SH Spotlight Compact Disc mastering: 1980's vs. "newly remastered"--Steve's thoughts in 2003 and 2018

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Mar 13, 2003.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    CD mastering: 1980's vs. "newly remastered"

    I get asked all the time why I prefer some older CD masters over the new loud ones. Frequent SH Forum members know why I do, but for some of you newbies, here is a "reprint" of my post from the Billy Joel thread:

    Remember, in the '80's, record companies used any old tape to make a CD master.

    THIS IS NOT ALWAYS A BAD THING!

    Why?

    Because, what ever tape they used, be it copy or cutting master, it's still an analog product, copied by a real engineer from the master tape. It might be with a little added compression or some slight EQ'ing, but for the most part, nice sounding.

    Today, one can take the original master and totally ruin it in one instant using digital processing insensitively. So who gives a da*m if they use the original master or not? It's pointless!

    For me, unless the new version is mastered by a trusted engineer like Doug Sax or someone who skips the careless digital tune-wrecking compression, I'll stick with the old versions. Think about it; those old tapes were used to cut the LP versions world wide. Some of them sound pretty good!

    Your comments and opinions (differing or otherwise) would be appreciated.
     
  2. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    You know how I feel...LOL! I almost always prefer the 80's Cee Dee's.
     
  3. rontokyo

    rontokyo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    I've kind of viewed this issue as kind of a trade-off/compromise. Meaning that in some instances I've enjoyed hearing detail in recent reissues that've used earlier generation tapes--detail I hadn't heard in prior issues. The down side is that invariably some degree of compression and/or noise reduction has been applied--that I certainly *don't* enjoy. Obviously, best case scenario is best-generation source tapes with no compression and noise reduction. But I hear ya. For that reason I really enjoy the London CD issue of "Aftermath"--a good example of 80s mastering without any "tinkering."
     
    ispace, dav-here, Jarleboy and 2 others like this.
  4. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    You nailed it, Steve. I actively avoid about 90% of all remasters made after 1995 or so. More times than not, I'll take those '80's versions.

    Of course, I didn't always think like this. When my stereo and listening habits were not as good, I would concentrate on getting the newest remasters of a recording because the record companies are very good at convincing the general public that the newest remaster is always the most superior.

    I agree with you here, Steve. But....when you ask most music buyers why old '80's CDs are bad, they'll sometimes relay the myth that those old tapes where meant for LP use and are therefore not as good as the newest remasters.

    Thank goodness for this forum and educating me on the truth.
     
  5. mne563

    mne563 Forum Resident

    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    I'd like to twist this a little bit: Where does the digital tweaking end?

    In other words, will there ever come a time when mastering engineers and /or the general public come to realize that less is more when it comes to mastering?

    I'm getting a general feeling that the recent hi-rez layers on SACD and DVD-A's are less messed with compared to their counterpart on red book cd's. This is of course a good thing, but how long until a record company wants their SACD to be "LOUDER" than the other ones out there? (This worry is the main reason I am hanging on to my "scratchy, old vinyl" records!)

    I like the sound of the SACD's I've heard, but how long can it last? Maybe someday we'll search for the "early, uncompressed" SACD's and DVD's!
     
    Jarleboy likes this.
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Most music buyers think old CD's are inferior because they are not as loud as the new ones. Sad but true.

    A tape made for LP use might have a bit of warm analog compression on it.

    But if a master tape is squashed during digital mastering the compression is probably 70% greater than if the LP cutting tape was used. That is a sad story, friends. Very sad. It's ANTI-MUSIC!

    Of course, there are exceptions to all of this. Some fine sounding remastered product is being released. BUT, ask again in 3 years! :(
     
    McLover, Carlox, Joy-of-radio and 8 others like this.
  7. rontokyo

    rontokyo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    Two other points. In some cases those 80s CDs were mastered from tapes EQ'd for LP mastering--maybe not such a good thing. But on the other hand, some recent reissues show real signs of tape degradation that either didn't exist or wasn't apparent on CD releases some 15-20 years ago.
     
    Carlox and dav-here like this.
  8. Michael St. Clair

    Michael St. Clair Forum Resident

    Location:
    Funkytown
    I have been pretty happy with the latest remasters over the last few years of Genesis, King Crimson, The Rolling Stones, and a handful of other bands. Some of this music is very, very important to me so I am always looking (not leaping) for some improvement.

    And I'm sure some of us can remember how bad Aqualung was in the early 80s.

