The best versions for each David Bowie album?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Haristar, Jul 10, 2017.

  1. kaztor

    kaztor Forum Resident

    Thanks. Might give it a shot again later on, but an earlier shoot-out of YA I attended made the WG RCA out to be the winner.
  2. Frank205

    Frank205 Well-Known Member

    Dublin ireland
    Rca cds wg - japan vinyl 69-80.all i need
  3. Mikewest

    Mikewest Active Member

    Absolutely correct, the 1999 emi are rubbish, too compressed, the Rykodisc were great and Parlophones sound good to date !
  4. Mikewest

    Mikewest Active Member

    I have bought a few 1st edition Unlaminated Hunky Dorys lately , it's very hard to find a copy without Clicks/pops especially on quieter tracks such as Changes, Oh you Pretty Things ! Quicksand etc, in fact I dragged out my old copy that was a Mainman as my old 1st issue I chucked out ( too many scratches), and it's perfect !
  5. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars It's a miracle, let it alter you

    I'm going to offer my opinion from a non-audiophile perspective. Might not help any of you unless you want to feel better than me, in which case, congratulations, I humbly bow to your auditory superiority. Talking CDs, haven't heard any Bowie on wax.

    I don't like the recent remasters from the box set. Dynamics are fine but the EQ is sorely lacking. To these ears they sound incredibly muddy and poorly defined. Hunky Dory in particular sounds dismal; I can hear virtually no drums on it anywhere. Diamond Dogs sounds wimpy with zero punch to the guitars. I know we're not supposed to like treble for some reason, but what is glam without that twangy sparkle?

    I've only heard three RCAs, all Japan for US - Ziggy, ChangesOne, and Station To Station (which nobody will buy from me, haha). In my opinion they just sound too thin. Full dynamic scope, but no matter how high I crank the volume, everything that isn't the drums sounds too quiet to me. I feel like it needs to be evened out a bit. Those who want to hear the music virtually untouched, look no further. The EQ is a bit dull but I find it crisper than the Ray Staff box set remasters.

    And here I absolve myself from ever receiving respect again - but I love the '99 Virgin series. Yeah, noise removal, yeah, excessive treble, yeah, some compression. To me these are the only CD issues I've heard that have clarity and punch to them. I'll admit they sound a bit unnatural, sure, but "natural" sounding Bowie to me doesn't cut it (as explained above). These ones, in my opinion, just sound the most accurate. I can hear the drums on Hunky Dory and the guitar doesn't blend into them on Diamond Dogs. If they came with a little bit less treble I wouldn't complain, but that's where the clarity lies for me. So feel free to never take me seriously again, but I prefer clarity over "how it originally sounded", and the '99s win for me.

    I have not heard the Rykos, but I have heard other Ryko CDs and I know what to expect (no bass, ill defined top end). Will pick 'em up if I see them cheap but I doubt they'll topple the '99s for me.
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  6. skisdlimit

    skisdlimit Forum Resident

    Bellevue, WA
    Thank you, UltraSoundSquid, for providing a fresh perspective! :wave:

    Obviously, we all have different ears, and presumably different sound systems/setups/etc. Where this issue is concerned, I too do not own any Bowie on vinyl (I once had the "Fame" single but that was it), and actually got into his music with the Rykodisc reissues, which I've mostly held on to for those generally excellent bonus tracks.

    One RCA disc I tried out was Aladdin Sane, mainly because its Ryko counterpart had no bonuses at all(!), and I cannot deny that the earlier release featured a better bass response, though I probably wouldn't pay big bucks for it again. I did stumble upon the JPN RCA ChangesOneBowie in the used bins for a reasonable price, and picked that up for "John, I'm Only Dancing" and some different mixes on the Young Americans tracks (I hadn't realized the Ryko edition contained remixes), but I have to agree with you that its overall sound is rather thin, so I'm guessing from other posts I've read here that its WG counterpart might actually be better.

