Getting To The Bottom of King Crimson On CD

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Jeff Carney, Sep 30, 2007.

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  1. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid) Thread Starter

    Location:
    SF
    I spent a good part of the day with different versions of King Crimson on CD, and thought I'd offer up my findings for the forum...

    First of all, please note the following:

    I compared the first seven studio albums. Earthbound and USA were not compared given that they only exist in one form.

    Despite rumors and misinformation due to various releases throughout the world, Crimson can be dealt with quite simply in terms of masterings.

    1. The original CDs.

    2. The 1989 "Definitive Edition" remasters.

    3. The 1999 "30th Anniversary" remasters.

    The following additional masterings are important:

    1a: The West German Polydor remaster of In The Court.

    3a: The 2005 "Original Master Edition" of In The Court.

    Also, to get this out of the way:

    Ttbomk, early Toshiba-EMI "black triangle" pressings have proven to be almost identical (if not identical) to the original EG CDs.

    Real or imagined differences between different pressings of the same remasterings were not considered. I used the DGM/WHD Japan mini lp CDs for my comparisons. These CDs use the 1999 30th Anniversary remasterings with the excpetion of In The Court, which used the 2005 OME mastering (noted above).

    I do not have any of the 1989 "Definitive Edition" remasters, and those who do can chime in. So... please especially note: When I refer to EG CDs, I am referring to the original discs issued on the EG label throughout the world and issed in the mid 80s, not the 1989 Defintive Edition EG releases.

    1. In The Court of The Crimson King:

    Surprisingly, I found the original EG simply trounced the "Original Master Edition" here. I had thought the OME was probably done with little intervention, but actual A/B comparisons revealed this is clearly not the case. While I detected no compression, massive upper midrange boost was present and caused the CD to sound very bright. In contrast, the old EG CD was much warmer, had substantially better midrange and a much more natural sound. This CD is really a winner. I also listened to the old WG Polydor CD, and found this to be a fairly good sounding disc, but dynamically limited with strange EQ. The EG is far better and has tons of punch and power that the WG Polydor simply doesn't have.

    2. In The Wake of Poseideon:

    I preferred the EG here. The 30th is not bad at all, but it has upper midrange boost that sounds processed and sterile. The EG is probably a better suited option for purists here, while the 30th would probably suffice for people who find themselves complaining about "dull" CDs.

    3. Lizard:

    Pretty much the exact same report as #2.

    4. Islands:

    This one gets interesting. Apparently, tapes for "Formentera Lady" were lost, so clean vinyl was used for the EG. It has been reported that in 1989, they tried to use some form of primitive no-noise to mask this, but that is not the case on this earlier disc. I believe that the vinyl rip was used for "Formentera Lady" through "The Sailors Tale," but starting with "The Letters," the CD is clearly from tape. For more natrual tonality, I found the EG to be superior, and even where the vinyl was used, it sounded more pleasing. The 30th clearly had what seems to have been a common technique used by Simon Heyworth and Fripp on the 30ths of the first four albums (open that baby up with some 3-6k). I think I would recommend the EG, because even with vinyl having been used for the first two tracks, the CD sounds consistent and the vinyl rip was actually very clean, with a few pops and clicks being a small price to pay for a presumably more faithful rendition of the tapes.

    5. Larks' Tounges In Aspic:

    Here is gets tough. The EG CD appears to have a slight top end boost. The 30th cuts this, which is quite pleasing, but also sounds like they may have started experimenting with some light limiting and compression, a problem not found on the other 30ths I've compared. I think I lean towards the 30th just a bit here, but the EG disc would probably sound just about perfert if one were to roll off a touch of that top end.

    6. Starless and Bible Black:

    Pretty much the same problem as #5.

    7. Red:

    This one was easy. The EG disc eats the 30th alive. No comparison, whatsoever. The EG mastering is warm, full of midrange and pleasing to the ear. The 30th has massive upper midrange boost and is way too harsh in that respect. It also sounds like it might have been lightly compressed, but the bigger issue is the (IMO) odd decision to add so much EQ to the 30th.

    So, in conclusion, I would be interested in hearing the 1989 editions of Larks and Starless only, but for the rest of the albums, I feel I have gotten to the bottom of this by finally sitting down and running A/B listening tests. I avoided this mess for a long time. :laugh:
     
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  2. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    Great post. Jeff. It's good to have it all here in one thread. :thumbsup:
     
  3. Andreas

    Andreas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    That is a paradigm shift.
     
  4. yesstiles

    yesstiles Forum Resident

    You really need to get the 1989 EG's Jeff. The Larks-Bible-Red versions do sound really good, IIRC.
     
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  5. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid) Thread Starter

    Location:
    SF
    I don't expect them to beat the earlier CDs, to be perfectly honest, but I am interested to see what they did with Larks and Starless, or if they found slightly better tapes.

    The first issue of Red is all I need. There's no way they could have topped that, IMO.
     
  6. yesstiles

    yesstiles Forum Resident

    What countries were those original EG's made in?
     
  7. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid) Thread Starter

    Location:
    SF

    So far, I've seen US, UK, Sweden...

    Many pressings. All the same, afaik.
     
  8. progmog

    progmog Forum Resident

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    I have the Toshiba-EMI black triangles which, to all extents and purposes, are identical to the EGs (I remain agnostic about pressing differences between digitally identical CDs) and these are my preferred versions in all cases.

    The biggest surprise for me was the original of 'In the Court...'. At first, I was of the opinion that the 'Original Master Edition' could not be beaten. However, once I got hold of the original, I began to dislike the Original Master Edition more and more. Granted, it has more detail than the original, but I prefer the warmer sound of the original.
     
