Led Zeppelin: Original CDs vs Remasters

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Big A2, Dec 16, 2010.

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  1. rburly

    rburly Sitting comfortably with Item 9

    All the originals for me.
  2. Yes, the earlier fades are a bummer. I was thinking about making a CD-R and using the end from the un-remastered CD and use a crossfade function to create my own version.
  3. That is correct, and I still prefer the old Barry Diament mastering for this live album.
  4. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Truth is beauty

    Atlanta, GA
    I believe you are correct that in the discussions of the SHM-CD’s, that "CODA" was the only album that wasn’t given an additional volume increase over previous releases. But as a whole, they have been given an unnecessary and arbitrary volume boost over what was already two previous volume boosts. And to make matters worse, the "Mothership" release added another 3dB’s to boot.

    Here is a post where I looked at the RMS values of the tracks from Led Zeppelin II and how they have been boosted over each subsequent release, including the ear bleeder "Mothership". And FTR, the AMCY-2442 releases appear to match the mastering from the "Complete Studio Recordings Box Set" and the first individual remaster discs that were released around 1992-93.
  5. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Forum Resident


    GD from your table: 90/93 are the first two boxed compilations, and 1993 is the Complete Studio Recordings? Do you (or anyone) know if the dynamic range is impacted between the 1st two boxes and the CSR big box?

    Here's a little more detail between just the original CD and disc from the 1993 CSR big box:

    DR11 ... 01 Whole Lotta Love orig
    DR12 ... 01 Whole Lotta Love RM

    DR11 ... 05 Heartbreaker orig
    DR10 ... 05 Heartbreaker RM

    DR12 ... 09 Bring It On Home orig
    DR11 ... 09 Bring It On Home RM

    Not much difference in dynamic range in this case. For Physical Graffiti and Presence, however, the remasters are more consistently reduced.
  6. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Truth is beauty

    Atlanta, GA
    As I stated in the post, the files in the column labeled 90/93 are from the compilation box sets called “Remasters” and “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set 2." I didn’t have access to the “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set” (4 CD’s) when I compiled those numbers. The volume was raised slightly (.5 to 1.5dB’s) between the compilation box sets and “The Complete Studio Recordings” using peak limiting (not compression), but currently, I don’t have the box sets on my server to run DR numbers.

    There were 3 basic compilation box sets issued, all of which are the original Page/Marino masters and feature crop circle imagery on the covers:
    1. 1990 - “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set” (4 CD’s)
    2a. 1990 - “Remasters” (2 CD’s) - a condensed version of the “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set”
    2b. 1992 - “Remasters” (2+1 CD’s) - same as 2a, but adds an interview bonus disc called “Profiles”
    3. 1993 - “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set 2" (2 CD’s) - tracks not found on the “Led Zeppelin Boxed Set”

    “The Complete Studio Recordings,” which contains all of the studio albums proper, was also issued in 1993 and was compiled and technically, remastered by Zal (a forum member here). But his work was based on the Marino masters and he states that only 2 tracks were actually remastered due to fading/editing issues. The subsequent single CD issues of the proper albums released around this time, including the Japan AMCY releases, are all based on “The Complete Studio Recordings” work by Zal.

    I don’t find the dynamic range difference between the BD discs and the '93 remaster albums to be much different for “Physical Graffiti” & “Presence” than the rest of the series:

    Physical Graffiti D1 DR13
    Physical Graffiti (remaster) D1 DR10
    Physical Graffiti D2 DR12
    Physical Graffiti (remaster) D2 DR11

    Presence DR13
    Presence (remaster) DR11
  7. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Forum Resident

    The DR numbers for II are about the same between Barry's and the early remasters. That is not true for PG and Presence. Those are more compressed.
  8. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Forum Resident

    A visual comparison, for those inclined. :) I picked a few "random" tracks from each release, and I looked at dynamic range. "Random" in the sense that I picked some favorites as well as some longer songs. The idea being, I think there is more of a danger of compression with longer songs because they're more apt to have both loud and soft parts. So a mastering eng could be tempted to overly compress the louder parts to "bring up" the softer parts.

    But remember:

    I am not equating dynamic range with whether I like a disc or not. I am simply stating that Physical Graffiti and Presence (and IV) are more compressed vs the others here:


    And this prompted me (finally!) to get the originals for I, ITTOD, and Coda:

    Just got them today. So I'll update the DR graph above with those numbers in a few days. :righton: ... And I'll do some listening comparisons too ...
  9. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Truth is beauty

    Atlanta, GA
    I posted the album DR values of the original CD’s and the CSR remasters in the post above for Physical Graffiti and Presence. Why you’re picking random tracks instead of the entire album is beyond me, as doing so doesn’t tell the entire story. Additionally, these graphs are meaningless when we are only talking about value differences of only 1-2.

