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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. qwerty

    qwerty A resident of the SH_Forums.

    From where I sit I feel that being a mastering engineer is a privilege - to be able to hear the (hopefully original) recording tapes and to be responsible for curating musical heritage.

    It really bothers me that there are few mastering engineers (like our host) who are willing to take on the responsibility of the role. There is no reason (apart from economics) why remastering can't take advantage of the improvements in technology and knowledge that have occurred since CDs first emerged. It is downright disrespectful to the consumer not to deliver the best quality. I feel that those who aren't willing to do their jobs properly don't deserve to have them.
     
  2. oxenholme

    oxenholme Senile member

    Location:
    Knoydart
    PolyGram Hanover Love Over Gold was my first CD. A lot of those PolyGram Hanover CDs sound good.
     
  3. MitchLT

    MitchLT Two for the show

    Not an audiophile (or phobe), but I find these mastering discussions fascinating.

    Couldn’t resist the purchase of the Beatles ‘93 CD issues of the Red and Blue albums (5 euros each). How do these bohemiths fit into the great remastering debate? They sound great through my half decent in-car Bose.

    I have both sets in 70’s pressing LP’s too and thinking about needle dropping- worth the bother?
     
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  4. Lemon Curry

    Lemon Curry (A) Face In The Crowd

    Location:
    Mahwah, NJ
    The A/D's ARE better, Steve. It takes a sick amount of engineering to get true 24 bit resolution, and the tech to achieve it is way more advanced than in the 80's. It's like comparing Model T Fords to a BMW. I think when Giles Martin makes yet another transfer of the Beatle multis for Pro Tools, he does in-fact get a better digital base version. It's what he does after that...
     
    Musicisthebest and Stas like this.
  5. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    Location:
    New Braunfels, TX
    That you have a way of making some of my '80's CD's sell for far more than I originally paid back when they were first released. And I have to thank you for that.

    I still can't figure out with all the improved technology why major jazz labels such as Fantasy Records can't record big band groups to make them sound right. My '80's Woody Herman Thundering Herd CD sounds just like the vinyl. A small tiny little band with a silky sound.



    Correction: checked the CD and it shows a 1995 copyright of a 1974 recording. Digital remastering by Phil De Lancie
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
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  6. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion

    Location:
    Winchester, UK
    Block capitals ARE constitutes proof?

    Not that I disagree that A/D converters are technically better. The question though is how significant that is considering that they did a pretty good job even in the 80s. So, 80s A/D vs excessive noise reduction and dynamic range compression? I'd go for the 80s A/D every time.

    Tim
     
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  7. lemonade kid

    lemonade kid Forever Changing

    Of course I'll usually take my ol' vinyl every time--if at all possible. But in some cases the original mastering is not so good, and the new releases are thankfully returning to the analog philosophy of mixing and mastering. The newest remastering of Forever Changes is a good example of remastering finally gone right. But then not many engineers get several tries at getting it right the way Botnick has. I guess you can teach old dogs...

    Of course my remastered Limited Edition 1996 mono DCC "Pet Sounds" 180 gram vinyl by our own Steve Hoffman, and the two Spirit DCC remasters by Steve are prime examples of Steve's and an elite group of contemporary engineers who belong to the school of minimalist remastering. Man, I sure was saddened when DCC went under recently. Such a quality company for the highest quality vinyl and CDs. Plus with DCC's demise we won't get to hear the last two Spirit LPs remastered by Steve! I still love my "Golden Age Of Radio" CDs too, Steve.

    I remember the first time I took a quality remastered CD out of my CD player and innocently inserted a newly brickwalled monster -- what a shock to the system! Whoever thought we needed brickwalling just just so those with ear buds would get a "better" experience should be banned from the "sound board". Thankfully many engineers are "walking away" from brickwalling, and embracing the old analog "sound" in digital remastering.

    Keep 'em coming, Steve!
     
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  8. Time Is On My Side

    Time Is On My Side Forum Resident

    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I feel the same way. I have no idea what some early CDs used for the source, but some of them do not sound bad.
     
