The Beatles albums, recorded between 1963 and 1970, were made in the analog era. People all over the world enjoyed the Fab Four's music in a 100 percent all-analog state until 1986, when the entire catalog was digitally remastered. That was four years after the CD was introduced, and those not very good-sounding CDs sold in vast numbers in the 1980s, 1990s, and right up through 2009 when the catalog was remastered again in high-resolution 24-bit/192-kHz audio. Great, but the high-resolution versions of the albums remain safely in the vaults. The down-converted versions that were used to master … Read more
This holiday season, we're seeing a trend toward classic games presented in close-to-original form, but with their original graphics rerendered at the higher resolutions today's consoles and displays use. Is this a great way to make older games more accessible, or is it, like colorizing black-and-white movies, widely considered a bastardization of the original art?
Unlike film or music, video games age badly. Technology changes, screens get bigger, and the host games of even a few years ago look positively primitive to the jaded eyes of consumers. Despite this, we've still seen some vintage games enjoy a second, or even third life as iOS arcade classics, hermetically sealed retro downloads on GOG.com, or even those vintage-game-filled joysticks that plug directly into a television.
What we're seeing more than ever of this year is a little different: classic games presented in almost their original form, but with redesigned graphics, or at least with the original graphics rerendered at the higher resolutions today's consoles and displays use. … Read more
The Rolling Stones' 1972 masterpiece "Exile on Main Street" is being re-released today in a new remastered version, complete with 10 outtakes or alternate versions that have never been released before. A friend posted the question on Facebook: "should I buy the remastered vinyl version?" The answer to this question is more complicated than you might expect: there are five different versions of the re-release available.
If you like rock music (or country or soul) and don't know "Exile," then I would start with the Original Recording Remastered. It's the original album … Read more
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has been perfecting the art of remastering audio since 1977. It currently offers a broad catalog of music, from Frank Sinatra and the Pixies to Yes and Little Richard on LP, SACD, and CD.
I recently chatted with Rob LoVerde, one of MoFi's mastering engineers, about how the company's remasters differ from the original label's product.
First and foremost, he said that every MoFi LP--which was originally recorded to analog--is cut from an analog master tape. That's interesting because ever since digital came onto the scene, most, probably about 99 percent, of LPs for sale now are cut from digital masters. So unless you're already buying MoFi LPs, you still haven't heard what a pure analog recording sounds like--older LPs, pressed before the 1980s are all-analog.
Second, LoVerde said that MoFi never uses dynamic range compression. Virtually every new recording is compressed during recording, mixing and mastering. But MoFi eliminates the last compression stage. He also said that equalization is either avoided completely or used sparingly.
LoVerde came to MoFi from Sony, so I was curious about how the two companies approached mastering. At Sony, LoVerde worked within a team, at MoFi each mastering project he takes on is controlled entirely by him. And at Sony, LoVerde had to work fast and complete one or two projects a day. At MoFi he can take his time and track down the best possible master tape. I was surprised to learn that LoVerde doesn't go out of his way to listen to previous remasters. Instead, he's trying to transfer as much of the original master's sound to the final product as possible.
The analog master is also used for MoFi's SACDs and CDs. That means MoFi's analog sourced SACDs are totally PCM-free, which is extremely rare. Most SACDs on the market have at least some PCM digital in them, which means they're not really delivering the format's true potential. MoFi SACDs are the real deal, pure SACD--using Direct Stream Digital DSD coding.
LoVerde said he knows that MoFi customers expect the best possible transfer, so he can't let a "good enough" mastering leave the plant. MoFi has occasionally bailed on a project because the sound wasn't up to its standards.
I listened to a stack of MoFi vinyl and the sound was awesome. Yes, there's more bass, a near absence of vinyl's old friends--clicks and pops--but it's the clarity improvements that were the most impressive. … Read more
They're good, but do the remastered Beatles CDs offer a big enough sonic improvement over the 1987 CDs to make them essential? Listening over my high-end, two-channel system they absolutely do! But are the differences large enough to show up over an iPod, car system, or computer speakers?
The 2009 remasters are louder than the 1987 versions, so a quick comparison might lead you to believe the remaster is "better" simply because it's a little louder. And there's more bass. So if you compare old and new adjust the volume of both CDs to make them the same. Then tell me what you hear.
I compared two of the better sounding CDs, "The Beatles (The White Album)" and "Abbey Road" over my iPod, using my Monster Turbine in-ear headphones, and over my computer, with Audioengine2 speakers. Mind you, the Turbine and Audioengine2 are a good deal better than average-sounding ways to hear music, and after I compensated for the volume differences between the 1987 and 2009 versions, the sound was nearly the same.
And I was listening in a dead quiet room, add some background office or street noise and the differences would be even harder to hear. Rather than buy the new Beatles CDs, buy better headphones or speakers. They would make the Beatles music you already own sound better.
Thing is, with the 2009 remasters we're talking about fairly subtle improvements in clarity, especially in high-frequency detail, overall spaciousness, and naturalness. And the music seems more dynamically alive. Too bad those qualities evaporate over iPods, computer speakers, and car systems. … Read more
If you're even remotely interested in The Beatles, today's episode of The 404 is a must listen. CNET Audiophiliac Steve Guttenberg helps us out today for all things Beatles. To set it all up, Steve gives the three of us a lesson in how the band essentially shaped a decade of music and culture and how they became innovators in the way that bands record music. For example, did you know that it only took the band 4 hours to record and mix the song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?" Later on in the show, Steve tells us about how the Beatles used a vacuum tube-based machine to record their earlier albums and later switched to solid-state, with adverse affects to the low-end sounds. Lots more Beatles trivia on the show!