    But it seems the majority of reissues are 'improved' with noise reduction, compression, and other processing that sucks the life out of the sound.

    I guess I'd say I wait for a few trusted reviews (typically from places like here) from savvy listeners and keep my fingers crossed...and sadly, the money usually stays in the bank.

    Hopefully the new 'high res' formats don't get overrun by the current 'commercial sound' mindset.
     
  9. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana
    Okay, this is really interesting. A couple of questions for Steve, but first I would like to admit that I am guilty of buying the hype. I've got remasteritus. I've got a large stack of older discs sitting in my music room, separated from the rest of the collection, waiting to be replaced by the latest remasters. Here are my questions and comments:

    1) I am puzzled because I would think that a 24bit transfer would have more depth and detail than an older 16 bit by nature. Why is this not the case? Because of compression? I've noticed that most of the remasters have their guts in the lower mids, which again points to excessive compression and bass tweaking...boost the bass and the master level, add some punch, and bingo, sell the people the same music again. In any case, I am no expert and I've pretty much always accepted that in most cases, the higher the bit rate, the better the sound. Have I been a sucker for packaging? Could you elaborate on this?

    2)At roughly what year do you think the remasters started to suck? For example, there are the early '80s discs, the late '80s discs, the early '90s discs, etc. I know SamS said that he doesn't like 90% of the remasters after '95, but what do you think, Steve?

    3)Another item that has bothered me is with regard to the master tape. Since tapes deteriorate and soften over time, surely there will be a point in the future where the remasters will start to sound worse rather then better, no? Or has that point already been reached in many cases?
     
    dav-here and MitchLT like this.
  10. JWB

    JWB New Member

    two words: Jon Astley

    "All Things Must Pass" has been on #1 my remaster wish list for years and years. Finally it comes out, and it wasn't until after I purchased it that I discovered that it had been ruined by a poor remastering engineer.

    How did such a poor engineer become so popular, allowed to destroy so many classic albums?
     
  11. reb

    reb Long Live Rock

    Location:
    Long Island
    1995 is just about right for the cut-off date. And IMO, this was also a creative peak for PCM converters. The industry can keep their loud cd's- I want no part of it.
     
    Musical Maxis likes this.
  12. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Location:
    Seattle
    Well initially, nepotism. He's Pete Townshend's ex-brother-in-law and that's what got his foot in the door. After amassing a sizable amount of credits on Who albums, he presumably was able to parlay that into getting work from other people too.

    That, and the fact that there are people who like the sound of compression and noise reduction.
     
  13. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    Guys,

    Check out this thread that I started last year to get some specific's on those better '80's CDs to be on the lookout for.
     
  14. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Very sad...at least we know better and hopefully all the new viewers will catch the wave of some of the older superior original issues...Occasionally, a new remastered gem pops up...rarely! Unless it's a SH job...
     
  15. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana
    What do y'all think of the latest Bowie remasters as opposed to the AU20 gold series, older versions, etc? Also would love to hear any opinions on the latest remasters vs older versions by any of these artists: Violent Femmes? Cocteu Twins? Miles Davis? Ozzy? Elvis Costello? Soft Boys? Love? The The? XTC? Judas Priest? Buzzcocks? And a couple years back: KISS? Cheap Trick??
     
  16. MrPeabody

    MrPeabody New Member

    Location:
    Mass.
    I know I'm probably close to heresy here, but I am rather surprised by Steve H.'s comments. But perhaps I'm missing something.

    For a mastering engineer to say there's no real difference between an original master, a copy or a cutting master (ie, "for the most part, nice sounding") is baffling to say the least. Of course, a cutting master may have EQ changes, and tweaks that the original won't have. But as you also know, each tape generation adds several dB more noise. For the "audiophiles" on this board, I should think that would be a big concern. Is there really no difference between the original UK 2-track master of "Dark Side of the Moon" and say, a 1981 Australian analog production copy of it? Which would you want to listen to? I would suggest that, regardless of the ability of the remastering engineer, more care is taken today generally with finding proper tape sources for current remasters, compared with the 1980s, when in most cases, the main object was simply getting product on the store shelves.

    Also, I think many people here are confusing loudness with compression. In today's new CDs, the loudness is certainly due to over-compression. But just because a CD remaster's average level is louder than its predecessor DOESN'T always mean it's been compressed. This is probably stating the bloody obvious to most of us, but determining which is which isn't easy for everyone. Definitely, some remasters are squashed to hell, and sound dreadful. But some are louder, and actually have some life to them, with little or no compression used. CDs are 16-bit -- one might as well use them all. In a good engineer's hands, digital processing is not a bad thing.

