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Customer Discussions > Rock forum

Are Remastered CDs Really Worth It?


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Showing 1-21 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 11, 2007 1:32:03 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2007 1:35:26 AM PST
raja99 says:
I'm beginning to wonder if I wasn't too qucik to replace my old vinyl albums with CDs as they became available. I did this with virtually all of my albums as soon as they were released on CD.

More and more, I keep discovering that remastered versions of the CDs have been released. Which means, I would have to replace nearly every CD I have.

Is it really worth it? Is the sound really that much better? I recently ordered remastered versions of my Grateful Dead CDs - Workingman's Dead and American Beauty.

However, I now realize, that remastered versions of all the Zeppelin CDs are now out, as well as, dozens and dozens of other artists.

I have over 1,200 CDs, most of which are the original CD versions that were released.

Is anybody else in the same boat? If so, have you been replacing them with remastered versions? As I asked, is it really worth it?

Is the sound quality really that much better on the remastered version of Led Zeppelin II than the version I bought like 18 years ago?

Any new CDs I've been buying, I've purchased remastered versions, where possible. I'm just wondering if I pissed all that money away on all those original CD releases.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2007 8:16:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2007 11:43:29 AM PST
Dee Zee says:
I've regretted sellig off much of my vinyl in the '80s. Since then I've recollected some of it because it still sounds better than the CD versions. I have a mono Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones that still sounds better than any of the CD releases. And I have the Beatles stereo and mono American LPs.

On the remastered CDs issue, I buy a title if it's a favorite. Many do sound remarkably better due to improved CD mastering and sometimes using a better first generation uncompressed or not limited master tape or tapes found in the vaults.

Recent examples:
The Beatles Capitol Albums box sets Volume 1 and 2
The Rolling Stones 1960s ABKCO catalog re-issued in 2002
David Crosby - If Only I Could Remember My Name re-issued in 2006
The Beach Boys Capitol catalog re-issued in 2001
The Band Capitol catalog re-issued in 2000
Bob Dylan Columbia re-masters (select titles) issued in 2003

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2007 9:26:11 AM PST
Bill Hom says:
You only pissed your money away if you didn't enjoy listening to them but I do understand how you feel. The worst part is that Record Companies release crappy versions of a classic album and then release the "remastered" cd later on. For example, Led Zeppelin: the original albums were released on cd, then came the 4-disc Led Zeppelin Box Set "Remastered by Page himself" in 1990, then came the Led Zeppelin box set 2 in March, 1993, then came the Complete Studio Recordings in September, 1993. Now how pissed off were you if you bought the Led Zep Box set 2 and then 6 months later you could have bought everything in one fell swoop?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2007 11:27:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 19, 2007 4:06:30 PM PST
PGM says:
If you have a half decent system, you will notice some differences, some subtle and some not.

I have remastered versions of Yes's Close to the Edge and there are differences from the vinyl and original CD mastering.
The bass guitar on a couple of the tracks that was bloated and unbalanced is now sharper and cleaner, as is the drum sound.
There was a section in I Get Up, I Get Down, where there was noticeable distortion, that is now gone.

Same thing on the Who's Tommy and Quadrophenia.

What a lot of folks don't realize is that in order to cut a vinyl record, the original recording needs to be compressed (dynamic range in terms of loudest passages and softest passages) because vinyl as a medium can't reproduce them.

Analogue vinyl is limited to 70 db dynamic range, while digital is at 96 db.

So even if you have an analogue 24 track tape that gives you a dynamic range of say 105 db,when it gets mastered down to 2 track, you must compress the dynamic range down to 70 db,otherwise you will get distortion when you cut the master lacquer.

What a lot of record companies did at the beginning, is just transferred the compressed 2 track master over to digital format and released it without removing the compression.
The result is a CD with the lower dynamic range and signal to noise ratio of the original vinyl.

So all you get is a format change, without all the benefits of the new medium.

Are the newer remasters worth it?

