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  • Osunu
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Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
I want to get some old and not very well known songs on itunes, but I suspect they come from a remastered version of the album.
Are there instances where a remastered version sounds way too different, too modernized, for the sake of being updated (which I think is dumb, because I personally like to hear music the way it was meant to sound originally, and I don't really want to hear a version that's too altered and sounds noticeably different).

Thank you for clearing this up, and sorry for my english, I'm not fluent on the language.

Greetings

  • saratoga
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #1
Yes,  remasters are often not great. I can think of a few with more clipping and compression then the originals.

  • Bero1707
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #2
That's why I stick with the originals. Remasters almost always suck! Sad but true.

  • Osunu
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #3
Well, if most of the remasters modernize the sound to the point that you hear a difference in a normal music system, then I think it's a real shame. I prefer hearing the original sound too.

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #4
A trick to do is use Spotify with "keep all songs at the same volume level" unchecked under advanced settings (you have to make this setting with each computer manually and possibly more than once on the same computer that you logged on to) and see if the song is remastered (you can hear the full song in this case).  A lot times you find the same results on iTunes.   Listen to previews of songs on iTunes as well with SoundCheck turned off.

The trick of thumb with these services is to see how much you have to lower or raise the volume level of your speakers or headphones.  More compressed usually means you lower it more and vice versa typically.  It's not foolproof and you may still have to listen carefully to spot any differences such EQ changes to name a few things.

A lot of music is likely remastered on iTunes...  You may get lucky and find a track you like that wasn't remastered to be as loud as modern music is.

NOTE: They may be more than one version of an album or song that may have varying degrees of mastering.  Sometimes catalogs will be different as well.  Also you may have to buy the whole album on iTunes where Spotify will let you listen to any track of the same album.  The album may have tracks omitted on Spotify and buying the whole album iTunes is the only way to get that one song.  Sometimes it's not available at all.  Availability can stick out like a sore thumb here and so can multiple versions of the same exact thing.
  • Last Edit: 29 March, 2016, 07:37:07 PM by Chibisteven

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #5
Unfortunately, the remasters are usually worse than the original. Exception I can remember were The Beatles remasters from 2009 or Bob Ludwigs Rolling Stones remasters for ABKCO at 2002 and for Virgin at 1994. The Rolling Stones remasters from 2009 (UMG), however, had very flat, "compressed" sound and went wrong.


  • mjb2006
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #6
I think we are unnecessarily concerned with the amount of dynamic range compression being "baked-in" to modern remasters. Many of us were quite content in the '80s and earlier to listen to the same songs on radio and cassette, and through boom boxes and car stereos and cheap headphones, always with the "loudness" button on, bass boost button on, or smiley-face EQ. We would probably be horrified today to know what we were doing to the effective dynamic range back then.

For me, there are more important differences between originals and modern-sounding remasters. One is the EQ. Modern EQ, to my aging ears, usually sounds better than the original. But I admit, it could just be because I am being swept along by the trends in sonic coloration, and perhaps hearing loss is a factor as well. Another difference is stereo separation. Some modern remasters expand the stereo field to push off-center sounds further to the extreme left and right, which may give those sounds more "presence". No one appreciates nuance in the stereo mix anymore, it seems, despite there being so many people listening with headphones.

  • Maurits
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #7
I would be very wary of making blanket statements about remasters. There are some very good and some very poor original recordings, there are some very good and some very poor remasters.

There are people who specialise in doing remasters that actually are an improvement. For instance, I have some Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab remasters that I prefer over the original. They haven’t been compressed to death, they just made good use of technological advances made since the original recording coupled with a desire to make it sound good, not to make it sell well on shoddy car stereos.

I think you have to bear in mind that recording wasn’t that easy until about ten years ago. Nowadays anyone with $/€/£1000 can make a multitrack 24/96 digital recording in their bedroom. However, there are numerous bands that now play stadiums that had to borrow money from the drummer’s aunt to buy two days of studio time in a third-rate analogue recording studio and without a good recording engineer. Many famous bands had debut albums that were made on extremely low budgets and in a hurry. Add to that that analogue recording had more (and different) limitations to digital recording and it was fairly easy to screw it up. I think it certainly makes sense to see if advanced technology and experience can bring out details that were lost/unfavourably mixed in the original publication.

All in all, I think the only way to find out if a remaster is an improvement or not is to listen to it.
There is a hidden message in the song at approximately 4:32. If played at half speed, Waters can be heard to say, "That was pretty avant-garde, wasn't it?"