    And the argument that "if it's after 1995, it's crap" is nice for a Mike Myers sketch, but it's rather ill-conceived. There's more music out today than ever before. It can't ALL sound like garbage. Today, for every Finalized train-wreck CD, I can show you an amazing, rich, beautiful sounding remaster that jumps out of the speakers. Forget the personalities and dates involved. Just use your ears.

    I mean no offense by the above. Let the flaming begin.
     
    dav-here likes this.
  17. Vivaldinization

    Vivaldinization Active Member

    Location:
    .
    Re. your post a bit back, do remember that there's no such thing as a 24-bit master on CD...everything has to be dithered down to 16-bit at some point, and you really might just be fooling yourself going to the higher bitrate in the first place.

    Re some of the artists you mention above:

    Bowie: Lots of people hate the new discs...I personally don't think they're bad at all. A bit weird sounding, but certainly nothing *awful*.

    Ozzy: At least two of the reissues were marred by new overdubs.

    Love: I'm a bit mixed on these. The non-Rhino remasters are universally excellent, IMO. However, the Rhino Forever Changes has the treble and upper midrange jacked up a notch...I personally prefer the version on Love Story, but it doesn't matter to most people.

    XTC: I know I'm at least unimpressed by the Chips UK remaster. Don't know about most of the others.

    -D
     
  18. jamesmaya

    jamesmaya Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mudwest, CA
    David,

    The "non-Rhino remasters"? I must be totally out of it. Need to know more. Thanks.

    Jim W.
     
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter



    Nice articulate post. However: Don't be twisting my words here, pardner. If you know my work, you know that half the battle is finding the master tape.

    Of course, finding the master tape is essential. But if one has a CD from 1987 and is about to dump it for a newer version, it pays to be informed. Please note that in my starting post on this thread I stated:
    -------------------------------------------------

    Remember, in the '80's, record companies used any old tape to make a CD master.

    THIS IS NOT ALWAYS A BAD THING!

    ____________________________

    Two db of noise on a master dub tape won't kill you. Bad mastering will. My only point. Don't go blindly trading away your old CD's for new ones without making sure that the dynamics have not been compromised. IT'S NOT GOING TO SAY ON THE INLAY CARD: "COMPRESSED TO HELL FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE". So, buyer beware.

    This is one of the reasons I wanted to start this Forum, to spread the word that "modern" mastering is sometimes killing the very soul of the music.

    Are we clear? OK. So don't be a-lecturing me about Master Tapes vs. copies. Heck man, I'm the one who coined the phrase "From The Original Master Tapes" in the first place.

    Don't forget to fill out your equipment profile and stay awhile! :)
     
  20. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana

    24 bit:
    I know all this, but I was referring to the original data transfer.

    Bowie:
    Yeah, I don't really think they're that bad either, although I spent a fortune on the AU20 series and I would like to think they sound the best, even if it's a lie.

    Ozzy:
    Which ones???!!!

    Love:
    I'll have to hear the Love Story action.


    XTC:
    The remasters I have are EU imports. So far, I have only replaced the Dukes of Stratosphere and "English Settlement" with this series. They were done in 2000 by Ian Cooper at Metropolis. Are these the ones you are talking about? I think the Dukes disc sounds incredible.
     
  21. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Location:
    Seattle
    I don't think that's what Steve was trying to say. What I got out of his post, if I may paraphrase: "A copy tape mastered without a lot of digital processing sounds better than an original master tape mastered with a lot of digital processing."
     
  22. jamesmaya

    jamesmaya Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mudwest, CA
    Steve should copyright that phrase.
     
    AlmanacZinger likes this.
  23. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Location:
    Hollywood, Ca.
    And we thank you for it!
     
  24. audio

    audio New Member

    Location:
    guyana

    Steve, you are GOD.
     
    David del Toro likes this.
  25. MrPeabody

    MrPeabody New Member

    Location:
    Mass.

    Wasn't trying to lecture you Steve. Sorry if it came off that way. Of course you know the differences, and try to find the best source. I think we're more in agreement than I may have come across. I was directing most of my post to the other people here.

    Obviously both good and bad mastering took place in the 80s. But I believe good and bad mastering takes place today too. And for the reasons that we both gave.

    Peace out :)
     
    dav-here likes this.

Share This Page