Linda's favorite digital versions of all Black Sabbath albums

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by blacksabbathrainbow, Dec 1, 2019.

  1. SOONERFAN

    SOONERFAN Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norman, Oklahoma
    Could one use a program like Audacity to fix an otherwise favorable mastering with unbalanced channels? I seem to recall reading about an early CD version of Judas Priest SWOD having a nice mastering(Line Records?) but flawed by unbalanced channels. I recently figured out how to correct swapped channel mastering with Audacity and curious if this software could be an easy fix for the channel imbalance issue.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
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  2. In principle that's of course possible. In case of the Paranoid 1996/2009, it wouldn't make a lot of sense though, because that's not a good mastering anyway. And in case of the 33PD, I believe that rnranimal reported he had already tried fixing the channel imbalance and it somehow sounded even more 'off' after that.

    I guess that one problem that may arise when a channel has a low volume level is that when you increase the level, the hiss level will increase as well. However, I have no idea if that is (part of) the problem with the 33PD. I doubt that the 33PD's channel imbalance is what makes me prefer the Intercord. It's more about the overall sound. For example, IMO the bass drum has better punch on the Intercord.
     
  3. SOONERFAN

    SOONERFAN Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norman, Oklahoma
    I really like the Paranoid Intercord as well. The Iron Man issues do not bother me, so "fixing" the 33PD is a mute point for me on this album. I was more curious in general if the channel imbalance was an easy fix like the channel swap. It sounds like it is not. I did not realize that @rnranimal had already attempted this. I must have missed that post.
     
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  4. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    Location:
    Ohio
    It could be used to help or fix imbalanced channels but that's a very different problem to swapped channels. Swapped channels just takes each channel and trades them. No alteration to the actual audio have been made. This is a completely non-destructive process in the sense that you could swap them back and end up with the exact audio you started with.

    Correcting imbalanced channels is now an audio altering process and the imbalance can be because of different reasons. If it's merely an issue of the one channel being louder than the other in overall volume, then a gain reduction or addition to one of the channels could fix that. A gain adjustment is altering the audio and so should be dithered. If you only change one channel, then you only need to dither one channel but I don't know of an easy way to do that in Audacity and really, you aren't going to hear the dither so dithering both channels is fine.

    The above is when the cause of the channel imbalance is simple. There are other issues that can cause it/come from it. Phase being one. Phase might be off as well and need fixed or possibly phase is thrown off by the fix of adjusting one channel. I wouldn't worry about phase, though, if once you gain adjust an imbalance you think it sounds ok. But there have been times (specifically the EL 33PD CD imbalance) where after adjusting for the gain imbalance, I still felt it sounded "off". Phase is possibly the reason but since I found a CD I liked better, I never further investigated it on the 33PD. There's also the chance that the imbalance is caused by tonal differences between the channels. Like if the low end of one channel is rolled off vs the other. Then you are going to hear and see an overall channel imbalance but it won't be a matter of one just being overall louder than the other. Now it's a matter of only a certain frequency range being louder/softer. It would then need EQd to bring the balance back. After looking briefly at the EL 33PD CD imbalance, I think this might be partially to blame. The low end between the channels seems to be rolled off in the left channel vs the right as just part of this track but it's looking like there is more rolling off in the left on the 33PD. I think there was faulty dubbing going on when this copy was made which caused issues to the left channel. My guess is gain, EQ and phase adjustments would need to be employed to really correct the track on this CD.

    So some imbalance can be made better/fixed by just using the "amplify" process on one or both channels until they look/sound balanced but if the results are sounding "off" then I'd suspect there is more to the issue than simply the straight gain imbalance.
     
  5. SOONERFAN

    SOONERFAN Forum Resident

    Location:
    Norman, Oklahoma
    I do not recall hearing an obvious difference from a bright/dark standpoint between the S/T SACD and UK Vinyl rip (only have one vinyl rip) either. Perhaps the S/T tracks from the 33PD were darker (need to listen/compare again). I forget where the '86 Castle falls on the bright/dark spectrum as it was not included on my USB stick of files played back on Oppo 205 due to the pre-emphasis issue.

    What are the darker digital masterings (taking vinyl rips out of it) preferred by those who think the S/T SACD is too bright?
     
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  6. I believe it is usually the 1986 Castle or the 33PD (which is incomplete); sometimes combined with tracks from a certain Creative Sounds disc with de-emphasis applied (even though the CS is not pre-emphasized, which is why I don't think it's a good idea to de-emphasize it - the de-emphasis filter was designed for very specific circumstances, not for solving random brightness problems). Or the 2009 Sanctuary.
     