    Led Zeppelin II for both the original CD and the CSR remaster actually have the same DR11 album value. If you’re that obsessed with DR values differences of only 1-2, then you should be listening to the RL or Classic Records vinyl of II, because they have a DR value of 12. Using the same DR logic you’ve applied here, that dirty word “compression” was used on the original CD release too.

    Also, BD did not master the Zoso CD.
  10. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Forum Resident

    The remasters for Physical Graffiti and Presence are more compressed vs the original CDs than some of the others. Even your numbers show that:

  11. You meant "meaningless to you", right? I certainly care about a dynamic range difference of 1-2 dB, even if it is not as much as some other remasters out there. We also have to consider that the remasters are somewhat brighter sounding, and that influences the DR values, i.e. more energy in the high frequencies will slightly increase the DR values.

    I agree with you that the effects of a reduced dynamic range by 1-2 dB aren't drastic but certainly already noticeable to the trained ear, and why wouldn't some people care about this? This is the forum where (some) people even care about pressing differences of the same digital content, I am sure many forum members care about an actual difference of 1-2 dB then.
  12. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Member Of The Midnight Society

    Greater St. Louis
    At the very least, the remasters have bad EQ compared to the originals. I know which ones I want.
  13. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Forum Resident

    The other 3:


    What happened to In Through the Out Door?


    Well, it looks likes to me, that regardless of the dynamic range of the original CDs, they more or less went for uniformity of dynamic range for the remasters.
  14. Stefan

    Stefan Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    Amen! I find the obsession with DR values (and compression in general), like peak value readouts from EAC, to be one reason I find myself coming around here a lot less often. People might comment on other factors affecting masters but the whole loudness war thing has got people so obsessed with even the tiniest bits of compression that it's almost like a McCarthyism crusade against all forms of compression. It's obsessing about the trees and not seeing the forest!

    I've been critical of the remasters in the past and I still have problems with them, but in the overall scheme of things, they are not bad. As you point out, a difference of 1 or 2dB in DR values is not really that significant. That's certainly so when compared to EQ choices, source tapes used, noise reduction, and analog->digital converters used.

    • I find the EQ on the original CDs to be bass heavy to the point of rendering most of them (with the exception of HOTH) dull sounding (even though Diament has stated on here that he boosted the highs slightly on his LZ masters) whereas the remasters are for the most part lacking in bass (I've more than once seen comments to the effect that Jimmy Page sat in on the Marino remastering sessions so the guitar-dominated midrange got the emphasis). Both of of these extremes are in comparison with most vinyl copies I've heard, which tend to have a balanced bass level about halfway between the bass-heavy 80's CDs and bass-shy 90's-00's CDs.

    • Anyone who knows and appreciates our host's mastering work (along with others in his field) knows just how important getting the original master tape is to the final product. Through various thread on here, we've pretty much ascertained that The Diament and Marino mastering came from the same Atlantic NYC copies of the master tapes up to PG (and excluding LZIV since the 80's version was done by Joe Sidore from a west coast copy of the master). Diament has also stated that his Presence, ITTOD and Coda were done from LP cutting master tapes. Therefore, no Led Zeppelin CDs were done from the absolute original mixdown master tapes. The marketing stickers may say so, but at best the "mastered from the original tapes" should have been extended with "by way of copies." It seems with the exception of LZII, that Classic Records did their vinyl reissues from the true original master tapes, which at least partially explains why their versions sound better.

    • The noise reduction on the Marino remasters is primitive by today's standards and heavy-handed at times. Plus early fades to avoid obvious NR are annoying to those familiar with the original albums. A lot of the material isn't affected, but the NR at the beginning of The Rain Song, for example, really stunts the richness of the guitar sound (Gallows Pole suffers as well). Plus, the stereo field width narrowing on the Rain Song just adds to the problem. The original was hard panned and that doesn't necessarily sound the best, but the dulled guitar doesn't work with the narrower soundstage. Had they left the guitar intact and tried to reduce hiss levels with careful EQ, the narrow soundstage would have worked much better.

