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Remasters, Remixes and importance of the Original

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Gerinski View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Remasters, Remixes and importance of the Original
    Posted: August 06 2014 at 05:40
Already since the dawn of CD, many re-issues of older albums were announced as "remastered from the original master tapes". Lately it has become more and more common to issue "remixes".

My questions are basically two or three:

Is it so that in "remasters" the original mix was preserved and only "impurities" such as perhaps some hiss from the analog equipment etc was corrected? or were there "remasters" which were actually also "remixes" even before the word "remix" became popular?

And, even if we now have remasters and remixes, how important do you think it is to still offer the original mix in the pack? (importance to preserve how the album originally sounded when first released).

Is not remastering and remixing some kind of "plastic surgery" or "photoshopping the music", with the danger that we loose the original piece of art?


Edited by Gerinski - August 06 2014 at 05:40
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PrognosticMind Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 06:02
I've always deplored when "remasters" are just remixes in disguise. Give me the tape hiss, the warbles, the tech limitations; these were all a HUGE part of the original recordings and releases. Miles Davis "Bitches Brew" suffered from a "reissue" that was more or less a b*****dization of the original issuing. That stuff drives me nuts!

I think it's very, VERY important to at least include the original mix, if not only for comparison so the listener can decide for themselves. I will admit some newer mixes definitely sound better and much more full in a car stereo (on CD) than some of the original mixes. If you're listening with headphones in private, however, the originals are always the way to go. 

I completely agree that what passes as remixing and remastering is most definitely musical "shopping" or "plastic surgery".

Great thread!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 06:08
Originally posted by PrognosticMind

I've always deplored when "remasters" are just remixes in disguise. 
Can we have an academical distinction between what should be called "remaster" and what should be called "remix"? (I'm pretty sure Dean will provide it).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PrognosticMind Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 06:15
Originally posted by Gerinski

Originally posted by PrognosticMind

I've always deplored when "remasters" are just remixes in disguise. 
Can we have an academical distinction between what should be called "remaster" and what should be called "remix"? (I'm pretty sure Dean will provide it).

I can give it my best shot, but I'm sure others will have a more accurate distinction!

I'd assert that a remix is a re-balancing of the already present/established original recording - without altering said original recording in any way, shape, or form - so as to "boost or cut" certain levels. An example would be to bring the vocals higher up in the mix, or pan the drums a little differently. Maybe drop the keys a little lower so they aren't overpowering the high-end on the guitar, etc. 

I'd assert that a remaster would be to take the original mix and, well, re-do all the final touches involved in mastering. The "final gloss" that records get is very subtle, but noticeable when compared to the raw mixes. This last distinction is often one I myself have a very difficult time discerning.

Thus, I don't think it's fair (granted I'm being accurate at all with my descriptions above) to call one the other, and vice-versa. Idk how much marketing becomes involved in trying to repackage or resell the same record with minor changes, so as to milk artist revenue, etc. If it's just a remix, why sell it as a remaster, and vice-versa? I will admit that this is where I get lost.

I eagerly await someone with a more professional background/experience in studio work to hop into this thread and enlighten us!


Edited by PrognosticMind - August 06 2014 at 06:20
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JD View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 06:46
A fairly accurate description. Being a soundman i can tell you this in it's most simple terms.

REMASTER
Most often taken from the original 'Master' tapes which are usually 1/4" reel to reel stereo tapes of the already 'Mixed' project. This allows for EQ'ing, compressing, dehissing and performing other post production work on an entire song that remains in it's original mixed state.

REMIXED

By definition mixing is the process of working with the original multi-track tapes (or in the current world digital tracks) usually in the form of 16, 24, 48 or more individual tracks for each song. This allows for EQ'ing, compressing and post production work on each individual track or instrument withn the song thereby allowing for a much more detailed alteration (or correction if you prefer) of each component that makes up the song. Once the 'REMIX' is completed the entire song then gets a 'Mastering' treatment.

In short, Remastered does not always mean Remixed, but Remixed must always be Remastered.

Hope that helps a bit.