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  7. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    Location:
    Ohio
    The '09 is a nice darker mastering.
     
  8. hvbias

    hvbias Midrange magic

    Location:
    Northeast
    Thank you, I suspect I would have heard the mild track to track variability in brightness between them as well, as the SACD would have been just what was on the recording.

    Like I said in the post, while we might have felt the LP was brighter, these are by no means significant differences, and really only written for the sake of accuracy instead of basically saying they were the same tonally. And when dealing with these very minute differences MC cartridge type and loading will play a role.

    Does anyone have suggestions for which version of Paranoid I should compare against the Intercord? I do not want to do more than one comparison this type around. It's too time consuming to start throwing many in the mix :) My guess is the HDTracks?

    Edit: if someone does feel it is worth comparing two versions against the Intercord I'm up for it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2019
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  9. hvbias

    hvbias Midrange magic

    Location:
    Northeast
    @rxcory are you down with the metal fabs? Would love to hear what you have to say if you've heard/done any comparisons on digital.
     
  10. IMO the Japan 33PD, the 2014 HDtracks (or the 2016 CD - same mastering) and the Japan 1991 TECP are the strongest competitors of the Intercord. A few people would probably add the 1986 Castle. Maybe start with the HDtracks and do the others next time?
     
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  11. hvbias

    hvbias Midrange magic

    Location:
    Northeast
    That sounds reasonable, I think I have to include the 33PD in the mix as well, I thought I had wrote a comparison about it against the HDTracks and even had a discussion about it with some of the regulars posting here but that doesn't seem to be the case.

    I see that you say the bass is summed to mono on the HDTracks. Usually this indicates that it was sourced from an LP cutting tape as vinyl needs to have the bass summed below a certain frequency (and what sparked pages and pages of debate on Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy remaster source). I wonder if this means that the UK master for Paranoid is unusable, lost or something else? It might also explain why the SHM-SACD was sourced from a Japan tape and not flat transferred from UK tapes like the others? Of course I could just be reaching here :)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Just for sake of having most of my comparisons in a single thread this is what I thought of Vol. 4, I was quite surprised the 33PD didn't sound good: (italics copy and paste)

    The "forum favorite" version of Vol. 4 on vinyl is the UK first pressing/first matrix which is cut by George Peckham (famously inscribes Porky in the dead wax)- this LP has a wow ya effect to it, but in reality it has a couple of db added to the upper midrange. There is also a touch of compression that brings things a bit more forward sounding, which adds to that wow effect.

    For the heck of it I compared the SHM-SACD for Vol 4 against the 33PD-354 2-fer. SHM-SACD had already been my go to version [because I compared it against the UK first pressing Porky LP], but I figured why not :tiphat:

    I only used Supernaut.

    There is a big difference in mastering between these two. SHM-SACD has a warmth and palpable bass presence that simply can't be matched on the 33PD which sounds too thin and washed out. Midrange is also more fleshed out and enjoyable on the SHM-SACD.
     
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  12. rxcory

    rxcory proud marching band parent

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Last time I did comparisons several years ago I chose needle drops as the best digital. I'll have to revisit.
     
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  13. I had another look into TYR. Most helpful was my email exchange with @rnranimal, who did me the huge favor to analyze the 1990 UK, 1990 US and 1999 EU CDs and thoroughly discuss with me our findings and thoughts. Thank you very much my friend! At the same time, I carried out several further shootout series with Anno Mundi. I will try my best to summarize the results findings here.

    1990 Japan VICP-67 Victor
    1990 Netherlands 24 1070 2_LC 7283 I.R.S.
    1990 UK EIRSACD 1038 I.R.S.
    As already mentioned above, these 3 CDs have 100% identical DR (DR12 on average), peak and RMS values, and the 2 tracks I compared with Foobar2000 Binary Comparator turned out to be digitally identical after correcting for offset. While I can of course not 100% rule out that there may be discrepancies in other tracks, for the time being I will assume they are really the same except for offset. (If anyone has a personal interest in any of these and would like me to run a complete comparison with Exact Audio Copy, let me know.) Additionally, rnranimal found out that the 1990 UK CD (which is the only one of these 3 CDs that I sent him for analysis) and the 1999 EU CD have a DC offset on both channels. Given that the compared tracks were digitally identical between the 1990 UK, Japan and Dutch CDs, I believe that the Japan and Dutch CDs must have the same DC offset as the UK CD. Anyway, I am assuming that's only a minor and probably inaudible issue.

