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TortiseClimbing began recording in the early 1990's when analogue tape was still used.  Namely, 24 track, 2 inch analog master tape, at 30 inches per second.  The original recordings in the early 1990's used Dolby A noise reduction, and those in the later 1990's used Dolby SR noise reduction.

Current digital recording technologies provide impressive editing capabilities.  The two market dominant digital editing products are ProTools and Digital Performer (DP).

The draft final mixes created on analogue master tapes for Hymns were transferred from the Dolby SR analogue stereo mix to digital mastering using 24 bits at 44.1 megahertz.  The mastered final was then encoded to an HDCD format for reproduction as an HDCD CD.  (See HDCD below for an explanation of what it is.)  Since then the rights to the technology for HDCD were purchased by Microsoft, which has incorporated that technology into Windows Media Player, ver. 9 and above.  A by-product is that HDCD products have become less available in the market, while both SACD (super audio CD) and DVD-Audio have become more available.

HDCD - High Definition Compatible Digital

What Is HDCD?

HDCD was patented by Pacific Microsonics for encoding/decoding greater sound richness on CDs.  The promotional literature claimed HDCDs sound better than traditional CDs even when played without the decoding capabilities.

The original or "Red book" standard CD design is based on 16 bit words at a 44.1Mhz sampling rate.  The HDCD encoding process captures and reproduces sound more like what would be achieved using a more detailed word of 20 bits to record the audio at the same sampling rate of 44.1Mhz.  Among other things, this enables better reproduction of dynamic range, subtler timbre characteristics, and better 3D focus.  Note.  The limitation on 3D focus of a standard CD is what makes live performances so different.  HDCD comes closer to this by narrowing this difference.

The beauty of the HDCD encoding process is it allows an HDCD encoded CD to be played on any standard CD player.  In that sense, a comparison can be made to the tape recorder cassette encoding/decoding processes of Dolby B and C.  In the case of cassette players equipped with a Dolby decode capability, it reduces the inherent tape noise heard when cassettes are played back.  But, the encoded cassettes can also be played on any cassette tape player, even without a Dolby decoder capability.

For those listening to an HDCD on the millions of standard CD players, you will hear a slightly sweeter sound because of the enhanced digital processing used as part of the editing and mastering processes that achieve a more optimum CD sound.

For those listening to an HDCD on one of the newer HDCD enabled CD or now DVD players, you will hear performances with greater 3-D presence definition, dramatic peaks and subtler quiet passages, and more natural vocal and musical sounding playback.  The romantically dynamic style of Hymns for Life is well suited to this new HDCD encoding technology, which reproduces the performance with truer clarity and faithfulness.

How Wide Spread Is HDCD?

When HDCD was originally introduced, it began what looked like would be rapid adoption by top audio mastering studios as the standard for producing higher quality audio CDs and audio DVDs.  Examples of its initial growing acceptance included:


HDCD was used on 48 CDs in 30 different categories nominated for the 42nd Grammy awards, held February 2000;


By the end of 1999 over 4,000 titles had used the HDCD encoding process;


When Microsoft purchased the HDCD technology in summer 2000, the number of CD titles already released using HDCD exceeded 5000.  This included more than 225 listed in the Billboard Top 200.  Sales of HDCD encoded CDs had exceeded 300 million;


The 43rd Grammy awards, held in February 2001, had 42 nominations for CDs in 35 categories which used HDCD encoding.



The number of consumer electronics companies that introduced CD players with HDCD capabilities began to grow.  Three well known consumer brands are Denon, Harmon/Kardon and Kenwood.  Just type "HDCD player" into any search engine and check out the list of responses.

HDCD is a trademark of Pacific Microsonics, Inc., which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft Corporation, which has incorporated this technology into Windows Media Player, ver. 9 and above.  This patented encode/decode process allows encoding 20 bits of music information into the 16 used by existing CDs.  For those interested in reviewing more about the technical aspects of HDCD click here.

Dolby is a trademark of Dolby Laboratories, and is the encode/decode process for noise reduction used on many pre-recorded music cassettes.  They now also provide Dolby digital.

Note.  Pacific Microsonics, Inc. (PMI), the company which patented the HDCD technology, was purchased by Microsoft Corporation in summer of 2000. 

SACD - Super Audio CD

A benefit of the SACD format, like that of the HDCD, is that it too can be played on a standard CD player, i.e., it is backward compatible with existing CD players.

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