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View Full Version : new Led Zeppelin remasters and compression in general



nolan
2007-11-16, 05:39
I read an interesting article in today's Times which I though might interest people. I talks about the new Led Zeppelin 'mothership' remasters but goes on to talk about modern recording in general and the compression applied.

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article2877291.ece

Mark Lanctot
2007-11-16, 09:33
That's it, this is my breaking point, this is where I draw the line.

I am a huge Led Zep fan but I will NOT be buying this album.

Send a message with your wallets.

Of course the industry would attribute any imperceptible lack of sales as piracy. Personally I would rather illegally download older recordings than pay good money for overcompressed garbage anymore.

And it's not going to change. It looks like mastering engineers are doing this all on their own now, and it'll stay that way:


But while he finds Mothership fatiguingly loud, he admits he would have upped the volume from Remasters. Why? “Because of fashion. No other reason.”

So current ideas of how a record should sound can seep into even the most loyally archival process. “We tried not to do too much of that,” says Tony Banks, of Genesis, “but I suppose part of what we’re doing is making something old acceptable to a contemporary ear. Maybe in 20 years’ time someone else will come in and change it again.”

<sigh> If he thinks that then he deserves all the 'offensive' comments in Hoffman's forums.

Brian Ritchie
2007-11-22, 17:54
That's it, this is my breaking point, this is where I draw the line.

I am a huge Led Zep fan but I will NOT be buying this album.

Send a message with your wallets.

Sorry, but I was intrigued by the article, and so annoyed by the Amazon reviewers who gave Mothership low ratings without actually having listened to it at all, that I decided to get a copy and try it for myself. (I bought it at Tescos for a tenner - more than Amazon, but I had a "6 pounds off if you spend 30 pounds" offer which was about to expire, and they didn't have enough sachets of cinnamon hot chocolate :-) Remember, Remasters cost a fortune when it first came out, even the 2CD version that I have; Mothership - in the UK at least - can be found fairly cheaply.)

I was prepared to be disappointed, but my initial impressions are that it's rather good. I haven't listened to the whole thing properly yet, so it's still possible I'll find things I don't like, or that I'll find it becoming wearing; but where I've listened in comparison with Remasters, Mothership shows more detail and clarity. The vocals at the start of Stairway have much more presence (and before that, I can make out more detail in the different recorder parts). I haven't compared with Remasters, but the entry of the drums in No Quarter was breathtaking - my wife and I exchanged looks of awe at that point.

Sure, it's louder; but I'm sure there's more to it despite that (*). If it's more compressed, then somehow that's not lost detail - at least not in what I've heard so far. One thing for sure is that it's *different*, so if you're wedded to how Remasters sounds then you may well not like it.

Two things that did underwhelm me were: the entry of the drums in Stairway didn't seem as dramatic as I expected from memory; and the repeating phrase at the end of Achilles seems to cut off suddenly rather than fade. I've yet to go back to Remasters to check what happens there.

I need to listen a lot more, and more carefully; but so far Mothership seems promising.

I'm comparing against Remasters partly for convenience but mainly because I haven't heard Led Zep on vinyl for many years; indeed, I probably only ever had IV and Presence on vinyl. I was listening on an Arcam Alpha 6 player, through Delta 290/290P paired amps, biamping Mission 751s (I had to look at the back of the speakers to rediscover the model!) Mothership also sounded fine on the iPod through my car stereo, but that's not saying much. :-) I have no hesitation in admitting that I do not have golden ears.

(*) Heh: time for the Squeezebox and ReplayGain; that should eliminate that "louder == better" psychostuff :-)


Of course the industry would attribute any imperceptible lack of sales as piracy. Personally I would rather illegally download older recordings than pay good money for overcompressed garbage anymore.

And it's not going to change. It looks like mastering engineers are doing this all on their own now, and it'll stay that way:

<sigh> If he thinks that then he deserves all the 'offensive' comments in Hoffman's forums.

Actually, this (missing nested quote) gives me hope that future engineers might do (I dare not say "even") better. As is said in the article, the original engineers had no idea of what might be possible with future media. (Maybe we can even hope that some modern album mastering disasters can be superceded.)

I had refused point-blank to buy the expensive new Genesis remasters when they came out - the last ones were "Definitive" after all - but have ordered one (fairly cheap, from the US) to try it out.

-- Brian

Eric Seaberg
2007-11-22, 19:26
It looks like mastering engineers are doing this all on their own now, and it'll stay that way:

That's not totally true. They can't do it on their own. It's either the label or the client/producer or both that request the level pushed to -.1dBFS. Most mastering engineers truly love the music and what they do and would much prefer keeping dynamics in the music.

