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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 12:25 pm 
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I own the remaster, I found a good copy of the old CD at the library.

First, I should say that the track sequence is different. The original LP was actually a double LP with a 4-track "bonus" EP of sorts. The bonus EP consisted of "Saturn," "Ebony Eyes," "All Day Sucker," and "Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)."

On the old CD, they split the EP in half and tag 2 tracks at the end of the first disc, and the other 2 at the end of the second disc. It sounds like "Ordinary Pain" (the last track of what was originally the vinyl edition's first disc sequence) segues into "Saturn." At least, it cuts into it, I'm not sure, but it makes separating the two a bit frustrating, if you're planning to burn a tweaked copy.

Anyway, on to the sound...

Mr. Hoffman mentioned that Innervisions has very little top end. That's the way it was recorded/mixed, and it was even more true with the original vinyl release due to the way it was cut...so even if you have the MFSL gold CD, it'll sound a bit dull. I think the same applies for Songs in the Key of Life, these are dull sounding tracks, and the dullness isn't all that "consistent" across every note and instrument, which gives me the impression that it was engineered or mixed that way. I experimented with a Rhino type boost of 3 or 4 dB at 10k and even 16k, and it's actually not bad. It may be overdoing it, it just gave it a cursory listen, but it seems to improve things a bit.

Harry Weinger produced the reissue and wrote that whole story about Dolby encoding, etc. which gave Hoffman some doubts. Basically, Weinger said they decoded the original master without Dolby processing, which made it sound a lot better, but looking around, it seems that any decent engineer should know that playing a Dolby encoded master (I'm not sure which Dolby encoding exactly, you'll have to bear with me) WITHOUT Dolby decoding will give a really harsh, bright, pinched sound, and as Hoffman put it, "compression that can stop a clock." This isn't subjective opinion, this seems to be basic knowledge of how Dolby works.

Anyway, if you forget that for a moment and the validity of Weinger's claims, just compare the old CD and remaster. The remaster is harsh and really, REALLY bright, not to mention LOUD, when compared to the old CD, and after awhile, it's really headache inducing, which is fatal for a two-hour set. The old CD is dullsville, it could stand some good EQ, and who knows if it's really the original master (questions still persist with the current remaster), but it's definitely the one to go with, IMHO.

Again, not perfect, so if you already own the remaster, which at least comes in a slimmer, space-saving jewel case, consider burning the old CD. If you want to re-arrange the track order, bear in mind, you gotta watch for that segue or whatever it is, so some editing needs to be done, and after all that's done, try tinkering with the sound. (Or don't and just tinker with it on your system if you have a good EQ on there.)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 4:09 pm 
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Dolby A, I would guess. I agree non-decoding is a weird way to go about brightening things up, though it's something I did regularly back in the days of cassette tapes. :lol:

I suspect lots of the 'harsh' of the remaster is simply it being mastered TOO FUCKING LOUD, via compression and limiting. Since I play everything through replaygain, though, I don't get fatigued by the loudness. The brighter EQ, I actually like in this case. Those old CDs were quite dull. The one place it gets painful on the new on though is the crappy recordings of kids' voices at the end of 'Black Man'. Those always sounded like shit and they sound like glaring shit on the remaster...a shame because that track is awesome.

And christ knows I don't listen to two hours of the same album anymore, though, unless i have 'Zeit' on as background music.

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Last edited by krabapple on Thu Aug 03, 2006 7:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 5:55 pm 
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krabapple wrote:
Dolby A, I would guess. I agree non-decoding is a weird way to go about brightening things up, though it's something I did regularly back in the days of cassette tapes. :lol:


IIRC, Harry's assertion at the time was that the tape wasn't recorded with Dolby A in the first place, and that the notation was incorrect. Is that right, MK?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 6:05 pm 
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Found the relevant posts:

Harry Weinger wrote:
As far as Stevie Wonder, his deal as an adult beginning in 1971-72 meant that Motown would release only what he delivered. To answer your specific question about his second 'adult' album, we have a ‘Talking Book’ album master as well as a production master. The elements used to create that master may have come from a variety of sources at Stevie’s, er, fingertips. What was used to make the reissue was the best source we had available, which for this album was the Taurus Productions album master given to Motown in1972. It was not from a production copy. Music Of My Mind, Innervisions, et al – same thing.

