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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Like most of us i've got a ton of CDs.  When i buy one i look at various versions of a given disc. I've got a lot of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Sony Mastersound, DCC and Audio Fidelity label discs. I've also got a lot of discs that have been remastered. I just want to make sure i understand this.

Music is recorded, mixed and mastered.

A "remaster" is when the mixed source is taken and turned into a new master.  This may be for good or for ill.

An "original master recording" means that the original master tape was used to create the CD you are listening to. It's a one-off process and done by hand. That's why they cost so much (aside from the gold layer)? I'm guessing that usually a master is made and copies of that master are sent to different manufacturers, so you might end up with a CD that's from a 1st, 2nd, 3rd+ generation master tape?  Would that *really* make an audible difference?

So really a "remaster" is moving one step back in the process from an "original master recording", since you're creating a brand new master (which the word remaster would imply). I know that's a stupid question, but i don't trust that marketing terms mean what they should mean.

I've found that i'm pleased with the original master recordings, but that remasters can be "worse" than the initial CDs i bought. Sometimes the remastering was done just to boost the levels to insanity.  Whereas the original master recordings are done as sane levels, sometimes overcompensating a little and are very low volumes.  My impulse is to say that the differences i'm hearing (assuming i'm hearing them at all) are more due to the mastering styles of Ted Jenson vs Shawn R. Britton rather than that they are 1st generation masters. Is that fair?

I have an original master tape recording of a disc that i'm pretty sure was a AAD disc to start with.  If digital copes are identical to their source, what difference could it make? Isn't a digitally mastered disc an exact copy of the master tape anyway?

What am i missing here?

(i do find it awesome that on the DCC version of the Beach Boys Endless Summer track "Wendy" you can hear someone cough and clear their throat at 1:18. I just discovered that today)
  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2013, 06:03:25 PM by BearcatSandor
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #1
I have thought about that also. Hopefully some good answers.

I've been collecting a lot of flat CD's from the early to mid 80's Made in Japan for US or EU, Targets, etc. to practice my hobby of mastering songs for good or bad.

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #2
I have thought about that also. Hopefully some good answers.

I've been collecting a lot of flat CD's from the early to mid 80's Made in Japan for US or EU, Targets, etc. to practice my hobby of mastering songs for good or bad.

What's a flat CD?
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #3
In the early 80's when CD's were being made...they'd do a flat transfer to the CD. Take the tapes or copies of tapes and transfer to the CD. To most people they sounded horrible. Hence the name: flat. No pop or boom.

Some go for serious money on Ebay--the more rare titles and hard to get.

This guy, Keith Hirsch, has a great website for IDing a lot of CD's. You might even find your answer in there.

http://www.keithhirsch.com/target-cds

From his site:

Target CDs are collectibles since many of them are the original issues and are, therefore, remnants of the early days of the “Compact Digital Disc”. Aside from the historical significance, many music enthusiasts also feel that these early pressings offer superior fidelity to later remasters. The reason for this is that many Target CDs represent a “flat transfer” of the tapes used.  By contrast, many recent remasters have been prepared through excessive processing, including the abuse of compression and noise reduction.

  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2013, 06:46:35 PM by audiofilaid

  • DVDdoug
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #4
I would think that "original master" is the normal default with modern CDs (that were recorded digitally).  Unless there were some obvious defects or the CD was poorly mastered in the 1st place, I can't see any good reason to remaster a good digital recording.  (And I don't consider making it louder a good reason.  )

With recordings that were originally recorded & mastered on analog tape, I assume original master means the A/D conversion (or LP master cutting) was done from the original 1st generation master tape. 

A "remaster" should be an improvement.  Maybe some noise reduction to reduce or eliminate analog tape hiss.  Maybe some frequency response adjustments (EQ) to correct dull-sounding highs, etc.  Maybe the recording has other defects that can be corrected with modern digital tools. 

But as you say, sometimes its compressed, boosted, and limited to make it "louder".  The dynamics are destroyed and it sounds worse (to most critical listeners).  I think this is especially true with remasters when the original recording was digital and very good to begin with...  Just not as loud as the modern stuff. 

With older recordings from the 50's or 60's that really need some remastering, the remastering might be an improvement.... But if you buy the remastered CD, it's hit-or-miss.

I've done some "home remastering" on older recordings (including vinyl to digital transfers) and IMO, I've made an improvement...  Usually EQ, and sometimes noise reduction if I can do the noise reduction without getting audible artifacts.  But, I've never used compression on that kind of project.
  • Last Edit: 15 May, 2013, 08:07:38 PM by DVDdoug

  • krabapple
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #5
In the early 80's when CD's were being made...they'd do a flat transfer to the CD. Take the tapes or copies of tapes and transfer to the CD. To most people they sounded horrible. Hence the name: flat. No pop or boom.

Some go for serious money on Ebay--the more rare titles and hard to get.