I've have the Remixed early Genesis discs and it makes a HUGE difference to the sound quality of the recordings. But I would say that not all recordings benefit from this process as much as these ones have. It's the point that science and magic intersect. Wink


Edited by JD - August 06 2014 at 06:49
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Post Options Post Options   Quote PrognosticMind Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 07:12
Originally posted by JD

A fairly accurate description. Being a soundman i can tell you this in it's most simple terms.

REMASTER
Most often taken from the original 'Master' tapes which are usually 1/4" reel to reel stereo tapes of the already 'Mixed' project. This allows for EQ'ing, compressing, dehissing and performing other post production work on an entire song that remains in it's original mixed state.

REMIXED

By definition mixing is the process of working with the original multi-track tapes (or in the current world digital tracks) usually in the form of 16, 24, 48 or more individual tracks for each song. This allows for EQ'ing, compressing and post production work on each individual track or instrument withn the song thereby allowing for a much more detailed alteration (or correction if you prefer) of each component that makes up the song. Once the 'REMIX' is completed the entire song then gets a 'Mastering' treatment.

In short, Remastered does not always mean Remixed, but Remixed must always be Remastered.

Hope that helps a bit.

I've have the Remixed early Genesis discs and it makes a HUGE difference to the sound quality of the recordings. But I would say that not all recordings benefit from this process as much as these ones have. It's the point that science and magic intersect. Wink

...And there it is! Thank you so much for clearing that up! Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 09:39
Originally posted by JD


A fairly accurate description. Being a soundman i can tell you this in it's most simple terms.REMASTERMost often taken from the original 'Master' tapes which are usually 1/4" reel to reel stereo tapes of the already 'Mixed' project. This allows for EQ'ing, compressing, dehissing and performing other post production work on an entire song that remains in it's original mixed state.REMIXEDBy definition mixing is the process of working with the original multi-track tapes (or in the current world digital tracks) usually in the form of 16, 24, 48 or more individual tracks for each song. This allows for EQ'ing, compressing and post production work on each individual track or instrument withn the song thereby allowing for a much more detailed alteration (or correction if you prefer) of each component that makes up the song. Once the 'REMIX' is completed the entire song then gets a 'Mastering' treatment.In short, Remastered does not always mean Remixed, but Remixed must always be Remastered.Hope that helps a bit.I've have the Remixed early Genesis discs and it makes a HUGE difference to the sound quality of the recordings. But I would say that not all recordings benefit from this process as much as these ones have. It's the point that science and magic intersect. Wink




That's is a very good explanation of both JD

There is confusion on the two terms, especially in the 90's when all those remastered issues came out on CD, hence the start of the loudness wars. Essentially engineers who just pushed the volume levels up on all channels. What got lost is the little nuances, details and subtleness of the music. A whisper was no longer a whisper but a LOUD whisper, backing vocals and chorus became up front vocals and you lost the feeling of the main vocalist.

Today with more attention to music quality, more artists want their music to "sound good", they are looking for those engineers who really know what they are doing with a recording. Will it only pressed to CD? Will it only be issued as a digital file for online download? Will it be pressed to vinyl?
All of these require some different mastering techniques so the final media is the best it can be.

From all the music I have, getting a remixed edition of the original recording seems to yield the best results..As JD states Genesis is a perfect example. The original recordings of some early albums were veiled, like a blanket was covering your speakers. The remixed, half speed remasters that veil was lifted, the music was detailed and with life, and yes science and magic cross paths, something not everyone agrees with. But you cannot make this comparison without someone taking the time to do the project.
Same with the King Crimson/Steven Wilson/Fripp reissue projects. Steven painstakingly took ITCOTCK tapes and remixed/corrected due to the original tape deck heads being a bit out of whack, he breathed some life back into that album, all you have to do is compare the two.

Technology today can make an original analog reel to reel master sound glorious, and there are original master tapes that don't need any work at all. There are some that say "leave it alone, don't change a thing...!" There is value to that, the problem is the quality of audio gear today will bring those imperfections to the surface for all to hear.