    As for the '99 issues, the only one of those I own is the 30th anniversary edition of Diamond Dogs, which was actually released in '04 I believe, but I think this still contains that mastering for the main album (its bonus disc was the main reason I purchased it, and its booklet is nice too). I agree with what you said about the brightness actually helping define the instruments a bit better, as those same tracks on the RCA ChangesOneBowie are indeed a bit muddy, though at high volumes this can become fatiguing.

    Interesting to hear that you think the EQ is off on the recent remasters, which has been a primary criticism leveled at the Rykodiscs, and is something I've actually been able to adequately adjust for courtesy of recommendations from our host. Bottom line is, if you've found discs that are enjoyable to you, I'm glad you like them enough to share your thoughts here. :)
    jsayers likes this.
  7. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars It's a miracle, let it alter you

    Thanks. I neglected to mention that I have no system; I listen to lower-quality MP3s on my terrible iPhone through $20 Sony earbuds most of the time, and occasionally play the WAV files through Audacity through AKG flat response headphones. I can't hear a significant difference. Another thing to bear in mind.

    Like I said, if you want the "untouched" experience, the RCAs are the way to go. But personally, I like my music to sound more "full".

    The one thing I forgot to mention about the '99 series is that it's not as compressed as people sometimes claim or assume it is. It is compressed, yes, but macrodynamics are still fully in place and the microdynamics are much better than most CDs released around that time. I wonder if the people who call them overcompressed have listened to the CD of Blackstar sometimes. The main thing I think people take issue with is the EQ - yes, I agree that it's bright. It's occasionally a bit brighter than I like (and there have been a few times something has been described as "overly shrill" and I thought it could use a bit more treble boost). But for the clarity it brings to the music, I think it's the best we have. Key word is "I think". I'm not much of a thinker, so make of that what you will. I just confused myself trying to make a joke. Never mind.

    I also heard the '99s first, which probably accounts for a bit of my preference. When I first started listening to Bowie (Sept/Oct 2015, I believe right before the Five Years box came out although I could be wrong), I listened to the 2012 Ziggy remaster and the '99s of Space Oddity, Diamond Dogs, and Hunky Dory, as those were the ones available through YouTube's "David Bowie - Topic" thing (the official ones - you know what I mean). It was Ziggy I listened to most, but even then I felt like it sounded muddy, not just compared to the '99s. Around November I finally tracked down the '99 of Ziggy and to me it was a revelation (even though I got a humorous typo in my booklet which proudly presented "ZIGGY STARDUS").

    I've been tempted by the box several times, but whenever I feel like I want to pull the trigger on it, I go and listen to the 2015 "Life On Mars" and remember that it would be money wasted as I'd never listen to it. Everything that I want from Recall is from the bonus tracks to the Ryko editions I've been planning to pick up anyway, probably in quality I'd prefer as well.

    I definitely wouldn't say the RCAs are bad, and I'm not even sure I'd say the Ray Staff remasters are, either. It's just that both of them are deficient in the aspects I like. I'm still going to jump on the RCAs when I see them used, even though I've figured out that I'm not going to turn a huge profit as everyone who wanted them already has them (or doesn't care about my Earl Slick autographed Station To Station, haha). And the Rykos have some bonus stuff I'm interested in. But as far as copies to listen to, my go-tos will (probably) always be the '99s.
  8. Carlox

    Carlox Forum Resident

    Porto, Portugal
    Wow, finally i feel better...Thanks UltraSoundSquid.
    I only own the '99 remasters (all the albums). I can not make comparisons because I do not have any other CDs...
    I know they are heavily criticized for the sound quality, but personally, I always liked what I heard, I always found the sound pleasant ... But of course, like I said, I do not have others...
    For now, it's nice to read good reviews about the infamous '99 remasters...:D:D:D:D ;)
    InStepWithTheStars likes this.
  9. Carlox

    Carlox Forum Resident

    Porto, Portugal
    Just one question, the '99 Virgin series have the same sound as the '99 Emi series?
  10. InStepWithTheStars

    InStepWithTheStars It's a miracle, let it alter you

    Apart from complaints about lots of treble, I find that a lot of complaints seem exaggerated. There is no-noise but it's not as bad as, say, The Complete Animals, and while there is compression, they are not brickwalled. If you compare them to other CDs from 1999 - even the other Bowie albums from that period - you'll find they're much more dynamic.