Unfortunately, the thing that's going to stop change more than anything is the consumer as proven by massive sales of MP3s... they don't care about quality. SACD and DVD-Audio are doomed to disappear within the next 3-5 years unless something changes.

Mark Lanctot
2007-11-23, 08:05
It's either the label or the client/producer or both that request the level pushed to -.1dBFS.

That's what I had heard earlier, but this is the first time I've heard of a mastering engineer doing it on his own merely due to "fashion". I hope it's not definitive of the majority of mastering engineers, because it's depressing.

cliveb
2007-11-23, 10:28
That's what I had heard earlier, but this is the first time I've heard of a mastering engineer doing it on his own merely due to "fashion". I hope it's not definitive of the majority of mastering engineers, because it's depressing.
I suspect there's some kind of auto-catalytic network in operation here. Producers ask for things to be loud, so mastering engineers oblige. Radio listeners like what they hear, so they buy the CDs. Mastering engineers notice that compressed stuff is what people seem to want, so they start to apply it as a matter of course. Soon, everyone involved (except for us audiophiles, whose opinion Does.Not.Count) just assumes that CDs are supposed to be like that. The quality of CD mastering is drifting towards the abyss simply because "that's the way things are".

amcluesent
2007-11-23, 11:33
>The quality of CD mastering is drifting towards the abyss <

Could this be the way to reinvigorate interest in SACD with marketing dweebs - "It goes louder than loud!"

msherman
2007-11-23, 11:43
cliveb wrote:
> I suspect there's some kind of auto-catalytic network in operation
> here. Producers ask for things to be loud, so mastering engineers
> oblige. Radio listeners like what they hear, so they buy the CDs.
> Mastering engineers notice that compressed stuff is what people seem to
> want, so they start to apply it as a matter of course. Soon, everyone
> involved (except for us audiophiles, whose opinion Does.Not.Count) just
> assumes that CDs are supposed to be like that. The quality of CD
> mastering is drifting towards the abyss simply because "that's the way
> things are".

It's even started creeping into DVDs. Most DVDs are mastered at a very
reasonable level, to allow lots of dynamic range for explosions and such
in the action bits. As a result, the volume knob on my DVD player tends
to sit at a pretty high level most of the time. I own one DVD that
happens to be mastered at CD levels -- and it's a kids DVD, so whenever
I put it on for my daughter, if I forget to turn down the volume,
there's inevitably tears. :/

It's a They Might Be Giant's DVD -- my guess is that it was mastered by
the same engineer that does their CDs, and he just used the levels he
was familiar with.

- Marc

Brian Ritchie
2007-11-23, 12:17
Two things that did underwhelm me were: [...] and the repeating phrase at the end of Achilles seems to cut off suddenly rather than fade. I've yet to go back to Remasters to check what happens there.

Whoops: that cut-off happened in the car (I sat in the car-park waiting for the track to finish). It doesn't happen on (either) CD. So it's something about my iPod's playback, or about either EAC's ripping (doubtful!) or whatever foobar is using for flac-to-mp4.

-- Brian

earthbased
2007-11-25, 08:17
That's what I had heard earlier, but this is the first time I've heard of a mastering engineer doing it on his own merely due to "fashion". I hope it's not definitive of the majority of mastering engineers, because it's depressing.

Especially when the band listens to the master on an iPod. There was an article about this about a year ago in the WSJ. It is disheartening. The new Bruce Springsteen cd sounds like crap; a muddy mess.

earthbased
2007-11-25, 08:20
I suspect there's some kind of auto-catalytic network in operation here. Producers ask for things to be loud, so mastering engineers oblige. Radio listeners like what they hear, so they buy the CDs. Mastering engineers notice that compressed stuff is what people seem to want, so they start to apply it as a matter of course. Soon, everyone involved (except for us audiophiles, whose opinion Does.Not.Count) just assumes that CDs are supposed to be like that. The quality of CD mastering is drifting towards the abyss simply because "that's the way things are".

It all started with Rap (it doesn't need dynamic range), just thumping bass. The iPod was the nail in the coffin. Thankfully, I have enough good music in CD form to last me a life time.

Eric Seaberg
2007-11-25, 11:12
Radio listeners like what they hear, so they buy the CDs. Mastering engineers notice that compressed stuff is what people seem to want, so they start to apply it as a matter of course.

That's not true. It's been proven that music that's mastered FULL SCALE sounds WORSE on the radio than a CD played with full dynamic range. The processing added ahead of the transmitter (Orban Optimod, usually) increases the distortion to already distorted product.

I can show you waveforms to prove this.