One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

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Lance
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One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by Lance » Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:33 pm

No question, the big-box market has been amplified considerably over the past decade and especially the last half dozen years or so. I was tempted to get the Warner Icon edition of the 50th anniversary of the death of conductor Joseph Keilberth. After reading some reviews, I hear the transfers are not so great on most of the 16 CDs. So, are companies skimping on their remastering efforts? Most of what I have within the big boxes especially for major artists has been excellent. Maybe Keilberth doesn't deserve the best, but I like him! And I hear that the new Leonard Rose box may be somewhat deficient in the remasterings. A pity for such a grand artist.
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John F
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by John F » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:21 am

Same as with individual CDs, I suppose - it probably depends on the publisher, the nature of the source material, and the reason for the release. If it's just to squeeze some more $$$ out of recordings that have already paid their way, and a digital master exists (such as for a previous CD issue), the record company might not put the considerable care, time, and cost into creating new digital masters but use what they have. If for some reason the company regards the project as special, they might. I'll probably be seeing Seth Winner tomorrow and if so, I'll ask him; he's done that work himself and knows people in the industry.

But of course it's purely academic. The recordings in the box are what they are, and you have to take them or leave them.
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jserraglio
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by jserraglio » Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:37 am

I read somewhere that collectors in Asia will pay top dollar for certain original-issue CDs like early EMIs or the Szell issues on Denon even though and maybe even because there are better-sounding remasterings on the market.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by maestrob » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:08 am

I just opened the Cortot box and played the first CD (1919-21), and found the restorations to be wondrously good considering their age. Highly recommended! As for other remasterings, some of the finest CDs were issued 35 years ago when Japan was the only country that had a CD factory: I remember picking up Szell's Bruckner VIII and Bruno Walter's Bruckner IV, VII, & IX, all of which were direct transfers from the 30ips studio mastertapes that still play on my system with stunning sound and no audible hiss.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by Belle » Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:14 am

In fact, CDs arrived in Australia the very month and year my fourth child (a daughter) was born. March, 1983. Some of those early digital CDs - well, up to years later really - were harsh in quality and they sit on my music shelf largely unplayed these days because the sound quality just isn't up to snuff. A great shame because some are wonderful works and performances. Expensive hi-fi has failed to result in improvement. Of course.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by Lance » Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:47 am

Agree, some of the earliest CDs, especially from RCA I thought were on the harsh and too brilliant side. I find this true even today especially with CDs remastered by Berliner in Germany for DGG. However, that's why we have tone controls and we can eliminate some of that harshness to our individual liking.

As an LP collector, I promised I would never go that route (the CD). Then a friend in Rochester, NY played an RCA Benny Goodman popular music CD for me remastered from 78s and early recordings that changed my mind immediately. So, it was Benny Goodman, and NOT classical music that brought me into the CD market. Today, I'm very happy I made that conversion. We also know that the vinyl market has been growing exponentially during the last few years. Some people even prefer the warmer sound of the LP to the CD in general. It is rare for me today to play LPs nonetheless.
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by John F » Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:13 pm

maestrob wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 10:08 am
I just opened the Cortot box and played the first CD (1919-21), and found the restorations to be wondrously good considering their age.
Alfred Brendel has written that HMV's Cortot 78s of the '30s have the most persuasive piano sound of all, present-day recordings not excepted. So EMI has superior source material to work with.
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by jserraglio » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:54 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 1:13 pm
EMI has superior source material to work with.
I usually prefer vinyl, but in this instance I found the EMI CDs to sound superior to pricey Japanese LP transfers from shellac of the same material.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by CharmNewton » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:53 am

I've listened to about half of the Cortot EMI box and it is compiled from both new and very old transfers. The newer ones, such as the Victor acoustics and early electrics sound very good. Victor mastered electrical recording quickly and captured his sound well. There are others that sound awful. For example, listen to the Schumann Piano Concerto recorded on May 22, 1927 followed immediately by the Franck Symphonic Variations recorded the same day. The Schumann is a much newer transfer as it was never issued on LP (having been superseded by the 1934 recording). It sounds much better than the horribly muffled Franck. As Cortot made recordings into the 1950s, we have him in high-fidelity in this box as well.