The key is the person at the mixing board, the mastering engineer. If that person is not experienced then the most perfect studio recording will be ruined and will probably need to be remixed and remastered again....People complain about bands selling more reissues and usually the reason is because the original mastering job was botched and they want to correct the mistake, your paying for the engineer who did a poor job in the first place, I am ok with that, especially when an artists says they want to correct it.
      
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 09:52
I think everyone seems to get the difference between  Remix vs. Remastered. Without a remix, the sound  generally suffers as a result as the original stereo or mono album masters are often degraded due to over use in order to make second generation copy tapes for masters and often the original mixed masters are not EQed for digital sound, so a remix of older tape sourses are always desireable and do indeed often sound better than the original album masters.

Edited by SteveG - August 06 2014 at 10:38
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 11:46
In response to Catcher10's comment "The key is the person at the mixing board, the mastering engineer. If that person is not experienced then the most perfect studio recording will be ruined and will probably need to be remixed and remastered again"  I'd like to point out that most "mixing engineers" don't do the mastering. It's a specialized field of sound engineering. In fact it's completely possible that a single recording can have a "recording engineer" a " mixing engineer" an "editor"and a "mastering engineer". Due to mostly budgetary restriction, most small or medium studios have an individual or two that performs all of the functions. For the BUSKER Northern Fantasies album I performed all the functions except for the recording engineering. I was given the raw recorded tracks and pretty much given free reign on the mix/edit/mastering (with occasional reviews with the band).

Terms such as "Half Speed Mastering" and "Peak Limiting" can be searched to give an idea of a few of the tricks (tools) of the trade. There are tons of things a knowledgeable engineer can bring to the table to flavour a recording. Then again there is also a point where even the best of the best aren't going to polish a turd.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 13:07
^ Good point....maybe saying the downstream processing can ruin a good recording by one or many individuals.
      
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 13:57
Originally posted by SteveG

Without a remix, the sound  generally suffers as a result as the original stereo or mono album masters are often degraded due to over use in order to make second generation copy tapes for masters and often the original mixed masters are not EQed for digital sound, so a remix of older tape sourses are always desireable and do indeed often sound better than the original album masters.
So I take it that you are happy to get rid of the original recording if the remix / remaster sounds "better". I hope this does not sound as an accusation, it's just a question to promote the discussion, since it is completely opposite to what PrognosticMind said in his first reply ("give me the tape hiss, the warbles, the tech limitations; these were all a HUGE part of the original recordings and releases").
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Post Options Post Options   Quote uvtraveler Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 14:04
The big issue is really what you're used to hearing and how important that original sound was to you.  A song recorded in the 1960s was meant to played on vinyl with mono/stereo systems that were available. A song in the late 1980s was meant to be heard on a CD player.... When my project records now, we have to have 2 completely separate versions of everything -- 1 for mp3 formats and one for CD formats.  So, the "mastering" is slightly different for that fact alone.

Remastering is typically done so you don't get pissed when your 1980 CD plays a gazillion decibels less than your 2014 CD.

Remixing is entirely different thing artistically typically.  You remix something because you didn't like the way something turned out the first time.....or maybe you can't stand your bass player anymore  :-)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 15:06
Originally posted by Gerinski

Originally posted by SteveG

Without a remix, the sound  generally suffers as a result as the original stereo or mono album masters are often degraded due to over use in order to make second generation copy tapes for masters and often the original mixed masters are not EQed for digital sound, so a remix of older tape sourses are always desireable and do indeed often sound better than the original album masters.