    1990 USA X2 13049 I.R.S.
    Looks like this contains the same mastering as the aforementioned 3 CDs, but shows a few minor differences, including different peaks and minor (probably inaudible) issues including a 1-sample offset of one stereo channel (like an azimuth error, although I am not sure whether that's the right term if, as in this case, it likely didn't emerge in the analog but in the digital domain) vs the UK, Japan and Dutch CDs. Rnranimal's theory is that the issues may have been introduced during digital realtime-duplication via digital tape. However, the 1990 US CD does not have the DC offset that is present in the other CDs, so it was probably fixed for this release.

    1999 EU 07243 5 21298 2 9 EMI
    This is even more similar to the 1990 UK, Japan and Dutch CDs than the US CD, in that the volume levels on the 1999 EU are mostly identical to those on the UK etc., and the 1999 CD has the same DC offset on both channels. However, it shows similar (minor) issues as the 1990 US CD, including the 1-sample offset in one channel. Additionally, at least with Anno Mundi (the track I used for my shootouts), the 1999 EU CD has a bit of additional silence (=offset) at the beginning of the track - which is generally irrelevant, but might actually explain why this CD 'won' my first shootout series above. See my notes below.

    2001 USA 72435-30415-2-6 I.R.S.
    This is compressed (DR9). Based on the tests that rnranimal ran on the 1990 UK, 1990 US and 1999 EU CDs, I can now confidently say that this is the only one of the 6 TYR CDs I own that really contains a unique mastering. Anyway, the only difference I notice is the reduced dynamics. In the 1st TYR shoutout series documented in my post above, this CD scored suprisingly well. However, given rnranimal's findings above, the results of the first shootout have to be qualified in light of the fact that the other 3 CDs I tested basically all share the same mastering (see my notes below). The fact that my shootouts were carried out with headphones and thus (in order to not ruin my hearing) with relatively low volume is likely the reason why the added compression on this CD didn't disturb me. (As most of us know, at lower volumes, compression can sometimes be beneficial, or at least not as disruptive as at higher volumes.) Anyway, since the added compression is the only difference I have noticed on this CD, I didn't include it in my further test runs because I don't feel I have any need for a TYR mastering that is compressed but otherwise the same as on the other CDs.

    Further TYR shootouts

    Yesterday I carried out a 2nd TYR shootout with the 1990 UK, 1990 US and 1999 EU CDs. (I excluded the 2001 US CD, for reasons mentioned above.) The surprising results: 13x 1990 UK, 3x 1990 US, 3x 1999 EU CD. I say "surprising" because in my 1st shootout series above, the 1999 EU had been the winner and the 1990 UK the loser.

    Anyway, when I started this 2nd shootout series, I noticed that the 1999 EU track had a notable offset vs. the others. (I am now NOT referring to the azimuth issue rnranimal detected, which refers to offset between two stereo channels; instead, I am now referring to additional samples of digital (or mostly digital) silence in BOTH channels at the beginning of this track, as compared to the other 2 tracks.) I used the shootout software to correct the offset (non-permanently and, I am sure, imperfectly) by ear before I ran the test.

    This morning, I decided to correct the offset more thoroughly and permanently with iZotope RX. Thus, I made sure that all 3 tracks would start at exactly the same point without any delay vs the others. Then I ran a 3rd series of shootouts, this time using the offset-corrected tracks. Score: 6x 1990 UK, 6x 1999 EU CD, 5x 1990 US CD. So basically it looks like I couldn't really tell a difference between the tracks this time. Indeed, during the shootouts, choosing felt even harder than in the previous series because everything really sounded the same. Which seems to suggest that during the first 2 shootout series, my brain, asked to look for differences (as rnranimal aptly put it), had picked up the only difference it could find, caused by the tiny delay that was left even after roughly correcting the offset by ear before running the 2nd series. But how, you might ask, can offset/delay possibly introduce a difference in sound? Well, my shootout software allows me to pick a spot where to start listening to each track; so, if I pick e.g. 0:30 and click track A, this track will start playing at 0:30, until I click one of the other tracks, which will also start playing at 0:30, and so forth, until I choose which tracks sounds best to me at this point and move on to the next spot I want to listen to. Now of course, with said offset differences, whichever starting point I chose, each of the releases would actually start at a slightly different point, and thus would sound slightly differently at the start. For example, one would start right before a certain drum roll, the other one would start at the beginning of the drum rull - which would naturally make a difference.

