What does 'remastered' actually mean?

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  • valevale Frets: 948
    edited June 13
    if it's done with sincerity & a passion i think there's genuine merit in doing it. & some tracks/albums really benefit from revisiting. in my experience that's particularly those bands who didn't have much to spend (or received litttle investment in them) at the beginning of their careers, but went on to become recognised as important.
    so great albums whose potential was kind of sacrificed to fast cheap mixing & post-production.

    an immediate example i can think of of that is the jesus & mary chain's psychocandy. they had nightmares with the compression for cutting (vinyl days) with that one, because they were pushing the format & tech & engineers to do things they were designed or trained to not do. apparently (jamc legend) an extended stand off between the band & engineers until it got ok'd.

    anyway, i have three versions, all mixed down & produced differently.
    the vinyl (which admittedly i listen to least because i don;t have a record player, it's more for when i go visiting) has a very velcro-ey buzz chainsaw fuzz too it. very shinei. but no botom end.
    the early 2000s CD put the bass & mids back but feels quite dense & airless & a bit of grit sacrificed maybe.
    & the recent 25th anniversary 2CD box is superb. all frequencies well balanced, a deep voluminous fuzz. but sometimes i wonder if it the production isn't maybe 'too rock' & the others each have something it doesn't.

    so (despite being really cynical & anti unecessary anti-corporate repackaging) i hold onto all three for their idiosnyncratic relative merits.

    bigger stuff like U2 etc i think they were always produced to the max to begin with, with probably half a dozen producers all wading in to ensure QC. & a band powerful enough to call all shots.

    but i have also heard of some metal band (Def Lep?) who recalled or wanted to recall a CD remaster because it was so massively compressed for max loudness that half the upper frequency dynamics were lost to clipping. can't remember who, but the band were not happy.

    edit. did a search for above unhappy metal band & couldn't find, but this is interesting re 'the loudness war' https://www.sharoma.com/loudness_war.htm
    what she said.
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  • GagarynGagaryn Frets: 1219
    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. 
    Equalization has to be very different for vinyl than other formats to allow records to have the duration we expect. It was standardised in the 50's and is called RIAA equalisation. At the recording stage the low frequencies are attenuated and the high frequencies boosted, otherwise for the bass the grooves would need to be wide and stylus would struggle to track. Opposite applies at playback, phono stages are designed to boost bass and attenuate treble resulting in the recording sounding as intended. 

    Remastering is different though I think, the intention is to end up with a different result from the original release be going back to the original masters and having a second go. I've heard remasters that are great - Clash albums, especially London Calling that were in the box set that came out a few years ago sound great - much bigger than original pressings. The other that sounds massively different that comes to mind is the Bowie Low remaster from the recent box set - bass is really emphasised resulting in a very different feel to the album - I l like it but sounds almost like a different album.

    I think the crux of it is remastering is worth doing if original mastering was weak, otherwise good albums should be left alone. In most instances originals sound better to me - but this is probably due to familiarity. 
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  • GrangousierGrangousier Frets: 138
    The following is more me typing out what I think is the case than anything else. 

    I think what Giles Martin did with Sgt Pepper is technically a remix - a lot of the recordings involved bouncing multiple takes from one tape machine onto another, and what he did was find the original tapes and resynchronise them so he effectively had a modern multitrack's worth of takes to work with, and was then able to mix them as you would an album today. I do think the result is fantastic, and I'm impressed by the way he's able to make it sound like I thought it sounded in my head, if you see what I mean. The different mixes all have their own character, and even the original mono vinyl version has a certain charm. 

    So, a remix would involve going back as far as possible, digitising to the highest possible standard and restoring/mixing the tracks as though it were a modern record. This is done more now largely because the tapes themselves are falling to bits and can only be played a limited number of times (though Martin lucked out in a way as those Pepper initial takes would only have been played a couple of times in 1967 and then stored in a box somewhere for fifty years). 

    I've always understood remastering to mean that they went back to the two-track master - the tape that the the original mix was mixed onto - and then digitised / restored / eq / compressed that to create a contemporary-sounding release. This has a different value as the mix itself would have been a performance (faders going up and down; eq, reverb and effects tweaked in real time), often by a number of people crowded round the desk, which would be worth preserving in itself. 

    Exactly which kind of re-presentation is most satisfying most likely depends on the specific recording. Steven Wilson can almost certainly do a better job than Eddie Offord did with Fragile by Yes, but there would be no point in trying to recreate what Lee Perry (to take an extreme example) did. A lot of great recordings would be somewhere in between. 
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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    ^^^ The general consensus for some time seems to have been that the remaster (preserve the mix as before, but make it sound a bit nicer/louder/clearer) is preferable to a remix, which is bound to divide opinion as to whether the new version or the old is better. 

    That said, Giles Martin's Sgt Pepper remix is a good indication of how a good remix from the right producer can improve a record- it's thoroughly respectful of the original recording, but everything is more defined and the stereo imaging isn't that silly 60s hard panned thing.

    Compare to Bob Clearmountain's Free remixes on "All Right Now- The Best of Free", which use drum samples and digital reverbs and you'll understand why people might not want remixes of their favourite old albums.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 31615

    Compare to Bob Clearmountain's Free remixes on "All Right Now- The Best of Free", which use drum samples and digital reverbs and you'll understand why people might not want remixes of their favourite old albums.
    That's a shockingly bad album. It sounds like Ocean Colour Scene or something...

    OK, slight exaggeration ;), but you know what I mean - it has "90s" written all over it in huge letters.
    "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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  • english_bobenglish_bob Frets: 2318
    ICBM said:

    Compare to Bob Clearmountain's Free remixes on "All Right Now- The Best of Free", which use drum samples and digital reverbs and you'll understand why people might not want remixes of their favourite old albums.
    That's a shockingly bad album. It sounds like Ocean Colour Scene or something...

    OK, slight exaggeration ;), but you know what I mean - it has "90s" written all over it in huge letters.
    It's the Free album I grew up with, so I have a bit of a soft spot for it. There are a few things on it that are better than the original versions- the overall mix of The Hunter, the arrangement on All Right Now, the removal of a prominent strangled sounding guitar lick on Come Together In The Morning- but if you offered me similar 90s remixes of other seminal 70s rock bands I'd politely decline.

    Don't talk politics and don't throw stones. Your royal highnesses.

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  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3560
    ICBM said:

    Compare to Bob Clearmountain's Free remixes on "All Right Now- The Best of Free", which use drum samples and digital reverbs and you'll understand why people might not want remixes of their favourite old albums.
    That's a shockingly bad album. It sounds like Ocean Colour Scene or something...

    OK, slight exaggeration ;), but you know what I mean - it has "90s" written all over it in huge letters.
    It's the Free album I grew up with, so I have a bit of a soft spot for it. There are a few things on it that are better than the original versions- the overall mix of The Hunter, the arrangement on All Right Now, the removal of a prominent strangled sounding guitar lick on Come Together In The Morning- but if you offered me similar 90s remixes of other seminal 70s rock bands I'd politely decline.
    Bob himself doesn't like it now, he admitted that on Gearslutz ...... he said at the time he was young, drum samples were new etc. He overdid it, tried to guild the lily so to speak ....
    That aside Bob is still the best mix engineer of all time so far in my book 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
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