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.

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  1. Evan L

    Evan L Beatologist

    Perhaps I am alone here, but I like the Steely Dan remasters. A lot. Aja sounds great. I've never heard Steve's version, so can't compare, but the 1999 disc sounds good to me.
  2. Matt

    Matt New Member

    Don't have the original vinyl, but try comparing it to real life. It's a pretty trebly sound all around.
  3. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    But, if you are going to say that the 1999 remaster is brighter than the original LP, you should have some point of reference to that vinyl...
  4. audio

    audio New Member


    Which one? If you are talking about "Electric Warrior", my advice is to skip it. I think it's horrid. The original cd sounds much better, but still not as nice as the original vinyl.

    How about the most recent domestic ELO remasters? Any comments?
  5. rontokyo

    rontokyo Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    I also don't like the Them remasters. Was there a thread on this a while back? I'm not having any luck doing a search. Can you help?
  6. reb

    reb Money Beats Soul

    Long Island
    Aja was always a trebble emphasized recording. I hated the mofi cd, but my red vinyl is very nice. The Glenn Meadows Decade appears to be "tame" compared to today's standards. Moral: Be thankful for what we do have.
  7. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

  8. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    I think that the Jon Astley Them remasters sound very loud and heavily compressed to ear bleeding levels.
  9. Matt

    Matt New Member

    Eh, I just said they were too bright, period, I wasn't making any comparison to the original Lp's. Regardless, I think it's too much.
  10. Matt

    Matt New Member

    The Them CD I have is a London CD from the UK. I'm not sure if it has the same sound as the US version, but it's the same art, same track listing. Sounds great, a nice mix of mono and true stereo, but with one electronically processed stereo dud.

    There are some other great Them tracks left on that disc, but otherwise, it's a really good compilation.
  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    That's THE one. The best there is, sound quality wise.
  12. rontokyo

    rontokyo Senior Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    Thanks for the link--must've missed that discussion. I'm listening to the 2-CD Astley reissue now--yes, compressed and noise reduction applied. Don't think it sounds terrible, though you might prefer the 80s issues. I used to have them but sold them when I got the "newly remastered from the original master tapes" reissue [heard that story before? Wish I had them now, if for no other reason than to compare to the Astley reissue]. There were three CDs originally issued in the 80s: the first s/t [sometimes referred to as "The Angry Young Them," "Them Again" and the one you're looking for, "Them featuring Van Morrison," which contained songs from the first two albums.

    Boy, like I say, I'm listening to the Astley reissue now and did they ever screw up "Mystic Eyes." They must've used a real odd-ball tape as it sounds like "electronic stereo" folded to mono but with only the maracas in the left channel. Weird. Should you find the 80s issue, be sure to post your thoughts.
  13. Gardo

    Gardo Audio Epistemologist

    Grant, can you elaborate some on that statement? No difference in dynamic range, in EQ, in peak levels? No difference to your ears? If the latter, what are you listening on? I'm not trying to be combative, just trying to understand what you're saying. Later, I may be ready to argue in more detail.:D

    I've wiped all the files that I used for my mega-SD-comparison in the thread I contributed to a while back (, but I do have the data I derived from the comparisons. I'm sorry I don't have time to make them more user-friendly, but at least here they are.

    First, "Bad Sneakers" in its various incarnations. You can see the trend:

    Original ABC Katy Lied LP
    Peak -.4 Average RMS Level –20.7 peak-to-average dynamic range=20.3 db. Absolute polarity seems to be reversed here, compared to other masters.
    Decade (original Ludwig/Nichols master) 0/–18.7 range=18.7
    Hoffman or Nichols CD master (I think this is Steve's work, but I'm not sure--at any rate, it's in the first issue of KL) 0/-19.1 range=19.1
    Citizen Steely Dan (remastered by Glenn Meadows] -.5/-18.3 range=17.8
    1999 remastered Katy Lied (Nichols) -.5/-17.6 range=17.1

    As time goes on, the remastering is more compressed. To my ears, for "Bad Sneakers" the last two masters (the Meadows box and the latest Nichols remaster) are no-noised and eq'd too bright compared to the original vinyl or the first two CD versions. The latest remaster is almost painfully bright to my ears.

    Here are my specific Aja figures for "Deacon Blues," which compare the MFSL vinyl of Aja to specific tunes in the first Nichols CD, the first Decade CD, the Steely Dan Gold CD, and the latest remaster.