So I take it that you are happy to get rid of the original recording if the remix / remaster sounds "better". I hope this does not sound as an accusation, it's just a question to promote the discussion, since it is completely opposite to what PrognosticMind said in his first reply ("g<SPAN style="LINE-HEIGHT: 1.2; rgb248: ">ive me the tape hiss, the warbles, the tech limitations; these were all a HUGE part of the original recordings and releases").</SPAN>
It depends on your listening medium, Gerard, and the age of the recordings. Digital CDs with their high resolution exposed more sounds like tape hiss and  recording defects that were mute in the original vinyl LPs. So a remaster of an album that was made 40 years ago requires some noise reduction and EQing that is suitable for CD's. And as JD already stated, mastering engineers years ago were not always the best as they were recording engineers one day and disc cutters the next, so sometimes you got a good mastering job, sometimes not. Same deal as the mixing engineers. Today's technology is 1000 times better than anything available 40 years ago. We now have the ability to take analog master tapes and transfer them to digital mediums for remixing and mastering. A lot of problems like fluctuating or improper tape recording speeds, and actual restoring of drop outs in the music can now be digitally corrected to some extent. This is why I feel that  some, not all  modern day remixed and remastered LPs sound better than the originals, and certainly newer CDs sound better regardless. Now the next question is '180 gram vinyl. Does it really sound better?'

Edited by SteveG - August 07 2014 at 10:18
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 16:45
180g vinyl "sounds" as good as those gold colored CD's of the 90's
      
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 16:49
^Better or not, it's real vinyl by God!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 22:14
Well I must say that this is a terrific thread and a great area of discussion where by a lot can be said.
Being a bit of a johnny come lately here, after reading through the wonderful comments people have had to say I think I don't need to rehash the whole 'remix' and 'remaster' subject or difference. I think the definitions given are perfect and we may not need 'THE DEAN' for that one.
I do, however, feel it is important for us proggers to site some examples where the remix and remaster are incredibly beneficial. Now I know there are a lot of people out there who are traditionalist and feel that original pressings from say, analog master tapes are king and anything else beyond that is 'tainting' the albums sound. This is NOT true. Also, before I get into examples I will just answer one of Garinski's questions which was 'should the original album be always included in remastered or remixed pressings?' I say YES, but only If the original pressing has been greatly changed or restructured. As a fan and a huge lover of music I feel it's best to the whole scope of how an album sounds. This will also encourage listeners to maybe check out or read some of the liner notes and see the 'who's who' behind that massive sound board. Sound engineering is an art. Producing an album is an art and I feel a great sound engineer should be recognized as a member of the band in some cases. Being a lover of audio in general and having the right/quality sound gear a sound engineer and producer are things I very much look out for. That being said, the remix and remastering process can be a godsend or it can be a bloody ear drum of a catastrophe if the right people aren't involved or someone who isn't could at his craft.

I think a fine and reasonable example when the right people are involved in remixing/remastering is The Passion Pay Boxset by Jethro Tull. Steven Wilson, who is a godsend in my opinion for restoring classic albums without tainting its originality, did an amazing job with this most recent release.
So here is what is offered, and its an audiophile wet dream as well. You have 5 different sound formats to choose from.
24/96k AC3 (lossy codec) 5.1 Dolby surround mix
24/96k DTS (enhanced LFE) 5.1 surround mix
24/48k Stereo PCM (my favourite cause my DAC recognizes this format the best.)
24/96 Flat EQ transfer of the ORIGINAL ALBUM!! (This is a real bonus cause this is your reference point to hear weather or not you feel Wilson's remix is adequate or not.)

May I say that the 'remix' Wilson did is bloody fantastic. He worked along side painstakingly with Ian Anderson and just changed a few things from the original pressing. Instead of a lot of the saxophone found throughout the piece some parts were omitted and overdubbed with more Flute passages. That is it! Wilson kept the integrity of the original pressing and made it sound far more fluent and clear by bringing forth the soundstage to ones ears with an alarming degree of accuracy. This is where I feel 'a remix' can be very very kind to ones ears. Like I said though it always matters who is involved. The FLAT transfer is wonderful as well. The resolution is 24/96 of the original album true to its very first pressing. You even get that authentic analog tape hiss to boot. May I say, even though I enjoyed this very much, it doesn't hold a candle to the 24/48k stereo PCM remix by Wilson. The album is beautifully articulated and all the warmth and tonality of the instruments are very alive and real, so this is where a 'remaster' can be a blessing as well.

