The Pretty Things “S.F. Sorrow” My own fake surround version.
Disclaimer: In this article I merely describe the way I have fun with audio. I offer nothing for sale, and share no files with anyone. I have no affiliation with any record company or with the artists involved.
Having said that, I express my affection and admiration to Wally Waller for his kindness in staying in touch with his fans on Facebook.
I have created a “fake surround” version of S.F. Sorrow using my own mono and stereo CDs as sources. The resulting mix is playable on surround capable systems. The subwoofer is used and the centre channel is not used.
On a long car journey I took both mono and stereo CD’s of S.F. Sorrow. I wanted to give myself time to become better acquainted with the differences between these two. They certainly are different having been created at different times, with different people present in the room. The Pretty Things were there during the mono mixing. The stereo mix was created later by Norman Smith, without the Pretty Things present (thanks and acknowledgements to Wally Waller who also shared with me his preference for the mono mix).
During the car journey, I suddenly hit on the idea that a new kind of listening experience could be achieved by playing these two discs at the same time. And from there it is a small leap to the idea of creating a method whereby everything can be heard at once.
My idea was to create a way, where the stereo version would play on the two front speakers of a surround system and the mono version would play on the rear (surround) speakers. Of course this would mean both rear speakers would be playing exactly the same, but this did not dissuade me.
The LFE channel
A surround system has a subwoofer variously called the LFE channel (Low Frequency Effects), the .1 channel (oh point one, derived from 5.1) or the subwoofer channel. I decided to make use of this channel by filtering out (borrowing) the bass from the mono CD and assigning it here.
A major hurdle soon became apparent. The stereo and mono CD’s feature music running at slightly different speeds. This is not a criticism, just a statement of fact. It can probably be attributed to the use of different tape recorders used during mono and stereo assembly and mastering.
Another hurdle is the difference in timing. In complex songs, assembled from different recording segments, the timing appears to be different. So the edit-points at which the tapes were spliced and assembled appear to shift slightly. A major example is track two “Bracelets of Fingers”. Again, this is not a criticism, it’s just a fact to deal with.
The Creation of the fake Surround Version
All thirteen songs were copied from the two mono and stereo CDs into an audio editing program, in this case it was Adobe Audition. Audacity, which is free, would also have done the job. Next came the laborious process of ensuring that playing speeds and durations were equal. At the time of writing this is still work in progress and some of the hardest songs will require further work (Track 2). Edit points also had to be shifted. Copies of the mono tracks were low pass filtered at slightly over 100 Hz to create a bass channel.
I make no claim of improving anything. The mono and stereo CDs are fine as they are and I would not be without them. All I have done is to use what is commercially available to everybody to create a new and different experience for my own listening pleasure.
The listening experience offers new surprises. At some points the mono version might have a more prominent guitar solo than the stereo. Since the mono channels are in the rear, we therefore perceive the solo as coming from the rear. The reverse can also happen.
One thing becomes apparent very quickly on listening to this new home-made fake surround version. The music is experienced in the round and it becomes easier to pick out individual details. The acoustic guitar solo during the instrumental break in the opening track now leaps out at you and can really be experienced as a discrete performance.
Halfway into “Bracelets” there occurs one of the most stunning and wonderful single chords in all of recorded rock music. It is the chord that ends the solo. It starts off with a very fast tremolo which dramatically slows down, until the whole band takes over again. In this new listening experience, this chord really fills the room and puts you in the middle of it. It made me laugh out loud with sheer pleasure.
Summary: I have taken my own store-bought mono and stereo CD's of S.F. Sorrow and performed basic audio editing to enable me to listen to both of them at the same time. This has given me much listening pleasure, although I make no claim of improving anything. I do not offer the result for sale, but merely explain what I have done. If at some point a true professional surround mix became available, I would take my sleeping back to the shop door, even at premium pricing. A true surround sorrow is at the very top of my wish list.
Love to all, especially all Pretty Things fans and of course Wally Waller.
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