Sgt Pepper 2017 Remastered CD

There seems to be a lot of net chatter about the limited dynamic range and level of compression used for this new remaster.

The DR figures I've seen are DR8 for the main album (CD1) with "Mr Kite" registering at DR6 and DR10 for the outtakes/remixes of Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane (CD2). I'm guessing that these have been posted out in the wild by early buyers. While DR figures aren't the whole story, it is disappointing that such an iconic album may not be getting the TLC it deserves with this 50th anniversary issue. On a slightly brighter note, the DR reports don't suggest that it has been brickwalled/normalised just subjected to over enthusiastic use of compression i.e. the peak levels vary within a range of  -0.41dB to -0.13dB.

Will be interesting to hear what forum members make of this when they get to hear it.

Free speech.....one each! (acknowledgement: Roy Harper)

Original Post

I haven't read the net chatter, but have seen the rather disappointing DR measurements for the CD. I hope the DR measurements are posted for the double vinyl soon after its release, and are higher, as that's the format I'm keen on buying.

Mike Fremer was present at Giles Martin's World of McIntosh Townhouse introduction to the 50th Anniversary release in late April and posted his thoughts, FWIW, some of which I've included below:

"Martin and Apple Corp. decided to produce a stereo re-mix that was true to the mono original, which was the mix in which The Beatles participated. The (original) stereo mix, produced by others, does not conform to what The Beatles intended in a number of ways, plus it takes creative liberties in areas like pans (the "fox hunt" for example).

Martin re-created the record in the high resolution digital domain, using original first generation multitrack elements that on the original had been mixed down a few generations on their way to being included in the final mix from four tracks. Martin's goal was to center vocals while generally remaining true to the mono mix, though in stereo. He also gave the bottom end some serious "wallop' that he claims was on the tapes.

Martin made use of all of the vintage gear originally used for the signature sonic manipulations and where appropriate, used tube-based compression (which is not the same thing as “smashing” the final mix).

There would be no need in 2017 for overall dynamic compression or bass attenuation, on either the digital or vinyl version and based upon hearing the album at The McIntosh Town House, the dynamics are full bore and the bass is muscular and not at all polite. Ringo’s drums sound explosively “right there”. Of course a cynic might say “Well the two living Beatles are out front, what a coincidence”, but I’m not a cynic."

Taking Fremer's account into consideration and looking at the results of the DR database, I'd have to conclude that subtleties in the original mono mix have been pushed more to the fore in the new stereo presentation, maybe so that no nuances escape the casual listener. Fremer's listening session was purely objective without any reference to measured DR and he seemed to like what he heard. Maybe some listeners will have their opinions biased by DR measurements rather than simply sit back, relax, and make an impartial assessment of the new stereo presentation. I'd assume that the new mix, with better stereo centering, will at least offer a different listening experience to the original stereo and some folks may well prefer it despite relative reductions in DR. The extreme channel separation of the vocals on the original stereo mix can be quite a distraction.

It looks like the vinyl would be the version to go for based on the following extract from an interview with the mastering engineer, Miles Showell, which appeared in Audiophile Review on 22 May 2017:

Excerpt from Audiophile Review 5/22/17

“Something I have been doing of late when I know there is likely to be a vinyl release of a project, is to capture a parallel feed of the mastered signal to my digital workstation specifically for the vinyl version. This vinyl pass is without any extra digital limiting (used to make digital platforms sound LOUD) and is completely unnecessary for analogue records and the cuts sound a lot better without it. This was how I cut the masters for the new stereo mix of Sgt. Pepper. The master lacquer discs were half-speed mastered from an un-limited feed, whereas all the digital platforms will have digital limiting applied.

The limited version was used as the source on all of the digitally delivered formats. It was kept high resolution for the Blu-ray and down-sampled and dithered for the non high resolution formats (e.g. CD). I should point out here that I only applied very gentle limiting as thankfully the brief for this album was not to slam it against the wall with excessive level and allow the whole thing to breathe. This is obviously a good thing for sonics.”

Miles Showell – Mastering Engineer, Abbey Road Studios

So it seems that there was a decision to make the CD/Blu Ray versions "sound loud" even though the mastering engineer feels that the non limited cuts "sound a lot better without" limiting.

This is one I will avoid unless the DR is improved for the HD release.  

Whatever I will also wait unto I've read forumites reviews/opinions on the remastering. I like to stick with the original 'feel' of these old classic rock recordings,  & with this new Sgt Pepper I'm concerned it might be taking a step too far;  I have the 2009 CD (rip) remaster which IMO is an improvement over the original CD, with better detail, firmer bass, voice/instrument/sound stage separation,  but it does not detract from the original & unlike the original stereo release CD,  the 2009 CD stereo has a lot of the feel of the mono vinyl (if you can understand that dichotomy) .

Sorry, but do these DR measurements actually mean anything? What's the methodology? I ask because I can't see what it is, and I have no idea whether the perameters are the same for each measurement. The only measurements worth anything, as far as I'm concerned are those your ears give you.