This guy, Keith Hirsch, has a great website for IDing a lot of CD's. You might even find your answer in there.

http://www.keithhirsch.com/target-cds

From his site:

Target CDs are collectibles since many of them are the original issues and are, therefore, remnants of the early days of the “Compact Digital Disc”. Aside from the historical significance, many music enthusiasts also feel that these early pressings offer superior fidelity to later remasters. The reason for this is that many Target CDs represent a “flat transfer” of the tapes used.  By contrast, many recent remasters have been prepared through excessive processing, including the abuse of compression and noise reduction.




First off 'flat' didn't refer to the sound, it referred to how much the source audio was manipulated before it reached the delivery format (CD in this case).  A 'flat transfer' is one where the mastering engineer simply let the source tape roll, and digitized the output, and then that was pressed to disc.  No added EQ, compression, noise reduction etc.

However, that says nothing about the *source tape* used for the flat transfer.  That *might* have been the original two-track mixdown master; it might have been a 'flat' tape copy of that (or a copy of a copy...unto the nth generation);  it might have been a re-EQ'd copy.

The (supposed) problem with early CD sourcing was that the source was often tapes that had already been 'mastered for vinyl'....these tapes were so-called 'production masters', re-EQ'd copies of the original mixdown master tapes, to make them sound good on LP.

By the late 80s 'remastered from the original master tapes'  (implying that the original mixdown masters were the starting point) came into vogue, sparking a massive round of CD reissues.  In the relatively brief window before 'loudness war' mastering kicked in, this (late 80s/early 90s)  was probably the golden age of CD mastering quality. 

But note, even 'mastered from the original master tapes' doesn't  mean you are necessarily getting a 'flat transfer';  typically a mastering engineer applies *some* EQ or processing to 'correct' whatever imbalances or flaws he/she perceives in the source, and/or make the tracks sounds 'coherent' as a whole album.  Some original master tapes even come with instructions from the original engineer, suggesting EQ moves for production formats.  In other words, 'flat transfer' is not  always  intended or desirable.
  • Last Edit: 16 May, 2013, 01:57:22 PM by krabapple

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #6
Excellent explanation Krapapple!  Thank you!

I'm still confused as to why "original master recording" would make any difference if the source is digital? This would be why all of my 'original master tape recording' discs are pre-1990 for the most part?

Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #7
Not sure what "nope" means in the context of all this? I don't see how there can be any flat No in regards to Flat? Tomato or Tomatoe?

I'll try and address each segment:


In the recording business, "flat transfer" is what you said, that goes without explanation unless the OP was concerned about the origin of the audio. But it is more commonly used as an adjective to describe the audio quality for any medium. Your average person does not care about how a tape is transferred/produced onto a CD. But the average person can describe any audio as "flat". Flat is a defined about 10 different ways in the audio world, and possibly more?

I don't think too many studio's ever send out the original master (1 degree from being live). Most original masters are usually 4-5 degrees removed from the first original master depening the age.

Yes, original CD's were made by masters that were mixed for vinyl. The final version mastered on tape was flat transferred to CD. If you do a need drop of an older first pressing you'd likely get the same results. 

The rest you wrote is all common sense. I assumed I didn't need to go into an explanation for flat sounding CD's and the different ways "flat" can be construed. It means many things in the audio world.

I only like the early CD's as it's about the flattest and cleanest audio quality I can get to mix--as a hobby with my son who interns with a label. Luckily I was in the business from 89-2001 and have around 10K CD's.

Conclusion: Flat means more than one thing. I apologize if I used it too casual for you. I'm new to this site and do not know anyone's background. I was just told it was a very logical place to discuss digital music compared to SH Forums or Computer Audiophile.

  • krabapple
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #8
I removed the 'nope' from the original post because it was directed mainly at the 'flat' part.  But sorry, this post too is full of not-quite-rightness. 

A 'flat transfer' can be from a tape that has plenty of 'pop' and 'boom' EQ'd in.  Or from one where bass and treble were attenuated compared to the original mixdown master -- as was often the case of vinyl production tapes, due to the limitations of typical vinyl playback.  That means the original masters -- and CDs made from them -- may well have more 'pop and boom' than the first CD versions...and that sound was only finally available on CD when the OMTs were used as a source.  This is something that Target CD/'flat transfer'  fetishists like the site you linked to, don't seem to grasp fully.  'Flat transfer' in fact says nothing about the 'audio quality'.  And yes, this is a more  fact-based place to discuss digital music than those other two sites.

As for what is 'sent out' to the mastering facility -- if we're talking about analog sources, neither you nor I knows for sure, but I suspect OMTs (or digitized flat transfers of them) are 'sent out' far, far more often than they were in the early days of CD.
  • Last Edit: 16 May, 2013, 02:58:45 PM by db1989

  • greynol
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #9
That means the original masters -- and CDs made from them -- may well have more 'pop and boom' than the first CD versions...and that sound was only finally available on CD when the OMTs were used as a source.

This causes me to revisit the issue we discussed a while back about the common assumption (myth?) that MFSL employs smiley-faced EQ.

