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Thread: Remastered Records: Are they ever really worth it?

  1. #1
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    Default Remastered Records: Are they ever really worth it?

    I've never really heard a remastered album that truly impressed me. I always find myself having to go out of my way to search for any discernible difference(other than noticing that it is usually slightly louder). I've read reviews of remastered albums, and I don't think I've once read a positive commentary on "what a great job they did" with remastering some classic album.

    What I'm wondering is: Are remastered records basically just a scam that convinces people to buy a product that is practically identical to one that they already own? I sometimes wonder: Just how much time and effort do record companies really put in to remastering an older album? Are they really digging deep and making intricate changes to the sound levels? I've always felt that they do very little to affect the listening experience.

    In fact, it seems like the only thing the audio engineers who remaster albums CAN seem to do is make minor adjustment that allows the songs to sound slightly better when played at a high volume. And I feel like the lame extras they include (like stickers or a downloadable band-themed background desktop) are just there to "beef up" an essentially meatless product. Also, it seems that records are remastered much more often these days, although I'm not sure. However, I would guess so since recording technology is so much more advanced and convenient in current times.

    Have you ever heard a remastered album that blew you away? I know I haven't.
    Last edited by bighead384; 05-12-2013 at 08:58 PM.
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    Like you say, remastered albums are usually just louder in order to compete with today's loudness war. I've never heard a remastered album that was different than the original one, except in volume.
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    What an album cover says: Newly Remastered!
    What I see: Louder By an Almost Unnoticeable Difference

    Haha. That could be a meme-ish thing.
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    I mostly agree with Bighead, remastered "deluxe something" editions are usually just louder, which is completely unneccessary. And overpriced too, as in the case of Nirvana's Nevermind super deluxe edition - nobody wants to pay freaking 90 € for 5 discs of the same songs over and over (now they dropped the price of the set to about 50 € in stores here, and it's still too much).

    There are rare exceptions, however. For example, Mad Season: Above (deluxe) sounds brilliant, in fact it has lost little dynamic range compared to the original 1995 release (they both average at 9 db, which is excellent for these times). The sound is crisp, quiet when it needs to be and punches you in the face when Layne lets loose with his vocals. You really do notice that the mastering has been done properly this time. The bonus material is also great, as the set also contains a DVD with two full concerts with additional bonus footage. I haven't got the original release so I bought this re-release instead, and this time it was worth it. A rare example, true, but I'm happy it was done as it should be.

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    It really depends on the record. For example, The Beatles remasters that came out in 2009 were 100% necessary because the original CDs that came out in the 1980s were insanely awful, to the point where you couldn't hear basslines in certain songs. But the reissues sound completely beautiful, full, and lush and as cheesy as this will sound, the first time I heard them I felt like I was hearing these records for the first time. I remember reading all these reviews talking about how energetic and raw the pre-Rubber Soul albums were but never understanding it until I heard the reissues. The My Bloody Valentine remaster was similar.

    Really it all depends on how and when the record was produced in the first place. An album recorded on analogue and released on vinyl, then merely transferred from vinyl to CD in the 80s is bound to sound like shit because the mastering isn't from the tapes. So a remaster for that stuff is oftentimes really necessary in order to not sound thin and tinny. But if you're talking an album like Nevermind that was already really slickly produced and always sounded big and beefy, then yeah, a remaster is pointless.
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    Going to have to (boringly) echo the sentiment that it depends on the record; a lot of the time it just seems to make things louder, but for some records like Banner Pilot's Resignation day it went from almost an unsustainable mess to becoming an excellent album.
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    Around the same time as those Beatles remasters, the Beastie Boys remastered their 4 classic albums. They sound fucking great. Especially Paul's Boutique, you can hear almost every sample distinctly unless they muffled them on purpose. That and those came with a second disc full of b-sides and remixes, and the packaging got beefed up a little.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RageAndLov View Post
    Like you say, remastered albums are usually just louder in order to compete with today's loudness war. I've never heard a remastered album that was different than the original one, except in volume.
    Ozzy Osbourne remasters totally rules.
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    Bump because Nirvana's In Utero is also getting (several) remastered editions.

    Looks like they haven't learned anything from Nevermind 20th anniversary editions, of which I still see the very same "super deluxe" copy every time I visit a certain music store (now it costs half as much as it did when they released it, but it's still overpriced). In Utero's super deluxe edition will apparently cost roughly the same as the nevermind one (pun intended) did, around 90 €, having one disc less (3 CD + DVD this time). And of course it's gonna be compressed to death again. Even 2CD deluxe edition is still overpriced around 25 €, I bought Soundgarden's Classic Album Selection box set (5 albums) for the same price as that (and the albums were not remastered, they were just repackaged original albums so the music hadn't lost any dynamic range).

    Bottom line is, I'm a huge Nirvana fan, but I'm leaning towards not buying any of these copies. It's not because of "that's exactly what Kurt would have hated" mentality, because nobody is in the position of telling what he would want or not. It's because the price and overcompression don't make these editions worth buying. I'm gonna stick with my original copy of the album (and the vinyl rip of original Albini mixes of In Utero, which have been circulating around the web)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rooster View Post
    ...And of course it's gonna be compressed to death again...
    I stand corrected. The deluxe edition is out now, and as unbelievable as it may sound, they've done right. This new edition actually has BETTER dynamic range than the original album. We can thank Steve Albini for that, he personally supervised the project, and the results are brilliant - both the original remastered album and the 2013 mix of it (also done by Albini) sound fantastic, and the new mix is in places quite a lot different than the original mix, sometimes I even prefer a new version of a song to the original one. All in all, this reissue is probably the best sounding version of In Utero out there (that very likely goes for the vinyl version as well, the album has been split onto two 12 inch 45 rpm black vinyls for better quality, and the 3rd 33 rpm vinyl contains the bonus tracks).

    So, two great deluxe editions this year: Mad Season's Above and now Nirvana's In Utero. But while Above deluxe sounded just as good as the original album, In Utero actually sounds even better than its original counterpart. Didn't see this coming at all.

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