I must say I prefer listening to music, rather than looking at graphs and numbers.

I'm sort of with Kevin-W on this could someone explain why Giles Martin  - and same criticism on Tony Visconti's recent Bowie overhauls -, both very skilled technicians, would want/need to use compression. Because it sounds better? If not why bother? I thought compression was used to make music sound better on phones/ipods/Radio One!

DR  (dynamic range) is a figure assigned to a piece of music based on a function of the difference in sound levels over the length of the track. The headline is usually a single number but it is usually accompanied by an RMS (Root Mean Squared) figure and also the peak loudness level usually expressed as a negative dB figure with anything above 0 suggesting "clipping" of the sound wave.

I don't profess to know exactly how these figures are calculated but they are a useful guide as to how "dynamic" a piece of music is. A piece of music with a low DR figure could of course be quite quiet all the way through but then again if it has both a low DR figure and a peak sound level figure close to 0dB, then it will most likely be loud with little variation in volume which some listeners might find less interesting. Compressed dynamics may mean that you can hear more of what's going on i.e. elements which were recessed in the mix can become more apparent but the "in your face" presentation can become tiresome.

Of course, as always YMMV.

 

AndyP19 posted:

I'm sort of with Kevin-W on this could someone explain why Giles Martin  - and same criticism on Tony Visconti's recent Bowie overhauls -, both very skilled technicians, would want/need to use compression. Because it sounds better? If not why bother? I thought compression was used to make music sound better on phones/ipods/Radio One!

I'm not an engineer Andy but I have spent a fair bit of time in recording studios recently and the use of compression seems to be almost universal in pop/rock recordings, and has been for ages. Used judiciously dynamic compression, to give it its proper name, is a really useful tool in the producer/enhineer's armoury and can actually be used to make music sound better.

Of course, used incompetently or in excess, it results in the mushy sounding CDs and records of the "loudness wars". 

I think most people on this forum would agree that music and recordings with dynamic range sound better - I just don't know how these DR sites are doing their measuring. Nor am I any the wiser as to why anyone thinks looking at a number- as opposed to listening to the recording - can tell them anything.

 

I'm not an engineer either but have a couple of thoughts from a layman's perspective.

First, there are two types of compression used in music production and mastering. One is used to make the louder parts of a track softer or the softer parts louder. I think this is the type most of us here refer to, where the dynamic headroom is squeezed to the upper limits and the result is a CD that plays at a high volume relative to its signal. It's great for music replay while driving in a car or working out with earbuds, because you hear all the passages well and don't have to be concerned with adjusting volume between tracks or CDs. It may also be good for streamers in dedicated hi-fi systems because playlists will play at similar a volume between tracks from various albums (post-2000 CDs). The drawback for most audiophile listeners is that this compression is often viewed as counter to the ability of their system's performance and desirable subtleties or volume changes are not present. As mentioned above, this can make the replay experience less rewarding and the compression often results in overtly heavy and poorly defined bass.

The second type of compression relates to the digital coding. An MP3 file, for example, is more compressed than a FLAC file. A smaller file means less audio information is present.

In the case of the Sgt Pepper CD it makes sense that compression was applied (though I'm not sure how this differs from the digital limiting cited above) because the master files were made at a greater resolution than can be transferred to the CD format. Limiting would not have to be applied to vinyl because it is capable of accepting an analog signal.

I may have twisted that facts here with my narrow understanding, but the bottom line (I think) is that most folks would have expected the 2017 CD version to have a DR on par with and faithful to the original stereo LP which had an overall DR of 12, 11, 13 versus 8, 6 10. The 2017 vinyl DR numbers will be out soon and I suspect they'll be higher. Ears are the final arbiter no doubt, but for folks contemplating the extra expense of vinyl, the DR database is a welcome guide. In my experience music with a higher DR value plays better. That said, it's not always fair to compare a CD to vinyl. Sad that despite its far greater potential for dynamic range the CD has lately become a compromise to vinyl in that regard.

I think this discussion is veering away from the essence of Giles Martin's intention here - which was I believe, to re-balance the stereo mix to more modern "take" or conversely to a mix truer to the mono template which the band themselves had laboured over. 

I've only had the cd for a day and in comparison with the the 2009 remaster the songs sound more immediate and powerful with vocals and drums centered. I think there has been some tweaking of the mix - the guitars on Getting better are more prominent.

So far I think it's a success !

jatr

 

 

 

Mike-B posted:

This is one I will avoid unless the DR is improved for the HD release.  

Whatever I will also wait unto I've read forumites reviews/opinions on the remastering. I like to stick with the original 'feel' of these old classic rock recordings,  & with this new Sgt Pepper I'm concerned it might be taking a step too far;  I have the 2009 CD (rip) remaster which IMO is an improvement over the original CD, with better detail, firmer bass, voice/instrument/sound stage separation,  but it does not detract from the original & unlike the original stereo release CD,  the 2009 CD stereo has a lot of the feel of the mono vinyl (if you can understand that dichotomy) .