    "Deacon Blues":
    MFSL LP -.5/-20.1 range=19.6, clearly brighter than the original CDs with slight bass thinning as well. "Smiley" EQ?
    Original Decade -.8/-18.3 range=17.5
    Hoffman or Nichols AJA CD -.8/18.3 range=17.5 (this may therefore be a Nichols master, since the figures match the Decade CD precisely)
    SD Gold (Nichols remaster) -.4/-18.4 range= 18.0. Tape damage audible on cymbals at about :02. Right channel ride cymbal. Stereo image is narrowed—guitar is not so far to the left as on first two CDs, or even on LP.
    Citizen Steely Dan: .9/-16.9 range=16.0.
    Latest remastered AJA: -.5/-15.7 range=15.2. Brightest of all the versions.
    ON ALL VERSIONS of "Deacon Blues": On “This is the day,” there’s distortion on the words “the day” that sounds like tape damage, like Donald needed to clear his throat.

    Here are my data for "Babylon Sisters":

    Original MCA LP: 0/-20.5 range=20.5

    Original Decade CD: “Remastered by Bob Ludwig and Roger Nichols,” label says “compiled and remastered by GARY KATZ.” Catalog MCAD-5570, DIDX-306. Made in Japan. Copyright 1985. -.5/-19 range =18.5. Very light tape hiss audible.

    First Gaucho CD (mastered by Nichols): -1.8/-20.6 range=18.8. Very light tape hiss audible. Sounds lower in level but tonally very close to Decade version.

    SD Gold CD (remastered by Nichols): 0/-17.5=range 17.5. Subjectively much louder. Tape hiss a little more audible.

    Citizen SD (remastered by Glenn Meadows): -.9/-17.3=range 16.4. Much louder. Noise gate? No noise? No tape hiss, but funny pumping on hi-hat, with much less definition than on first two masters. Also a bit brighter.

    2000 remaster CD of Gaucho (remastered by Nichols): -.5/-15.1=range 14.6. Louder, no tape hiss, more compressed and brighter still.

    A peak-to-average range of 14.6 db is a lot lower than a range of 18.5 (or so). On a dynamic track like this, the difference is easily audible. The latest remaster doesn't sound terrible, but it doesn't sound as good as the earlier versions to my ears. Not nearly.

    And along with compression and brightening we have noise reduction here. The no-noising is particularly noticeable on Gaucho, especially on "Babylon Sisters," where the quiet bits have no audible hiss whatsoever, and where the hi-hat hits have a strange-sounding decay compared to the earlier masters.

    That's my experience, anyway.
  14. audiodrome

    audiodrome Senior Member

    North Of Boston
    Re: Re: Examples of current "newly remastered" CD catalogs better than the '80's verions

    I don't hear much compression at all. In fact, I feel that the new remastering really makes the music breathe sounds a lot more dynamic. On all of the A/B tests that I did, there was clearly WAY more detail and "air" on the new Steely Dan remasters.

    I'm with you on this one somewhat. I don't think the new ones are perfect, but the old London CDs weren't either. On the old CDs, it sounds like there is a blanket over the whole mix, whereas the new remasters, although a little bright and brittle, give the drums a lot more definition.
  15. audiodrome

    audiodrome Senior Member

    North Of Boston
    Why does everyone always make comparisons to vinyl? I don't know about you, but I want my CDs to sound the original master tapes, not the original LPs. I understand that the original vinyl can be a good reference when judging a new remaster, but there are a lot of vinyl pressings out there that just don't have the frequency response of the original master tapes. When someone describes a new remaster as being "too bright," couldn't it be that the original tape itself is bright or bassy, and that the vinyl that's being used for comparison is lacking?
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Paul, meaning no disrespect, but I don't think you do. The old Steely Dan and Moody Blues CD's being discussed are flat transfers from the master tapes. You don't seem to like the sound at all.
    McLover, Prism and TimB like this.
  17. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    To each his/her own, Steve, but I trust your opinion 100% as just that, an opinion. BTW, when you e-mailed me saying you like the Glenn Miller CD I highly recommend, you agreed with me that it is a great disc as it was mastered flat which is the only way to master music from this era.
  18. Steely - Blues

    My main complaint about the Moodies is that the proper (original) stereo mix was not released on cd. Imagine my horror when I blew $30 ion the MoFi gold cd and heard a late 70's remix of the album. Beah!

