Digital Mastering: To be, or not to be, that is the question.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by patokiss, Mar 13, 2018 at 1:48 PM.

  1. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Hi, folks, These days I've been reading a lot over this forum about album masterings of my humble album collection in digital media (mainly cds) and I found a plethora of preferences. I mean, some like original cds, some like japan editions, some like remasters, some like MFSL, DCC or AFZ stuff. Some like the mastering made by this or that engineer. Some prefer HD versions. And so on...

    Ok, I know there's a lot of discussion about that around here.

    So, based in what I'm looking for and to get a better reference for people who are looking the same as me, I would like to start this thread to gather information and guidance.

    What I want is to find recordings in digital media to sound not like the original vinyl but just like the artist intended. I mean, matching the original masters. I know Steve Hoffmann masters are generally, the closest. For as he usually writes, he's always looking to do exactly what the artist intended even if the original recording is a total disaster. That's the kind of stuff I'm usually looking for.

    Well then, let me invite you to list in this thread any artists you want and their Cd o HD versions that sound just like or as close as the original master or as the artist intended.

    My collection is mainly fill with classic rock so I'll give you names to help you start. (Remember this list is not only for me but everybody, so feel free to start with any artist you want).


    Thank you.
  2. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect Forum Resident

    Winchester, UK
    However skilled the mastering engineer, you need psychic powers to know what "the artist intended" in many cases. Also, who is the artist? Maybe the bass player wants loud bass, the drummer loud drums etc :)

    That said, I would think more recent material, from the digital era, is more likely to sound as the artist intended since it is the primary release medium. Even if some of us here might think it over compressed.

  3. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Well-Known Member

    Uppsala Sweden
    Good point.
  4. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Right, Tim, but you know, sometimes mastering can make it even worse. For example, Metallica and Death Magnetic. Mastering for CD is awfull and it's not corresponding width other versions I heard.
    Remember the mastering of #1 of the Beatles in 2000?
  5. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    That's part of the work in the mix, not the mastering and I'm refering to mastering. Maybe I used the wrong words and shouldn't have written "what the artist intended". It's true, it could be confusing.
  6. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Well-Known Member

    Uppsala Sweden
    I like the simple old saying of "people dont know what they want", because it can surely be applied to artists as well.
    curbach likes this.
  7. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Me again... Tim got me thinking.... Some here defines what I mean like "flat transfers" but I don't think there is such a thing. Maybe is a term used to describe how a master is treated when is digitalized. I think there's a process involved when this transfer is done. Some EQ to compensate or maybe a little compression, but no more than that. That is what I mean with a recording as close as the original master.
    Gila likes this.
  8. Gila

    Gila Well-Known Member

    Not really a good example, but very notorious. I remember around the release date how people were waiting on the LP versions to arrive, hoping that they would not have the same mastering as the CDs. It was a massive disappointment. The band's management defended the sound quality complaints saying that it was artistic intent, but of course that's management, they say all sorts of stuff, let's hear it from the (part of the) band:

    Mind you, that's coming from a person who talked about having tinnitus and hearing loss (I think even way back as mid-90s), there's even a few short videos of him talking about it. But judging by all of that, the Guitar Hero Metallica versions of Death Magnetic songs appear to be not true artistic intent.

    Edit: also, sometimes the same artists that have way too much compression/limiting on the CD versions of their material also go around talking how CD is generally bad for sound quality and sounds lifeless, cold, bad, etc, but the LPs generally are super duper awesome and amazing warm transparent crystal clear, you name it. So either they are not familiar with the whole "Loudness War" thing, or they do this on purpose.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018 at 2:33 PM
    patokiss likes this.
  9. Deuce66

    Deuce66 Well-Known Member

    I'm pretty sure KISS didn't want or intended to have Hotter than Hell sound like it was recorded with $2 microphones on recycled's pointless exercise if you ask me. If anything the final product at best is an approximation of their intended sound, other factors may come into play like record company meddling to muck things up even further.
    Crimson jon and patokiss like this.
  10. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Yeah, it's clearly a defensive answer.

    Anyway, my thread is not about modern recording. It's about old recordings made in tape and digitized and mastered for digital media.
    Gila likes this.
  11. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    There's a critical element missing from the OP. That is, an engineer attempting to get what the artist intended, within the limitations of the technology available at the time.

    This is important, and introduces the possibility that there is no lock-down on what the artist intended at the time of original release. There's always compromise.

