I’m often asked by fans are digitally remastered CDs worth purchasing if you have the original CD of the album in question. As you know labels started making a big deal over remastered CDs over ten years ago in an attempt to spike catalog sales that were dwindling and also to upgrade the sound levels to fit the then emerging Ipod listening. The answer to the question though is complicated and really case by case. Most fans don’t even know what “mastering” is. In the recording of a new album it is the final step in the process before the record is complete. The producer often sits in a mastering studio and makes final tweaks to compression, space between songs, EQ, etc. Kind of the final coat of paint before the album (in the old school days) was pressed. Many early CDs were not properly mastered for the digital medium when first converted to CD. Over time many were remastered to meet today’s technology. But remastering is VERY different than remixing. A remix you can make radical changes to the sound and all the levels. Mastering is more EQ and how punchy it will sound. I have heard many remastered CDs that are better than the originals, others not as good, some pretty much the same. Sometimes the artists (in many cases) or the albums producers have nothing to do with the reissues or remastering. Generally a good rule of thumb is to see if the reissues are done with the artists involvement or at least the albums original engineer if possible. Some remasters are so cranked up you lose the original dynamics of the recording. Others enhance what was already there and make it sound a bit cleaner and more alive digitally. So it really comes down to doing a little homework and finding out if the band was really involved in making the re release better, or the label just slapped a sticker on the CD to make you think it’s better. Led Zeppelin is about to remaster their catalog for the 3rd time. Jimmy Page does this personally and with each technology advance he feels he can bring more from the original recordings. The AC/DC catalog was also done three times and I think the latest versions do sound great. The Rush albums also sound better as do the VH Roth era remasters. If you are a hardcore Kiss fan The Elder and Hotter Than Hell are among the best to get. The Elder was finally sequenced properly and HTH is a little better than the original super muddy sound. Later albums don’t seem to benefit much. Outside of the bonus tracks the recent Pantera reissues don’t sound all that much better. The one catalog I can’t believe has not yet been addressed is Metallica. The early CDs have a lower sound level that is easy to hear if your ipod is in shuffle and you ripped it from CD. Hope they one day get on that. Of course many remasters have some bonus content and if you are like me, that might get you to buy right there if it’s cool stuff. Also listened to early T Rex remastered today and the tape noise from early CD versions was greatly reduced. So most I say are pretty cool, but some, if later original recordings, don’t benefit much. I’m still a CD junkie and it’s my favorite way to get music still by far. I rip them into my Itunes but still enjoy a real physical package as well. A great reissue label that remasters all of their stuff is out of the UK called Rock Candy Records. Have a look for some real well done reissues and lots of rare stuff too. www.rockcandyrecords.com Enjoy and crank it up!

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  • Allen C. on

    I’ve had a few remastered albums on CD from different artists, some sounded great while others not so much, I’ve even had ones with the extra tracks which was nice freebe to hear unreleased songs, demos, never before heard live tracks, even a different mix of sound on songs, e.g. Rainbow’s Rising, with a New York Mix and L. A. Mix of all the tracks which was cool. One downside I have is some remasters are done outside the US and we as fans can’t get them or have to pay big bucks just to have them. The DIO Catalog is one where they are the Deluxe Versions with remastering and bonus tracks, I love to see these get a proper release in America. Then there have been some bands that did like their first 3 albums all remastered, but the rest of the catalog was nixed. Manowar was a prime example, remasted their first three albums then forgot the rest. They re-recorded Battle Hymns and now are doing Kings of Metal for it’s anniversary, it’s fine and all but I would love to have had a remaster of the Kings of Metall album that had Ross the Boss and Scott Columbus original guitar and drum parts on it. I also love to have Sign of the Hammer, Fighting the World also remastered like the first 3 albums were done. Granted I will buy the new re-recording of Kings of Metal cause I am nuts for Manowar, but I’d like to have the original remastered with Ross and Scott still on it. Now Black Sabbath is doing another remastering of the Ozzy era albums, well what about the ones later (Dio’s were done), but I love to see a remaster release here in the US for Bon Again, Seventh Star, The Enternal Idol, Headless Cross, Tyr, Cross Purposes, Cross Purposes Live and Forbidden, where is that box set? Eddie Trunk is right Metallica needs to step up and do a proper remastering of their albums as well!

    • Allen C. on

      Meant to say Born Again!

  • bill on

    In my opinion anything released after 1990 has no need to be ‘remastered’. For example, anything by Pantera, which were simply cash-grabs. Those albums were recorded with Modern production in the first place!
    Remastering only improves upon things that were recorded before modern production values took over – i.e, things from the 70s and 80s

  • Larry "Stone Bandit" Jackson on

    Eddie…. Any word on the upcoming Pink Floyd/Warner Bros. Reissues?

  • Dan on

    I’m curious about this “mastered for iTunes” thing. Hot in the Shade sounds significantly better than the cd, but will it be worth it to upgrade other albums as well? I understand the lossless vs lossy argument, but there really does, at least to me, seem to be an improvement in the sound.

  • Chris on

    Read reviews before purchasing Rock Candy reissues. Many have been remastered from vinyl!! A couple releases from Quiet Riot and Helix most notably.

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