What does 'remastered' actually mean?

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HaychHaych Frets: 526
Over the years I've bought a ton of albums in their original guise and also later on the rereleased remastered versions on account of having lost the originals, or having lent them out never to get them back again.

In all honestly I've never heard a remastered album that has any discernible difference to the original.  So what does it mean when an album is remastered?  Is anything different done to/with the recording or is it a marketing gimmick used to shift more units?

And speaking of mastering and remastering albums, how does Bob Ludwig find the time to master so many albums?  He must be the busiest guy on the planet!  I bet I can look on any number of albums I own and it'll state it was mastered by Bob Ludwig.  The guy can't have slept for about 30 years!
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 2925
    Low end on vinyl was always weaker and had to be reduced during mastering (limitation of the format) so this is the biggest improvement for cd remasters. However, many releases have also had progressively "louder" limiting applied during mastering as evidenced by various version of Back in Black for example. 
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  • HaychHaych Frets: 526
    Low end on vinyl was always weaker and had to be reduced during mastering (limitation of the format) so this is the biggest improvement for cd remasters. However, many releases have also had progressively "louder" limiting applied during mastering as evidenced by various version of Back in Black for example. 
    Ah, ok, that makes a bit of sense - thanks.
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 18458
    edited June 12
    In some instances it can mean dynamics put back into the music after a particularly bad master in the initial release.

    For example, Vapor Trails by Rush.
    Although that was called a 'remix' but effectively they just dealt with the shitty mastering from the 2002 release.

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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 8991
    Sometimes it just means "an excuse to charge you more for yet another copy of something you've already got"
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • mr-macmr-mac Frets: 196
    New master created by new mastering engineer.  If possible taking from original recordings or backups.  But depends what's available could just be tweaks to original master and even seen data extracted from vinyl via a laser turntable if no viable master or multi track left to use
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  • HaychHaych Frets: 526
    octatonic said:
    In some instances it can mean dynamics put back into the music after a particularly bad master in the initial release.

    For example, Vapor Trails by Rush.
    Although that was called a 'remix' but effectively they just dealt with the shitty mastering from the 2002 release.

    To be fair I think that one was a genuine remix, I've compared the original and remixed versions and the mix is very, very different and not always for the better IMHO, although the original release was really quite bad.

    Sometimes it just means "an excuse to charge you more for yet another copy of something you've already got"
    Yep, I'm sure there's something in that, too.
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  • mr-macmr-mac Frets: 196
    Usually i find best sound and dynamics in original if its older stuff.
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  • TheBigDipperTheBigDipper Frets: 931
    Earlier records that were originally released on vinyl were mastered so the cutter could make a decent record from it. Sometimes that meant reducing the bass and maybe compressing the dynamic range so the cutting needle wouldn't jump during the cutting process. The result sounded fine on a turntable, but may not have been what the artist originally mixed in the studio.

    Then, when CD versions of those records were made, the record company might use the vinyl master to burn the CD. Which is why so many early CDs sound like pants compared to the vinyl version. Nothing to do with the vinyl, it's the mastering process they used to overcome the limitations of vinyl for cutting. 

    Which is why some older CDs really benefit from being remastered. And remixed. And even then you can sometimes hear how poor the original recording was even if the musician's performance itself was great. 

    (I'm looking at you, 1970s prog bands...) 
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  • ColsCols Frets: 293
    Can you imagine how upset Jimmy Page must have been in 2014 when he realised that he hadn’t remastered Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue properly in 1990 and he’d have to go back and do it all again?
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  • Strat54Strat54 Frets: 910
    It means such a slight improvement from the last issue that only Eric Johnson would have any chance of noticing ;)
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  • HaychHaych Frets: 526
    Strat54 said:
    It means such a slight improvement from the last issue that only Eric Johnson would have any chance of noticing ;)
    Love it, have a LOL
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  • monquixotemonquixote Frets: 8151
    Remasters from the 90s were mostly fixing bad cd masters from the 80s (zep remasters for example)
    2000 remasters were very often taking CDs that sounded fine and brick wall limiting them so they sounded horrible like the contemporary "loudness war" music of the time.

    Amusingly many recent remasters like the Oasis ones are taking horribly brick wall limited CDs and putting the dynamic range back in.
    Handsome_Chris said: Like white Nile Rodgers. 
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  • RockerRocker Frets: 2742
    Generally making the music sound 'louder' on CD.  Remastered CDs always sound more impressive than the originals but this is at the expense of dynamics and smoothness of the sound.  Remastered CDs seem to rip better [to low bitrate files] for use on smartphones, used for commuting on the train.
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32778
    edited June 12
    Quite often the changes in dynamics mean that the mix is noticeably altered, disturbingly and annoyingly if you're very familiar with the original album, so the new mix jars with what's in your head.

    Or in the case of the fantastic Beatles Sgt. Peppers 50th anniversary edition, somehow everything is louder and clearer *without* the overall mix being noticeably changed... the album sounds exactly like it used to, only better.

