Sunday, July 19, 2009

Remastered

Today was like a normal Saturday, heading off to Costco to be there when they opened their doors at 9:30. It sure was hot, though! I took TWO ice chests with me.

Among other things, here's some stuff I picked up. Two are actually reruns that have appeared in this blog before but since people like looking at pictures, here they are again.

Shrimp for lazy people: precooked and shelled.

I haven't tried this before and it doesn't look all that appetizing (to me, sausage ought to be brown) but the ingredients sound good so I put it in the cart. This one also comes in a 3-pack, whereas the Aidells brand I usually buy comes in a 2-pack which means more wrapping for the freezer.

We've had this Chicken Tuscany before and it isn't bad. They come in packages of various weight so I had to search for a lighter one, which still came in over 2 pounds.


They also had plenty of fruit there and being that it is summer, it looked so good. Too bad it doesn't keep longer or I would buy larger quantities.

What does all that have to do with "remastered," the title of today's blog?

Nothing.

While Julie went out shopping in this ridiculous heat, I spent some time blasting the stereo listening to the good old stuff. When I bought my first CD player, back in the 90's, I replaced many of the vinyl LP's I had with the CD version. Then wouldn't you know, a few years later the "remastered" versions of those CD's were issued, with fancier labels.

"Remastered" supposedly means they went back and reprocessed the original recording to make it sound better. So for some of my favorite artists, like Steely Dan or James Taylor, I bought the remastered version and, assuming these were better, sold the original versions I had bought.

In most cases the remasters did seem to sound better. They were "brighter" sounding, that is, they seemed to have more treble so they jumped out at you (in audiophile terms, they were "in your face") and also seemed louder.

Having gotten new equipment lately, I took out a lot of these remastered CD's and listened to them and many of them sounded harsh, actually painful to my ears. Was it the equipment? If you read the audio forums out there, you'll find many discussions about the recording quality of CD's and how people seek the original versions because the remastered ones are often done to exaggerate the bass or treble or make them sound more "in your face."

I bought a bunch of the original versions of my favorite CD's on Amazon and Half.com to compare them with the remastered versions. You can get the originals pretty darn cheap in many cases, less than what it costs for the shipping. I've been listening and comparing and in every case so far, I prefer the original version. It is not overblown. The remasters sound like American Idol contestants (I know, I used that comparison just recently but it is a good way to describe it - it's just way overdone and tasteless, barging in on your eardrums to no good effect).

Here's what I listened to this afternoon:

Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells a Story." The remastered version is really heavy on the high hat and cymbals, really bright sounding, and Rod the Mod's voice also doesn't sound right. The original version sounds more natural.

Chicago's first album, "Chicago Transit Authority." The Rhino remaster made me wonder if something was wrong with my equipment. "Introduction," the first song, sounded really shrill and harsh, especially the horns. It was very difficult to listen to this. The original version is much better.

Elton John's "11-17-70." This is one of his lesser-known albums but I think it's great. It is Elton before he got weird and before his concerts became a carnival act. The remaster has been overprocessed, with reverb and echo added and also, it sounds more like a mono recording, not stereo. The original still sounds bright but it also sounds more like a real concert because all those special effects are missing. Listen to that album - he really knew how to rock!

By the way - do any of you remember (are you old enough??) when that concert was played on the radio, back on November 17, 1970? It was broadcast on 95.5 FM which I think at that time was not KLOS, but was still called KABC-FM.

Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection." Again, this one sounds better on the original, The instruments all sound more natural instead of turned up to catch your attention.

You know what its like - like when you go looking for something at Best Buy. They have all the television brightness controls turned way up to stand out and look good in the store. It might look good there but once you bring it home and start watching it at those brightness levels, your eyes will get tired really quick.

It's the same thing with these remastered CD's. Upon first listen, compared to the original, they really seem to stand out and make the original sound kind of dull. But after you listen to them for a while, "listening fatigue" sets in and it becomes hard to listen because the sound is too bright, too harsh, too shrill.

The below video is what these remastered versions are like.. a disgrace.





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