Steve Hoffman (audio engineer)
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Steve Hoffman is a mastering engineer who is considered to be one of the pioneers of back catalog reissues in the CD era.
In his early years Hoffman worked in radio and earned a degree in mass communications from California State University, Northridge. During the late '70s, Hoffman joined MCA Records as catalog research and development coordinator. For the next decade, he was responsible for compiling hundreds of budget cassette releases for MCA's Special Products division. His primary focus was on jazz and big band recordings.
In 1985 he worked on a series of releases aimed at the CD market which bore the title "From the Original Master Tapes." This series included works of artists such as Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and John Coltrane. The following year saw Hoffman dismissed from MCA for reasons which remain the subject of much controversy. To this day, Hoffman has never again worked on any projects involving material owned by MCA, Universal and the family of labels it controls. Since his departure from MCA, he has plied his trade with the Dunhill Compact Classics label (the name of which, ironically enough, was copped from a formerly MCA-associated label) and Audio Fidelity. Both labels owned by Marshall Blonstein, former vice president of Ode Records.
Hoffman has also worked with other labels on occasion, including Analogue Productions, Rural Rhythm, Mullet Records and S&P.
His approach to remastering varies, but generally his method of transferring the tapes is just that – turning on the DAT tape machines and transferring them with no tweaking whatsoever. However, he occasionally has to make adjustments depending on the quality of the tape source and the equalization choices of the mixing engineer. He attains this by avoiding compression, limiting, and noise reduction; and by adding "colorations" via tube gear (using from one to five layers of distortion), and/or using subtractive equalization.
The Picks' overdubs
In February 1984, Hoffman sent what are known as safety copies of several Buddy Holly master recordings to John Pickering of The Picks who took them to Sound Masters studios in Houston, Texas. There, the reunited group overdubbed new vocal parts onto at least 60 recordings, and sent them back to Hoffman at MCA. The belief was that, under Hoffman's influence, MCA would have issued these "new" recordings as an album, perhaps to commemorate the 25th year since Holly's death. This did not occur and in 1992, Pickering approached Viceroy Records to arrange a deal for nationwide distribution of these overdubbed recordings, but MCA made it clear that Pickering did not have legal clearance to release such recordings.