As my days at GGRP were just half days, I soon found myself hungry for more and so I was hired at Sonrise in the afternoons to do similar work for them, eventually leaving GGRP to work at Sonrise full time. In this case, I was preparing ¼” analog tape masters for the replication machines. These machines were called Bin-Loop Duplicators because the entire length of tape was spooled off of its own reel and into a large thin bin that was just a hair wider than the tape itself. The head and tail ends of the tape were cut to specific lengths from the start of modulation to the edit point, and were then joined together into one large loop of tape. This Bin-Loop master tape was pulled past a set of magnetic playback heads and the signal then transferred to large open reels (called Pancakes) of cassette tape. Just as I had done at GGRP, each Bin-Loop master had to adhere to certain standards for overall loudness and frequency range and this ‘Appropriate Level’ had to be addressed for all individual tracks, just like you’d expect if you flipped a CD from song to song. Not only was this ¼” tape supposed to handle the levels being put to it, the subsequent 1/8” cassette tape had to handle is as well, without audible distortion.
Ah ha! I knew there was a catch! How do you ‘Reduce’ a recording without it sounding like it? How do you take a recording, make it sound bigger, more exciting, louder too but into a technically smaller footprint? Practice, practice, and more practice. You need time and repetition to learn the limitations of each step and proactively affect the stereo mix to fit onto that cassette tape and still sound killer. This also included learning how to tweak the best performance out of the duplicator itself and I figured out how to do it. Our cassettes were of such high quality that even our competitors could not tell them apart from its CD master in a listening challenge I put before them in an open Industry trade show. (Mic drop moment…)
The studio purchased our first computer workstation in the early 90’s and now added these digital tools to our work. As I got more proficient in this assembly/mastering process, word got out and I was doing more and more mastering work, even if we didn’t do the CD manufacturing. We had sales reps in other provinces as well that could now offer these new services with gladness because they simply did not exist before. It was a Win/Win for everyone and the seeds of Coastal Mastering Studios were now firmly planted.