What are all these remasters?
The original releases of some Pink Floyd albums used inferior masters; and, in the case of some CD releases, featured poor analog-to-digital conversions. Thus there have been a fair number of “special” releases that attempt to correct these deficiencies.
“A list of ‘original master’-type releases”
Meddle (Limited Edition)
The Dark Side of the Moon
Atom Heart Mother (Anadisq 200 Limited Edition)
+ MFSL UHQR (Ultra High Quality Record)
The Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here
A Collection of Great Dance Songs
Amused to Death (Special Audiophile Edition)
+ Odeon (Japanese Red Vinyl)
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
A Saucerful of Secrets
Atom Heart Mother
Obscured by Clouds
Atom Heart Mother
Dark Side of the Moon
The Wall (out of print)
Amused to Death SBM
Wish You Were Here SBM
Dark Side of the Moon XX (20th Anniversary Edition)
“The _Shine On_/EMI remasters”
Remastered versions of ASoS, _Meddle_, DSotM, WYWH, _Animals_, and _The Wall_ have been available since 1992 as part of the Sony/EMI _Shine On_ box set. The DSotM remaster was also made available as a 20th Anniversary edition, with special packaging.
More recently, all these remastered albums were made available separately; and additionally, most other Floyd albums have been remastered in the same manner. The only exceptions are the compilation album Works and the most recent albums which have no need for touching up (DSoT, TDB, and p.u.l.s.e).
These remasters are based on the original master tapes, and were done by Doug Sax (supervised by James Guthrie) at the Mastering Lab, in Los Angeles. They generally represent a higher level of quality than the previous Harvest discs (which in turn were generally superior to the Capitol and CBS discs sold in the US). In addition to the heightened sound quality, the remastered editions feature (in almost all cases) expanded booklets with new artwork and lyrics (even on the early albums!); the discs themselves are all picture discs.
NOTE: There has been some disagreement over whether the new EMI discs that have _Shine On_ counterparts are or are not identical. The general consensus is that they are; and if they are not, then they were at least done by the same people, at the same location, with the same equipment, at the same time, and for the same company.
“The MFSL Gold Discs”
These “Ultradiscs,” produced by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, have three main (and a minor) selling points:
The gold surface prevents oxidation from occurring. Of course, cases of non-defective aluminum CDs oxidizing are *extremely* rare (I haven’t heard of any, in fact).
The gold surface decreases the need for error correction; the sound you hear is more precisely the sound you were meant to hear.
Most importantly, MFSL takes a great deal of care to use the best possible masters for their discs, and to master and press them to be as close to perfect as possible. For example, the original Capitol DSotM was taken from an old quadraphonic LP master, not the original master. To compound the problem, instead of placing right front and right rear on the same channel (and the same for left), they put the two front channels on one side and the two rear on the other. As another example, _The Wall_ contained a very audible “pop” right before “Comfortably Numb, which the MFSL disc does not suffer from.
Having a Gold CD is *cool*.
Note however that the first two claims are unproven. Cases of oxidizing aluminum CDs (as sometimes happened with ROIO CDs) were caused by errors in the manufacturing process.
So if there is any sonic improvement it is not because of the Gold in the discs, but the quality of the remastering. If you have a high end record player, and have not yet heard the MFSL Floyd albums, try to get hold of them, the improvement is enormous.
Personally, I (Gerhard) prefer the MFSL vinyl releases above any CD release (even over the MFSL CDs) but this is a matter of taste and equipment.
In addition, Mobile Fidelity “Ultradisc II”‘s use a special analog-digital conversion component system called the “GAIN” system that results in sound even better than previous Ultradiscs. The Atom Heart Mother MFSL CD uses this process.
There’s a lot more info on Mobile Fidelity at their WWW page: http://www.mofi.com. They also have an e-mail address: email@example.com
“Sony’s SBM Process”
Sony’s Super Bit Map (SBM) Process [from Dave Cowl:]
One samples the analog at 20 bits. (Or one takes a 20 bit master.) Apparently, new digital recorders are being made which will record 20 bit samples – previously a hard disc recording system was required (and seems to be the way they still do it mostly).
Then one analyses the round off bits, to accurately ascertain the quantization noise.
The quantization noise spectrum is calculated, and then shaped so that the noise is shifted to be mainly in the higher frequencies, where it is less audible. The total noise level is the same – just the frequency band where the noise occurs differs. This modified quantization noise is then used to choose the last bit (or 2 bits?) of the 16. So, instead of being white noise added to 14 bits resolution, or (apparently worse) pure quantization noise, it is an accurately sampled waveform with the noise largely shifted away from the lower frequencies.
The result is supposed to be difficult to distinguish from the 20 bit master.