To me, yes, but your mileage may vary.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2007 11:37:01 AM PST
ROGUEL33TER says:
Alot of people complain that the instruments on remasters aren't given enoguh space to breathe.
The greatest remastering I have ever heard is on the black sabbath box set, it blows all the other versions out of the water. Of course sabbath's instruments don't need to be given space to breathe 'cause sabbath is meant to be a dense headbanging expierience.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2007 7:22:28 AM PST
I've ranted on this matter before, and I'm gonna do it again. Yes, most of the "remastered versions" do indeed sound better. Are they genuinely worth it? That depends upon your point of view. If those original, earlier CDs had been correctly mastered in the first place-- and they could and should have been-- then the remastered versions would be unnecessary. In that respect, the new remasters are a total rip-off. They're simply a way for the record labels to get into our pockets by charging us all over again for better versions of discs we've already bought and paid for once before. That doesn't stop me from buying the new ones, 'cause most of them really are better. But it still pi**es me off tremendously.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2007 8:28:39 AM PST
nothing says:
Agreed Richard, it is too bad that they were not Remastered sooner. I have enjoyed the Remasters of Rush, Robert Plant and Van Halen among others. The Robert Plant ones are particularly good because they are including several B-sides and unreleased tracks with the new releases. The Van Halen ones are really not a whole lot better, and if I had it to do over again I would not have bought the two "digital remasters" I got, because with those particular ones I didn't really notice much difference, and there was no extra material. I love getting a glimpse of unreleased material, but that itself is another topic altogether. Leo :)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2007 12:35:41 PM PST
I personally think that remastered versions do sound better. Sometimes they are way better, others the difference is not so dramatic but still worth it. I have replaced only my favorites up till now. One notable exception is Derek And the Dominoes Layla. This is a lousy recording no matter how you look at it and it's a shame that such fine musicians allowed their product to sound so bad. I finally bought the SACD once I had the capability and it's the best I have heard this recording sound by far. Still other SACD's sound much better because there is only so much you can do with the original.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2007 10:20:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 17, 2007 10:38:57 PM PST
I am not so sure about giving a blanket pass to all remasters. If you save the original CD release and then the remastered CD release as a .wav file and run them both through Audacity or similar program, what you will see might surprise you. Many remastered CD's are simply the same wave form with the decibel level jacked up. The original CD simply sounds quieter because CD's in the 80's were mastered at a much lower volume level than today. Sure, not all are like this - sampling techniques and so forth have improved since then. But there are some instances of remastered albums that are no better sounding than the original release, they simply sound louder.

Ever notice how much louder the remasters sometimes sound? Louder does not always mean better quality. For one thing, to make a CD louder, the re-mastering engineer must make all of the sounds on the CD louder, which means that he must compress the dynamic range of the CD overall in order to make the overall volume level higher. This compression is especially noticeable in the drums, kicks and tom-toms. There isn't the visceral impact there should be - everything within the track is basically at a constant volume level.

Try comparing a well-recorded CD in its 80's release, like Kansas' Greatest Hits, to something more recent like Rush's Snakes and Arrows. I really love Rush, but the drums on their new album sound terrible because they and everything else on the album are so compressed. It's a LOUD album, but without dynamic range, it's not natural. Crank up the Kansas CD and you'll immediately understand what I mean. Loudness and compression are big issues these days in the recording industry. In their quest to make CD's sound good on low quality equipment, usually by compressing the dynamic range of the CD, the recording industry is removing the life from many good albums and some remasters.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2007 1:26:55 PM PST
That's a very good point. A lot of new music (not just remastered older music) sounds like crap for exactly the reason you cited. And indeed, a lot of those remasters are much louder than the original releases were. Whether or not that's the only difference does, I suspect, depend entirely upon which disc(s) you're talking about. I've found that many remasters do sound significantly better. On the other hand, I've heard others that actually sound worse due to the compression issues you mentioned and the fact that the gain has been pushed so hard that some of the loudest passages actually distort. Either way, though, the bottom line is that the original CDs should have sounded better to begin with. One of the earliest CDs I bought way back in the mid 80s was Jethro Tull's "Aqualung". It sounded abominable. There was significant hiss, the sound was muddy and thin, and worst of all the last few seconds of the last track were actually missing. Outraged, I sent the disc back to Chrysalis Records with a not-terribly-nice letter complaining about all of those problems. Some time later I received a replacement disc from them, on which they had "fixed" the problems. Yes, they had restored the missing passage from that last track. But their solution to the excess tape hiss was to simply roll off the high end, making the sound even muddier than it was before. Years later they released the remastered version, which actually does sound much better (although MFSL's Audiophile LP is still, in my opinion, superior). But the point is that all of us who actually gave a damn then had to buy it all over again. And that, to me, is unconscionable. It should have been done right the first time.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2007 3:39:46 PM PST
raja99 says:
Well, I recently replaced my original CDs with remastered versions of:

