Thoughts on ABBA reissue? (40th anniversary, half speed mastered edition of Arrival) *

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Thermionic Vinyl, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. Thermionic Vinyl

    Thermionic Vinyl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    I recently came across the 40th anniversary, half speed masterered edition of Arrival. I was quite surprised as it is one of the few half speed mastered AND 45rpm reissues I know of now.

    Can anyone tell me if this reissue is worth it? Also what did they use as their cutting source?
     
  2. sathvyre

    sathvyre formerly known as ABBAmaniac

    Location:
    Europe
    As a big ABBA fan, I listened to the new version. It sounds good, but if you are looking for a great ARRIVAL pressing, buy the danish EMI/POLAR pressing from 1976...it doesn't get any better.
     
    noahjld likes this.
  3. Anne Elk (Miss)

    Anne Elk (Miss) Well-Known Member

    Location:
    U.K.
    ^ I cleaned what I thought was my '76 UK pressing a few days ago and, in doing so, discovered it's a Dutch pressing. It still sounds good, though. In what ways is the Danish pressing preferable?

    It's my favourite peak-Abba album and I'm interested in the half-speed version. I'd be even more interested in a superior '76 pressing, though.
     
    c-eling likes this.
  4. c-eling

    c-eling 'We Feel Their Presence In Our Soul'

    I gave up on trying to find a descent clean US cut, Amazon US a few years ago had the 2011 German cuts for like 11.99, I jumped on the deal. Nice sounding album especially for a re-issue
     
  5. otherdimension

    otherdimension Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    perhaps a GORT could change thread title to helps folks find this thread. Perhaps: Abba: Arrival 2oth Anniversary, half speed master 45 RPM reissue
     
  6. otherdimension

    otherdimension Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Thank-you!
     
  7. filip_kbh

    filip_kbh Active Member

    Isn't it like two songs on each side? I can't be bothered to flip the sides that frequently, so I'll pass.
     
  8. sathvyre

    sathvyre formerly known as ABBAmaniac

    Location:
    Europe
    Danish pressing sounds much more clear and better - not easy to explain. Dutch and german pressings sound a bit like high-generation tape dubs to me.
     
    Anne Elk (Miss) likes this.
  9. Anne Elk (Miss)

    Anne Elk (Miss) Well-Known Member

    Location:
    U.K.
    I got the 45rpm half-speed. Like @filip_kbh, I'm really not a fan of single albums (including modern releases that won't realistically fit on a single piece of vinyl) being spread across four sides of vinyl and this is my first 45rpm toe-dip.

    Firstly, the packaging: a new gatefold sleeve and, unfortunately, new card inner sleeves (the original with lyrics is now printed in the gatefold). Given that it's half-speed mastered and is on double 45rpm vinyl, I expected plain white poly-lined inner sleeves but you'll have to provide your own. I have those D-shaped inner inner sleeves.

    The vinyl itself seems perfect I think. There are no hints of crackle or any pops anywhere. This is also the case with my half-speed Ghost In The Machine. My original 1976 Dutch Arrival is also very quiet, though, except for the last track.

    Sonically it's very clear and crisp but this was a beautifully recorded album in the first place so I didn't expect a major improvement and I don't think I hear one. I'm not confident enough in terminology to bandy words like 'soundstage' about but the instruments are clearly defined and maybe sit in the stereo image more deliberately than my original and, most importantly, are given due attention at specific moments; I imagine they can program a frequency profile so that a piano fill or backing vocal is, momentarily, newly accentuated despite it being the exact same source master as a previous release. I think I would say some tracks (e.g. 'Dancing Queen') sound slightly more live than the original – it feels like a performance rather than a recording – and overall it might be a bit more precise or punchy. I suppose it sounds how I imagine @sathvyre's Danish pressing to sound – "more clear and better - not easy to explain."

    Musically it seems more stable and solid than my original pressing. The techniques ABBA used to thicken the sound (e.g. recording one of the acoustic guitars at the start of 'When I Kissed The Teacher' at a slightly faster speed than the other one to create a kind of artificial artificial-double-tracking effect, or the slight droop after "now there's only emptiness" and the piano before the last chorus in 'Knowing Me, Knowing You') often sounds unpalatable to my ears; a slight waver in pitch can make me feel as if the whole thing is about to go out of tune, as with a slipping belt. I don't get that sensation with this, although I still do with my '76 pressing.

    I'm now listening to my original '76 pressing and it does sound a little mushier than the new version. The new 'That's Me' is actually significantly clearer and brighter.

    There's an interesting factoid in the blurb on the new inner sleeve: ABBA didn't (often) use cymbals on their recordings, something I've never really noticed but which now necessitates a comprehensive re-listen to their records. It surprised me because ABBA's recordings have always seemed some of the punchiest music I know and nothing emphasises a beat quite like a big crash (although it can also smush things up, too).

