Known Johnson

March 6, 2008

Instant Pudding Armature

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 11:19 pm

First, the big news: my wife got herself a big new job! I decline talking much about her work here because, well, it’s her business, literally, but this deserves a mention and congratulations. She’ll be starting on March 24.

As for me, I just go on and on about pretty much everything. You know that by now. It might be termed “babbling” by some.

In my quest for the ultimate sonic versions of my favorite albums, I stumbled upon a cheap version of Queensryche’s Empire, the DCC Compact Classics version (seriously: $20 – these typically go for at least 3 times this much, if not more.) DCC, as many may not know, was EMI/Capitol’s take on the MFSL approach to music, started when MFSL went out of business back in the 90s. Their approach is basically the same, and maybe a bit more strict: strip back the recordings to bare basics, nothing more (MFSL applies a bit of a massage to the sound.) What you hear on these is what went down on the tapes – no compression, no EQ, none of that crap that winds up ruining many modern releases. In the case of Empire, it was already a high-quality audio release to begin with, and this version makes for a subtle upgrade that will require quality equipment to truly enjoy. The differences are there, but it takes some keen observation to really notice them. When I pay close attention, however, there is some real nice stuff going on – the textures in Geoff Tate’s voice are like none I’ve ever heard before, and there’s a sparkle and shimmer in the cymbals that has gone unnoticed. This is likely due to compression on the final product of the standard release, something that has become a terrible burden on new music, both brand new and “remastered.”

That term, remastered, as I have recently come to realize, is not the fix-all that it should have been. In many cases, things simply sound worse (take, for example, the remaster of Empire – it sounds horrible in comparison to even the standard release.) There are some whose catalogs have benefited (George Harrison springs to mind, with the glaring and unfortunate exception of All Things Must Pass) but I’m learning that it’s best to stick with the old discs in many cases. At least hold onto them longer than the initial thrill of acquiring the new edition, when the excitement of hearing new things overpowers the ability to really hear what’s been done to the music quality itself. This, I have learned the hard way, could save a lot of money and heartache in the future – when those remasters finally reveal themselves to not sound so great afterall.

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