An interesting misconception about sound quality

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by audio, Dec 1, 2003.

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  1. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    I was thinking earlier tonight about how before I joined this forum, I used to base my remaster purchasing decisions on bit rate, not on sound quality. For example, if there was a cd that was a 24 bit remaster, I would buy it blindly without hesitation thinking that it MUST be better than an older 16 bit master. I was totally ignorant regarding taking compression, No-Noise, and excessive equalization into consideration. This forum taught me to trust my ears and to avoid the hype and for that I am thankful more than I can express. Just thought I'd mention this for any lurkers out there who haven't yet joined the Church of Hoffman. Forgive me if this is sappy, but I consider Steve to be a genius, a visionary, and a historical icon and revolutionary. He has started a crusade to save our music. :thumbsup:
  2. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    I knew about sound quality, but I also blindly bought 24-bit anything. If the sound wasn't up to where I thought it should be, I decided that my ears must be wrong because it was "new and improved". I even started to think DCC discs weren't "all that" because they weren't "24-bit/96KHz remastered".

    All I needed was for someone in authority, like Steve to tell me to trust my ears.

    Now, I'm wishin' I hadn't gotten rid of a few older 80s CDs!
  3. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter


  4. tomcat

    tomcat Active Member

    The only problem is that I cannot judge the sound quality of a new remaster by looking at the CD package in the shop or listening to the real audio soundbit on the internet. I have to look for an engineer's name on the cover; and this information may be misleading, too. So when am I able to hear if a given disc is better than another one: at home at the earliest, after having bought the new disc... :sigh: If I find an information on this forum earlier; I can avoid disappointment :thumbsup:

    So thank you, guys!
  5. BrianH

    BrianH Formerly healyb

    If it sounds good, it IS good.

    Specs be damned!
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Beaver Stadium
    prix said:

    This describes me too. Add to that my naivety in that I assumed that all mastering projects were done with the utmost respect for and understanding of the sound of the original master tapes. Oh, how wrong I was. As I said, I was naive.

    prix also said:

    :love: So you like Steve's work, huh? ;)
  7. Sean Keane

    Sean Keane Pre-Mono record collector

    Prix, my sentiments exactly about the 24 bit thing. When Capitol rereleased some Frank Sinatra/24 bit in 2002 I returned the opened double I had of the 1991 release and was handed the new one (my friend was the manager). Flash forward one year- I started invesigating sound on this and the Sinatra Family Forum and was very intrigued by some things Gary Freed had to say about the older releases sounding better. I played the tracks from that album that appeared on The Capitol Years (same mastering as my unopened Where Are You? CD) and was struck by how much better the older mastered tracks sounded. So the comedy of this whole exercise in neurosis is that a year later I end up buying back my returned disc for twenty five bucks. I'm sure it was mine because it had been re-wrapped in the store and the disc itself looked brand new. No one takes better care of music than me. If anyone's wondering why I had to have a double unopened of that disc, just listen to Lonely Town. It's a piece of great, great art. But, then again, all Frank on Capitol has made me rush out and get a double.
  8. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    It just goes to show that you can't completely trust everything that's written on the label. I remember thinking that some day all discs will be "DDD" or at least "ADD". The more digital, the better, right? :rolleyes: I thought that since more and more catalogs were getting "remastered" that maybe publications like ICE's watchdog were making an impact. As I found out here through this forum is that in many cases the "improvements were made to the record company's wallets and not to the consumer's ears. A few years ago I was hesitant to buy The Beatles "1" (one) as I had all of their other CDs and there was nothing new on it. Then one day I listened to a friend's copy and for some reason I got sick of listening to it early on. It was hurting my ears. Now I know why. (Of course I had to buy the CD anyway - "It's the Bloody Beatles")