  9. .....and for anyone who wants to know what the DE versions sounded like - just don't even bother.
    Now for the others.....
    I'm guessing that the EG versions are the same as the old Polydor vinyl versions - and these were seriously inferior to the prior Island records releases. How would one tell whether the Polydor or Island versions were used....?
    In The Wake Of Poseidon in The Devil's Triangle at 3:49 the fog horn noise in the right channel slowly appears out of the noise floor in the Polydor (and DE version) and comes blasting out full force in the Island and 30th Anniversary versions.
    Islands used a seriously inferior tape in the Polydor and 2 DE versions (there were lots of tapes noises apparent that weren't present in the Island vinyl or the 30th CD). I don't care what anyone says - the only CD of this that sounds anything like Island vinyl is the 30th (and subsequent) - all else is poo!.
     
  10. Larks' Tongues - one had only to look at the grooves in the Island pressings to see the huge dynamics contained compared with the limited Polydor versions and the visual inspection matched the sound - dynaically limited crescendos especially in LTIA 1.
    Red was always a bit limited in dynamics and never suffered too much in vearious versions - there is more bottom end on the 30th CD than I remember on Island vinyl, but that is a good thing IMHO.
     
  11. drbryant

    drbryant Forum Resident

    Not being a fan of King Crimson, I never purchased their CD's. But I remembered listening to "In the Court . . . " many years ago and liking it, so recently when I saw a perfect (and I mean PERFECT) black triangle w/obi for $60, I couldn't resist and bought it. It sounded warm enough, but seemed to lack the dynamics I remember from the vinyl. Is my mind playing tricks on me, or did the vinyl have much more "slam" than the CD?
     
  12. fredhammersmith

    fredhammersmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montreal, Quebec
    Red is on my desert islands discs list, and Starless is an absolute favorite. I have never heard the EGs, but the 30th anniversary is certainly strong in the upper midrange. Very strong. The only other version i have is the Definitive Edition boxset (Frame by Frame), and Fripp edited the interesting part, i never understood why. I am looking forward hearing the EG mastering, if i can find one.
     
  13. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid) Thread Starter

    Location:
    SF
    I am inclined to agree about the 1989 DE remasters, but it's been a long time since I heard them. Regarding your comment about bowels and such, do you own the ORIGINAL EG Islands disc?

    I'll post samples of the 30th of Islands and the original EG. This is one album where I will likely keep both discs, but for some of the other albums, I was surprised by how much better the EG discs were.

    As regards your question of Polydor vs. Island tapes, I'll check the EG, but in the case of In The Court, the WG Polydor is clearly from a totally different source tape. The EG crushes it.
     
  14. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid) Thread Starter

    Location:
    SF
    Sounds like the WG Polydor to me.

    Maybe that disc used the Polydor mastering?
     
  15. Jeff Carney

    Jeff Carney Fan Of Specifics (No Koolaid) Thread Starter

    Location:
    SF
    Well, as discussed, in the case of Red, the EG just flat out smacks the 30th and it is down for the count. Unlike some of the other discs, where I could surely see people disagreeing a bit, I can't imagine anyone here preferring the 30th. That first EG version of Red is an absolute gem. :thumbsup:
     
  16. fredhammersmith

    fredhammersmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Montreal, Quebec
    I have a silly question, but it would help me in describing some characteristic s of my speakers to the guy who made them:
    Fripp's solo in Starless (30th anniversary):
    he's hitting one note repetedly from 6:00 to 6:11, then another from 6:11 to 6:33 and another one from 6:33 to 7:10.
    Can somebody tell me... those 3 notes... where do they fall on the frequency range? 3K? 5K?

    Sorry to interrupt.
    Please resume the discussion.:winkgrin:
     
  17. tommy-thewho

    tommy-thewho Forum Resident

    Location:
    detroit, mi
    Can we have some pictures of what to look for with these "EG" disks that sound so good....
     
  18. JayB

    JayB Forum Resident

    Location:
    CT
    As always, I appreciate your efforts Jeff!

    Now though I have to find a new copy of "Red"!
     
  19. aviserated

    aviserated New Member

    Location:
    oxford, ga., USA
    My original vinyl version of Red sounds too compressed.

    The Original Master Edition CD of In The Court sounds very nice on my system...nice detail and 3D.
     
  20. SilentCries

    SilentCries New Member

    Location:
    NOLA
    Have you heard the new 2006 Japanese release of In the Court which uses the long-lost original master tapes for side 1? It renders all previous versions obsolete, including the recent 30th Anniversary edition.

    EDIT: Unless that's the original master edition. I'd prefer a cleaned-up "I talk to the wind" over something considered more audiophilic.
     
  21. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    I will have to listen to these again.
     
  22. Andreas

    Andreas Forum Resident

    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Why is that? If, as you imply, HDCDs don't perform well on standard CD players, that itself is a weakness and should be considered.
     
  23. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    I deleted my post because I noticed Jeff has an Oppo 970 which I believe does HDCD.
     
  24. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    IMO, HDCDs played back on standard cd players is a weakness.
    I have noticed that some cd players handle HDCD better than others. I have an Oppo 970 and it is ok, a bit on the bright side. I mainly use the Oppo for SACD which I think it does better than redbook. I have an old Denon 1520 that I use for redbook, but HDCDs sound brighter than they should on that unit. My APL 3910 is another story, most of my HDCDs sound warmer than on my other units.
     
  25. butch

    butch Forum Resident

    Location:
    ny
    I never liked the original EG disc of In the Court.What that was mastered from a third generation tape?Was that an equalized LP mastertape?It might have been warmer than even the new "we found half the mastertape and now we found the other half " editions of In the Court,but it sounded wrong IMO!I actually prefer the subsequent remasterings to the EG cd,even though they sound less analogish sounding.Is the SACD in the can or was this just idle chatter?
     
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