Why bother keeping track of generation? A concert is a concert, right?

Wrong. All analog media lose quality when copied. How much depends on the quality of the equipment used. I assure you that listening to a mastertape is like heaven compared to a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy...

But digital media don't loose quality when copied. Why keep generation info on those?

That is correct. A CDR copy of another CDR should be identical. But no CD burner makes all copies 100% correct. For every digital generation added, there's an increased risc of finding digital errors like clicks pops and static. By noting generation info, it's much easier to track those errors back to where they originally came from. And thus, much easier to get a perfect copy! This also applies to other digital media like DAT.

In recent times, traders have begun a massive coordinated effort to preserve the music in as good quality as possible for current and future live concert enthusiasts. Traders have scoured the world to track down the lowest possible generation of each source of each show. (Sometimes it has proved to be impossible to get in touch with the person who owns the master tape, so traders look for the next best thing - a first generation copy.) This lowest known generation is then transferred to CDR. Currently, most audio trading takes place on this format. Generation info is a crucial aspect of finding the best copies available!

Basic generation listing

As of year 2002 there are 4 ways of recording a show:
  1. Analog cassette (ANA)
  2. Digital cassette (DAT)
  3. MiniDisc (MD)
  4. Video (VID)

Formats used while trading also includes:
  1. CDR
  2. MP3
  3. RA
  4. SHN

More info on the last 3 formats are listed here.

Analog cassettes aren't used very much nowadays, but back when Nirvana toured, they were still the most common way of taping a show.

The taper would trade out copies of his master cassette: a direct copy of the master tape is known as a 1st generation cassette, ANA(1) in shorthand. Some even list it as just A1. A copy of the 1st generation copy is an ANA(2), etc. Generally speaking, the higher the generation copy, the worse the sound quality, since copying cassettes is an imperfect process and adds tape hiss and distortion to the sound.

Recordings can also be taped onto Digital Audio Cassette (DAT. A master tape in this case would be listed as a DAT(M) in traders' shorthand. The advantage of DATs is that they can be cloned digitally, i.e. copied without any quality loss (unlike audio cassettes). However, it is important to keep track of digital generations as well (in case of problems or faulty copying somewhere along the chain), so a DAT copy of a DAT copy of a DAT master, for example, would be a DAT(2). Some DAT traders might list it as D2 or DDC2. This is the same thing.

Analog cassettes are often transferred to DAT so that they can be copied without further quality loss, for example, a DAT transfer of a second generation analog cassette would be listed as: ANA(2) -> DAT(1).

Recordings from Radio / TV

A recording off of radio should be listed as FM > ANA(1) / FM > DAT(1) / FM > MD(1) depending on the medium used. Please be aware that many, especially "old" traders, lists a radio recording as a master (FM > ANA(M) etc.). I strongly suggest you ask when you trade for a copy of, let's say FM > ANA(1). It could really be FM > analog > analog, and should be listed as FM > ANA(2). Not FM > ANA(1).

Examples on writing generations

analog mastertape > cdr - ANA(M) > CDR(1)
analog mastertape > dat > cdr > cdr > cdr - ANA(M) > DAT(1) > CDR(3)
*dat mastertape > dat > dat > dat > cdr >cdr - DAT(3) > CDR(2)
TV broadcast > vid > vid > cdr - TV > VID(2) > CDR(1)
dat mastertape > analog > dat > dat > cdr > cdr > cdr - DAT(M) > ANA(1) > DAT(2) > CDR(3)
FM broadcast > ana > ana > cdr > cdr - FM > ANA(2) > CDR(2)
** analog mastertape > cdr > equalized > cdr - ANA(M) > CDR(1) > EQ > CDR(2)

*: This could be listed as DAT(M) > DAT(3) > CDR(2), but it's not necesarry to write DAT(M) first.