There are then ‘single masters’ of songs from his albums – like Boogie On Reggae Woman, which has a different intro than the LP – but many of them are edits of his album masters anyway. Those that are different mixes are noted and catalogued.

Quick relevant tangent: for ‘Songs In The Key Of Life,’ the LP master tape was marked Dolby, but it didn’t sound like a Dolby tape. Once we took off the Dolby, the whole sound spectrum opened wide. We actually had two sets of master reels for the album; neither of them were marked ‘master’ or ‘copy.’ After careful transferring of both, it was clear which set was the original two-track master. I was so happy with the sound I broadcast a special announcement to the entire catalog staff weeks before the CD remaster was out. I could have been completely wrong on the Dolby thing, or I could have woken up the day of release and found someone messed up the pressings. My ears were tingling, though, and I trust those two things on the side of my head. I was ecstatic and, frankly, floored, when a week after release, Universal Music mastering engineer Kevin Reeves and I got an unsolicited phone call from John Fischbach, one of the album’s original engineers. He was completely flabbergasted how great the CD reissue sounded. He asked us how we managed not to screw it up – and how we knew it wasn’t Dolby. He remembered how they had originally created the album’s between-song segues going directly from the 24-track session reels to the two-track. John was thrilled we had maintained the album’s integrity.

I didn’t tell that to pat ourselves on the back. I told that to illustrate how one has to trust their ears in this process – LISTEN – and not be a slave to how it ‘ought’ to be. Or what tape one ‘must’ use. The right one will reveal itself. Sometimes, what you hear is what you get.

Postscript, anecdote #2: One of the songs on 'Talking Book' has a dropout on the analog reel. It's not heard on the original vinyl. We spent many hours attempting to fix it digitally. Nothing worked. I was resigned to having the dropout remain there until we finally found another source and cut in less than two seconds of audio to cover the loss of sound and still be on beat.


Hoffman's reply:
Steve Hoffman wrote:
Umm, playing back a Dolby A tape without the Dolby on sounds like crap, totally compressed and brutally bright.

Playing back a Non-Dolby tape with Dolby A on sounds like smothering the speaker in a blanket.

I'm having trouble believing all of this.

[later post]

When a Dolby A encoded tape is played unstretched you know it, the compression ratio would stop a clock, not to mention the drastic EQ change.

So, to answer your question, it's totally obvious (even on a pair of dinkball Yamaha NS10M mastering speakers) if a tape is Dolby stretched or unstretched.

It sounds like a neat story, probably meant to drum up some excitement for the new projects. But between us on this Forum, I can't believe an engineer could ever make that mistake, then or now.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 6:09 pm 
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I have to wonder if Steve has heard either CD. I remember that exchange.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 6:54 pm 
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It's sad that one of the greatest albums ever released is always going to sound like shit. Personally, I prefer the remaster. Yes, it's bright and a bit loud, but it's better than the blanket-over-the-speakers sound of the old CD release.

It doesn't sound any better on vinyl, either. In addition to being pressed on cruddy vinyl (Motown's QC always sucked), it sounds just as dull as the original CD.

FWIW, I'll take Weinger's word over Hoffman's. SH is just doing his usual Monday-morning quarterback routine in that quote. He wasn't there when the thing was mastered.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 7:04 pm 
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lukpac wrote:
I have to wonder if Steve has heard either CD. I remember that exchange.


Here's what I dont' get.

Weinger claims Fischback confimed the non-use of Dolby.

So what is Hoffman on about?

Is it impossible that over-brightness and compression are simply the remastering choices -- 'add ons' to the (non-Dolby) straight transfer of the master tape?
They're hardly unknown in many CD remasters since the 90s.


Or was Hoffman saying that it sounded to him specifically like a Dolby tape played back without decoding?

