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uk_lefty

Digital remasters, yes or no?

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I'm getting quite miffed with buying old albums I used to have on cassette or vinyl to find they've been "digitally remastered". I seem to always end up with something where the bass drums are brought too far forward or little unnecessary guitar twiddles are brought forward, weird backing vocals, or whatever. From my experience of these it seems one person from the band has taken control of the mix, the drummer or the "second guitarist" and they just ram themselves to the front of the mix at the expense of the rest of the band, often taking away from the original not adding to it. 

Anyone else find this? Are remasters a good or bad idea?

Can anyone tell me a remaster that enhanced their enjoyment of a song or album? I'm yet to find one!

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in my limited experience it's the bass guitar that's more prominent in the mix, well the Beatles and the Clash's are, so I prefer them, but I suppose it depends whose done the remix, everything does seem clearer though so all in all I think they are a good thing, mostly

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Old school remasters, for me at least, just added a bit of gain and seasoning to otherwise quiet and lacklustre releases, nothing wrong with that, even if it is a bit of a cash cow.  Buyer beware.

On the subject of digital remastering, pretty much everything undergoes a digital transfer of some sort now; it doesn't matter how precious you are about your analogue tape masters, this will get transferred into 1s and 0s for CD or digital releases, obviously many recordings are recorded digitally, obviating the necessity for tape.   I'm pretty certain that digitally remastering these 1s and 0s isn't as hands on as the blurb seems to infer and there's feasibly automated software analysing, compressing, EQing and adding sparkle to lifeless recordings.

On the subject of specific tracks, hmm.  I do remember there were some early Madonna tracks that went through DR to make them sound super-wide, they sounded fine, but if you didn't have an initial point of reference, then you wouldn't know any different.  I do love the track Cherish, it did sound different, if nothing else. 

So, summary, remastering good or bad?  In the main, bad.  Albums are so overproduced now, there seems little point in remastering anything from the last 35-odd years, unless it's to fix major errors in the mastering process (read up on Skylarking by XTC).  Prior to this period, there's an argument for remastering, but only from the viewpoint that the early analogue to digital transfers were pretty poor (I'd cite here that the recent Fleetwood Mac reissues, especially Rumours, sound amazingly good).

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I`ve just bought the re-mastered version of Appetite for Destruction and it`s great. Before the guitars were mainly Slash, whereas now you can really hear the distinction between him and Izzy and it`s a revelation, Izzy does so much and his lines are quite a lot different to what Slash plays. It really makes for good listening, hearing two separate guitar lines fitting so well together.

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10 minutes ago, Lozz196 said:

I`ve just bought the re-mastered version of Appetite for Destruction and it`s great. Before the guitars were mainly Slash, whereas now you can really hear the distinction between him and Izzy and it`s a revelation, Izzy does so much and his lines are quite a lot different to what Slash plays. It really makes for good listening, hearing two separate guitar lines fitting so well together.

Spot on, the above.

Many albums that came out on CD when the format was in its infancy sounded poor. Original CD releases of The Beatles back catalogue in 1987 where not good, nor was the first CD release of Never Mind The Bollocks. Subsequent remastered improved matters considerably. I seem to remember that the original CD release of The Joshua Tree was mastered very quietly and sounded weak (cue barrage of U2 jokes 😉) too.

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For me, no.  The original mix is what was intended at the time, during the initial creative process. I remember some of the Beatles stuff being re released in "Stereo"  Meaning backing vocals and probably lead guitar panned to one speaker and the rest to the other speaker, so depending on the balance of the system or where you were in the room you got a strange version of the original song.

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3 minutes ago, mikel said:

For me, no.  The original mix is what was intended at the time, during the initial creative process. I remember some of the Beatles stuff being re released in "Stereo"  Meaning backing vocals and probably lead guitar panned to one speaker and the rest to the other speaker, so depending on the balance of the system or where you were in the room you got a strange version of the original song.

the stereo Beatles stuff was nothing to do with remastering that was how they were released originally, nobody took stereo seriously in the early 60's, when they remastered the Beatles catalogue they made a point of releasing the first 4 albums in mono as well as stereo, and they do sound better in mono.

Incidentally, the first Ramones album was released with guitar in one channel and bass in the other, very strange

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13 minutes ago, BrunoBass said:

Spot on, the above.