I've done a lot of listening to the recent re-issue of Schnabel's Beethoven Sonata cycle on Warner. From the sound of some of the sonatas, in particular the sound from the run-out grooves at the end of some movements, it seems that these were played back on a large contemporary gramophone from the 1930s situated in a hall or studio. One thing about them is that they have a very wide and natural sounding dynamic range. It doesn't sound electronically created by a range expander as those also produce pumping and breathing in the background noise (inevitable with British HMV pressings). One doesn't hear electronic side-effects here. The piano tone is solid. I find this set very enjoyable, especially using headphones.

I e-mailed Warner asking about this but never received a response (well, they sent me their newsletter). I really had no idea who to contact. I don't believe these new transfers have been reviewed in Gramophone or other publications that might have more information concerning the transfer work.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by John F » Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:00 am

EMI's source material for LP reissues includes the original metal masters, stored in the archives in Hayes, from which vinyl pressings were made and played back with the newest and best equipment. So if, for example, they remastered their Cortot recordings for the latest reissues, these should improve on the sound of the COLH reissues of the 1960s. But if they merely reused the rerecordings they made in the 1960s, the sound might actually be worse since tapes deteriorate over time, in this cast half a century.
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by mikealdren » Wed Jun 13, 2018 8:03 am

I think the problem is often that engineers transfer using their meters rather than their ears. That's why some of the specialists do so much better, even when transferring from 78s/LPs rather than original source material (allowing for John's comments on that having degraded).

The oriental market is odd, I have sold two items for exorbitant amounts, the Electrola set of Michael Rabin recordings and the Oistrakh EMI Beethoven/Bruch coupling. I replaced the Rabin set with the Icon set and the Oistrakh with the EMI complete Oistrakh box, in the former case, I think the transfers are exactly the same, EMI were too lazy to improve on the poor Electrola transfers, and the Oistrakh in the box set is a MUCH better transfer.

RCA are even worse, in their original jacket boxes of Toscanini and Heifetz, their choice of transfers seems quite arbitrary, sometimes choosing the best of earlier transfers, sometimes not.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by John F » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:52 am

To clarify: The "original source material" for EMI reissues from 78s is the metal parts from which the stampers for the 78s were made. The tapes I mentioned were not "original" source material but rather transfers from it for publication on LPs.

mikealdren is certainly right that making those transfers is an art, not just a technology. A man at the library where I work, Seth Winner, is a master at this, and he has much to tell about it. He and I agree that EMI's master specialist was Anthony Griffiths; when he retired and Keith Hardwick took his place, his results were certainly competent but they lacked the Griffith finishing touch. I don't know who does this work now but whoever it is, he/she won't have lived and worked in the time when 78s were being created and can't have the knowledge and insight that Griffith did.

There's an interesting article on this topic in Billboard, of all places, on the occasion of Keith Hardwick's death in 2002.

https://books.google.com/books?id=NhAEA ... mi&f=false
John Francis

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by Belle » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:52 am

Lance wrote:
Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:47 am
Agree, some of the earliest CDs, especially from RCA I thought were on the harsh and too brilliant side. I find this true even today especially with CDs remastered by Berliner in Germany for DGG. However, that's why we have tone controls and we can eliminate some of that harshness to our individual liking.

As an LP collector, I promised I would never go that route (the CD). Then a friend in Rochester, NY played an RCA Benny Goodman popular music CD for me remastered from 78s and early recordings that changed my mind immediately. So, it was Benny Goodman, and NOT classical music that brought me into the CD market. Today, I'm very happy I made that conversion. We also know that the vinyl market has been growing exponentially during the last few years. Some people even prefer the warmer sound of the LP to the CD in general. It is rare for me today to play LPs nonetheless.
I don't have tone controls at all; my equipment is very minimalist. Here's the CD player:

http://densen.dk/index.php?page=densen-b-420xs

The Unison Research hybrid valve amplifier has no features either, apart from inputs and volume!!

They're both only 2 years old.

maestrob
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by maestrob » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:02 pm

(Wandering slightly off-topic.......)