    So there is no hard and fast rule. I think it probably depends on the skill and ears of those responsible, and the amount of time and effort put in - ie in the case of Sgt. Peppers, a very great deal. With others, bang on some compression and hope for the best seems to be how it's done.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • strumjoughlampsstrumjoughlamps Frets: 1919
    Maybe it’s the format but my experience when a/b ing mainly 70s stuff (The Band, Van Morrison, Dylan etc..) the stereo imaging on CD/Stream to my ears isn’t as wide compared to original vinyl. 
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  • axisusaxisus Frets: 10880
    Remastering is a clever technique to legally fleece mugs of their money. 
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  • ToneControlToneControl Frets: 4203
    the first CDs often sounded crap, when they had used the master tapes mixed to work well with the limitations of vinyl. They sounded flat and lifeless.
    Then the same thing happened the other way, vinyls sounded crap because they used the master made for CDs
    Certainly anything mastered for vinyl will sound poor if simply transferred to CD

    When first Zep remasters came out, I loved it - there was detail there I had never heard before. Admittedly,  I do dislike some of JP's production ideas though. I remember Tony Visconti remarking that when he heard the remasters of Bowie albums, he heard details he remembered that he'd not heard since the sessions. This is what can be achieved.

    There is of course plenty of scope to do a bad job of the remastering

    I've played myself with remastering the multitrack sessions I have been able to find. It's interesting to go too far intentionally then pull back

    On a side note, I love the remasterings that are really completely re-imagined productions from Bill Laswell, especially the Bob Marley, Miles Davis and Santana ones
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 2925
    Maybe it’s the format but my experience when a/b ing mainly 70s stuff (The Band, Van Morrison, Dylan etc..) the stereo imaging on CD/Stream to my ears isn’t as wide compared to original vinyl. 
    As cd is a more exact medium I'd put that down to L/R phase differences inherent in vinyl or your vinyl playback setup. Nothing comes closer to the sound of an actual analog 2 track master than quality digital conversion and playback. 
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  • Philly_QPhilly_Q Frets: 4607
    For me it means something I feel obliged to shell out for because I cannot defeat my collector mentality.

    Then when I've bought the remaster I leave it sealed and carry on listening to whichever version of the album is on Spotify.

    Still, there is often the "bonus" of some previously unreleased demos or alternate takes.  Which I will listen to once then ignore forever.
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  • HattigolHattigol Frets: 1204
    Sometimes it just means "an excuse to charge you more for yet another copy of something you've already got"
    'Sometimes'??
    "Anybody can play. The note is only 20%. The attitude of the motherf*cker who plays it is  80%" - Miles Davis
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  • lonestarlonestar Frets: 1856
    It means you get a newer/non cracked CD or DVD box with the same content inside :)
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  • RandallFlaggRandallFlagg Frets: 5569
    You can also get 'relic' versions of music releases, with added artefacts, hiss, crackles and pops etc...or vinyl as I like to call it.
    "...I can hear you breathing down the hall"
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  • mr-macmr-mac Frets: 196
    Even take blues brothers soundtrack... The original CD release is more dynamic than later one.  Some say later sounds better but if you turn up the earlier one so similar loudness exists (as often human ear perceives louder item as having higher sound quality.  We'll turning less compressed one up and it sounds noticeably better than compressed one ;)
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  • 57Deluxe57Deluxe Frets: 5780
    three times the price and a bag to put it in
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  • FretwiredFretwired Frets: 16945
    Always check to see who did it. Are they are respected producer? If so probably worth it. If there's no name it's probably an automated process done quickly and cheaply and may sound horrible or no different from the first release.
    My pump-action drivel gun is smoking hot today!
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  • TheBigDipperTheBigDipper Frets: 931
    Fretwired said:
    Always check to see who did it. Are they are respected producer? If so probably worth it. If there's no name it's probably an automated process done quickly and cheaply and may sound horrible or no different from the first release.

    This. ^^^^^

    I rather like the Steven Wilson reworkings of old '70s prog bands output. The redo of Sgt. Pepper is also pretty good. The 20th Anniversary redo of OK Computer (which was recorded in the digital age in the first place) is also an improvement to my ears with the exception of Airbag. I prefer the original version of that.
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  • merlinmerlin Frets: 1403
    edited June 14
    50 year reissue of Sgt Peppers. Check it out. That's proper remastering. 
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  • ESBlondeESBlonde Frets: 2366
    Basic mastering typically involves dynamic compression (probably multiband these days) and occasionally some BOSE/APHEX/DOLBY type sound treatment or compensation. Over the decades those technologies have become unnessaccary or superceeded so taking them off/out might improve the sound. It was pretty much always a fact that the best most dynamic mix was in the control room as the stereo master was being put together, from there the producer/artists music was in the hands of sales people and technicians. A good mix intended for cassette tape and vynyl won't be optimised for CD, which in turn isn't optimised for common digital file compression. A good mastering engineer creates the sound for the medium intended.
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  • scrumhalfscrumhalf Frets: 4939
    Remastered means that the old promotional material has to be altered slightly, older versions cleared from the racks and a tenner slapped on the price of new stock.

    It's like London Underground's terms for redecorating tube stations:
    Refurbishment - a new coat of paint on some bits
    Extensive refurbishment - a new coat of paint on even more bits
    Modernisation - two coats of paint, and they match!
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  • thecolourboxthecolourbox Frets: 3196
    The Beatles ones they did for the Love album were fantastic I thought, so it can be a good thing

    And if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows

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