Many albums that came out on CD when the format was in its infancy sounded poor. Original CD releases of The Beatles back catalogue in 1987 where not good, nor was the first CD release of Never Mind The Bollocks. Subsequent remastered improved matters considerably. I seem to remember that the original CD release of The Joshua Tree was mastered very quietly and sounded weak (cue barrage of U2 jokes 😉) too.

Yeah the 40th edition of Never Mind The Bollocks is on my radar but at nearly £40 I`m a bit reluctant. It is my fave album of all time tho, so maybe I should.

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57 minutes ago, mikel said:

For me, no.  The original mix is what was intended at the time, during the initial creative process. I remember some of the Beatles stuff being re released in "Stereo"  Meaning backing vocals and probably lead guitar panned to one speaker and the rest to the other speaker, so depending on the balance of the system or where you were in the room you got a strange version of the original song.

 

49 minutes ago, PaulWarning said:

the stereo Beatles stuff was nothing to do with remastering that was how they were released originally, nobody took stereo seriously in the early 60's, when they remastered the Beatles catalogue they made a point of releasing the first 4 albums in mono as well as stereo, and they do sound better in mono.

Incidentally, the first Ramones album was released with guitar in one channel and bass in the other, very strange

If you read any of the books on the Beatles' recording methods you'll find as PaulWarning has said they mono mixes were where the time was spent, so it's not great surprise that that they sound superior to the original stereo mixes. For example the mono mixes of Sgt Pepper took the best part of a week to complete. The stereo mix of the whole album was dashed off in an afternoon at the end of the mixing session.

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I listened to the 40th anniversary remaster of The Ramones' 'Leave Home' yesterday.

Sounds very nice indeed - I've always liked the sound of the original (IMHO, their best album without doubt), and the new mixes given it even more....more!

I think there's always good and bad....look at Rush's 'Vapor Trails' - the original mix has been removed from most (if not all) of the streaming sites.....bit of revisionism going on there...and I liked the original! 😁

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I think a lot of dissatisfaction with remasters is down to familiarity of the original mix/mastering sound rather than any actual shortcomings of the new versions. I'm sure if you played both versions of remastered albums to an audience that was unfamiliar with either version, there would be no consensus that the "original" version was better.

For most of the 70s I listened to my records on a Dansette that played one channel of the stereo mix much louder than the other. And this mix was what I became accustomed to. When I did final upgrade to something that played both sides of the stereo image at the same volume, I can remember in several cases being unpleasantly surprised by all the extra instruments that were revealed once their side of the mix was the correct volume. 

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1 hour ago, mikel said:

For me, no.  The original mix is what was intended at the time, during the initial creative process. 

But a lot of the time the mix was a result of the recording technology and practices of the time and not down to what the artists or their producer intended.

Anything recorded on tape machines with less than 16 tracks will have had all sorts of mix decisions made long before all the instruments and vocals had been laid down, all of which would ultimately compromise the final sound of the recordings. If you find that several bounces down the line instruments recorded on the first or second pass were no longer in the right place in the mix you could either live with it or go back to the point when they were recorded and redo the track form there. The second option was only really available to artists with the recording time and budget of The Beatles. Most other bands who had just a couple of weeks to track and mix their album would have to carry on with what they had already done.

Also on most studio-created albums from before the mid 80s a good part of the sound is dictated by the delivery medium - what can and cannot be cut to vinyl and will play properly on the average record player. Many of them won't sound the same on record as they did in the studio, because too much is lost/compromised in the transfer to vinyl.

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2 hours ago, NancyJohnson said:

On the subject of digital remastering, pretty much everything undergoes a digital transfer of some sort now; it doesn't matter how precious you are about your analogue tape masters, this will get transferred into 1s and 0s for CD or digital releases, obviously many recordings are recorded digitally, obviating the necessity for tape.   I'm pretty certain that digitally remastering these 1s and 0s isn't as hands on as the blurb seems to infer and there's feasibly automated software analysing, compressing, EQing and adding sparkle to lifeless recordings.