Over the years I've learned that sound quality in a sound system is actually more influenced by the mechanical, i.e. the phono cartridge and the speakers, rather than the electronic components (amplifier & CD player), wiring, etc. I never use the tone controls on my amplifier and of course my computer (where I listen through headphones) doesn't have them.

My pride and joy since I acquired them in 1969 is my speakers, which were hand-crafted to highlight the strengths of LP's, with a deep bass and clear-as crystal mid-range and highs. They were made for me by Bozak, and they have never disappointed me with their warm and natural sound that works so well for the human voice, piano, violin, and full orchestral sound. They were expensive in 1969 ($600 for the pair), but they were the best musical investment I've ever made. They even took the edge off the many earlier CDs which could sometimes be harsh. A miracle of sound, then.

Listening to Cortot, through them then, even with his occasional wrong notes, is a joy.

JohnF: I didn't know that the 1930's Cortot LPs were made with the original metal stampers (a feat in itself) pressed into modern vinyl: no wonder they sound so good. EMI used the same process with the complete Elgar recordings issued on CD in the 1990's. The sound on those is quite excellent as well.

Nimbus used a process that was quite different to master their historical opera recital recordings. They had a special disk player built with a 6 foot(!) horn, and played the records back with pine needles, producing a warm woody sound with very little surface noise. If they ever issue a big box with their complete collection, I'll be the first in line. Is that label still with us? Does anyone know?

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by jserraglio » Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:51 pm

Number one in importance for good audio, or so I am told, is the quality of the recording. Next would be the listening room and, unless you use headphones, the placement of the speakers.

Though they can make a difference, audio playback equipment (speakers, amps, CD or LP players, cables, etc.) is of secondary importance when compared to the source material itself.

For that reason my audio setup consists of all used equipment except for an inexpensive Oppo DVD player now used only for CD playback. I invested in LPs and CDs, not playback equipment.

maestrob
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by maestrob » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:47 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 12:51 pm
Number one in importance for good audio, or so I am told, is the quality of the recording. Next would be the listening room and, unless you use headphones, the placement of the speakers.

Though they can make a difference, audio playback equipment (speakers, amps, CD or LP players, cables, etc.) is of secondary importance when compared to the source material itself.

For that reason my audio setup consists of all used equipment except for an inexpensive Oppo DVD player now used only for CD playback. I invested in LPs and CDs, not playback equipment.
I'm with you, except for the speakers. It is crucial to have a set of top flight speakers, Jserraglio, IMHO. Expensive "audiophile" DVD or CD players are generally more accurate in tracking CDs, but they don't necessarily last longer or produce better sound.

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by jserraglio » Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:30 pm

I have a pair of Henry Kloss's New Large Advent speakers from the late seventies, refoamed, purchased used for peanuts from an audio shop and they suit me just fine.

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Last edited by jserraglio on Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

Belle
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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by Belle » Wed Jun 13, 2018 5:06 pm

I agree about the importance of good audio. The Densen CD player is superb for picking up finer detail. When I bought it I compared the model below with the same speakers I've got (Bowers and Wilkins *CM10S2) the detail was much finer on the model I chose. But it's temperamental and often stops midstream and reverts to the "finish" mode. I've been in touch with Densen (it has a lifetime warranty) and they want it returned to Denmark for inspection. I just cannot be bothered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYZ_84naayg

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Re: One wonders about remastering on big boxes!

Post by mikealdren » Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:45 pm

Having commented about the importance of listening, there are some remarkable technical solutions in use for remastering nowadays.

One is a system that completely removes pitch variations from piano recordings, this really should be mandatory for any old recordings. Not sure how well it works for other instruments/voice. And of course the systems for removing noise are amazing, however this is where it requires a musician on the controls otherwise the music can be lost too.

Many years ago (1970s?) we had the first attempts at compensating for pitch imbalances in recordings - remember the Caruso recordings compensating for the recording horn. This process is so much more sophisticated now but it is also where the musician's ear is really called for.

The problem for me is the recordings where an engineer simply takes the original and digitises it, easy, lazy and usually disappointing.

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