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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”

Vinyl:

+ MFSL:
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
+ Columbia:

Wish You Were Here
The Wall
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
More
Atom Heart Mother
Meddle
Obscured by Clouds
Compact Disc:
+ MFSL:
Atom Heart Mother
Meddle
Dark Side of the Moon
The Wall (out of print)
+ Sony:

Amused to Death SBM
Wish You Were Here SBM
+ Capitol:

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: mofi@mofi.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.

8 comments on the “What are all these remasters?” page

  1. February 12th, 2012 at 9:57 am


    Rich

    I have only RECENTLY noticed, on the Dark
    Side of Moon lp, ( I have owned/enjoyed
    since was released ) that on side 1, at
    trail off,(end) of Great Gig in the Sky
    is a slight “pitch” issue in final few
    seconds, where the song speeds up, and then
    slows down! I thot maybe was issue with the LP, BUT I own three copies…Original,
    with posters, the MFSL 1/2 master, and
    even a copy of the coveted UHQR in box…
    I took ALL three, cued to the same point,
    and noticed the exact same pitch ! ! !
    Was this a recording glitch, or was it really meant to be there??? Can anyone
    explain??? I found it so odd, and after all these years, had just noticed this!
    Have never heard this, from anyone before.
    Would appreciate an explanation if was the
    actual recording, or glitch? ! Thanx, Rich

  2. August 29th, 2012 at 11:48 am


    John

    “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”.

    Tell Doug and James not to give up their day jobs at that burger joint!

    These remasters do sound ill. Maybe digital sound processing the next time, ADD!

  3. March 13th, 2013 at 2:56 pm


    KS

    Doug Sax remasters actually sound very well.

  4. March 13th, 2013 at 3:15 pm


    John

    KS, all I know is, a local DJ decided to play a past HQ vinyl album, from Japan, rather than “remastered” PF CD! They need to find someone better than the people they hired to remaster. I’m guessing they are GIVING away PF CD sets to radio stations, to promote, due to lack of sales, like EMI did with The Beatles Remasters. Thanks!

  5. March 14th, 2013 at 11:23 am


    KS

    Well, what I mean is that the remasters sound better than the usual conventional first-press CDs, especially when it comes to the albums from the 60s and early 70s. But all of them are inferior compared to the quality of the MFSL releases.

  6. March 14th, 2013 at 11:57 am


    John

    KS, good point! Many claim “remastered”, but it’s one of Audio CDs most abused words. Some “remastered” material is just digitally enhanced analog recordings, sometimes found on HQ CD formats. My idea of actual remastering is to remix the session tapes, but that is sometimes costly, becuase individual find Big Record Company will make a fortune of it/them, so remixing generally demands a high cost. BUT, I said BUT, it depends who does the remixing/remastering – it/they MIGHT be worse than the original mix(es). It can get complicated! :-)

  7. March 14th, 2013 at 3:26 pm


    KS

    Well said! Abuse is the right word for… that word – remastering. :) Not to mention that there are lots of ‘remasters’ out there which, sadly, ruin the audio material instead of improving it. IMO, this is especially true for some remasters from the past 10 years maybe, which heavily compress the audio / increase the loudness way too much and end up in a smeared mess.

  8. March 14th, 2013 at 3:50 pm


    John

    Hi KS! I don’t mind if it’s louder, as long as something is new about it, if you know what I mean. I buy CDs, then grade the audio myself; then look at what reviews say, such as on Amazon. What I felt about PF sound quality, others did, too. I’m always looking for that one individual who will yell (write), “If you want the best sound, buy this CD!!”, during a review. One was BS&T Definitive collection CD. It was released w/o any remastering hype, but it exceeds the original mixes, in my opinion. THAT, sir, is what I want to hear!! Sadly, many aren’t into HQ sound, just us connoisseurs of heavenly audio! ;-)

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