Just a couple weeks ago, we learned that Paul McCartney would be releasing his remastered Band on the Run album as a High Resolution (24bit 96kHz) download, and now George Harrison’s estate is doing the same thing with All Things Must Pass for its 40th anniversary on November 26. No word on whether you’ll be able to get versions with and without peak limiting like you can with Band on the Run, but the fact that hi-res audio is becoming de rigueur from the Apple/Abbey Road team is surely a good sign.
In addition to the digital download, All Things Must Pass will be also released on 180-gram vinyl in its original three-LP configuration, remastered at Abbey Road Studios from the original analog master tapes.
This is exciting news for audiophiles. While the general earbudder might not give a shit about audio quality or dynamic range, people who really enjoy listening—and listening hard!—to music are going to be surprised by the following note from Abbey Road’s Allan Rouse regarding Paul McCartney’s remastered reissue of Band on the Run.
As is common with releases using Topspin’s tools, customers have a number of options, including CD only, deluxe CD package, vinyl, MP3 download, etc. This time, you can also purchase a High Resolution (24bit 96kHz) download for $19.99. The really cool thing about this is you get both limited and unlimited versions of the audio. For non-audiophiles, “limited” audio is a little louder, while the “unlimited” version will “sound quieter, but retain the dynamic range of the original master recording.” The fact that they’re giving people both may signal a real turning point in the Loudness Wars. Let’s hope so anyway…
I put a lot of thought into the music I listen to. There’s a lot of music I really love, and I feel guilty if I neglect one of my favorites for too long. But I also feel bad if I’m not seeking out new music. And I feel obligated to actually listen to everything I add to my collection. I’ve concocted a smart playlist that makes sure I give new stuff at least a few spins before it drops off the radar.
So I’m vigilant about what I add. I’ll sample just about anything online, but if I’m going to add it to my library I have to be determined to give it a chance.
Look at that waveform. No dynamic range whatsoever. It’s a good song, but imagine what it would sound like if you could actually hear the sound of the instruments. It’s as flat and squashed as a McDonald’s hamburger. For shame! Grohl’s drums still manage to sound badass though.
He has them listen to a variety of recordings which use different formats from MP3 to ones of much higher quality. He described the results with some disappointment and frustration, as a music lover might, that each year the preference for music in MP3 format rises. In other words, students prefer the quality of that kind of sound over the sound of music of much higher quality. He said that they seemed to prefer “sizzle sounds” that MP3s bring to music. It is a sound they are familiar with.
So there we go. High fidelity is doomed. Have fun, kids, in your lossy, over-compressed future. I’ll be in my basement with Steve Buscemi‘s character from Ghost World. Or maybe not.
I hate my interests. You think it’s healthy to obsessively collect things? You can’t relate to other people, so you fill your life with stuff… I’m just like all these other collector losers.
Hopefully this whole loudness war thing that we’ve been through with the CD, there’s no more room to go any louder. These things are just stupidly loud and annoying to listen to. There’s quite a big backlash.
I’m thinking people are realizing that there is a musical price to pay to have your iPod on “shuffle” and have your song be the loudest thing. I admit, to put out something that won’t sound as loud as what comes before and after it on a iPod shuffle does take a certain amount of guts as a producer, but more and more producers and artists are getting back into dynamic range again.
Ludwig knows what he’s talking about. He mastered Led Zeppelin II and tons of classic, great sounding albums. He recently mastered Chinese Democracy and was “floored” when they decided to go with his “full dynamics version” as opposed to the “loudness-for-loudness-sake versions” he also created: “I have already seen a new awareness and appreciation for quality from some other producers, I pray it is the end of the level wars.” We’ll see…
Over the years, rock and pop artists have increasingly sought to make their recordings sound louder to stand out on the radio, jukeboxes and, especially, iPods.
But audiophiles, recording professionals and some ordinary fans say the extra sonic wallop comes at a steep price. To make recorded music seem louder, engineers must reduce the “dynamic range,” minimizing the difference between the soft and loud parts and creating a tidal wave of aural blandness.
They interview a couple of mastering engineers, Ted Jensen and Bob Ludwig, who both put the blame on directly on musicians, producers and record-company executives who demand loudness at the sake of fidelity and dynamic range.
If it’s good enough for iPod earbuds, is that good enough?
Keeping us blind folded, my brother switched out the Belden wire (are you ready for this) with simple coat hanger wire! Unknown to me and our 12 audiophile buddies, prior to the ABX blind test, he took apart four coat hangers, reconnected them and twisted them into a pair of speaker cables. Connections were soldered. He stashed them in a closet within the testing room so we were not privy to what he was up to. This made for a pair of 2 meter cables, the exact length of the other wires. The test was conducted. After 5 tests, none could determine which was the Monster 1000 cable or the coat hanger wire. Further, when music was played through the coat hanger wire, we were asked if what we heard sounded good to us. All agreed that what was heard sounded excellent, however, when A-B tests occurred, it was impossible to determine which sounded best the majority of the time and which wire was in use.
I’m not surprised that their experiments pitting Monster against standard issue Belden cables resulted in no audible difference, but I’ve got to admit to being a little shocked by the results of the coat hanger comparison. That’s just crazy.
The Wall Street Journal asks, Are Technology Limits In MP3s and iPods Ruining Pop Music? But man, couldn’t they find anyone who doesn’t sound like a complete “back in my day” fogeyist? Kids these days, I tell ya, they just don’t care about quality anymore. At least according to dudes who’ve worked with Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Cher, Michael Jackson, Santana and, ahem, Chris Daughtry.
The annoying thing is that what they are saying really is important:
Producers and engineers say there are many ways they might change a track to accommodate an iPod MP3. Sometimes, the changes are for the worse.
For example, says veteran Los Angeles studio owner Skip Saylor, high frequencies that might seem splendid on a CD might not sound as good as an MP3 file and so will get taken out of the mix. “The result might make you happy on an MP3, but it wouldn’t make you happy on a CD,” he says. “Am I glad I am doing this? No. But it’s the real world and so you make adjustments.”
This shift to compressed music heard via an iPod is occurring at the same time as another music trend that bothers audiophiles: Music today is released at higher volume levels than ever before, on the assumption that louder music sells better. The process of boosting volume, though, tends to eliminate a track’s distinct highs and lows.
It’s true, and it sucks. But they’re not going to convince anybody with that kind of tone.
Sounds like they’ve got some audiophiles over at Warner Bros. They’re even setting up a subsidiary to sell hi-fidelity vinyl reissues: Because Sound Matters. Hoffman reveals that he and Kevin Gray have been “remastering for Rhino 180 gram vinyl the cream of the WB/Reprise back catalog for release,” featuring the original artwork, track listings and cut in true analog from the original stereo master mixes, “some untouched for 35 years.”