    A simple example is the original running order of Peter Gabriel's So (which comes to mind only because I played it recently). The original running order on Vinyl was not as intended, it was a compromise due to restrictions of Vinyl and bass response. There are also countless albums compromised because only 4 track, or 8 track was available at the time. There are examples with early synthesizers whee the sound wasn't what was intended, but what could be achieved. The sound of drums too.

    I think a release is always an approximation. Old 78's weren't meant to sound tinny and scratchy. Cassettes weren't supposed to have hiss, etc.
  12. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    Anyone have a Don Quixote gif handy :)
    c-eling likes this.
  13. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Well, Hotter Than Hell was a bad recording for as the producers once said, the output (speakers) was bad calibrated for the mastering. And you can bet that's true for if you listen to Let Me Go, Rock'n Roll in Double Platinum, That version sounds so much better and it have been taken from the original mix tapes. But I think they have lost the original mix tapes or they were ruin when the record was digitalized.
  14. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Haha, I guess I did a mess with that frase. It was totally missunderstood or used totally wrong by me....
  15. scribbs

    scribbs Well-Known Member

    Every time I hear "artist intended" I get nightmares. Just search here regarding my beloved Lene Lovich. :laugh: Anyway, the most diligent artists that I know of regarding sound quality are probably Thomas Dolby, Gary Numan, and the Grateful Dead.
    patokiss likes this.
  16. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Ok, I didn't mean to cause you nightmares but how many times have you listen an artist complaining for a digital edition of his work that is not how he conceive it?
  17. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident

    Truthfully, I'm not aware of any. I'm sure they exist though. Do they also complain about pesky electricity?
  18. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect Forum Resident

    Winchester, UK
    Also Steven Wilson, Neil Young (though with eccentricities), Steely Dan, many more.

    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018 at 3:34 PM
  19. aphexj

    aphexj Forum Resident

    That's right, they don't — they were meant for a video game, not the album!
    Gila likes this.
  20. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

  21. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    What album do you think got a bad digital mix in the CD age?

    There have been a lot of albums that have been cruelly represented on CD over the last 30 years, but the one that springs to mind is [Jethro Tull’s] Aqualung. When it was reissued on CD, it went through some kind of de-noising, which was hideous. Really horrible. I guess the record company or the mastering engineer thought people couldn’t handle a little bit of tape hiss, you know? But what people really wanted to hear were the natural dynamics of the music. They didn’t care about the tape hiss. I think that was kind of the nadir of mastering — when people thought that tape hiss had to be eradicated. You’d get these horrible albums that sounded like they had a blanket over the top of them.

    Yes, and that gave this album an unnatural feel, especially for those of us who knew what Aqualungreally sounded like. You went, “Wait a minute, this isn’t the album I know at all. What happened?” You’ve got to leave that sonic character in there.

    Right. Absolutely. Unfortunately, a lot of people who started listening to music on CDs have never heard how these albums are supposed to sound, or did sound, or should sound. So it’s been great to go back and put that right, in a sense.

    Excerpt from: Pushing the aural envelope with high-res audio evangelist Steven Wilson
  22. MaestroDavros

    MaestroDavros Well-Known Member

    D.C. Metro Area
    Also, the very fact that they are artists means that their own concept of what they "intended" is constantly changing as they grow/change as artists. Meaning that what an artist had in mind 30 years ago will have little to no bearing on how they feel now.
    patokiss likes this.
  23. ToneLa

    ToneLa Well-Known Member

    Nothing inherently wrong with digital. As ever it depends on skill, technique, care and time given to the process. Analogue can sound worse. It's not a format problem. It's a treatment problem, and of course you're better served analysing the industry and its trends with formats and mixing rather than just analogue or digital, which are not really that big a deal if everything that should have been respected is respected
    Popsy likes this.
  24. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars Forum Resident

    "Artist's intent" is not the right phrase as lots of artists seem to think that sterile, lifeless, hyper-compressed masters sound good. My favorite, Mike Scott of the Waterboys, loves this approach and applies it to nearly every release. The Church are another band whose later releases - atmospheric, moody guitar psych-pop - are smothered in compression which sucks all the beauty and tension out of the music. It's tragic. But the artists are involved in the production and occasionally mastering, and they think it sounds good.
    patokiss likes this.
  25. patokiss

    patokiss Member Thread Starter

    Ok, allow me to correct myself. Guess I went wrong using "artist's intent". I'll try to clarify what I wanted with this thread. I was just looking for a list of digital versions that are known for being, call it, "flat transfers" from original tapes that you are aware of. With little or no mastering "retouch". That's it
    Gila likes this.

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