I will site another example. Lets take IQ. Albums such as TFTLA and THE WAKE are marred with disaster in their recording process. An audiophile's nightmare if you will.
Listen to the original 1983 pressing of TFTLA and compare it to the 2013 Remix/Remaster (yes. It's both) you will be amazed at the difference of what you hear even if you have modest audio equipment.
Listen to the intro of 'THE LAST HUMAN GATEWAY' and you will be carried away by the living warmth of how clear and warm the Mellotron sounds compared to disaster 1983. :)
THE WAKE had a 25th anniversary boxset and included a remaster in 2010 for the 1985 masterpiece. That has received some improvement, but not nearly as dramatic as TFTLA.

However, let me sight some negative examples as well. As my good friend here on PA has said (Catcher 10) the 90's yielded some terrible, overblown remasters that are so unpleasing to the ear. It's as he (Jośe) said that every part of the mix was far too bright and separation or recreation of a live soundstage is nonexistent.
EMI in 1998 released all the Iron Maiden albums remastered and some were done very poorly. It's shocking cause EMI did an amazing job with the Marillion classics, but Unfortunately not with the maiden releases. Specifically 'Fear of the Dark' and 'somewhere in Time.' I have a great DAC that can clean up some of the messy recordings, which make the music almost pleasant, but its far from perfect and with out a DAC those maiden albums are a nightmare to listen to, so the original pressings are best...if you get your hands on them. :)

Anyway. Above all I do not cringe when a remaster or remix is released. I simply look to see who is involved.

I'm just gonna say this because we wouldn't be having any of these discussions if analog vs digital wasn't present.
The great thing about vinyl is consistency. A lot of the pressings you get today on 180gram are fabulous and you know you are getting the warmth and true character of that of the original recording. I love that. However, CDs are wonderful as well but less consistent. Some cd recordings are absolute junk. Some are so bad that even the best amplifiers or DACS can't spring these things to life. Lucky for me though, a lot of my favourite artists/albums have had amazing engineers in their team.
I guess after all my babbling I say I am mostly for remasters and remixes. It allows me to appreciate the sound engineers, mix/masterers and producers. These guys are like members of the band to me.

Happy listening and Prog on.
Belhold the power and gift of BEARD! As Damian Wilson sports a beard now his voice somehow got even better than it already was. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2014 at 22:21
Originally posted by Catcher10

180g vinyl "sounds" as good as those gold colored CD's of the 90's


They are different. SACD's offer a more 'surround sound' approach, so the music is more channeled off creating a massive separating, wide sound stage. However SACD's don't sound as 'real' cause the resolution is so damn high it sounds a little fake and compressed. The definition and clarity is amazing, but I would take the 180g pressing anyday.
It's not that it's better. It's just different. A difference that I love. SACD's are a pure digital feed.
They are the same as an 5.1 mix DVD in either Dolby or DTS 5.1.

Belhold the power and gift of BEARD! As Damian Wilson sports a beard now his voice somehow got even better than it already was. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 06:48
Originally posted by Catcher10

180g vinyl "sounds" as good as those gold colored CD's of the 90's


Some of the main benefits of the 180g Vinyl releases are that with the thicker vinyl you get less possibility of warpage and therefore less possibility of wow on the playback. Even a slight fluctuation from a flat playing album affects the playback. Next, with more vinyl the grooves can be cut deeper allowing for a fuller low end (the warmth people speak of). With a thicker platter you also have less unwanted resonance at the stylus to colour the sound (like a solid foundation if you will). I suppose there is another benefit as well. The thicker vinyl doesn't wear as quickly as the thinner platters, so you get that great sound throughout many more plays. I have some vinyls in my collection that are so thin they sag in the middle when you hold them by the outside edges. Most likely a cost saving measure back in the day to try and use less plastic during pressing.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 09:31
^Great explanation JD, you truly know about reproducing music. Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Quote JD Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 09:43
Thanks Steve, I'm certainly no Alan Parsons or Eddie Offord, but I've had my fingers in it on and off for many years (decades actually, egad!) Always happy to share knowledge that I have and to gain it from those more in the know than I.
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