  • Osunu
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #8
But I'm not talking exactly about quality. What I want to know is if remastered versions tend to sound just more modernized, to the point where you hear a difference. This is the idea I'm not really fond of, because it doesn't make it feel like it's a 70s, or 80s record anymore.
  • Last Edit: 30 March, 2016, 02:14:57 PM by Osunu

  • greynol
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #9
I've been biting my tongue for a while now with this thread.

The problem is that many original CD releases of 70s and 80s recordings don't sound like the non-CD releases.  This is often because of boosted highs or simply aggressive equalization in general.

The concept "original sound" here is silly.  Recordings can be specifically tailored to the limitations of vinyl, for example, and these versions may have gotten used on the original CD releases.  They're often tailored for the typical playback system of the era, as well.  Do you really want all that old stereo stuff to be hard-panned like it was originally released?  How about treble-panned fake stereo?

Original sound should be thought of as what was heard in the studio during mastering.  Your speakers, volume level and listening environment could be drastically different.
  • Last Edit: 30 March, 2016, 02:41:32 PM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #10
I do not know about a lot of releases, but as I have knowledge about e.g. The Rolling Stones records from the end of 60s and 70s were never specifically tailored for vinyl except maybe track order (so that particular tracks will be on the first position on vinyl - case of Sticky Fingers). Bob Ludwig remastered them for ABKCO/Virgin perfectly, UMG Remasters are very bad.

Edit: the remasters were always done from master tapes that were searched for by ABKCO/Virgin/EMI.
  • Last Edit: 30 March, 2016, 04:12:00 PM by jumpingjackflash5

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #11
Do you really want all that old stereo stuff to be hard-panned like it was originally released?  How about treble-panned fake stereo?
Greynol, I believe you are thinking of remixing more than remastering. In mastering it is almost impossible to change single elements. Mostly what is done in mastering is changing the overall dynamic, equalisation, stereo width of the whole material, ISRC codes, etc. Defeat hard-panning in mastering would make everything move more into the middle and that would defeat the purpose of just wanting to change the few things that are hard panned. Of course you can do it using M/S or multiband but that would probably screw up the original sound too much to be accepted by most. I my experience remasters are mostly about making them as loud as new material are these days which means killing dynamics.

  • greynol
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #12
I wasn't talking about single elements, rather the ability to at least partially collapse the entire master, though I don't know of any remasters where this has been done.  The same for treble-panned fake stereo.

Seeing that you used the term remaster, I think it's worth mentioning, for the context of the discussion, all CD releases from analog masters were remastered by the original definition. The term has taken on new meaning now that limiting has become so ubiquitous.

Regardless, it's naive to assume that original CD releases from analog masters will be free from manipulation, or (something I should have mentioned earlier) that great care was taken in selecting the source for digitization.

This is not in any way meant to defend the practices that are typically employed with remastering in the modern day.
  • Last Edit: 31 March, 2016, 10:04:04 AM by greynol
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

  • Osunu
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #13
But, in conclusion (because the discussion gets a little too complicated for me, adding to the fact that I'm not fluent in english): Does a remaster sound more modern to the point where you hear it clearly in a normal music equipment? It's just that fact that would annoy me, because I don't need to be updated or something like this.

  • 2Bdecided
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  • Developer
Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #14
Some older CDs have a painfully bright EQ.

Of course when I was a teenager we always played them with a strong bass boost enabled, so it was fine. Now on a purist Hi-Fi set-up they sound awful :-)

Cheers,
David.

  • krabapple
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #15
The endless confusion arises, I think, from ignorance of what 'mastering' meant historically.  By the time the workflow:  multitrack tape recording --> mix down to two track 'original master tape(s)' (OMTs)-->release on stereo vinyl (LP or 45)  became routine, 'mastering' was the  step after the mixdown, and was *necessary* because tape is a higher fidelity medium than vinyl.   I.e., in order to 'fit' the signal on tape onto vinyl that could be played on typical home systems the signal on tape had to be compromised  (e.g. bass filtered and summed to mono and ; treble rolled off near the end of a 'side') .  That (and more mundane things like adjusting overall levels, track-to-track levels, fades, spacing, and sequencing the tracks)  was what 'mastering' was.  It was really 'mastering for a lower fidelity distribution medium'.  


99% of the time* the two-track mixdown master tape *was* the artist's intent.  Everything on vinyl was an attempt to get close to *that*.  The EQ moves etc that were used during vinyl mastering and cutting were typically captured in real time on another tape, the 'production master'.  This was used for repressings, so that the mastering and cutting engineers didn't have to re-create their art every time.