**: EQ means that he who had the CDR(1) copy remastered (equalized) his copy. Speed correction should also be noted this way. (CDR(1) > Speed Corrected > CDR(2)). It's common to note anything that has been done to the original recording. Many notes these things on a separate line in their list. Example from my list:

08/27/91  The Aladin - Bremen, Germany  
Length     = 48:12 - Complete
Quality    = A(-)  (audience analog)
Generation = ANA(1) > CDR(3) ... (Sony WM-D3 / Sony PC-62)
Notes      = Speed corrected by me to match the speed of the soundboard source.
Setlist    = Something In The Way / Negative Creep / Been A Son / Blew / Polly /
             Rape Me / Pennyroyal Tea / School / Smells Like Teen Spirit / In 
             Bloom / Come As You Are / Floyd The Barber / Endless, Nameless

As you can see I've noted that I did the speed correction. It's common to note who did the remastering.

Unknown generations

When the generation is unknown, it's common to list it like this:

On cdrs: CDR or CD(?)
On analogs: ANA or ANA(?)
On videos: VID or VID(?)
On DATs: DAT or DATc or DDC. The last one is, as mentioned above, mostly used among DAT traders.

Unknown generation analog copies usually sound generated, and thus avoided... There are still a handfull of shows without any surfaced known generation copies, but this list is smaller for every year.

Original bootlegs

There are also many silver bootlegs released by various bootleg companies. (KTS / Small Clone etc.) They are usually listed as CD(M) or just "Original". So a copy of an "original" silver CD will be noted as CD(M) > CDR(1) or Original > CDR(1). The title of the bootleg should of course be noted as well. Some bootlegs are available as LPs. It's sufficient to list those just as for instance: LP > CDR(2). That would be LP > CDR > CDR.

Advanced listing

Many traders prefer to know what equipment was used making the recording. LN encourage this. When going through "old" tradinglists, you might notice many cryptic notes and abriviations. These are often notes on recording equipment. Examples might be D3 and D6. This refers to Sony WM-D3 and Sony WM-D6 analog recorders( WM is short for WalkMan). These recorders were very common in late eighties/early nineties Common abriviations for recorders and microphones are:

D3: Sony WM-D3 analog OR Sony TCD-D3 DAT
D5: Sony TC-D5 analog
D6: Sony WM-D6 analog
D7: Sony TCD-D7 DAT
D8: Sony TCD-D8 DAT
D100: Sony TCD-D100 DAT
M1: Sony PCM-M1 DAT

PC-62: Sony PC-62 mic.
ECMxxx: Referes to the many Sony ECM versions.
CSB: Core Sound Binurals (
SS: Sonic Studios (
DSM-X: Referes to the many Sonic Studios DSM versions.

Email the author if you have additions and/or corrections.

Notes on different trading media

WAV: Windows audio. The basic sound media on PC. These files are large. 80 minutes of CD quality audio takes ~800mb harddisk space. When transfering DATs, audio track from videos and analog tapes to CDR, they are normally recorded as wav to a PC first. They can then be recorded to CDR by your favourite burning program (Nero, CDRWin, WinOnCDR etc.)

MP3: Referes to Mpeg Layer 3. A lossy compressionform that quickly became very popular on the internet. A standard bitrate mp3 is about 8 times smaller than the original .wav file. MP3s are hated among Nirvana collectors. They are less quality than the original media and pollutes the tradingcircles if not noted as such. Although a properly encoded high bitrate mp3 file sound very much like the original, there is still a loss of quality. This is enough for traders to stay away from them whenever possible.

RA: Real Audio. Like mp3 it's a lossy compressionform. They take less harddisk space than mp3s and sound worse than mp3. Everything noted above on mp3 applies to ra, only worse.

SHN: This is a fairly new compressionform in the Nirvana trading community. It's unlike mp3 and ra lossless, and can be refered to as "the .zip of music". However, it does not compress the files more than ~40%. This is still a good way of compressing music. With more and more people getting "high-speed" internetconnections like cable and dsl, this is getting an increasingly popular way of trading.

Final notes

The most important thing in trading is being honest. If there are errors on your copy, make a note of that on your webpage. If a recording is sourced from mp3 files, make a note of that. In general, make a note of everything that might be interesting to know about your copy! If the true generation of a recording is not known... DO NOT LIE ABOUT IT. This is considered one of the biggest sins of the NIRVANA trading community. People who knowingly lie about generations, are BAD TRADERs List material.

Written and maintained by:
Roar Aasheim
Last updated: 2002-08-29