    You can compare them to the commonly available versions on YouTube and Spotify if you want... those are the Ray Staff ones. And older videos of the Ryko bonus tracks are most likely sourced from the Ryko CDs. I'm sure there's a place to sample the RCA masters if you want to, although I don't know where. @Tsomi had a thread with 20-second samples of nearly everything for at least Young Americans, if not more, for a blind listening test, but as for full songs, I don't think there's a legal means of getting them outside of buying the discs secondhand.

    I've got a ChangesOne for sale but overseas shipping is outrageous. If you really wanted to track one down you'd probably do better to find one closer to your area.
    Carlox likes this.
  11. Azura

    Azura Felis silvestris grampia, factum ex trabibus ferro

    Scotland East
    No arguments with any of what has been recommended and will give another thumbs up for the RCA International releases, probably the best way to pick up older Bowie vinyl in good condition with great or at least reliable sound. One caveat though, I may have just been unlucky but three out of my five have been pressed off centre.

    I also have and like a Kick cover MWSTW. Ironically, after years of lusting over the dress cover I took the plunge and bought the reissue with the intention of swapping the disc with an original but I now find I like the kick cover better, even though I first heard it in the dress cover. It seems far more in keeping with the futuristic heavy metal sound of much of the album. (The cartoon cover is just dreadful.) The original DB:W&M and HD covers are just fine. MWSTW really was ahead of its time...

    Interested in any recommendations for Santa Monica 72, which I have always resisted as Ziggy is not my favourite Bowie but am now considering, having seen a 2008 copy in my record shop. Any views? Or given that it is not in my Bowie division 1, should I save some money and get the CD?
  12. Tsomi

    Tsomi Forum Resident

    Lille, France
    For Santa Monica 72 (in digital), I personally prefer this promo version (a bit more complete, and no unnecessary clipping, compared to the official CD):
    David Bowie - Live Santa Monica '72
    or the old APH 102.804 bootleg.

    For vinyl, see this:
    David Bowie: Five Years 1969-1973 - 2015, 13 Vinyl Box Set

    I don't care much for Santa Monica either, but I doubt any LP will sound better than the promo CD or the Belgian bootleg. The actual source is quite rough and low-fi in the first place.
  13. Azura

    Azura Felis silvestris grampia, factum ex trabibus ferro

    Scotland East
    Thanks for the Five Years link, I knew there was something in there but didn;t find it. The promo and the bootleg are probably not realistic choices for me. I may just leave it.
  14. zenarrow

    zenarrow Well-Known Member

    What are peoples thoughts on Bowie lp's from Japan. I have Hunky Dory and Low, I think they sound pretty good, but my Heroes is less than stellar. I have a US Ziggy and it too does not sound the best. It is a reissue. Would a Japanese Ziggy sound good? or should I try and find a UK first press? I just want a really good Ziggy sounding record. Thanks, for any thoughts.
  15. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    I am big on US orange label Dynaflex vinyl for early Bowie. I just added a very early Hunky Dory that sounded so good i wanted to cry.
  16. GyroSE

    GyroSE Forum Resident

    The 2012 40th Anniversary reissue and the two most recent reissues are all very good and affordable good sounding alternatives. I prefer the original UK RCA 6E/4E pressing though which sounds the best to these ears- it's vibrant, dynamic, 'organic' and sound very full. If the 6E/4E wouldn't exist I would probably have one of the recent reissues as my go to version as they sound great.