Since the advent of CD, or *at least* since the advent of hardware that might be better equipped to play back full-range CD signal, 'mastering' the EQ and dynamics of an analog OMT in the vinyl sense really has not been *necessary*. CD (Redbook PCM) is a *higher* fidelity medium than tape, and can handle anything in the audible band that magnetic tape can throw at it.  (Sequencing, spacing, fades etc still are mastering functions).  But mastering , in the sense of  'sculpting' what's on the OMT, was/is still done, as we all know.  Mastering for CD (or other digital medium) is done to make the tracks 'hang together'. To make them 'pop' on radio. To make them sound 'professional'.  To 'fix' something that was deemed wrong with the OMTs.  TO give them that 'final touch of magic'.  Whatever. Ask a mastering engineer today to justify his job, go to their websites and read their descriptions of what services they offer, the answers can be interesting.



Industry lore has it that much of the first wave of early-mid 1980s CD issues came from vinyl production master tapes, or tapes of even higher generation, with all the generational tape noise, and EQ moves etc, that that implies.  Hence we had a wave of 'remasters'  of the same albums in the late 80s/early 90s  trumpeting as being sourced from 'original master tapes' -- mixdown masters.   Though that didn;t necessarily mean 'flat transfer with no changes in EQ etc'  Furthermore, and very unfortunately, the 'remaster' era was soon overlapped  by the 'loudness wars' era, which arguably negated or rendered moot the sonic benefit  of OMT sourcing.  And that in turn led to yet another wave of remastering, this time in 'hi rez',  to get 'better sound , though once again there was NO GUARANTEE that the dynamics and EQ weren't altered compared to the OMT source.  This bullsh*t went on for years and now we have possibly a final iteration where places like HDtracks are having their feet held to the fire by audiophiles to deliver 'original master tape' sound as unadorned as possible.   And (for no good technical reason) in 'high res'.   However, HDtracks et al only get what the (notoriously lax) record companies deign to give them, so the wheel keeps turning.....


*A figure I am pulling out of my ass, but seriously, the exceptions I'm aware of are when some element or production move (e.g. an instrumental part fly-in, a fade-in or fadeout) was added at the cutting/production master stage...in that case the closest source to the artists's 'approved' version would be the production master tape, or the original master with those later moves re-created.


 

  • Last Edit: 01 April, 2016, 01:11:09 AM by krabapple

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #16
But, in conclusion (because the discussion gets a little too complicated for me, adding to the fact that I'm not fluent in english): Does a remaster sound more modern to the point where you hear it clearly in a normal music equipment? It's just that fact that would annoy me, because I don't need to be updated or something like this.

For some CDs, yes. E.g. as I wrote UMG Rolling Stones 2009 remasters clearly sound much worse than Bob Ludwig's for Virgin/EMi at 1994.

  • copperblue
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #17
E.g. as I wrote UMG Rolling Stones 2009 remasters clearly sound much worse than Bob Ludwig's for Virgin/EMi at 1994.
Hard digital clipping, look at any of those Universal Group masters in Audition / Audacity etc.
Even the 2004 George Harrison All Things Must Pass suffers from hard clipping! Wah Wah is the worst one of the top of my head.
The 2014 Harrison remasters (rolleyes) are heavily digitally compressed, but not clipped from a cursory examination... 

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #18
BTW, some days after this thread I had opportunity to listen again to the Bob Ludwigs Rolling Stones remasters from 2002 done for ABKCO (The Singles Collection - 3 CD) and they sound really good on CD. So we can cite this as an example of competent mastering and great CD, so that we are not so much negative to todays sound production here.

  • Osunu
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #19
Thank you for the answers.


Greetings

  • copperblue
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Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #20
Here's what the remaster of Focus/Moving waves/Hocus Pocus looks like compared to an early CD reissue.





One of them sounds great - tape and compressor saturated loveliness - "warm sounding" Prog Rock record from 1972.
The other sounds like a "modern" record/remaster; saturation buried under something nastier altogether.

Guess which is which...  ::)  

Re: Can remastered CDs sound too different and modernized?
Reply #21
Here's what the remaster of Focus/Moving waves/Hocus Pocus looks like compared to an early CD reissue.





One of them sounds great - tape and compressor saturated loveliness - "warm sounding" Prog Rock record from 1972.
The other sounds like a "modern" record/remaster; saturation buried under something nastier altogether.

Guess which is which...  ::)  


Seems the lower one is modern, worse,  :(