A Warrenton man has created a new music remastering technique called Enhanced Bandwidth Expansion
WARRENTON - Bruce Forster wants to make recorded music sound better.
With a remastering technique called Enhanced Bandwidth Expansion, or Ebx, the Warrenton man is doing just that.
Forster "overcomes the weaknesses in conventional CD (Compact Disc) recording" by pulling information off the disc that most CD players can't access.
"I became aware that on almost any CD that you buy in the store, you're only hearing 50 percent of the musical information that is on the disc," he says. "All of the information is on the disc, but it is put on the CD in such a way that conventional CD players can't read it all."
A self-described audiophile, Forster started educating himself about the science of sound five years ago. The clarinet and 12-string guitar player was inspired by an acoustic study of birdsongs his wife performed.
He read audio magazines, began experimenting with different kinds of processing equipment and talking with sound engineers. Over the course of the last three years, he created Ebx.
For proprietary reasons, he won't go into the specifics of how it works. He says Ebx allows him to go "inside the CD" to the level of the bitstream, a binary code that transmits the information stored on the disc to the CD player.
"I'm able to get a hold of the other 50 percent, or close to it, and bring it to the surface," he says.
From there Forster says, he's able to manipulate the entire audio spectrum, resulting in recorded music that sounds live, full of detail and crystal clear.
At least one pair of impressive ears backs him up.
Bobby Horton, a Birmingham, Ala.-based musician who recently completed the 14th album in a series of recordings of Civil War-era music, describes the result of Ebx remastering this way:
"If I have an arrangement where I'm playing five, six, (or) seven instruments and have two (or) three voices going, these different sounds compete for the mid-range (of the spectrum). Sometimes it gets muddy.
"When he gets through with it, you can pick out and listen to every single instrument all the way through."
In the music business, this is often referred to as "separation."
He was sold on Ebx when Forster played him an enhanced version of Mozart's "Requiem," a piece of music that Horton has enjoyed for decades.
"I heard a violin part that I didn't even know was in there," he says.
Horton, a 52-year-old who has been around recording studios since he was a teenager, says the improvement in sound quality is impressive, especially considering Forster is using "basically home equipment."
"His mastering is as good as any I've ever heard, or maybe better," Horton said. "If he had good equipment, ain't no telling what he could do."
Forster has mastered recordings by Horton and a Corvallis-based company called Lyrical Learning. Doing business as North Coast Audio, he also offers remastering services to the general public.
Forster can perform the Ebx magic on records and cassettes, VHS audio, DVDs, MP3s, mini-Discs and a variety of CD formats. Also, he recently developed a new service to repair CDs that are damaged.
"Don't let Elvis die in the attic," he says.
- Benjamin Romano