[Dixielandjazz] Behind the Remastering Boom - Wall Street Journal
marekboym at gmail.com
Sat Dec 15 12:36:47 PST 2012
I mean, that major companies actually do real remastering. Until
recently, small labels (Bill Armstrong Collection, Swaggie - both
Australian, and in all probablility the same company) made fantastic
remastering, while the majors just used digital transfer which
resulted in much inferior sound. Thus, the Australian CDs sound as
good as the original LPs, while the RCAs and CBSs leave a lot to be
I assume that this is the reason one sees so many young people
browsing through stacks of LPs in second hand stores, although they
have state of the art modern equipment which can play the much more
readily available CDs or mp3s.
On 15 December 2012 20:35, Robert Ringwald <rsr at ringwald.com> wrote:
> While OKOM (Our Kind Of Music) is not mentioned in this article, I am sure that it applies even more so to the older recordings.
> Behind the Remastering Boom
> by Marc Myers
> Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2012
> Record companies may be getting slammed by streaming music services and digital downloads
> the rest of the year, but at least they still have the holidays.
> In the final three months of 2012, consumers are projected to spend nearly $2 billion
> on recorded music, according to Strategy Analytics -- a 2.1% increase over the same
> period last year. Helping to drive sales are boxed sets of historic rock, soul, jazz
> and classical recordings -- in some cases loaded with mono and stereo tracks, previously
> unreleased studio and live material, alternate takes, audio interviews, DVD and even
> Why would consumers -- many of them baby boomers -- pay upward of $100 or more for
> elaborate and expanded digital packages of music they probably already own? Their
> buying decision often comes down to a single seductive word -- "remastered." To repeat
> buyers of Johnny Cash, the Beatles, Miles Davis, the Beach Boys, Glenn Gould and
> many other iconic artists, "remastered" signals that the original music has undergone
> a restoration process to upgrade the sound.
> In truth, many consumers are unfamiliar with the process and unsure how to determine
> whether a new version is indeed an improvement. "Remastered isn't a guarantee that
> you'll be excited by the results -- or even notice a difference," said audio engineer
> Jay Kadis, a Stanford University lecturer and author of "The Science of Sound Recording"
> (Focal Press). "From the engineer's perspective, remastering is a delicate balance
> between the original artist's intent and what you can do with today's technology.
> The best remasters are often subtle."
> The word remastered -- like "organic chicken" or "business class" -- can mean many
> different things. Some record companies invest tens of thousands of dollars to painstakingly
> upgrade the sonic quality of an album using sophisticated equipment while other labels
> merely use inexpensive software to re-equalize the digital sound and then call it
> "Think of remastering as the cleaning of a copper statue," Mr. Kadis said. "You can
> carefully work on its surface so that the material is returned to its original luster.
> Or you can replate the statue so it gleams garishly in a way that its creator never
> Some labels have taken shortcuts by compressing existing digital tracks so they explode
> when they come through the speakers. "They do this because it's easy and they believe
> that when the music is louder, consumers think the new product sounds better," said
> Mark Linett, a Los Angeles record producer and engineer who has mastered and remixed
> the Beach Boys' catalog. "But compressing the music this way to make it sound louder
> actually ruins the dynamics." This phenomenon is known among audiophiles as the "loudness
> At a time when more people listen to music through earbud headphones and stamp-sized
> speakers in smartphones and laptops, however, is remastering falling on deaf ears?
> "The casual consumer is not the market for remastered digital music," said mastering
> engineer Andreas Meyer of New York's Meyer Media Mastering, which specializes in
> historic sets. "Most box consumers own higher-end equipment. Even if they listen
> to music through iTunes, they own equipment like high-end headphones and digital-to-analog
> converters. They can hear the difference."
> Digital remastering is a relatively new science that uses new technology and a sharp
> ear to revive or repair the sound quality of earlier recordings. For much of the
> second half of the 20th century, musicians recorded albums onto reels of magnetic
> tape. Once the album producer and artist agreed on the best takes, their choices
> were placed on a "source" tape. This tape was then "mixed" -- meaning the sound levels
> of instruments and vocals on the tape's songs were adjusted and fine-tuned.
> When the mix was completed, the producer selected the album's track order, and the
> result was "mastered" by an engineer who tweaked the sonic information on the fly
> as it was being recorded onto a vinyl platter using a special lathe. Finally, the
> platter was taken to a pressing plant, where LPs were stamped and shipped out to
> Today, when an album from this era is remastered, the mastering engineer typically
> requests all of the original source tapes and digital masters from the company's
> archives. Then, like any preservationist, the engineer will make dozens of critical
> decisions. " "I listen pretty intently to remove noise, distortion and other imperfections,
> but make sure the original music sounds intact," said Mr. Linett.
> Recently, Sony's senior mastering engineer Vic Anesini and producer Rob Santos were
> hunkered down at Battery Studios in New York to remaster a career-spanning boxed
> set of Sly and the Family Stone -- including a previously unreleased recording of
> a 1970 concert at the Isle of Wight off the coast of England.
> "For this project, we pulled about 12 cartons of original one-inch, eight-track analog
> tape masters from Sony's vaults," Mr. Anesini said. "Today I'm going to import just
> the new concert material into our computer at a high digital resolution, then I'm
> going to use the Pro Tools software program to refine imperfections caused by mike
> placements at the time."
> Up first was the group's Isle of Wight performance of "Dance to the Music." "If you
> listen carefully, you can hear the band's Cynthia Robinson singing and playing trumpet
> through the same microphone set up to record all of the horns," he said. "This is
> a problem because her vocal is competing with the horns."
> To resolve the issue, Mr. Anesini slid a white bar on the mixing console to raise
> her level, allowing Ms. Robinson's singing voice to be heard more clearly. "But I
> have to drop the level quickly after her vocal so the horns don't come in too loud,"
> he said reaching forward. "After I remix all the tracks, I'll go into our mastering
> studio and adjust the song's upper bass and lower midrange frequencies."
> But all remastered boxed sets ultimately face the same fate: winding up on sites
> like Amazon, where buying decisions are made based on the sound of 30-second samples.
> "In many cases, you're hearing an MP3, a compressed file that won't give you any
> sense of the box's true sound," said Bob Katz, president of Digital Domain in Orlando,
> Fla., and author of "Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science" (Focal Press).
> So how can the average consumer evaluate the remastered music they've purchased?
> "The music should sound warmer, wider and deeper than your earlier versions," Mr.
> Katz said. "Warmer means round, not metallic. Wider means the music appears to extend
> beyond the speakers. And deeper means that the music lingers, like the ringing of
> a bell. Just listen carefully. Like wine, you want music that doesn't sound sour
> or past its prime."
> -Bob Ringwald
> Amateur (ham) Radio Operator K6YBV
> 916/ 806-9551
> "Jesus loves you."
> A nice gesture in church but a terrible thing to hear in a Mexican prison.
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