Bowie's Young Americans blind listening test

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tsomi, Jul 6, 2017.

  1. Tsomi

    Tsomi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Lille, France

    Here's a small experiment. I'm starting with Young Americans for various reasons.


    The following archive contains some samples from all the different CD masterings of Young Americans. The only exception is the Ryko AU20 (which is extremely pricey and which I don't have), sorry for that.

    I've picked two samples, from Young Americans and Can You Hear Me. I'd be curious to know which one you prefer, and why. Please take the time to listen carefully to each sample ;).

    I'll give the source of each sample later, when there are enough votes.

    >> Download the test here! <<

    Suggestions welcome. Thanks!
  2. Jason Pumphrey

    Jason Pumphrey Forum Resident

    Off topic, but the single version is one of the sloppiest edits in music history...
    Tombby, Man at C&A, EddieT and 7 others like this.
  3. DirkGentlyUK

    DirkGentlyUK Forum Resident

    Voted for C. Runner up A. They are very close though. Some samples sound compressed and have too much Bass, but C and A both sound balanced and natural.
    oldturkey and karmaman like this.
  4. Tsomi

    Tsomi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    Thank you!

    Unfortunately, I wanted to update the archive I posted above (one single sample wasn't perfectly level-matched with the others, but this wasn't huge), but it looks like you can only edit your messages for a finite amount of time.

    So here's the new file, if a moderator can update the link above, that would be appreciated, thanks.
    >> Download the test here!<<
  5. aphexj

    aphexj Forum Resident

    It's my understanding that the Ryko AU20 discs are just the same digital transfers as the previous editions maybe with slightly different EQ and some peak-limiting. @karmaman can you confirm?

    Will be listening and voting on this test later today.
  6. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    thanks for putting this together. it took me a while to come up with a list of 7 different masters, but i don't think i'm giving anything away if i list the potential candidates by release order (i.e. not the order of the samples).
    RCA Germany (1984), RCA Japan for USA (1984), RCA Japan for Japan (1986), Ryko/EMI (1991), EMI/Virgin (1999), EMI SE (2007), Parlophone (2017).

    regarding the missing Ryko Au20, i added it to the samples and it is indeed just a louder version of the standard Ryko (if there's an EQ change it's very minor).

    i'm pretty certain i know which is which, although A and C are all but identical so i'd be happy to vote for either (whilst knowing of a reason to choose one issue over the other). i voted A.

    there are a couple of real shockers among them, it'll be "interesting" to see if they get any votes.
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  7. rrowley

    rrowley Active Member

    The AU20 YA is a different transfer but sounds very similar.Slightly more lower mids.
    I voted for A which I think is the RCA JPN for US.It just sounds natural.C and F follow.
    B and G are overhyped messes
    E I think is the recent Parlophone£.Muddy as hell.Where did the hi hats go?
    karmaman likes this.
  8. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    great assessment, your top 3 match mine (i think A is the German RCA but they sound the same), the F a slightly fuller master which makes me think it's the R32P.
    i also agree with your ID of the Parlophone (which i overrated when i compared it to the RCAs in another thread this week), and you probably know from their distinct sonic signatures the sources for the "overhyped messes" too. i also owe an apology to the Ryko which didn't come last when that's my usual default.
  9. Tsomi

    Tsomi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    Yes, they are the ones I'm using here (by the way, the R32P was hard to find! but I got it at a good price from a Japanese auction site).

    OK, thanks. Oh, and thank you as well for almost everything you've written here and on IDBD, it's truly precious (not only Bowie, I knew I'd like the Roxy Music 2015 SHMs when I saw you did).

    Oh yes I agree ;)
  10. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    i don't want to hog the thread so i'll make this my last for now, but having convinced myself A and C sounded "the same" i loaded up both and compared different sections... i'm now leaning towards C, but there's no shame in voting A, ha ha.
    very diplomatic of you! thanks anyhow.
  11. Tsomi

    Tsomi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    Interesting change! I'll vote soon, I just need to make my samples even blinder for me, since I know what they are :D
    Ha ha, the almost was a joke, because your personal master preference regarding "Heroes" is the only one I don't agree with, he he ;) But thanks for everything else :D

    EDIT : So here's for me, with some precautions so that I don't know the name of the sample I'm playing before voting.

    My favourite is A, I sometimes prefer F/C for some very small details (on bass or drums), but overall I think the first one has the best balance.

    D sounds extremely weird and very muffled, it's pretty horrible, and E sounds better but still quite muffled. G doesn't sound natural at all, and B is very exaggerated.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
    karmaman likes this.
  12. aphexj

    aphexj Forum Resident

    Listened on my laptop running foobar2k, with all plugins and DSP disabled; first w/ smaller Sennheiser headphones (they emphasize midrange) then on more full-range Sony monitors with big bass response to confirm what I was hearing. I also have a big auditorium PA up and running today at work, I think I know which mastering won the test and will be playing a FLAC rip of the whole thing through it when quitting time comes :)

    Have to agree with what other people have been saying, in the main.