    I picked up the '85 cd of 'A Decade Of Steely Dan' and was blown out of my socks at the fidelity.
    OBVIOUSLY pre-nonoise.
    Hope I NEVER hear the remasters. Hope to hear DVD-A's of them all, though, if my remixed 'Nightfly' is any indication of what to expect.
    TimB likes this.
  19. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    I agree that the '85 mastering of A Decade of Steely Dan sounds excellent. I will eventually pick up the Steely Dan Greatest Hits 2 LP set for the key tracks that aren't on Decade.
  20. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    I remember not long ago Arin mentioned something about how the sound quality on Steely Dan LP's is pretty variable - maybe that's why Grant's copy of Aja on LP resembles the current remaster to him. My copy of Aja on LP sounds very good - it's is a Bernie Grundman mastered cutting (looks like his handwriting in the dead area), and sounds pretty similar to the MoFi CD (at least tonally), which Steve said in the past is a flat transfer from the true analog stereo master. I like the MoFi CD - it sounds very good to my ears - it could benefit from a little bit of tasteful EQ, but it's fine.

    I have a few of the current remasters - I'm starting to get sleepy :), so I can't remember the sound of the 4 that I have, but I can remember how the current Pretzel Logic turned out (since I played it about two weeks ago): compressed quite a bit and kinda bright, though not unlistenable. Obviously could've been better though. I'll have to give the others a listen tomorrow. Cool liner notes by the Dans of Steel though on alll the discs I bought (Countdown, Pretzel, Katy, and Scam) :).
  21. wes

    wes Senior Member

    I could be mistaken here, but I think I remember Steve saying that the MOFI gold disc, or LP version of AJa had some treble added..............

    Any comments Steve?

  22. Grant

    Grant Life is a rock, but the radio rolled me!

    I guess i'll have to pull out my copy of my Aja LP and read off the matrix numbers in the runout so you all will have something to go on.


    I loaded up the track "Black Cow" from the 1999 remaster, then straight from the LP into Cool EDit. Then I RMS normalized the CD to the LP levels. I then edited the two together at a randomly choosed point and played the edit area. There was NO difference in EQ or tonality. The only difference was in the S/N because the CD was quieter, of course. I then simply synched up the tracks from both the LP and CD and played them on my stereo, switching back and fourth and still heard virtually no difference.


    When I first heard the 1999 remastered CD, I too thought it sounded too bright. But then I realized that the LP was just as bright when I did my test. So, what you are saying is that the LP is also too bright for you. I suppose that Nichols could have used the LP as his reference for the CD, and he just happened to use an ABC LP pressing from the same batch I have. Who knows.

    I just know that all of the 1999 CD remasters get me closer to the way the songs sounded in the 70s. This is especially true with "Can't Buy A Thrill".
  23. oxenholme

    oxenholme Senile member

    When the music is strong enough the sound quality does not necessarily matter. Normally fidelity is the holy grail, and I prefer the softer sound of the CD's I bought twenty years ago to the harder sound of many more modern discs, but ... I found myself absolutely captivated listening to a dub from medium wave wireless (am radio) of the Listen With Mother music that I hadn't heard since I was 5.
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  24. audio

    audio New Member

    Well said.
  25. JPartyka

    JPartyka I Got a Home on High

    My Canadian ABC red-vinyl Aja is my favorite of all the copies I have so far. The MoFi vinyl I have is too bright for my ears; same thing with the '99 remastered CD, though it sounds good in the car or on a boombox. I used to have the MoFi CD as well, but found it dull. I also have two US ABC LPs, which are all right but just a bit less focused than the red-vinyl one.

    One of my local CD shops has a used early CD of Aja (with CRC on the back, I assume that's Columbia Record Club) for $6.99, I think. I've been tempted to grab it for comparison, but do I need another copy of this album?? Heck, maybe I do ...

    I must confess, I do like the other '99 Steely Dan remasters I've picked up (Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, Gaucho), though I'm still on the hunt for good vinyl copies of the first two. I know Katy had its problems, but did Pretzel ever sound good on vinyl? So far I have an early US ABC and a later US MCA, and neither is great, though surprisingly the latter is better. The ABC is very dull.

    I agree with Gardo that the XTC English Settlement remaster is very good, definitely the best of those I've heard so far (Drums and Wires, Big Express, Skylarking, the Dukes disc, and Nonsuch). I'm not letting go of my British vinyl, though ...
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