    After the 3rd shootout series I took a break, then carried out a 4th and final shootout series. The results were almost identical to the 3rd above: 6x 1990 UK, 5x 1999 EU CD, 5x 1990 US CD. Today's shootouts suggest that my ears and brain didn't really notice the azimuth issue rnranimal found on the 1990 US and 1999 EU CDs, despite my listening with headphones. That seems to make sense, given that the offset differences I found between the releases, while small, were still much larger than the offset difference between the channels on the 1990 US and 1999 EU CDs. Once the offset between the releases was entirely corrected, my ears were unable to detect any significant difference anymore, and thus my latest 2 shootout series suggest I don't really have a preference between the 3 tested CDs.

    Conclusions

    Basically, if you have either the 1990 UK, Japan, Dutch or US CD or the 1999 EU CD, you should be fine, since all of them contain the same mastering. It is not perfect, but dynamic-sounding (DR12). If you want to be on the safe side, the 1990 UK, Japan or Dutch CD may be preferable over the 1990 US and 1999 EU CD since the latter 2 were likely copied from the UK CD in a way that introduced certain additional (minor) issues, most notably the 1-sample azimuth error. But it is very unlikely that you'll actually hear the difference. The only release I have that contains a different mastering is the 2001 US CD. However, given that the only discernible difference is its added compression (DR9 vs DR12), it is hardly commendable.
     
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  14. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    Location:
    Ohio
    The HDtracks set is the mastering done for the 2012 vinyl set. All the tracks except Wicked Word have summed bass. So rather than them being sourced from vinyl cutting tapes, they are digital masterings done specifically for vinyl with vinyl cutting moves baked in. Wicked World in the HDtracks set is different from what was used on the '12 vinyl set and doesn't have the bass summed.

    The V4 SACD is by far the clear winner for me. The 2009 is 2nd and Castle '86 3rd with no other digital mastering worth a rating from me.
     
  15. Yep, I just wanted to write the same thing about the 2014 HDtracks - all 8 albums in that series minus Wicked World have the summed low end, not just Paranoid.

    Also, the Paranoid and Heaven and Hell SACDs, both of which are sourced from Japanese copy tapes, were a different, slightly earlier series of releases than the other 4 Sabbath SACDs. I don't think their being sourced from different tapes had anything to do with the condition of the UK master tapes; rather, when the Paranoid and HaH SACDs were prepared, there simply wasn't a deal in place to use the UK tapes.

    Actually, the Paranoid 2012 Pearce remaster shows that a UK tape for Paranoid in very good condition does exist (whether it is the master tape or a low gen copy tape, we'll probably never know for sure). The mastering is much too bright IMO, but the source seems fine. Basically, the 2012 remasters would have been a great opportunity to finally present us with upgrades especially for Paranoid, TE and NSD. Regrettably it was ruined, primarily by the overly bright mastering.
     
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  16. I found the following post of yours from 2016 in another thread - it does sound like you really liked the Paranoid 33PD:
     
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  17. hvbias

    hvbias Midrange magic

    Location:
    Northeast
    I found this post :) What I should have specified is I thought that there was track to track variability on the 33PD for Paranoid with some having worse fidelity than others. But I can not find myself writing that anywhere on this forum, this is why I wanted to include the 33PD in my comparison.

    That is the gold standard that many of us are using for the baseline :) Just overall the first pressing UK vinyl are much less messy than the poor way Sabbath have been treated on digital.

    This makes complete sense, thanks! The only thing I can recall about the HDTracks is all of the tracks had good fidelity, but not great EQ.

    I am in complete agreement on Vol 4 SHM-SACD.
     
  18. rnranimal

    rnranimal Senior Member

    Location:
    Ohio
    Yeah, they seem to have used quite good sources but the EQ leaves a lot to be desired.
     
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  19. I just looked up the MOR/Vol4 33PD-354 you tested. It is missing Under the Sun, so even if sounded great, that version of Vol4 could at best work as part of a hybrid. Anyway, your comparison suggests we don't need to bother. :)
     
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  20. hvbias

    hvbias Midrange magic

    Location:
    Northeast
    I only used Supernaut. The differences were so exaggeratedly in favor of the SHM-SACD that I never even looked to see if the 33PD was complete.
     
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  21. Cross Purposes

    I really like this album. The weakest track IMO is Evil Eye; What's the Use (the Japan bonus track) doesn't fully convince me either. I pretty much either like or love all other tracks.

