Does remastered always mean "better" sound? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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12-16-2003, 07:34 AM

12-16-2003, 07:45 AM
More times than not, I'd figure.

But I do have two different copies of Steven Stills Manasas and the "remastered" version has the bass so cranked up and fat I can hardly listen to it.

12-16-2003, 08:23 AM
Some remasters sound "better" than previous releases, and some sound "different" or even "worse".

It's very subjective, though.

I think the big record labels do a pretty good job in general, but I wish they were more meticulous like MFSL was and DCC.


Dusty Chalk
12-16-2003, 08:29 AM

12-16-2003, 11:20 AM
As a collector there have been times where I have bought an earlier version of a title, and you got the old LP mix/master on that transfer .Usually more tape hiss, and tape drop outs(especially the real popular titles) When replacing title for Remasters I tend to look for these things: 1: stereo-mono versions, original LP mixes verus 45 mixes that are substitiuted, bonus tracks from original recording session(s),original label re-releases vs. artist private label reissues, and the overall sound quality of the recording. And let's face it boys & girls the recording industy really did not do a very good job in producing, manufacturing, and archiving pop/rock music from the 50's-60's-70's and in some cases the 80's.
So caveat emptor.....

12-16-2003, 12:25 PM
Every remaster probably sounds better to someone, but few that I've heard are better in all respects. Sometimes the audiophile labels like DCC were pretty consistent because they were actually remastered for better sound quality and a small niche market, which isn't what drives the release of most major label remasters. I generally find that the remasters done in the UK are of much better sound quality than the ones done primarily for US release. Almost all remasters are more compressed than the original to get the volume up as high as new CDs. It's unfortunate, but that's life. For the same reason, they usually have boosted low frequencies and often upper frequencies too. Oftentimes nowadays the signal level is driven into clipping, sometimes even severe, to boost the volume. Reference the latest Dark Side of the Moon remaster (CD layer of the hybrid SACD). This is nowhere near the only one or even the worst offender, just one of the most visible. Stereophile even devoted a column to investigating why the CD layer sounded so much worse than the stereo SACD layer, which was supposedly taken from the exact same stereo master.

In any case, as most of the others in this thread have already said, some are good and some are bad, but you won't necessarily find a consensus as to which fall under each heading. Part of it is very subjective because there are clearly certain areas of the sound that are improved in even some of the bad remasters. A general rule of thumb is, if it sounds a lot louder than the old version and seems to have an extra octave of bass all of a sudden, you may like the sound but it likely has been overly compressed and has sacrificed some (or a lot of) dynamic range.

Probably best to just ask for opinions on a specific remaster, if you have something in mind.

12-17-2003, 09:41 AM
IMO, usually, but definitely not always. In my experience a lot of early cds released in the '80's sounded vry thin and tinny compared to the lps. Often they did not use the original masters, and very little time and effort went into them. In general, remasters have improved on them. Recently, however, there has beeen a movement toward over-processing. This includes boosting the volume, changing the eq (to make things sound punchier), compression, no-noise (which removes tape hiss, but also sucks the life out of the higher frequencies). I've recently bought some remasters that sounded worse than the original cd's (Bruce Cockburn and Fairport Convention). This is the topic of constant discussion on the Steve Hoffman Forum:

12-18-2003, 10:44 AM
I agree with the general sentiment here that it's a crap shoot. The truth is, simply having a sticker on the outside that says "remastered"... doesn't mean it is re-mastered. Cynical? Yeah. I've got some that are really awful... worse than my used LP copies. There are so many variables that come into play when (usually) decades old tapes are digitally "fixed" up, that you can NEVER be sure who/what is being done.

Hendrix's stuff (the recent remastered stuff) was over-seen by Eddie Kramer who'd engineered most of the original recordings. He knew the original intent, had lots of experience in the studio, and also was hip enough to seek out and find all the different master tapes... of which there can be many. That's a big problem with many remastering jobs... they get young kids who don't really know how many original tapes exist, and often are "remastering" from 4'th generation cue copies. It's a real art to do the job right, and it starts with getting the best available tapes. Often the originals are lost (in someone's attic or basement), or were simply thrown out. Sometimes the original master tapes sound worse than another 3'rd gen mix-down dub. Unless there's a lot of effort into searching out ALL the stuff, you're likely getting a half-assed job. Some artists have a TON of different tapes, often in dozens of studios all over the globe, often mis-labelled, to make matters worse.

Then there's all the technical engineering "problems" of how to re-EQ and re-mix the material. A lot of that is experience and a lot of it is artistic taste. I wouldn't want a headbanger-engineer re-editing a Chopin work because that's the next "job" for him to do. Many young engineers don't even know about a lot of the tricks and EQ that was SOP decades earlier. So you're at the mercy of their hearing acuity (&taste). Preserving original dynamics (the most important aspect to "hi-fi"), can be a real tough job too. Most engineers aren't going to give it proper attention.

I think the big record labels do a pretty good job in general, but I wish they were more meticulous like MFSL was and DCC.

Not sure I agree. I don't think (as a rule) the big companies want to invest the time and work to search out all the stuff, let alone listen to it all and make value judgment's. I also fear too many companies want to "Re-master" stuff just to re-sell it... as "new" product. Even if a remastered disc "sounds good" to you, you'll never know what it would've sounded like if it was done differently... it might sound far better. I've heard MSL's that are worse than the originals... they're at the mercy of what they're sent. A perfect copy of a crappy original will still be (pretty) crappy.

Heck, even Zappa, who was the first major Rock artist to use digital technology for recording, used it to re-do some of his older stuff and f_cked it up. He made nice new cleaner "remasters", but so messed up the original sound (&mix), that fans screamed bloody murder. He then went back and Re-edited it again. Imagine what happens when engineers who weren't even born, or don't care that much about the material they're re-mastering work on something.

I've found the most rewarding re-masters are where a few dedicated people work on something as a labor of love, and spend the time & effort. I'd try to read a number of reviews before investing money in something sight-unheard.

12-18-2003, 05:40 PM
I think that the best manufacturers of classical recordings usually did an excellent job of remastering their original issued for vinyl tapes. They generally have no dynamic compression and less equalization twiddling but that has its drawbacks too, especially if the recording was made with little natural reverb. The ends of musical phrases seem to suddenly die out where they are extended on vinyl if the compressors boosted the volume at low signal level. DG reissued recordings are among the best values on the market IMO, especially recordings with Von Karajan conducting the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. Phillips is very good too but there have been some disappointments for me with their quality control and I have not been quite as happy with Sony/Columbia's reissue of some Ormandy recordings. Bernstein recordings for some reason seemed to fare much better. RCA did some fairly good reissues too. (I own all of the Heifetz recordings on both CD and vinyl.)

On pop music and jazz, things are generally much worse. Although I don't listen to nearly as much of it as I listen to classical, I have a large collection available to me on loan. I think that they must use brick wall digital filters or very sharp high order analog cutoff filters to eliminate tape hiss. This is why so many cymbals sound like hairspray as detractors of cds call it and probably combined with an upper midrange lower treble boost make them sound harsh. They probably turn them out without much care or thought since they are selling mostly to an older nostalgia retro market anyway. Unfortunately, younger more critical listeners with better hearing hear all of the flaws and condemn the whole cd medium because of it.

12-18-2003, 06:42 PM
I've heard some remasters that have been marvelous, others that have actually made the material sound worse. I think Rhino tends to do a great job on most of thier stuff. I've been particularly pleased with most Jazz remasters... not a lot of money there... just done for the love.

Da Worfster