I've listened to it on Deezer & am happy enough with the remastering to buy it.  Most notable over the 2009 Apple CD release is the drums are better defined & the stereo is more like a modern recording & less of the left right of the original.

Next question is does anyone know when (if) it'll be released in 24 bit ??,  nothing to see on any www search.

Unfortunately the 24/96 stereo remix has also been subjected to digital limiting as per Mike Showell's comments above. It too has an overall DR10 dynamic range with tracks normalised to peak sound levels of -0.11dB and -0.09dB so one would expect any 24bit Hi-Res version to be similar.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to sit down and do a comparison of the CD versus BR Hi Res versions (we've had thundery showers here in the NW) but I would hope the increased resolution would improve the SQ. Alas I may not get a proper opportunity to do so before I head off to the IOM for the start of the TT practice week (spectating only I should add).

I would add that the consensus on the new remix has generally been positive especially in respect of how the vocal tracks have become more centred. It seems that it has been the remastering which has attracted less than universal praise. 

sjbabbey posted:

Unfortunately the 24/96 stereo remix has also been subjected to digital limiting as per Mike Showell's comments above. It too has an overall DR10 dynamic range with tracks normalised to peak sound levels of -0.11dB and -0.09dB so one would expect any 24bit Hi-Res version to be similar."

That should have read "It too has an overall DR8 dynamic range..."

David O'Higgins posted:

I am listening to it on Tidal, and I really like it. Has anyone here managed to rip the Blu Ray? An does the Blu Ray include Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the other previously unreleased material? 

 

I've ripped the DVD, but the CDs won't rip, either with the Unitiserve or the laptop (Media Monkey had partial success). This is my second ever failure (actually three failures in one box set). The only other one was a CD burnt by a friend that was so bad so the silver layer was flaking off.

Keith

I don't know David, but last night I was laboriously ripping CD2 track by track because the laptop because the laptop stopped after the end of each track. Not the most entertaining Saturday evening activity, but I was at least still glowing from the FA Cup final result

The vinyl sounds amazing, by the way.

Joe,

The Blu-ray 5.1 24/96 surround DR is 10 (overall), 9 (track min), 13 (track max)

but the BR 24/96 stereo DR is only 8 (overall), 6 (track min) and 10 (track max) which is no better than the CD.

The 24bit 192kHz vinyl transfer (needledrop) figures are quite respectable and importantly show a decent spread of max sound levels (between -3.06dB and -0.32dB, ignoring the runout at the end of "A Day In The Life") allowing you to crank up the volume without your ears bleeding.

mike_g posted:

Looking in vain for comments about what they actually sound like!

I've commented on what rthey sound like - to sum up, they sound excellent: vinyl better than CD, but still, no matter what the format, a big impriovement on the 1967 stereo mix, if not quite as good as the mono.

Kevin is spot on. They sound very good. The vinyl is definitely superior with more air and space around the vocals and better controlled bass (there's a lot of bass) and the second disc is entertaining. I haven't looked at the video content yet, but I am looking forward to Howard Goodall's program on BBC2 on Saturday.

Keith 

Just had my CD version turn up tonight.  First thought on pressing play was 'bugger, I thought the bloody stupid stereo panning was supposed to be gone!'.  It sounded like the old stereo job but with the bass made muddier and turned up too much - i.e. mostly bad, IMO.

Thankfully, that was just the first track, presumably to give it a live feel.  The rest so far sounds quite astonishingly clear given the age, and mercifully the drums are panned properly.  The drums are particularly improved, actually, much more depth to them.  Look forward to having a proper listen.

I have ripped the blu ray to 24-96, I think it better than the cd, a bit cleaner bass and more open. however I now have the entire album as one track, can anyone tell me how I separate without a loss in quality. I have now ordered the vinyl, so will evaluate that also when it comes.

thanks

Listened to the 24/96 Strawberry Fields & Penny Lane remixes just now. Awesome. Just awesome. 

The album (and extras) is truly a (temporary, sadly) time machine to being 14 again and magic was coming out of every speaker (except of course when it was Englebert or Vikki Carr).

Gary Shaw posted:

Listened to the 24/96 Strawberry Fields & Penny Lane remixes just now. Awesome. Just awesome. 

The album (and extras) is truly a (temporary, sadly) time machine to being 14 again and magic was coming out of every speaker (except of course when it was Englebert or Vikki Carr).

14 when it came out? So, are you losing your hair? Hopefully not wasting away!

Gary Shaw posted:

Listened to the 24/96 Strawberry Fields & Penny Lane remixes just now. Awesome. Just awesome. 

The album (and extras) is truly a (temporary, sadly) time machine to being 14 again and magic was coming out of every speaker (except of course when it was Englebert or Vikki Carr).

Gary, please elaborate on how exactly you listened to the 24 bit versions. Specifically, did you rip them, and if so, how?

David

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