    • As Barry Diament has stated on here in the past, he can really hear the effects of those old Sony analog-digital converters on these early CDs. I know I certainly can. I recollected the original LZ CDs about 5 years ago and initially was quite pleased to get them back, but once I got into vinyl again, I realized how grainy and unfocused those old CDs sound due to the old converters. This bugs me much more than any compromises on dynamic range, as does the EQ choices. As our host has pointed out in another thread here, A/D converters made a big leap in quality around '91 or so. I think there's also been an even bigger leap in the last few years as many new remasters have a much more focused analog-like sweetness to the highs and overall depth to the sound that's been missing from CDs up until recently.
    These four aspects bug me much more than the DR differences, especially since I do most of my listening to ripped files with replaygain turned on. A 2dB boost is pretty much irrelevant when levels are matched. I know in theory peaks have been clipped and I used to be among those screaming blue murder about that, but to be completely honest, when listening with levels matched, I really don't hear a difference in dynamics between the CD versions. I hear differences attributable to the other factors I discussed above, but not others. In fact, when comparing my needledrops of the best LZ vinyl pressings I own (mostly the Classic Records but also some UK, Canadian and US pressings (including the hallowed RL), the remasters generally come closer to the vinyl than the originals, with the one exception of HOTH, which suffers most from NR efforts.

    This is an about-face from what I've stated here in the past because to be honest, I really didn't listen much to the remastered CDs or the originals for most of the time I've been a member here. Around 2006 I got heavily into vinyl again and was pretty obsessed with that. I'd do spot checks here and there of the LZ CDs for discussions on here, but never really listened that much. Last year Rhino had a big sale on the 40th anniversary box set, so I decided to pick it up. At the time it was more for completist/packaging reasons, but when I got around to ripping those discs, I was actually quite astonished at how close they sound to the needledrops. They're not quite as punchy, dynamic or live sounding as good vinyl, but when I threw the original CDs into the comparison, it was no contest, those 80's CDs sounded duller and less like the needledrops than the remasters. Even in the case of the hallowed LZII RL, the overall listening impact of the Marino version is much closer to the RL's "mojo" than the Diament version.

    Now I know some of the more purist, dogmatic folks here will simply dismiss these comments as not conforming to some perceived forum consensus, but quite frankly, I don't care. As a friend pointed out to me last weekend, almost nowhere else on the net will you find people who actually prefer the old Zeppelin CDs. I still wish Led Zeppelin would authorize a new remastering (along the lines of the Beatles or Pink Floyd remasters) to take advantage of modern A/D converters, more balanced EQ, and either forego NR altogether or else apply it lightly using modern techniques/hardware that really do work quite well. In the absence of that, I really don't consider the currently available remasters that bad. I'd rip them and add 1-2dB of bass boost then seek out a Diament HOTH and put up with the old converter sound.

    d.s.l. likes this.
  15. S. P. Honeybunch

    S. P. Honeybunch Presidente de Kokomo

    Thanks for your thoughts, Stefan. Perhaps many people also enjoy the 1994 Virgin 'Sticky Fingers' CD over the original CBS due to a midrange or top end boost done to the 1994. Perhaps people who grew up listening to LPs on less than stellar equipment have an emotional attachment to that equipment that favored those frequencies at the expense of the low end that is present on the master tape. Also, if one prefers the guitar in the mix, one may wish to seek out the vinyl or Marino remastered version for the reason that the mastering engineer has done his darndest to emphasize that particular instrument. What seems bass heavy and dull to one listener may actually, to another listener, be a faithful analogue of the rhythm section, instruments so necessary and vital to ballsy rock 'n roll. I agree that yet another Zeppelin CD remastering project from scratch would hurt no one and we may gain an even more superior CD version.
  16. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Truth is beauty

    Atlanta, GA
    I know what the DR values are for Physical Graffiti and Presence. And they used peak limiting on them, not compression.

    The point is that your obsession with DR values is out of whack. You’re selecting only a few random tracks while overlooking such facts as the LZ II DR album values are the same for the original CD and the remaster. And a DR difference of only 1-2 does not equal compression, otherwise you would be complaining about the original LZ II CD since it’s DR value is only 11 vs. 12 for the vinyl, which indicates LZ II BD used compression (using your logic).

    To further prove my point (in your manner), the track “Whole Lotta Love” on the “Led Zeppelin Box Set” has a DR value of 12 vs. the original CD track value of 11. More “evidence” that BD used compression on the original CD (again, using your logic).
  17. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Truth is beauty

    Atlanta, GA
    No, wrong. Saying the charts are meaningless has nothing to do with how much I care about compression.

