Question about "Remastered" albums

I’m shopping at iTunes today, and want to but some old Police albums (Outlandos d’Amour through Synchronicity).

I notice that iTunes has both the original versions and “remastered” versions.

From listening to the samples online I can’t hear a difference, but I have a tin ear and am hard of hearing to boot.

So I’m wondering - What is the real difference between a remastered album/song and the original?

Are they just cleaning up the sound, or are they changing the arrangement, or what?

Enquiring minds want to know. Especially before they spend $50 on Police albums… :smiley:

It would be unusual to hear much difference in an online sample. The whole remastering process varies depending on how “significant” the album in question is, how much time and money they want to spend, etc. If they have all the original multitracks from the recording sessions, the process may involve changing various levels to suit the current engineer’s tastes over those of the original. If the initial mastering was designed for a vinyl pressing, it could also involve technical changes to improve the sound for digital media. The original tapes may have also degraded over time, the remastering process may mean fixing problems with stretching or oxidation.

Occasionally an engineer will actually go in and “fix” some elements on a recording. There are guys who can hear and repair undesirable frequency variations on instruments or original studio problems which most people (myself included) would not even notice. Often this will result in an improvement you can appreciate on a high end set-up, but most likely not on your average home or car system.

Note that going back to the multitracks and changing levels goes beyond remastering–that’s remixing, which is a more radical process, as it changes the content of the music. (That said, there are cases where an engineer remixes from multitracks with an eye towards recreating the original mix as closely as possible. This is done when the original master tapes are lost or damaged.) Simple remastering ordinarily begins with an already mixed and edited stereo (or mono) master tape, and may involve re-equalization, volume matching, adding compression/limiting, and/or running the signal through noise reduction software.

I remember early on a record that was finally released on cd. No remastering was done, so you could hear the guitarist’s fingers slide up and down the neck of the guitar!! :eek: :eek: :eek:

I actually think it’s kind of cool when you can hear that. I mean as long as it’s not happening too often.

In the case of one of Miles Davis’s albums, there was a problem with some of the recording gear and no one noticed it until some time later, but the technology wasn’t advanced enough for them to correct the problem until recently, and I think that the corrected versions of this album might have the “remastered” tag on them, but I don’t know. I doubt that any of the Police albums needed such serious reworking, however.

You’re probably referring to Kind of Blue. The problem was simply a tape speed issue that existed since the album’s original release. No big technology issue there; it could have been corrected anytime, but it took 40 years for someone to get around to doing it.

A similar situation existed with the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet from 1968. It turns out that the original album was mastered slightly slow. Only on the recent ABKCO remaster has the music finally been released at the correct speed.

Just a note to say that I purchased the remastered versions of Zenyatta Mondatta and Ghosts in the Machine years back… Hugh Padgham has a reputation for being an excellent producer, and I can say that the new Ghosts is much brighter and punchier than the one I had on the Message in a Box boxset. Plus it has a cool label, instead of the generic silver A&M label that the original version I bought had.

If you’re a Steward Copeland fan you may appreciate the crisper sound of his hi-hat. Unless you’re something of an audiophile or a huge Police fan, you might not really hear the difference. There is a new version of “Message in a Bottle” on Every Breath You Take: The Classics that is advertised as a “rock mix” and definitely sounds different - Andy Summer’s guitar has a lot more distortion.

I’m pretty sure that the iTunes music store just has the same sample of the songs, remastered or not…

Once upon a time I was a huge Police fan, listening to them seemingly nonstop for a couple of years. However, my hearing is not the best and I doubt I’ll notice much difference.

Thanks to everyone who posted - I believe I will get the remastered versions. I may not notice ant improvement in sound, but I might. :slight_smile: And now that I am confident they haven’t made major changes, I’m happy to buy the potentially crisper ones.


I’ve been buying the remastered Genesis CDs. There is a slight difference. Some of the original recordings sounded just terrible.

I recommend a trip over to the excellent Steve Hoffman Forums, particularly the Music Corner subforum.

This thread, speaking of Genesis, gives a flavor of the issues people are talking about regarding remastering.

And here’s one about the Police remasters.

Two years ago I bought the ultra special 30 year anniversary release of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” - and it was definitely a remix, not only a remaster. And yep, the tracks were different in some areas. Not overly so, but if you were a real fan of the original album like I was, and if you’d heard it hundreds of times, it was actually quite rewarding to listen to the new release. Certainly, from an audiophile point of view, it was special. But also, it was kinda cool to think they’d brought the old 16 track masters out of the EMI Vaults and whacked 'em back up to speed again.

Anyone amongst us who has ever worked in a studio knows what a special moment that must have bee with such a famous album.

ou should get the Making of The Dark Side of the Moon DVD. There are some stunning sequences of the engineer playing the multis and isolating various tracks. (As well as the present-day Gilmour, Waters, and Wright [separately] demonstrating on their instruments various riffs and chord patterns they had contributed.)