We also talk extensively about the latest Beatles Remasters and whether or not they're worth the extra investment. Some claim that there are "near-miraculous improvements in the key areas of information retrieval, hidden details, expanded midrange, etc...," but Steve makes the argument that simply remastering doesn't necessarily improve sound quality. Check out the Audiophiliac blog for Steve's Beatles box set review coming soon, but in the meantime you can enter for a chance to win the entire remastered Beatles CD collection!EPISODE 423 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS Video… Read more
For this week's installment of the weekly Crave giveaway, we're offering up something everybody seems to want these days--the entire collection of newly remastered Beatles CDs. While the picture you see above is of the boxset, you're not actually getting the stereo boxset, but you will get every CD that's in the boxset. That includes the albums "Please Please Me," "With The Beatles," "A Hard Day's Night," "Beatles For Sale," "Help!," "Rubber Soul," "Revolver," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club … Read more
Tone Audio's Bob Gendron scored advance copies of "The Beatles Stereo Box Set" and "The Beatles Mono Box Set" of the complete Beatles catalog. Four years in the making, Gendron thinks the remasters are a feast for the ears.
Tone Audio is an audiophile Web site, so when I read Gendron's claims of "Near-miraculous improvements in the key areas of information retrieval, hidden details, palpable physicality, expanded midrange, transient presence, and frequency response" to the remastered sound, I was jazzed. Bass, never a strong suit on Beatles recordings, has been improved, so we get to hear more oomph from Paul McCartney's bass and Ringo Starr's percussion. I can hardly wait.
Gendron seems to favor the mono box, mostly because the Beatles and their producer, George Martin, lavished their attention on the mono mixes of the original albums; stereo was an afterthought. Me, I'm a stereo kind of guy, so I'll start with the stereo set. And yes, I'll report back after I've had time to mull over the sound for myself. The Rolling Stones' recent remasters are nothing to write home about, that's why I've remained mum about them. Remastering, all by itself, is no guarantee of improved sound quality.… Read more
"All I can do is be me, whoever that is."--Bob Dylan
That's the thing about Mr. D, he never stands still. He's always evolving and these four newly remastered CDs, "New Morning," "Before the Flood," "The Basement Tapes," and "Dylan and the Dead," are proof of that.
I'll tell you upfront I've always had a thing for "New Morning," and I was bummed when it wasn't part of the 2003 SACD release collection. Sony put out 15 titles in one big chunk, and they were pretty amazing.
These four new titles were last remastered 20 years ago, so I had my hopes up. The new ones come in Digipak cases (matching the look of the SACD versions) with new photos, but no new liner notes or bonus tracks.
OK, now that I finally have a newly tweaked "New Morning," was it worth the wait? Released in 1970, "New Morning" kicked off the second phase of his long career. There's no big hits, but it's one of Dylan's most consistent albums, not a weak tune in there.
The sound is very warm and natural, and Dylan's vocals sound like he's in the room with you. The new CD sounds so close to the sound of my original LP it's scary. It's interesting, I can hear the analog master tape's hiss more clearly on the CD (it's not obtrusive, but it's there) than the LP (the LP's surface noise obscures the tape hiss). "New Morning" is one of Dylan's forgotten gems.
"Before the Flood" is a live, two-disc album, originally released in 1974. Dylan's vocal style was always changing, and he sounds completely different here. The songs tempos are much faster than the studio versions, and Dylan's almost screaming the lyrics. He's backed up by The Band, and they're terrific. They get to do a nice set of their own tunes. Sound quality is average for a live 1970s set. … Read more
I read the news today, oh boy: The entire Beatles catalog has been remastered for CD and is coming September 9 of this year. Sounds like deja vu all over again; these rumors pop up all the time, but this time it's for real. Maybe.
That said, I'm happy no one's saying the phrase "Remastered for MP3." That's too scary a concept. MP3 sounds so awful, remastering hardly seems necessary.
Each CD will be packaged with replicated original UK album art, including expanded booklets containing original and newly written liner notes and rare photos. For a limited period, each CD will be embedded with a brief documentary film about the album. Two new Beatles boxed CD collections will also be released, one box features the mono mixes favored by some die-hard Beatles fans. Why, I have no idea.
The original (British) versions of the twelve albums were first released on CD in 1987; they sounded thin and bright, without a hint of the LPs' analog warmth. It was hardly an auspicious beginning for the digital Beatles music.
The "Let It Be... Naked" CD, released in 2003, was remixed and reedited, there was no attempt to be faithful to the original album. It sounded a bit better than the 1987 version, but just barely. So all we can do is hope the newly tweaked versions are worth waiting 22 years for.
I bought the two Capitol four-disc sets, "The Beatles: The Capitol Years Volumes 1 & 2," when they were released a few years ago. They sounded fine, though hardly revelatory. My original American, British, and Japanese mastered LPs sounded better.
Actually, the best sounding Beatles CDs so far are "The Beatles Anthology" releases from 1995. Those were cleaner, more dynamic, with more extended bass, and clearer treble than the earlier CDs.
Whatever, here's hoping the new CDs sound more like the Anthologies. No matter what, I'll buy 'em and see for myself.… Read more