    Creating a bar chart to show differences in values of only 1-2 on a scale of 1-15 means that you’re more interested in bar charts than what the values actually mean and/or it’s a very poor attempt at trying to exaggerate the differences. This is particularly true when he is randomly selecting tracks rather than providing all the details and the album DR value. Also note that I pointed out that the DR album values for LZ II RL and Classic Record vinyl are greater than the original CD and instead of his requesting more detail on them in a search for the best version, he’s instead creating more meaningless bar charts.

    Posting the full DR report for the albums tells a lot more of the story than these bar charts.
  18. GreenDrazi

    GreenDrazi Truth is beauty

    Atlanta, GA
    I agree with a lot of your points above. There’s far more important issues to these CD’s than just the DR values. Additionally, It would be great to see a new remaster effort for a digital release of the LZ catalog with the care that our host, MFSL, et. al. can provide.
  19. Stefan

    Stefan Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    A fair comment, but then again, what's on the master tape is not always the best representation (plus I was talking about comparisons I made now. I don't have a state-of-the-art vinyl rig by any means, but I have found needledrop samples around the net done on higher-end equipment and the bass levels are fairly consistent with what I'm getting). After all, if the master tapes were perfect, there'd be no need for mastering engineers. Plus, who's to say the equipment used to mix them was balanced and ideal. For example, the story of recording LZIV includes original mixes done at Sunset Sound that when brought back to the UK sounded really bad. The entire album had to be be remixed (IIRC only When the Levee Breaks retained the original SS mix because they couldn't seem to replicate the feel of it later.

    As our host and others have pointed out, a flat transfer might be an honest representation of what's on the master tape, but is doesn't necessarily sound great.

    For example, here's what he said in 2003 after receiving some of the original CDs:
    The question of course is whether George Marino (with Jimmy Page looking over his shoulder) made the best choices when remastering. In some cases, maybe, in others, maybe not.

    (In fact, reading that old 2003 thread now, it's interesting to see some of the comments).
  20. peteham

    peteham Forum Resident

    Simcoe County
    Other than the Daiment LZ II, and Houses, my go to is now the SHMs.
  21. Stefan

    Stefan Forum Resident

    Montreal, Canada
    Yes, a SH or mofi attempt at the LZ catalog would be welcome. I'd add to that James Guthrie or even a Steven Wilson remix

    Yes, there are more (and bigger) issues with these CDs than DR. In fact, I think at times the inordinate attention to DR values, comparisons, etc., clouds those real issues.
  22. Not sure what you are saying now.

    I understand the following: A 1-2 dB difference presented on a chart (which is not well executed in your opinion) is meaningless to you but the actual 1-2 dB difference on the CD itself matters to you. Or am I mistaken?

    I didn't think we were discussing charts here, they are only a way of illustrating something. Important is, what is on the actual CD's. Some people are bothered by a reduced dynamic range of 1-2 dB, others are not. That doesn't mean "how much" the people are bothered by it, and of course, a 3-4 dB dynamic range reduction is worse than a 1-2 dB range reduction.

    But dynamic range is just one aspect of the sound quality, the tape source and the EQ is also very very important.

    There's plenty of examples out there for CD's where I actually prefer a version which has 1-2 dB less dynamic range than another version, just because I much prefer the EQ choices or the tape source used is much better.

    In case of Led Zeppelin CD's, the tape sources seem to be similar if not the same (I think there were some comments made along those lines), and I (in general, not for each track) prefer the EQ choices of the older CD's. In addition, the older CD's also have a slightly higher dynamic range.

    I don't think anybody should judge a CD only by the dynamic range. That would be quite silly. But it is one aspect.
  23. lbangs

    lbangs Forum Resident

    Right Behind You
    Stefan, I love this post (which I only edited because it is long; your excellent list was my favorite part.). Thank you!

    Shalom, y'all!

    L. Bangs
  24. Max F

    Max F Member

    Yes Stefan thanks for that post! Its nice to know that others listen with their own ears and make their own preferences. The herd mentality is very strong on the internets - not just here.
  25. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Forum Resident

    Same result. The dynamic range is reduced.

    Yes, that's correct. I selected some of my favorite tracks. But the numbers you show for the entire albums for II, PG, and presence do not change the facts based on the tracks that I chose.

    I am not overlooking LZ II. It's in my graph, and:

    But in case you missed it, I am simply pointing out that different levels of compression (or peak limiting) were used on the different releases.

    In addition, I never said anything about the DR numbers being a measure of sound quality for the remasters or the originals.
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