    As for the source, I can't see anything on the sleeve that specifically clarifies this (I haven't removed the shrink-wrap, just sliced it down the opening but, from internet pictures, I'm sure the inside of the gatefold is a straight copy of the original inner sleeve with no new information, especially since the back cover still lists the tracks as if it's a single vinyl as per the original). The first (new) inner sleeve has blurb of album facts (largely focused on Michael Tretow's importance) on one side and a photo of the (an) original Ampex master tape box (including the note "Mastered from this Jan '97") on the other. The second inner sleeve has a montage that includes a couple of photos of tape stuff but the prominence given to the photo of the master tape on the first inner sleeve seems to deliberately imply that that's the source. Of course, it could simply be intended as a period photo illustrating the media they used to record on.

    There's another thread somewhere that discusses the mastering process at Abbey Road but I think there were conflicting claims about the studio's capabilities last time I read it.

    Is it worth it? £35 seems reasonable for a 45rpm double-vinyl reissue (Rickie Lee Jones and Jaco Pastorius albums are at least £50, I think). For me it's worth it: this is a special album from my childhood and I'm happy to try multiple versions of it. If you already have a quiet copy then maybe you'd get more bang for your buck elsewhere. While it's really lovely to listen to, it's not a massive improvement on the original and, yes, getting up to change sides every couple of songs is a chore and I'll probably still play my original more than this for that reason alone.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
    stem and c-eling like this.
  10. Stay away from the Japanese reissue with OBI. It' too bright sounding and sounds like it was sourced from digital masters.
    So far, my go to version is the Nautilus SuperDisc half-speed mastered audiophile vinyl pressing.
     
  11. Thermionic Vinyl

    Thermionic Vinyl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    Just bought the reissue today. My first red flag during my initial unpacking of the record was the language used in the documentation, especially the "mastering certification." Nowhere do they ever use the words "analog," "tape," or even "original." I thought this was pretty odd considering how much effort went into not only half-speed mastering, but also cutting this record at 45rpm. If you used digital masters then stop hiding it from us, this is why I usually avoid labels that don't list their sources.

    Packaging itself was rather nice, with the jacket being a matte texture though the cardstock was a bit thin for my tastes. I was met with an unpleasant surprise as upon touching the inner sleeves...paper. Rough, sandpaper-like sleeves. The kind that no matter how carefully you extract the record from, will always ensure "cat claw" scratches on what are otherwise beautifully pressed discs. These are disc which proved to be both flat and very quiet.

    Unfortunately, the sound did not measure up to the pressing job. To put it briefly and a bit bluntly, it was what vinylphiles think of when they think of a poorly mastered CD. The highs were bright and edgy, but with a lifeless sense of sterileness. The mids were recessed and mushy, lacking in the original's solidity and punchiness. The lows sounded very digital, and lacked a sense of control, texture and tightness that people look for in Vinyl. Within 30 seconds of listening to the record, I immediately knew it was a digital source. Very obvious indeed.

    After further research, my suspicion was confirmed by an interview conducted between Micheal Fremer and Mile Showell (the engineer who cut this record.) In the interview Showell states that "I have already explained why I feel this method is superior. Elimination of the low-frequency roll off on a Studer tape machine (a problem made doubly bad at half speed), better tape handling which will give better HF stability etc. There is a real risk that any advantage gained by half speed cutting is lost in equal measure by losses and other unpredictable problems in the low end and potential inaccuracies with the high end."

    He also goes on to say "For this series we are dealing solely with half-speed mastering. The greatest variable in all of this is the replay of the master on the tape machine. Just about all of the limitations of analogue cutting from tape are made twice as bad at half-speed. For this reason I firmly believe careful and sympathetic high-resolution digital capture from a well-cared for and customised (i.e. improved) American tape machine will ultimately yield better sounding records which is the sole reason for this series of releases."

    I know a cut engineer's job is hard enough, with the unpredictably of Vinyl but seriously? At least tell us out right if you're using digital or analogue sources. Also there's the fact that Showell is making out as if half-speeding mastering is "too diffcult" using tape. What? If it's too difficult, then use the tape and skip the half-speed mastering process.

    Very disappointed.

    Read more at UMe Abbey Road 1/2 Speed Mastered Series Update: We Ask the Tough Questions »
     
    c-eling likes this.
  12. Trevor_Bartram

    Trevor_Bartram Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Boylston, MA, USA
    Arrival, my only ABBA album and it's a very good one.
     
  13. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK.
    The recent 33 rpm Abba reissues (Back to Black) are actually cut from the master tapes. This if like the other Showell half speeds has a digital step. However if it sounds as Thermionic Vinyl describes they didn't even have the analogue master tape for the transfer. Some of the other Abbey Road half speed cuts sound great.
     
  14. Thermionic Vinyl

    Thermionic Vinyl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    The "Back to Black" reissue series is usually all analog cut by Kevin Gray at Acoustech. That is strange considering there's no documentation that references that, but they do sound excellent!
     
  15. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Bristol, UK.
    Did anyone say that? Not come across any B to B titles I noticed KG in the dead wax. The Abba reissues were likely cut in Europe / Sweden. Reissued as box set again in 2014 and discussed here.

    ABBA: The Studio Albums (8 vinyl)

    Sellers were claiming the 2010 box and 2011 individual titles are analogue and comparisons with UK originals and sound does suggest this.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017

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