Workingman's Dead
American Beauty
Tres Hombres
On the Border
One of These Nights

Of course, this is only necessary with older CDs, but I have sooooooo many older CDs. I'm shocked that they've now come out with a remastered version of Captain Beyond's first 2 albums and Fighting by Thin Lizzy. Not to mention so many of my other all-time favorites- Who's Next, Quadrophenia, Layla, etc. I guess that's what I get for replacing my vinyl copies with CD as soon as the CDs were released. Of course, I had no way of knowing that they would come out with remastered versions years later. At this point, I'm probably better off just sticking with what I already have. But, like you, it does tick me off. Just another attempt to rob the consumer at every turn. Just like with the new HD DVD and Blue Ray DVD releases.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2007 1:54:35 PM PST
W. L. Lynch says:
I have found that it is only worthwhile if the original CD really sucked to begin with. The first issues of Ultravox's first 3 albums were just terrible, among the worst sounding CD's I ever bought and the newest remasters were such an improvement I couldn't believe it. The problem for me is that by the time they remaster anything, I have usually burned myself out on it and won't be playing it enough to really bother buying it again. But being an eternal optimist, I often buy them anyway, play them once or twice, then file them away for future reference that never seems to come. Course I have waaaay too many CD's.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2007 3:55:44 PM PST
Until they find a way for you to play your records in your car, CDs are the best way to take your music with you. Cassette tapes? Naaaah. They don't last and are inconvenient with rewinding and all that. Some remasters are better than others, but nothing is perfect 100% of the time. A lot of CDs that were first remastered from analog tapes back in the 80's sound like crap compared to newer re-masters. They were very low volume for some reason. I'm talking about some VAN HALEN and BLACK SABBATH early CDs for example.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2007 6:25:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 20, 2007 8:09:16 AM PST
"Low volume" - no, not really. What they had (have) is something most post-1995 CD's don't have - dynamic range. That's the difference in decibel level between the softest and loudest sounds on the album. Everything coming out now - Led Zep's Mothership being the most recent high-profile example - is mastered to be EXTREMELY LOUD.

IT IS THE AURAL EQUIVALENT OF WRITING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, WHICH IS FATIGUING TO READ AND EVEN MORE FATIGUING TO LISTEN TO. IN FACT, WHEN THERE'S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SOFTEST AND LOUDEST SOUND, IT'S AN EXTREMELY POOR SONIC REPRESENTATION OF THE PERFORMANCE, WHERE THERE IS ALWAYS DYNAMIC CONTRAST BETWEEN SOFT AND LOUD. CD'S MASTERED IN THIS WAY ARE A GREAT PARADOX - PEOPLE THINK THEY SOUND BETTER, BUT IN FACT, THEY'RE JUST LOUDER. EVEN MORE PARADOXICALLY, THE BETTER THE STEREO SYSTEM ON WHICH THEY'RE PLAYED, THE WORSE THEY SOUND AND VICE-VERSA. SO ON SUCKO BEST BUY EMERSONS, THESE CD'S SOUND BETTER THAN ON A HARMAN KARDON.

I'll bet some of you couldn't finish reading that paragraph. That's how I feel when I listen to some of these CD's. Just turn up the volume on your 80's discs - true, the transfer technology wasn't as good as it is now - but there's much better fidelity on these discs. That's the same reason some people will only listen to LP's, because they can't be made as loud as a CD - there's simply not enough headroom.

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 4:37:56 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 12, 2014 4:38:12 AM PST]

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 4:38:32 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2014 4:51:33 AM PST
"Digitally Remastered!", "Remastered in 24 Bit!!", "Definitive Remasters!"...

As much marketing is behind these expressions printed on the shiny wrappers of reissued CDs as is science.

As said by several others in this thread, largely the only thing done to these legacy reissues is to "turn them up" so as to compete volume-wise with post-1990s modern album releases.
The following visual illustrates and underscores what has been said here:

http://i.imgur.com/GM2Z0.png

It's similar to what I posted on GearSlutz - a professional audio forum I got kicked off of due to my stance against the loudness war & remasters.

Since a lot of legacy albums were originally far more dynamic than modern albums, the only way to make them louder and 'fit' within digital full-scale is to chop off those louder peaks, dynamically compress what's left, and apply gain to utilize the headroom freed up by removing those peaks.

And before anyone thinks, "but hey, they're 24bit high-res", well that better quality is negated by these pointless loudness practices. And like it or not, that compression and brick-wall limiting IS the difference you are hearing between your original CD and the 24bit digital download. Remember: Mastering makes far more of an audible difference than comparisons between different digital formats(regular CD vs high res or even mp3).

Audacity is your friend - a free digital audio software with a link to donate if you like it - and will clearly reveal if a "remaster" has truly enhanced your music, or is simply a "chop-em-off and turn-em-up" job. The visual representation of music is not supposed to be ruler-edged peaks. Music is naturally choppy, spikey - dynamic!

In short, most original CDs, despite coming out during an era of allegedly inferior digital converters, pre-24bit, despite many being cut from the same master used for the vinyl record, are probably closer to that original sound than most so-called remasters.

Making it louder is NOT remastering.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2014 4:42:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2014 4:55:55 AM PST
There is plenty of headroom on CD - about 20dB or so above analog 0VU.

The problem is, in response to artists and producers competing on loudness, engineers have to keep boosting the RMS(the avg level, or how we perceive loudness), and in order to do that, must hard-limit off the peaks and compress the rest so they can turn what's left(!) up.