  9. Tim Lookingbill

    Tim Lookingbill Alfalfa Male

    Location:
    New Braunfels, TX
    I guess that explains why certain vinyl recordings posted on YouTube sound better than any version of the CD going by a recent discussion on old big band recordings. If the DACs are that much improved then the current systems that play digital music along with primo amps and EQ's it would stand to reason rerecording the best master tape through these systems would also capture more detail and better sound or at least something to improve upon on digital audio workstation.

    I compare this to my first photo restoration project scanning a print of an old high quality film chrome that aged poorly. I got so much more data than what could be seen viewing the print with a magnifying glass. Scanning high bit Raw and editing it in Photoshop brought out tons of detail even though it's a copy of a copy. It came out far better looking than the original for sure. I get quite a few comments online on how well it turned out.
     
  10. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery picture member

    One of the things I've run into regarding old CDs and newer ones "from the original master tapes" is that the original master tapes have aged or degraded over the years. Consequently, those old 80s CDs are made from an earlier time when the degradation wasn't there.

    My case in point is the old Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass gem, "Tijuana Taxi". Back in the 80s, I believe that perhaps LP masters were used on the initial run of Tijuana Brass albums. This that first issue of GOING PLACES on A&M has a nice clean sound on "Tijuana Taxi" and other tracks of course. But "Taxi" is one of the hits that got re-used often on compilations over the years. Both the Japanese and US issues of GOING PLACES sound great as to the copies of "Taxi" on other worldwide compilations up through the early 90s (GREATEST HITS, FOURSIDER).

    When a new compilation was prepared for A&M's 25th, CLASSICS VOL. 1 of course also needed "Tijuana Taxi" to be included. But by then, that original master tape must have been through a lot. There was a noise that started to develop. It's like a "crinkled tape" sound. It's most noticeable on the first ten seconds of the song, primarily on the left channel. It's a gritty, noisy sound, most easily detectable with good headphones. If you casually listen to the song in a car or on a boombox or something, you won't notice at all.

    The next prominent place for "Taxi" came in the final A&M release called DEFINITIVE HITS. This was in 2001 and was mastered by Doug Sax and/or Robert Hadley. I was appalled when I heard "Taxi" on that disc. Not only was the opening noise louder, but it was also noticeable on both channels in that opening rough spot. And a new "wrinkle" was added; the final ten seconds or so now ALSO sounded like a mangled cassette.

    The saga continues with the Shout Factory remasters in 2006. "Taxi" is now surfacing again and the noise is still there. I give Bernie Grundman a lot of credit though as he did manage to work a miracle on the ending distortion so that it's not noticeable. The opening ten seconds though were still ugly sounding.

    In the past year or so, GOING PLACES has once again been treated to another remastering. Randy "Badazz" Alpert and Bernie Grundman (again) worked what magic they could on the tapes, and they don't sound as bad as they did on DEFINITIVE HITS, but the age of the tape and the wars they've been through cannot be denied.

    So, with all of the copies of "Tijuana Taxi" I have around here, where do I go when I want to listen to it? To me, it sounds best on the ancient orange-colored compilation called GREATEST HITS. It was one of those early mid-80s discs, probably mastered from the LP master tape used to make the LPs back in the 70s. It's clean, the highs are well-defined, and if I want it loud - I turn it up!
     
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  11. AlmanacZinger

    AlmanacZinger Zingin'

    Location:
    The Land of Zaat
    That the the post below was sadly prophetic
     
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  12. Gill-man

    Gill-man Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    That these things below weren’t questioned and should have been:

    Where is this audio proof of tape degradation? What does tape degradation sound like? How can we say for definite “this has tape degradation”?

    How can we speak for the artist to say what is or isn’t an artist’s artistic intentions? Many remasters that are considered poor had input by the artists. Who are we to say their remastering choices were profit oriented rather than it being how they wanted their remasters to sound, artistically? What about current artists who had their careers from 1995 onward who made these mastering choices as part of the initial production of their music? Who are we to say their artistic choices aren’t artistic but profit oriented and who are we to change their music that if they are artistic choices?
     
  13. Time Is On My Side

    Time Is On My Side Forum Resident

    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I don't think all remasters sound bad. I have a few Mastered For iTunes albums in 256k AAC that sound fantastic. I feel like that's more the exception than the rule though.
     