It is almost impossible to get a 100% analogue signal path from original sound source(s) to final delivery medium. Having tried this myself for one of The Terrortones releases, maintaining pure analogue processing all the way down the chain is expensive and TBH unless I had actually been there at every stage of the mixing, mastering, and manufacturing process and was sufficiently knowledgable about how all the processing equipment worked I could not have 100% guaranteed that the signal hadn't undergone a digital conversion at some point in the process. 

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I think there might be a bit of a misnomer in all this. Any change of format will require a remastering to fit the new medium, even if the goal is to sound as similar as possible to the original release. Some of the poor quality of early CD releases was apparently down the lack of proper correction of mastering during the change over. If, in the simplest terms, dolby is thought of as material which is very bright, with an inherent dip in the EQ within the system to reduce that extra treble, and with it hiss, then it stands to reason that without correction, direct transfer will sound too bright or harsh. It's really about getting all those details right so that the sound of the record isn't lost in translation.

However, this making digital remastering a good thing, it became a buzzword, albeit one which most consumers hadn't the first clue about. 'It says digitally remastered, but it sounds exactly the same, what a rip-off!' So the new versions need something to make them 'better' than the original. How to do that to a classic album? Wow factor is the only way- 'Blimey, never quite heard that shaker before, digital remastering really is worth £15.99 on a record I already own!'

But by that point we have left the remastering process behind and are into remixing and re-producing (rather then reproducing) the record, a very different process and of highly arguable value. These creative choices after the event, and not always made by the artists themselves, dig far deeper back into the process than mere mastering and, rightly enough, don't sit well with many listeners.

The old Star Wars films are a fine example of such a misunderstanding of what the consumer 'thinks' they want, and the use of a technical term by a marketing department. That extra gloss, enhancement of previously unimportant information, and addition of previously unused material, does not neccesarily add value to the end piece, certainly bastardises the original work, and most pertinently to my point, is not 're-mastering' at all.

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on the subject of remastering being a money making exercise by the record company, having bought the original, I have no qualms about obtaining the remaster for free by whatever means possible

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I’ve got the remastered (most recent remaster - there’s been a couple) of LED Zeppelin II and IV on vinyl and they sound awesome; much better than the originals in terms of mix clarity and dynamics. 

I think if they’re done well then it’s a ‘no harm, no foul’ situation.

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Unless the original recording sounds like a toilet then I don’t see any real benefit or gain from digital remasters. Maybe in the near future we as consumers can purchase the individual stems and make our own custom user mix. That would be great. Opening up doors like mashups or complete overhauls of tracks. It probably already happens now but I’m not familiar with it being a commercial “thing”

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I bet I've got loads of remasters in my collection without realising it, or even probably being aware of the original version! therefore, I can probably say it doesn't matter to me at all!

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On 11/07/2018 at 10:45, spongebob said:

I listened to the 40th anniversary remaster of The Ramones' 'Leave Home' yesterday.

Sounds very nice indeed - I've always liked the sound of the original (IMHO, their best album without doubt), and the new mixes given it even more....more!

I think there's always good and bad....look at Rush's 'Vapor Trails' - the original mix has been removed from most (if not all) of the streaming sites.....bit of revisionism going on there...and I liked the original! 😁

I have the Road To Ruin remaster - sounds pretty good to my ears. 

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On 11/07/2018 at 09:45, PaulWarning said:

the stereo Beatles stuff was nothing to do with remastering that was how they were released originally, nobody took stereo seriously in the early 60's, when they remastered the Beatles catalogue they made a point of releasing the first 4 albums in mono as well as stereo, and they do sound better in mono.

Incidentally, the first Ramones album was released with guitar in one channel and bass in the other, very strange

The early Beatles stuff was not true stereo, it was simply panned hard left and hard right. Faux stereo with no instrument placement in the soundstage. They have all been re mastered in stereo, but still sound better in mono.

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On 11/07/2018 at 09:45, PaulWarning said:

Incidentally, the first Ramones album was released with guitar in one channel and bass in the other, very strange

Also the first Van Halen was like this.  

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I got Genesis trick of the tail digital remaster, and then physically threw it out as it was so awful. By changing some of the levels and parts they had increased the echo on some of the guitar parts that it actually changed the time feel of some of the tracks, and I absolutely hated it. 

I certainly wouldn't buy a digital remaster if there was a choice.

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