    I have these releases:
    • 1994 Italy 0777 7 13222 2 8 I.R.S.
    • 1994 Netherlands 0777 7 13222 2 8 I.R.S.
    • 1994 USA 07777 13222 2 8 I.R.S.
    • 1994 Japan TOCP-8128 I.R.S. (incl. What's the Use)
    • 1994 USA DPRO-10744 I.R.S. (promo CD)
    After correcting for offset and additional samples at the beginning or end of tracks, these CDs are all digitally identical outside What's the Use, which is exclusively available on the Japan CD. Accordingly, no need for a shootout here - if you want the bonus track, you'll need the Japan CD, and if you don't need the bonus track, any of these would do the job.
     
  22. kevin5brown

    kevin5brown Analog or bust.

    I think @Dave found that the 33PD for Vol 4 (and MoR) needed to be demphasized or something. It's incomplete for Vol 4, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2019
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  23. Hmmm, I am skeptical. The Paranoid & s/t 33PD definitely does not have PE, so it seems unlikely that the MOR & Vol4 33PD, released in the same year, has it. The only possible way to conclude that the MOR & Vol4 33PD has PE would be if it had the OE flag, but obviously it doesn't. It sounds bright, yes, but so do many other releases that don't have PE.
     
  24. I am not surprised that there aren't many responses to my discussions of the Tony Martin era Black Sabbath releases, but I admit I am a little surprised that there's hardly ANY response to them at all (except Anthrax's question above regarding my firstTYR post). Mind you, this comment is NOT addresses at the (many) people here who simply dislike the Martin era or are not interested in it. I perfectly get that (and I would never claim that the Martin era is as significant as the Ozzy or Dio eras). What I don't get that is this: Why do even those people who do claim to like the Martin era not respond? I mean, there are people, and not just 2 or 3 of them, on this forum who keep saying that they like or even love the Martin era. A few of them have even claimed that it is better or as good as the Ozzy or Dio eras. Others have just said that while they do agree that the Ozzy and Dio eras are superior, they still find the Martin era quite enjoyable. (I am part of this latter camp myself.) I even invited some members who have proclaimed their fondness for the Martin to this thread. No reaction. Given that this forum deals with audio mastering, I expected that at least some of those who like the Martin era albums would be happy to - finally - find a serious discussion on the diverse releases available for those albums. Apparently I was wrong, and I feel a little disappointed. This must be grist for the mill for those who have always suspected that someone who likes the Tony Martin era can hardly be a serious listener of music. It does look like I am an exception in that respect.

    Not a biggie - I am doing this thread mainly for myself and for the general pleasure of discussing Black Sabbath's mastering with fellow members, and I am determined to review the masterings available for each and every Sabbath album (even the ones I never or rarely listen to myself - which includes Reunion, Live... Gathered..., 13 and The Devil You Know, ), even if some of them don't get much attention.
     
  25. rnranimal just pointed out to me which of Dave's posts your comment probably referred to:
    Which Black Sabbath Pressings share the same Masterings?

    In that post, Dave claimed that both 33PD releases (Paranoid & s/t and MOR & Vol. 4) share the same "source mastering" (whatever that's supposed to mean) as the respective Castle NELCD and CLACD discs. In addition, he claims that the NELCD sound a bit better than the CLACD releases, and speculates that 'the "new industry standard" of replication speed at 4X where previously it was in real time' might be to blame for that.

    I just did some listening. The MOR & Vol. 4 33PD, played with or without DE filter applied, sounds notably different from both the MOR and Vol4 Castle CDs. Accordingly, there's zero reason to believe that the 33PD has pre-emphasis - it just sounds bright (and so are many other releases without PE).

    As for the Paranoid & s/t 33PD, the Paranoid portion sounds clearly different from the Castle CDs. The (incomplete) s/t portion does sound very similar to the Castle though - I don't know if it is entirely the same mastering, but it is surprisingly close IMO. (Given that Dave is the only one here I have ever heard saying those are actually the same, I tend to believe they are just similar.) Anyway, it isn't really that important, since the s/t 33PD is incomplete, and I prefer the SACD anyway.

    As for the claim that the Castle CLACD releases, while containing the same masterings as the NELCD discs (as even Dave admits), somehow sound a bit worse, that's both untrue and impossible. The only digital difference between those CDs is offset. Outside offset, they are 100% digitally identical. The "4x replication speed" theory doesn't make any sense at all either: if replication speed (whatever it was at the time - both the NELCD and CLACD releases are from 1986) actually affected the sound of those disc, then there would necessarily be a digital difference. But, again, there isn't. Given that even Sabbath's masterings are subjected to the laws of nature - and this is a thread about masterings, rather than magic, anyway -, I recommend we quickly forget about this. :)
     

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