  14. AlmanacZinger

    AlmanacZinger Zingin'

    Location:
    The Land of Zaat
    Yeah, but the most recent ABBA remasters show that using the master tapes 20 years or so after the initial CD releases can still display much more detail even with supposed degradation, if those 80s CDs came from something other than the master tapes.

    They just completely botched it at the mastering stage. Ugh!
     
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  15. AlmanacZinger

    AlmanacZinger Zingin'

    Location:
    The Land of Zaat
    Textbook facts, right here.
     
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  16. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Location:
    Midwest
    A. The more technology advances, the more people will misuse it...and the worse things will sound.

    B. It’s not just remastering that went off the rails, but recording in general. I can’t remember the last time I bought a new record and thought, “wow, what a great drum sound!”.

    C. Remix schmeemix.
     
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  17. Time Is On My Side

    Time Is On My Side Forum Resident

    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I don't get why record companies do these terrible mastering practices. Wouldn't you think buyers would want a good, dynamic sounding LP or CD?
     
  18. Sordel

    Sordel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Switzerland
    That even within what must be one of the most sophisticated communities of audio buyers in the World, we will all throw our wallets at the screen the minute we hear about a forthcoming remaster?

    It's almost bizarre how - despite the fact that we all know we should wait for reviews - many of us are all-in on projects such as Kate Bush Remastered where the only benefit is the actual remastering. (This isn't a case where people can say they are taking their chances with the remaster quality because what they are really buying is the bonus tracks, or the book, or the surround remix, because there aren't any of these things.)

    I'm afraid what it really boils down to is that many of us just like buying again music that we know we like. Do we actually A/B? Some do, most don't. Speaking personally, if the balance of comment says that the earlier master of Kate Bush is better, I may revert to that after getting the remasters but I also may just stick with the shiny new boxes because the potential difference in sound quality isn't enough for me to get the old discs out of storage.

    The marketplace estimates the resolve of “audiophiles” very low ... and I thinks it's got us figured out perfectly.
     
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  19. jon9091

    jon9091 Master Of Reality

    Location:
    Midwest
    Not to answer for Steve, but I think many times it’s the artists themselves who drive this decision. Terrible Queen remasters....that’s the guys from Queen behind the decisions.
    I personally talked to a guy from a band called Starz about how bad their remasters sounded. They were squashed to within an inch of their lives...EQ that could kill bugs at 50 ft. His answer...”that’s the way we wanted it. It sounds so much better than the flat sounding originals...it has some balls now”. Personally, I think many of these guys are severely hearing impaired. Standing on stage with amps blasting for decades will do that. But, it’s their music, so there ya go. If the musicians get involved...all bets are off.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
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  20. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery picture member

    The only constant is that there's no constant.
     
  21. Duophonic

    Duophonic Bootlegs are really imports

    Location:
    BEATLES LOVE SONGS
    What, a download being mentioned in a CD thread?
     
  22. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    In one of Henry Rollins' Fanatic books he rants about modern day record companies destroying classic releases in the name of making a few bucks. He warns repeatedly to NOT get rid of your original CDs when you buy a 'New Remastered' version. That said, you kind of have to thank all those people who did because we can now buy them cheap from thrift stores. I've spent the last couple years buying up 'old' original CD pressings for $1 apiece.
     
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  23. AlmanacZinger

    AlmanacZinger Zingin'

    Location:
    The Land of Zaat
    Unfortunately, those who sell original CDs online know the game and price the non-remastered CDs way higher than the remasters. These days it's the remasters that go for pennies.
     
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  24. AlmanacZinger

    AlmanacZinger Zingin'

    Location:
    The Land of Zaat
    Not me, bud. The only way I'll even consider remasters is for bonus tracks and even then I play the original CDs and lament how the bonus tracks should that sound good.

    Except in the rarest cases, the best remasters can do is not fudge the mastering up too bad. Very rarely do they best (or even equal) the originals.
     
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  25. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    Online yes, but it's been my experience that you find a lot of originals dumped in thrift stores by people who thought they were upgrading.
     
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