    Many food packages claim "Natural Ingredients". Sure, there may be some natural ingredients, but the label does not advertise "also contains not-so-natural ingredients". Likewise, you don't see many CDS with the credit "24 bit remastered if you don't mind listening through a gauze of Noise Reduction and the sound sculpted to our specifications to tighten your ear canal and suck all the air out of the room". Instead of the "Breath of Life" we get the "Bad Breath of Life" which we sometimes must put up with when there are no other alternatives. :mad:
  9. wildjim

    wildjim New Member


    Did someone spike the eggnog?
  10. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    I've never been skeptical about 24-bit remastering itself. There are valid reasons for it and, ultimately, it could result in a better end product if applied properly (plus if it was sampled in at 24/96, it's drop-in ready for DVD-Audio). But if you consider that regardless of HOW many bits are used in remastering, it still ends up at 16 bits to be playable on a CD player. So I never bought a CD just because it said it was remastered using 24 bits. And 24 bits does not automatically mean it's going to sound bad either. It's all the extra crap the engineers do to it that ruins it, not the 24 bit process itself.
  11. Chris M

    Chris M Forum Resident

    Baton Rouge, LA
    At some point in the mid 90's I thought that if the spine on the left side of the jewel case was clear it must sound better:o

    I remember not picking up some DCC's in the early 90's because they were 16 bit :o :o

  12. daveman

    daveman Forum All Star

    I have definitley noticed more once I've started reading these forums...for instance, I was on a bus ride playing some Neil Young on headphones (obviously) and it sounded good...then I put it my new Best Of Counting Crows comes on BLARING and definitely starts to hurt my ears after a while, and its not because the Crows are bad! That is a brand-new CD as opposed to the older Young -- that really affirms what is happening these days.
  13. Gardo

    Gardo Forum Resident

    I agree with most of what's been written so far, especially the warning that remastering (hi-bit or otherwise) is no indication of improvement. It was my own bitter experience with a remastered CD that led me to this forum in the first place.

    But ...

    The advice to "trust your ears" is true only so far as it goes, and it doesn't go all the way. What I value about Steve is that he's taught me how to trust my ears:

    --above all, listen for midrange tonal accuracy
    --don't necessarily be impressed by what your ears immediately tell you since a (re)mastering job may be playing tricks with EQ and compression that fool you into thinking it's "better" when it's not
    --don't immediately reject a mastering job that sounds "unusual," but try to understand the musical experience it's trying to communicate--the example here is Pet Sounds, which sounds much better in Steve's bassy, non-limited, warts-and-all mastering than it does in the more homogeneous and "fixed-up" masterings that deviate significantly from the original master tape
    --while euphonious sound has its place and can be great fun, at some point neutrality must be the goal or we have no compass to steer by at all
    --respect the ears of those who've spent a long time trying to get the magic out of the master tapes and onto Lp or CD or SACD or DVD-A, and let their work teach you about how to listen and what to listen for
    --understand something about the history of recorded sound, and what kinds of sound engineers were going for at different times and with different equipment

    If it's only about "trusting your ears," remember that the listeners who like their music maximized and EQ'd to death are doing that very thing, too. It's just that their ears aren't trustworthy, by our standards. And my point is that our standards are about more than just trusting our ears, though that trust is crucial. I think it's also fair to say that I trust Steve's ears more than my own. I do hope to keep closing that gap, however!:)

    P.S. One more principle: only mastering engineers who over time have shown the proper respect for the magic of the original master tapes can be trusted to alter their sound when in their judgment it's necessary, as Steve did with the Mamas and the Papas CD.;)
  14. poweragemk

    poweragemk Old Member

    Well put, Gardo! Maybe the best concise summation I've seen yet of the Forum philosophy :)
  15. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    For a long time, companies put the name of the engineer and/or producer on the back cover. Then in the mid-90s they stopped doing that. It's possible that some engineers didn't want their name on such shoddy work (compression, bad EQ...). OR, the companies (Rhino) didn't want to scare away the stereo fans with Bill Inglot's name on the package.

    But, many of them still proudly list Cedar...
  16. PMC7027

    PMC7027 Forum Hall Of Fame

    If I may please add something, in my opinion another misconception is that sound quality is the most important thing. The music is what matters!