Also, IIRC the word in ICE was that the SW remasters were all sourced from low-gen production masters because Wonder , for whatever reason, refused to part with the original masters. Is Weinger claiming otherwise for those three albums?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 7:10 pm 
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Jeff wrote:
It's sad that one of the greatest albums ever released is always going to sound like shit. Personally, I prefer the remaster. Yes, it's bright and a bit loud, but it's better than the blanket-over-the-speakers sound of the old CD release.



Well, there's always the theoretical possibility of a remix from original multitracks.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 10:16 pm 
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krabapple wrote:
Jeff wrote:
It's sad that one of the greatest albums ever released is always going to sound like shit. Personally, I prefer the remaster. Yes, it's bright and a bit loud, but it's better than the blanket-over-the-speakers sound of the old CD release.



Well, there's always the theoretical possibility of a remix from original multitracks.


Hop to it Yoko. :twisted:

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2006 10:20 pm 
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Jeff wrote:
It doesn't sound any better on vinyl, either. In addition to being pressed on cruddy vinyl (Motown's QC always sucked), it sounds just as dull as the original CD..


Slightly off topic but maybe I just got lucky...I had a copy of "Innervisions" on vinyl (a record club pressing too) that sounded phenominal. Ran circles around any CD version of it, IMHO.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:02 am 
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Wasn't the remaster done by Kevin Reeves? He is not exactly known for staying close to the sound of the tapes.

I think the original 2CD set sounds very similar to the old Innervisions of Fulfillingness First Finale CD. Somewhat dull, but not veiled or midrangey or bassy.

The use or non-use of Dolby on certain albums is still confusing me. Genesis' Trespass, Elton John's self-titled and Led Zeppelin III were speculated to be released with incorrect Dolby settings since different CD releases sound extremely different from each other.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 11:17 am 
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In terms of "dullness," the old Songs in the Key of Life CD sounds very, very similar to the MFSL Innervisions gold CD which is supposed to be a flat transfer that sounds just like the tape.

So either A) Songs in the Key of Life really WASN'T Dolby encoded and the old CD fucked up...which also means Innervisions is a really, fucking dull album and that both albums were inexplicably recorded or mixed differently despite coming from the same time period, artist, studio, engineers, etc...

or B) Songs in the Key of Life really was Dolby encoded, in which case Weinger or Reeves got something wrong or must've missed something.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 12:26 pm 
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Do you really think the MFSL Innervisions CD sounds dull? I think it sounds fine. It's certainly miles ahead of the original Motown CD, which sounded several generations removed from the master.

Even on vinyl, I think Innervisions sounds considerably better than Songs in the Key of Life. SW's albums didn't start sounding really good until he moved to digital recording.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 12:55 pm 
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Yeah, it does sound dull. Compare it to a "hi fi" recording, like a nice jazz recording from the same time, or anything that has minimal processing and overdubs - maybe the DCC gold CD of Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky. Listen to the vocals and instruments and compare it to the MFSL Innervisions, that's just a dull sounding recording. It's not the mastering, I'm pretty sure that's just how it "is." The old CD was dull (don't have it anymore so I can't say if it's worse), and the new CD isn't dull but it's really harsh, which is what I've come to expect of UME's remasters, especially if it's handled by Kevin Reeves, Suha Gur, and Erick Labson...their earlier masterings aren't so bad, but they've really jumped on to the current trend of compressing the crap out of everything and boosting the highs.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2006 1:02 pm 
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MK wrote:
Yeah, it does sound dull. Compare it to a "hi fi" recording, like a nice jazz recording from the same time, or anything that has minimal processing and overdubs - maybe the DCC gold CD of Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky. Listen to the vocals and instruments and compare it to the MFSL Innervisions, that's just a dull sounding recording. It's not the mastering, I'm pretty sure that's just how it "is." The old CD was dull (don't have it anymore so I can't say if it's worse), and the new CD isn't dull but it's really harsh, which is what I've come to expect of UME's remasters, especially if it's handled by Kevin Reeves, Suha Gur, and Erick Labson...their earlier masterings aren't so bad, but they've really jumped on to the current trend of compressing the crap out of everything and boosting the highs.


What do you have of Suha Gur's that's bright/compressed? The Clapton stuff I have from him is neither. In the case of Blind Faith, it's the Drake CD that's super bright.

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