Around last year or two, I heard about LPCD. Term “LP” itself is commonly used for Vinyl (or turntable, got the point?). So LPCD means a CD with “vinyl” taste or quality. Most people consider CD to be a digital format (and digitally sounded media), while Vinyl tends to have warmer sound (and more analogue). A lot of audiophiles claim that Vinyl sounds better than CD. But Vinyl is not as durable as CD, since it’s an analog media. You need a lot of treatment to enjoy a Vinyl.
Hugo Productions, a record label from Hong Kong, established at 1987, claims a new technology called LPCD. They claim that the LPCD will have more analogue sound than typical CD. A man behind Hugo is Mr. Aik Yew Goh. He is a famous recording producer who spend over 35 years in this business.
From the picture above, you can see the block diagram to produce LPCD. As we can see, there’s nothing really special from this diagram. The source is Open Reel Master Tape and Digital Master Tape, then sent to highest quality D/A circuit with up-sampling capability to 24 bit 192 kHz. They adjust the sonic quality and characteristics to match their standard and of course adjust the level of all tracks. Finally, the tracks will be down-sampled to 16/44.1 kHz into the CD format and processed to LPCD.
Below is a quote from www.yanglining.com
LPCD is the latest and most advanced technology researched and developed by Mr Aik Yew-Goh, the founder of Hugo Productions.
Mr Aik is a renowned recording producer and musician who spends 35 years in musical experimentations and 20 years in professional music production. LPCD is developed based on a unique set of digital processing technology which enables listeners to experience the analogue sound of the vinyl LP record from an ordinary CD player.
Mr Aik has been researching this technique for a long time. He has produced over 300 music records in the last 20 years. Every time when he compared these recordings with the master tapes, he would find that there was a difference in the audio quality, but he was unable to work out a solution due to his busy schedule in music productions. Until 2003, after producing two LPs, Mr Aik revisited this subject and did a detailed analysis on the sonic differences between CD, XRCD, SACD, etc., to pinpoint the reason why the CD and LP differ much in their tonal quality.
The general consensus among most audiophiles being that when comparing with LP, CD (including normal CD, 24K CD, XRCD, SACD and DVD-Audio) would sound tight, tensed and compressed (especially when playing at loud sound level, one would find it difficult to maintain concentration in appreciating the music and the sound system). Besides, the lack of extension at the low and high sonic frequencies has resulted in a harsher treble, inelastic bass, poor dynamics, etc. Being an LP audiophile, Mr Aik is well aware of the problem. He reckons that the only way to seek out the answer is to listen to his own recordings extensively and repeatedly, before he is entitled to voice his views.
Presently, the manufacturing of CD from the master tape requires changing the digital audio formats 5 to 6 times in the following processes: Master Tape – Master CDR – Glass Master – Metal Stamper – Pressing – CD. The last two processes are especially important as they could make or break the sound quality. It is common knowledge to audiophiles that whether it is LP or CD, the first pressing always sounds the best. A simple experiment of duplicating a CD 5 or 6 times on a home computer will prove that the last pressing will sound much inferior to the original CD.
How then to ensure that audiophiles who have been faithfully supporting the HUGO Label can enjoy the highest level of sonic fidelity? Having identified the digital distortion problem of CD, Mr Aik has focused his research of the LPCD in the following two parameters:
1. LPCD mastering
Applying HUGO’s proprietary sonic spectrum processing software system on the following procedures:
(a) Using the highest specifications to convert the original analogue master tape into a digital format;
(b) Upsampling the original digital master to the highest specifications. Thereafter, adjust the tonal density, dynamic range, bandwidth, etc., using a highly precise digital processing system. Finally the digital master is encoded into a 16 bit/44.1KHz CD format. Throughout the entire digital processing, the digital system is operating in an optimal configuration with the highest purity of the AC power supply and a highly precise, military-grade digital clock. All the equipment used were protected by a proprietary anti-vibration system to ensure that all the components and the production process are free of distortion.
Although the top-notch equipment can effectively benefit the mastering production, mastering process is still very much a complex manual project which requires the mastering engineers to apply their skill and artistry meticulously at each step of the process. It is therefore not just a simple technical “transfer” from one medium to another. It is hardly surprising that the mastering of a LPCD takes a labourous 20 studio hours!
2. LPCD Production
The primary objective is to minimize the signal distortion of the digital laser reading system embedded in the CD player, and the “over-correction” by the signal correction system. In addition, a specially treated material is used to eliminate the diversion of the laser beam; thereby improving the accuracy of the laser output signal, enhancing the stability of the disc rotation, reducing the rumple and flutter rate. All of these help to reduce the pressures on the CD servo-system which otherwise can generate signal loss and distortion.
After numerous experimentations, the above process is finally adopted to produce the LPCD. What is presented to audiophiles is a disc which is many times more precise than the ordinary disc. Very fine artistry is put into the stamping / pressing processes as well as the digital format change processes to eliminate any significant noise intrusion. Special material is also used to help preserve and enhance the durability of the LPCD.
Hugo Productions not only produces its own LPCDs, it also provides the technical expertise to other companies or producers to manufacture the LPCDs on the premise that the recordings qualities are of the highest level.
LPCD products are classified into two categories, i.e. LPCD33 and LPCD45. LPCD33 is a specially manufactured CD product whereas LPCD45 is the top-of-the-line audiophile master product that is built on the best CDR master specification. Consumers need to ascertain whether their CD players could playback the CDR before they purchase the LPCD45 discs.
Now, there is no need for audiophiles to slave over their LP players. Audiophiles also need not be tortured by the noise and wow and flutter of the LP and yet still able to enjoy the highest sonic quality equivalent to an LP system. Come and enjoy the wonder of music and sound effects brought to you by LPCD.
Picture below shows the back side of LPCD45. It has blue color. The front side remains the same with typical CD Audio. I bought one at Singapore about last week. The album was Teresa Teng Volume 1, produced by Hugo to Universal Studio. This album absolutely contains the best of Teresa Teng’s songs.
Based on my experience, this LPCD tends to have a “silky” and sweet vocal. The low extension is tight and punchy. The treble is smooth, not sharp or bright at all. But, I think there are some limitation since this album was taken from old Teresa’s song (so the master or source itself maybe not in high resolution).
Newer source should gain more advantage when produced in LPCD format. I also test Priscillia Chan LPCD45. I think the Priscillia has better source (newer album), so the treble and details are better than the Teresa’s LPCD45. Overall, they both maintain same characteristic (liquid vocal, tight and punchy low, and smooth treble).