And most engineers I've talked to have stated that they do not like having to do these things, but they're in the service business, and must satisfy their customers(the musicians, producers, labels) or lose them.

Posted on Dec 12, 2014 9:03:33 PM PST
Working Man says:
I've kept my vinyl but I've also bought the CD versions of most of them. I've also converted many of my albums to digital format and cleaned up some of the pops and noise and that's been good but even after doing that I've gone out an picked CD versions especially when I see a good price.

As for remasters, I am limiting myself to only those remasters of my absolute favorite bands or albums or remasters with significant bonus content. I can hear the difference in most remasters. I also tried to help out with the cost of upgrading by selling some of my original CDs but now I am keeping them for my car and the remasters for my house and better stereo.

Posted on Jan 21, 2015 1:14:48 PM PST
I'm afraid the correct answer to this, as with so much else, is..."it depends."

In general, if all that's been done with a remaster is some sort of volume level-shift, then it's really not worth the expense, and might even sound worse than the un-remastered disc, particularly if compression and/or limiting has been applied to compete in the "loudness wars" (which, for me, has rendered too many recent releases virtually un-listenable). On the flip side, however, there were quite a lot of CD's from the late 80's and early 90's that had "Sonic Solutions" noise reduction slathered all over them (yuk!), plus as others observed, early digital transfers often used inferior nth generation source tapes equalized for the LP format, not to mention the technology wasn't as good back then, so unfortunately there is no bright line rule for finding great sounding discs.

I tend to agree with Working Man that a deciding factor on whether or not to invest in remasters and "deluxe editions" is how much I like the bonus content, if any. While I'll admit to being a bit of a sucker for that sort of thing, and have purchased favorite albums more than once just to obtain those elusive tracks, nowadays it appears one can often simply download whatever extras are preferred at a fraction of the cost, but I have not as yet ever done this given my perhaps archaic aversion to non-physical media.

A case in point is Led Zeppelin:

These were some of the very first CDs I obtained back in the 80's, having lived with cassette tapes prior to that. At first, the difference was astonishing, but when the first set of remasters appeared in the 90's, I felt I had to upgrade to the newer, shinier discs. As it turned out, I held on to the earlier discs and over time discovered I actually preferred their "warmer" sound over the then supposedly "better" remasters, which on first listen are more detailed but can become fatiguing as other posts have observed. From the samples I've heard, the 2014/2015 discs do seem like improvements, but the bonus content has left me underwhelmed such that I cannot justify a triple dip, though for a newbie to the band, these would probably be a fine introduction.

Besides bonus tracks, here's what I typically look for in remasters:

engineers - if the remaster has been done by Steve Hoffman, Barry Diament, Vic Anesini, or Doug Sax, chances are good I'll like it, whereas if I see Peter Mew's name on the credits I'll hesitate (though to be fair, Mew has gotten better in recent years).

source tapes - as aforementioned, some of those 1st issue CD's were absolutely horrid even with talented engineers who got stuck with inferior working copies and simply couldn't remove appalling drop-outs or worse, were limited to doing transfers that had actual missing music (remember when CD's were only 74 minutes in length?).

dynamic range - granted, a lot of original recordings featured some compression to begin with, but it's that artificially "squashed" sound I try to avoid when seeking out discs, and have been relatively lucky purchasing used discs from about pre-'95 or so, plus those tend to cost much less, but then of course, you have to look out for CD rot and scratches that could lead to skipping ("perfect sound forever"...I think not!).

Vinyl? That seems to have become an even more dicey proposition in recent years, particularly given its now apparently niche market expense. There, I would look for pressings which are all analog (some relatively recent titles on "Classic Records" have been quite good), though I've read reports insisting that some digitally-sourced "remastered" LP's sound nearly identical or even superior to more spendy 1st issue collectibles, but that is probably both system dependent and a matter of taste.

In other words, I'd say let your own ears (and pocketbook) be the judge. Hope this helps!

Posted on Jan 25, 2015 10:03:02 AM PST
S. Stalcup says:
Only for the bonus tracks. I've whinged elsewhere about how sick I am of seeing David Bowie, Elvis Costello and The Kinks' respective back catalogues reissued ad nauseum. How many times can they remaster the bloody things? I think Bowie's going on three. Elvis is on his third or fourth. No idea on The Kinks.

Posted on Jan 27, 2015 1:11:46 PM PST
JP says:
Recently found a used copy of the remastered Sabbath Mob Rules with the live tracks and demos. Already have it (have EVERY Sabbath on CD, and all 3 of Iommi's solo albums) but it was cheap enough to replace just for the 2nd disc!! I LOVE it when that happens!
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Discussion in:  Rock forum
Participants:  17
Total posts:  21
Initial post:  Nov 11, 2007
Latest post:  Jan 27, 2015

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