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.
     
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  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.
     
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  4. c-eling

    c-eling Forum Resident

    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 Well-Known 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.
     
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  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 »
     
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  12. Trevor_Bartram

    Trevor_Bartram Forum Resident

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

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    Location:
    South West, 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:
    South West, 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
  16. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    I got one a few weeks ago. These comments are the closest to how I felt. I got lucky this case: mine was defective, filled with some non-fill...yikes. I in good conscience was able to ship it back via Amazon...gotta love them! Now, I think it sounded a bit better than what this poster thought, which was what was disappointing to me. I have the silver box set of their entire catalogue from a few years ago, all on Polar, and those are the best sounding ABBA albums on vinyl I've ever heard, as they should be for what that set cost! As a compliment to the 1/2 speed master, I would say it sounded almost identical. However, I don't feel Arrival was recorded especially well in the first place and you are only going to squeeze out so much from the master. I think most of their albums before Arrival, and all afterwards, were a bit better to much better. It is a rather thin and bright recording imo, and I've owned a lot of different copies. It is far from worth turning it over every 2-3 songs, and paying a premium price, for at most a very subtle improvement...if that.

    Just an fyi from a very picky vinyl guy for those that really want a stellar sounding ABBA package:

    The Reader's Digest box set is often mentioned as a stellar sounding compilation package of ABBA songs. I know this is a much larger package than the Greatest Hits single album, but I can tell you that I got one today and I am stunned at how much better this sounds than any other way of listening to ABBA. I want to thank every person who recommended this as I never would have "stumbled" on this as it was only available in Europe. I own the very expensive silver colored album box set, on Polar, and that generally is the best I've heard them. I have purchased just about every incarnation of their music you can get, including that recent import half speed master of Arrival which was mastered at Abbey Road (I returned it in case anyone was wondering how it sounded...got lucky in this case as it was defective anyway, but it sounded no better than the best pressings I've heard already...it's just not one of their best recordings imo and I think every ounce of quality has already been squeezed out of it on the best pressings). If it's the hits you want, and strong B songs, I would pony up and get this larger set of 60 songs. Just spectacular.

    Now, someone tell me how a comp album can sound better than the parent albums (I have learned around here that in general a comp album is going to use masters at least a few generations away from the original in order to cut the tape together for mastering). These were pressed by CBS and the vinyl is beautiful. Is it perfect? I kinda feel that with vinyl, there is almost no such thing. But it comes close! The only cut so far that I'm disappointed in is Fernando. They clearly had a sub par master for that one. It isn't bad, but it jumps out at you as a bit dull because all the other songs are so clear and revealing. It's a good lesson on what happens when you go a few generations down from the master. Other than that, so far I have zero issues and this package will now get played more than any other ABBA albums I have. I think I only paid $60 plus some shipping off of eBay. The seller shipped it quickly...I got it in five days! Hope this info helps!
     
  17. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    Interesting! Everything I've heard from Nautilus except for the Bee Gees Spirits Having Flown has been pretty awful. Rumours is absolutely terrible from them; the other 4-5 titles were very okay or worse. I have passed on Arrival based on that; perhaps I need to get a copy as that Bee Gees album is quite good.
     
  18. I don't know what to say, The Nautilus vinyl records I got had great sound, I have not heard the not-so-good ones like "Rumours",
     
  19. Thermionic Vinyl

    Thermionic Vinyl Active Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    I recently picked up an original Swedish pressing and it has a beautiful sound :)
     
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  20. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    Glad you got good one's. To be fair, I don't have many. Bee Gees, James Taylor, Melissa Manchester and Rita Coolidge to name a few. Bee Gees and Coolidge are very good.
     
  21. Grover Washington: Winelight
    Earl Klugh: Crazy For You
    John Klemmer: Finesse
    Victor Feldman: Secret Of The Andes
    Moody Blues: On The Threshold Of A Dream
    John Lennon: Double Fantasy
    Bee Geez: Spirits Having Flown
    Styx: Pieces Of Eight

    They are all exceent sounding.
    I have not heard the other ones you have mentioned but I have them in sealed condition.
     
  22. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    What a nice collection and variety!
     
    AudiophilePhil likes this.
  23. bferr1

    bferr1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    MA
    I just ordered this from BestBuy.com for $28.11 with a price match from Amazon, down from their original $47.99. I had two $5 coupons that I applied, and I have about nine bucks leftover in my PayPal account that I can transfer over. That brings my out of pocket on this album down to about ten bucks once tax is factored in. Free shipping. Surely for ten bucks, this remaster is worth it?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
  24. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    What did you order?
     
  25. bferr1

    bferr1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    MA
    Isn't this thread about the ABBA Arrival Half-Speed Remaster?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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