John Hiatt Tracks to Sonoma-24

John Hiatt Tracks New Album to Sonoma-24
Marks First Large Scale Session for Sonoma

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The December 2004 John Hiatt tracking Session to Sonoma-24 at Ardent Studios in Memphis Tennessee marks a landmark event for the Super Audio CD Format. It is the first time a 24CH DSD recorder has been conventionally used to track a large commercial session. Because the Sonoma DSD multi-track recorder provides all of the features required in a professional multi-track recorder (Overdub recording and editing), the session proceeded without compromise. "The Hiatt session was a very important test case for us." Said Gus Skinas of the Super Audio Center, "A lot is at stake. More and more SA-CD's are being produced on standard PCM workstations because DSD tools that can cope with the demands of a typical multitrack session do not exist, and analog 2" tape is getting harder to find. The Sonoma-24 gives the artist a new option; to get sound similar to that of analog tape with all the features of a powerful multi-track editor."

The project was tracked on the Sonoma-24 through a Neve-V series desk. Once the overdubs and edits were completed, the project was mixed back through the Neve to the Sonoma. This is possible because the Sonoma architecture permits playback of 24 tracks with cross-fades while recording up to 8 tracks.

The Media Issue

Those most likely to track their project to the Sonoma multitrack are those who might track to two inch analog tape for its sonic characteristics. In many cases, the extra cost and impracticality of tracking to analog tape outweigh the sonic benefit. No, having completed a typical multitrack session on the Sonoma, it is clear that the media issues are quite manageable. The entire session, including basic tracks, overdubs, edits, out takes, and the mix downs fit on a single 300 GB fire wire drive. The media cost for the entire project was about $300 - that is equivalent to less than 30 minutes of tracking to Analog tape at 30 ips. Each night, a backup of the day's work was copied to another hard drive. This took about 20 minutes at most during the tracking days. Currently, SAC is looking into the LTO tape backup format that is becoming standard in the I.T. world. LTO-3 can backup 400 Gigabytes of uncompressed data (more than enough for a typical DSD project) onto a single $130 tape. The drive is a bit pricey (about $5500) but the cost is justified in the long run by the media cost. Dollar per gigabyte, LTO seems the best bet. With the I.T. industry embracing LTO, it seems a good solution for long term archiving. New generations of LTO have maintained backward compatibility, so it is a good bet that future generations of LTO hardware will be able to read current tapes. Sonoma records DSDIFF files, which are now an industry standard. Files are time stamped, and contain other meta data that is useful to future media handlers regardless of which hardware platform will play the files.


The Memphis experience proves that DSD multitrack recording is ready for mainstream music production in the analog studio environment. The sonic result coming off the desk during the mix proves this was all worth the effort. Sitting down with an SA-CD player with a will recorded SA-CD will convince anyone that significant progress has been made to improve the quality of music production and music delivery. It's now up to the major labels and music producers... Does quality still matter?






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