    Otherwise I really like the green labelled RCA International reissues from 1980-81- I've a few of these like 'Hunky Dory' and 'Diamond Dogs' and they sound very good IMHO.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
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  17. Solace

    Solace Forum Resident

    Brussels, Belgium
    Any experts of Heroes original UK vinyl pressings there? I've got a 1977 UK PL-12522 A-2/ B-2 (Sterling) pressing, which I'm very happy with. Would a UK first pressing A-3E/ B-5E (Dave's RCA), which many see as the finest pressing of Heroes, be that much better? There is a thread dedicated to vinyl pressings of Heroes but no-one has volunteered an opinion.
  18. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    I don’t have all the most recent CD remasters, but the ones I have are very good. Diamond Dogs, Pinups, The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory.. The latter being the worst due to tape wear.

    I have the CD/DVD edition of Young Americans from about 10 years ago. The DVD is great and there are some decent extras. Soundwise, it’s not especially well thought of, but I think it’s OK. Haven’t heard the 2016 remaster, though. If Young Americans is a favourite of yours, I’d certainly consider the CD/DVD.

    The only early WG CD I own is Aladdin Sane. It’s excellent.

    The SACDs of Let’s Dance, Scary Monsters and Ziggy Stardust are great too, but they don’t come cheap nowadays.
  19. Yost

    Yost Always Wondered How Other People Did This

    I recently bought the RCA Young Americans CD and it sounds gorgeous. It’s also one of the cheapest RCA’s around… (although still quite expensive at around €50).

    PS. I do have a proper turntable but only buy vinyl if there is no good sounding (SA)CD available.
    Bobby Morrow likes this.
  20. Dave S

    Dave S Forum Resident

    €50? I'm sure I've seen plenty of RCAs selling for far less than this price. Even the rare CSR Aladdin Sane sold for far less than the $100 I was expecting.

    ps I've also seen plenty of RCAs selling for far more than €50, but that's the nature of the game.
  21. Yost

    Yost Always Wondered How Other People Did This

    Where I live I’ve never seen a Bowie RCA disc in a thrift store or in a used CD bin in a physical store. And online everybody knows their “true” value by now…
  22. Dave S

    Dave S Forum Resident

    I've never seen them in the used bins or thrift store either, but I've seen enough listings to know they never really go dirt cheap, but neither are always €50 and above. Here are the sold listings on ebay (ignore the ones that obviously aren't RCA CDs).
    david bowie rca in Music CDs | eBay

    Two observations:
    1) There are a wide variation of prices paid for many of them, and not often related to condition (auction style listings tend to sell for far less than BIN listings, perhaps not surprising).
    2) There are plenty of copies out there. These are not rare discs compared to other releases, but they are in demand. If you are patient, then I think you can snag a bargain or two.

    Also, if you find them too pricey, then you could always find another release to leverage the money.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
  23. Buggyhair

    Buggyhair Forum Resident

    Ann Arbor, MI
    Where are the Hunky Dory bonus tracks available on a current release? I'd love to have those.
  24. sunking101

    sunking101 Forum Resident

    I actually sought out the 1999 remasters of the pre-Station stuff and paid top dollar for remaining scarce sealed items purely because I think they sound better...
    Quite why they have the rep they do astounds me because they sound so vibrant compared to a lot of the dull sounding later remasters. The original CDs are of course the best but they command so much money for minters that it rules them out for most folk.
  25. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    Bombers was issued on the RSD BowPromo release but neither option is as good as the circulating rip of the original BowPromo or the "trident tape" torrent.
    The Supermen (alt) on Ryko is not the original mix which has yet to receive an official reissue (it was on the Glastonbury Fayre Revelations LP). the "Ryko" version was also issued on the Ziggy Stardust 30th Anniversary edition.
    the Quicksand demo remains unique to the Ryko.
    The Bewlay Brothers (alt mix) remains unique to the Ryko but has no providence so may have been newly mixed in '90.
    BlueSpeedway likes this.

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