as well as to negate physical media deterioration.
Gone are the days when preservation audio transfers were made to 1) fresh audio media, 2) audio media more convenient to play, or 3) audio media thought to be more durable.
Today's transfers are made to digital media in computer file format.
What we do
We transfer from older analog media (open reel tape, audiocassettes, micro cassettes, and phonograph disks) using the highest quality analog to digital converters (96kHz/24 bit) connected directly to tape and disk playback equipment. Unlike some other service providers, we monitor your transfers at normal speed to provide proper phase alignment and level control. If your audio is important enough for you to preserve, then it's important enough monitor it for quality control. We can coordinate the storage of your audio with your institution's IT personnel, or we suggest alternatives for you. We can supply your files on LTO tape, RAID arrays and hard drives for the cost of materials only. We do not charge for transfers to storage formats; we only charge for the exacting transfers from your analog media.
What to preserve
The selection of which audio to preserve is based on three important factors: 1) perceived importance of the recording, 2) relative fragility of the media itself, and 3) the perceived disappearance of particular playback equipment. The first is a qualitative issue, clearly because different audio will be more important to some people than to others. Media fragility is a relatively definitive issue, with older media generally considered more fragile. And if you don't recall a disappearing format, consider the Sony Elcaset (ca. 1976).
Since the purpose of making a preservation transfer is to ensure the survival of the audio (which really is no different from previous audio preservation efforts), the actual preservation transfer itself is highly important.Fortunately, a set of standards/practices for audio transfers to digital media has been published more recently by the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA), and most organizations now base their audio preservation grants programs on modern IASA protocols. On a purely historial note, in 1993 the National Archives and Records Administration (US) published the Sound Recording Procedures Manual (PDF 1.0MB).
Digital media storage considerations
For many years preservation transfers were made to 1/4" analog open reel tape, ostensibly because digital media was perceived as fragile and expensive. Today, digital media is easy to copy and backup, and the present standards call for RAID arrays and LTO tape backups, at multiple locations, etc.
Transfer skills and practice
No set of published standards can fully address the operator's skills in making a correct and optimized transfer. In addition to operator skill, access to well maintained, professional equipment is essential. Professional equipment for making good transfers is no longer made.
What you should do
All digital media should be 'refreshed' periodically, i.e., migrated to newdigital media. While this may seem like a daunting responsibility, computer technology is constantly evolving; the future is expected to bring cheaper and faster storage solutions, at reduced cost. For example, in the case of LTO tape, each generation brings larger storage capacity at reduced media cost; LTO specifications are designed to provide a continuous migration path (although LTO is not a long term storage format).