    I've read many postings on this forum from people who have abandoned or ignored a piece of music just because of poor mastering. Certainly, if multiple "editions" of a recording are available I agree with getting the best sounding one. However, if music is only available in a poorly mastered version, ignoring it is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
  17. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    The West
    Before I started reading reading posts here, I naively believed that digital tricks like NoNoise were frowned upon like the fake stereo of the 60s. I also believed the "24 bit!" hype.

    The Beatles "1" was one of the most perplexing CDs I've ever bought. I was really excited about it. Finally a Beatles remaster!!!
    Ripped open the wrapping and put it right into the car player. I couldn't wait to hear "Penny Lane" so I went right there and turned it up! The silly grin on my face started to go away. I turned it down a bit. Then a bit more. I wasn't smiling, I was wondering what the hell was going on. I had no idea what I was hearing, but I just couldn't put the blame on EMI mastering! Maybe it just sounds that way? I also wondered about hiss. "These tapes were quiet. Wow..very quiet...hmm".

    Thanks to this board I know the sad truth, and I've saved a LOT of money on crappy CDs. Plus I've had a lot of fun learning all sorts of stuff here.

    Dan C
  18. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    The West
    SO true.:thumbsup: I'm sure we all have countless poorly mastered CDs and LPs with great music that we listen to all of the time.
    But I'd rather hear a somewhat poorly mastered old LP or CD than a screwed up modern CD. The older artifacts are easier to deal with.

    Dan C
  19. John Carsell

    John Carsell Forum Resident

    Northwest Illinois
    Your ears are always the final judge, trust them.
  20. daveman

    daveman Forum All Star

    I second that...what good is it if someone else says it's good if it hurts your ears? It's a subjective issue.
  21. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Yup. It's all subjective. Best to just keep what you're happy with. Steve used to say that all the time here, to pick the sound that makes YOU happy. Hey, you're the one who has to live with it!:p
  22. lil.fred

    lil.fred Well-Known Member

    The East Bay
    Yes... your ears. And get your information straight -- I'm thinking of what I did back in the 90s, when I lived in the UK.

    I'd heard from a friend (American) that the Rolling Stones CDs were bad. But I had CD only, so bought Aftermath and Beggars Banquet. Oddly, I found myself thinking "these sound great to me!"

    I got rid of them eventually though, on the theory that my friend must be right. Little did I suspect that the UK and US discs were mastered from different sources -- something that seems elementary to me now.

    I guess I mean that if you're experiencing what seems to be an anomaly, don't mistrust yourself right away; you may need more information.
  23. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Thank God I was at least able to track down the "Who's better, Who's Best" CD, and that I was smart enough to keep my old MCA Elton John's Greatest Hits CD.

    I'm also glad I kept all my older MCA Olivia Newton John GH CDs, because one or both are now out of print.

    The lists goes on...
  24. Hunky Dory 24 bit - FAKE

    I fell for the 24-bit sticker once. I had the 1990 remaster of Bowies Hunky Dory for a while, and had always been happy with it (just on the plain EMI label here in UK). Then the 24 bit versions came out (again on EMI), and I went for it again.

    I got the disc home, expecting the 24 bit version to allow me to hear deeper into the songs - instead of sounding better however, they just sounded different. The intro to "Andy Warhol" even had strange crackles accompanying those random bleeps, that weren't there before.

    To find out exactly what they changed, I loaded the two versions into wavelab and synced them up. Apart from where minor edits were made to get rid of clicks, the two versions stayed in sample accurate sync. So, this 24 bit remaster wasn't taken from the original analogue master, or an analogue tape of any kind for that matter. They just re used the digital tape from 1990, ran it through no noise, and added some upper mid EQ.

    As a side note - having 24 bit is all very well, but unless you can play back the original master properly, and then not smother it, the bit depth doesn't make a damn bit of difference (I just made a pun without realising).
  25. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    We are making it seem that 24-bit/96k is worthless over 16-bit, but remember, mot of the 24-bit/96k stuff was maximized and compressed too. The 24-bit/96k technology IS an improvement, but you would never know it from what engineers to to the tapes.
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