    A is good, close call between it and C, but A is a little too "smeary" and undefined in its high-midrange for my taste
    B — far too compressed and smiley-faced in the EQ department
    C is GREAT; relaxed highs, but very natural midrange and pleasant bass. Listen to that kick and snare on the title track!
    D a bit too dark and lacking in high end, okay bass but a noticeable dip in low-midrange
    E has very compressed, overpowering bass frequencies and almost no high-end :(
    F & G both have a pinched, whiny texture in high-midrange, G being the worst of all

    Interesting that until today I'd never heard the "hum" below the bass (a ground loop, presumably from an amp's speaker cabinet?) when it drops down to just the a capella vocal in "Young Americans"
  13. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    @Tsomi (or anyone else) if you want to spice things up, I have a needledrop of a clean US lp (16/44) and can make some samples available to you via Dropbox. PM if interested.
  14. Tsomi

    Tsomi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    Wow, now that you've said it, I didn't realize that the drums sounded that better (in my opinion) on C (I'm thinking of 0:14-0:16, right channel, title track sample). Hm.

    And I wasn't hearing the "hum" thing either :D You've got a good attention to detail!

    Thank you, but I'd rather only use digital sources here. My problem with LPs is that the result changes with the quality of the vinyl and the equipment used to do the needledrop. If you like the sound of a particular CD mastering here, you know you're going to hear the exact same thing if you buy it, which is not the case for LPs. CDs make the equation a bit simpler, IMO (and I'm more interested in digital when it's quite good).

    However, feel free to add your samples here ;). Especially if it's a good surprise. I'd be curious to hear karmaman's recommended Japanese pressing of The Man Who Sold the World, for example (although I happen to have this one... I just don't have a turntable at the moment). I'm just asking for people to chose between the digital samples first.
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  15. oldturkey

    oldturkey Forum Resident

    A sounds OK, B sounds like way too much bass but vocal metallic artificial sounding, C OK better on YAM than CYHM , D a bit muffled. E too much bass & weird background hum, F sounds OK, G smiley face too sharp on the vocal.
    I voted for C.

    Have you messed about with noise reduction, declick or something because none of them sound that good!
    Getting to really enjoy the bass line on Can You Hear Me After listening to these pumped up samples. Willie Weeks not bad at all!
    DirkGentlyUK likes this.
  16. Tsomi

    Tsomi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Lille, France
    No, ripped with EAC, then I cut the 20 second samples (at places where's there's enough interesting stuff to compare, in my own opinion... no fade-in, no fade-out, just cut), then "hard" level-matched with Foobar's ReplayGain tool (that is: ReplayGain applied to the files, not the metadata). (Thanks for you vote!)

    My opinion for this particular album is that even the best option here could still sound better. For Young Americans, they either had the best tapes or the best EQ tastes, but not both (and, in the case of Ryko, I'd say neither).
    aphexj and oldturkey like this.
  17. oldturkey

    oldturkey Forum Resident

    Sorry - i should have read your previous post!
  18. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    i first noticed this on the new Parlophone which i had previously only directly compared to the RCAs, neither of which have it (or, don't emphasise it via EQ or compression). it's one of the reasons the new master (yet again) didn't better the original CD(s).
  19. 93curr

    93curr Forum Resident

    Well, for one thing, they contain completely different mixes of 'Fascination' - the Au20 is the original LP mix, the standard Ryko uses the 'Sound + Vision' mix.
  20. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    unless there was a secret remaster then this isn't true. the only track difference i'm aware of across all the Au20s is the original mix of Fame on ChangesBowie, not the Fame90 remix found on the standard edition.
    aphexj likes this.
  21. aphexj

    aphexj Forum Resident

    The bass hum is there on the RCA discs, or at least it is on the rip I found from the West German disc, but with not a lot of energy below 60 Hz which is where it would be loudest
    Tsomi likes this.
  22. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    fair to say my hearing isn't what it once was but i'm not hearing it on the RCAs. if it's there it doesn't appear to rise to the fore like it does on the other masters.
  23. Electric Warrior

    Electric Warrior Active Member

    A. But F was nearly identical.
  24. aphexj

    aphexj Forum Resident

    No, it doesn't, but frequency spectrum analysis reveals it's still there; and I was able to hear it on the big system today with everything except the subwoofers turned down. I guess it's the EQ boost of near-sub bass frequencies that brings it out on the Parlophone CD and some of the other remasters, not a fault in any one particular tape.
  25. Chordeater

    Chordeater Active Member

    I prefer G, maybe a little compressed but it seems to me it used the best source, sounds clearer than others and richer, to my ears.

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