@audiofilaid:
Hi and welcome.  Must you abuse apostrophes so?  It makes your post difficult to read or take seriously; but that's probably just me.  I'm afraid the majority of people are completely clueless about punctuation and grammar these days.

EDIT: It appears the post following mine,
Re: apostrophe 'abuse', please see the Wikipedia article on quotation marks. "Double quotes are preferred in the United States, and also tend to be preferred in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Single quotes are more usual in the United Kingdom and South Africa, though double quotes are also common there." Whether you regard the ' as a multipurpose glyph or as strictly an apostrophe is a personal choice.
does not take into account the recipient of my comment about abusing apostrophe's (an apostrophe incorrectly used to pluralize was very much intended).
  • Last Edit: 16 May, 2013, 05:56:33 PM by greynol
13 February 2016: The world was blessed with the passing of a truly vile and wretched person.

Your eyes cannot hear.

  • mjb2006
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #10
Re: apostrophe 'abuse', please see the Wikipedia article on quotation marks. "Double quotes are preferred in the United States, and also tend to be preferred in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Single quotes are more usual in the United Kingdom and South Africa, though double quotes are also common there." Whether you regard the ' as a multipurpose glyph or as strictly an apostrophe is a personal choice.

  • krabapple
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #11
That means the original masters -- and CDs made from them -- may well have more 'pop and boom' than the first CD versions...and that sound was only finally available on CD when the OMTs were used as a source.

This causes me to revisit the issue we discussed a while back about the common assumption (myth?) that MFSL employs smiley-faced EQ.


Impossible to know  for sure unless we have at hand a bona-fide 'flat transfer' of the tapes that MFSL used, for comparison.


remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #12
I removed the 'nope' from the original post because it was directed mainly at the 'flat' part.  But sorry, this post too is full of not-quite-rightness. 

A 'flat transfer' can be from a tape that has plenty of 'pop' and 'boom' EQ'd in.  Or from one where bass and treble were attenuated compared to the original mixdown master -- as was often the case of vinyl production tapes, due to the limitations of typical vinyl playback.  That means the original masters -- and CDs made from them -- may well have more 'pop and boom' than the first CD versions...and that sound was only finally available on CD when the OMTs were used as a source.  This is something that Target CD/'flat transfer'  fetishists like the site you linked to, don't seem to grasp fully.  'Flat transfer' in fact says nothing about the 'audio quality'.  And yes, this is a more  fact-based place to discuss digital music than those other two sites.

As for what is 'sent out' to the mastering facility -- if we're talking about analog sources, neither you nor I knows for sure, but I suspect OMTs (or digitized flat transfers of them) are 'sent out' far, far more often than they were in the early days of CD.


Yes, correct, a flat transfer can contain pop and boom. Depending your components and speakers, it can provide all you need. No need to explain, but there's too many variables in audio listening or producing to make a solid end all statement. Funny enough, there is plenty of that attitude in other forums.

And I agree 100% on what is sent out to any studio. Have you ever spoken to a musician from a band on this topic? It would scare you if you haven't. With that, I'd love to see a timeline of the master tape for Pink Floyd's DOSTM: Master Tape Complete to Today. I'd find that fascinating. I asked Alan Parsons once about it and he looked at me like a complete fanboy or was paranoid I knew I figured he held a master.

  • greynol
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #13
Impossible to know  for sure unless we have at hand a bona-fide 'flat transfer' of the tapes that MFSL used, for comparison.

I guess my point was that I don't recall having seen this very plausible explanation, so thanks for sharing it.
13 February 2016: The world was blessed with the passing of a truly vile and wretched person.

Your eyes cannot hear.

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #14
I like MFSL, even manage to collect a lot of CD's, Vinyl, and a few tapes over the years, but in my opinion, I don't think they're the pinnacle of quality popular recordings. I've found some Japanese CD's, German vinyl pressings, and even US pressing better than their release. Pink Floyd's The Wall or any a few Joe Jackson releases, to name a few.
  • Last Edit: 16 May, 2013, 06:32:38 PM by audiofilaid

  • 2Bdecided
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #15
Sometimes "original master recording" or similar is just marketing spiel or a downright lie. There can be lots of "masters" for a given recording. The session multitracks are usually a unique source and from the era of 3+4 track recorders, going back to these is often better quality (unless you insist on hearing an authentic period mix, or the new digital mix is bad/wrong).

Cheers,
David.

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #16
I'm still trying to figure a few things out, since i don't have a background in a studio.  When sees "remastered" on a disc does that always mean that it's from the original mix tapes?
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile

  • 2Bdecided
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remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #17
When sees "remastered" on a disc does that always mean that it's from the original mix tapes?
No, of course not. Remastered just means a new master has been created. It could have been copied from a cassette found on the parcel shelf of an old car, played on a 1980s ghetto blaster - it would still be a remaster.

Technically any CD which is not bit-for-bit identical to a previous issue has been "remastered". It has become a marketing word. It means nothing.

Cheers,
David.

remastering, original master recordings, and DDD
Reply #18
Thanks David. That answers my question.
Music lover and recovering high end audiophile