Hi Forums Folks. Just out of curiosity…What is going on with so many recordings from the mid 80’s onwards?
I was listening to “Honesty” (1978) by Billy Joel via Qobuz. It sounded good with nice instrument separation and tonality. Fast forward to “Uptown Girl” (1983) by the same artist and it sounds like dog crap…two dimensional sound, no depth in the sound stage, poor instrument separation, exaggerated treble.
I’ve heard so many recordings from the 80’s and 90’s that sound so bad. Yet, when I go back to the 70’s recordings by the same artist, those recordings sound good. There are modern exeptions that sound good like Radiohead and Father John Misty to name a couple.
The first thing that comes to mind is compression, but I always thought compression affected dynamics specifically. I’ve only begun to listen to recordings through an audiophile lens. Any thoughts?
Well the 80’s were the begin of the digital era. Nearly everything sounded quite bad until the new technology was questioned at the right points and folks really knew what to do. I remember many vinyl masterings were just 1:1 transferred to CD at the beginning, which didn’t work. Some mastering engineers around here like Bob Ohlsson could probably tell more.
I wish there would be good recordings of so many artists of that era, but it really was an era of mainly bad sound until quite some time later. But anyway you’ll find those who preferred (and still do) what came in the 80’s to what was before.
But it may certainly also be an individual topic of certain recordings. There were good and bad in any time.
For most post 1980s albums, I seek out an audiophile remaster whenever available. For example, Mobile Fidelities SACD remaster for An Innocent Man sounds amazing.
Listening to Jefferson Starships’ Respective CD, the tracks are in rough order by release date. Everything up to “Jane” was recorded in the 70’s. The deeper into the 80’s to more glaring, glossy and compressed the sound.
The Moody Blues have likely the greatest rock recordings on the era. Their 1981 album “Long Distance Voyager” has great material but lacks the audio engineering their prior recordings.
During this period the “loudness war” began. Albums got mastered to sound louder than competitors so they sounded better on TV and radio. The process seems to have been turning everything up to eleven. Dynamic range became non existent as even the quiet bits were loud. My teenage years were in the 80s and 90s, I’ve been a metal fan most of my life and much of the music I purchased then was treated really badly, terribly recorded and then terribly mastered. Lucky for me that some of the bands I liked got produced by Steve Albini so I was able to learn what dynamic range was about. Being an audiophile metalhead can be a difficult task sometimes, the better equipment can really give you an insight into how awful an album sounds.
Glaring and glossy. Yes, exactly!
The crappy 80’s recordings are ubiquitous, but you know the first song that really let me hear this phenomenon? It was “Dancing Queen” by Abba (1977). My childhood memories of this song were powerful and I was expecting and amazing soundscape with a higher resolving system. When I played it, it was dreadful. Totally made for A.M. radio.
On the other hand there are many mid/late-80’s LPs that sound fantastic. Early CDs were horrible in terms of recording quality but offered “perfect sound forever” just not that perfect to start with. Also, more recent digital can be fantastic. I have some mid-90s and newer very well recorded CDs. Rather than focus and fuss about whether I’m into analog or digital I just want the best recording available in either format which is why I’m still going to all that “trouble” to spin vinyl.
As recording technology has improved, most mastering has gotten worse. Much louder, to the point of having additional noise (clipping.) It’s sad, really.
I’ll take the original Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road CDs over any of the remasters any day. Same with the original Rolling Stones CDs on London and Rolling Stones Records - except for Sticky Fingers, for that I like the SHM SACD the best.
One cannot generalize the CD sound of any decade. There are good and bad 80s CDs, good and bad 90s CDs. Past '94 or so, there’s a lot more bad than good, unless you are talking about an audiophile remaster.
I smiled while reading, “original Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road CDs.” Yes, even the earlier iterations of digital transfers were better than many of the newer remasters. I just repurchased a few items I’d lost several years ago and was just appalled at the sound quality when listening on my current setup. It might have been fine for full range speakers in my Buick years ago, but what a difference high quality components make. I’m unable to listen to some things beyond a low-to-medium level. There are a few gems, where I’m stricken with disbelief at how masterfully done some recordings/masterings were executed.
Have you heard the latest Rolling Stones remix/remasters? They are remarkable and orders of Magnitude improved over earlier releases. The deluxe versions include a single concert from the year the album was published in a number of the releases -which are marvelous. These are free of compression and other modern mastering ills.
The original London recordings published to digital were RIAA masters with attenuation for vinyl.
Listen again the the latest Goats Head Soup, Tattoo You, Let it Bleed, Hot Rocks, More Hot Rocks, and even the venerable masterpiece High Tides and Green Grass.
The SACD version of Darkside of the Moon stunning.
BTW same goes for Jeff Beck, Super Tramp, Steve Miller, Eric Burton & Animals, YES, Jethro Tull, etc.
Most of these great artists are at the end of their life and wanted a full Fidelity version of their work available while they had some control and input over the process. Ray Manzarek from the doors explain this before he passed away. He had established clear digital versions of their music and a legal trust with specific instructions of how to handle his image and life‘s work after he was gone.
Wow, Dave. Our opinions couldn’t be more different. I am grateful there are enough masterings out there to keep us both happy.
Have a look at this Steve Wilson interview. He’s one of the grand masters at remixing. Shocking how much content was lost in the original mixing process and then uncovered in the remix with modern techniques.
On the 2017 remix of Jethro Tull’s album “Stand Up”, the song “Living in the Past” has both the original 1969 mix and the remix on the same album. Shocking the detail and sound stage unlocked.
Wilson encourages artist to include both versions on the remix release, or at least 1 or 2 of the popular songs for fans to A-B. Stand Up have the 1969 version of Drive and Living in the Past.
The Stones material isn’t even up for debate. Simply astonishing the sonic improvement. “Goats Head Soup” released Sept 2020 or Hot Rocks & Get Yer Yah Yah’s Out! and High Tides SACD’s released August 2002.
Thanks for the link to that article!!!
I really enjoyed it!
If only they could have gotten him for the Genesis remixes. They got better with time, but some of the 5.1 mixes are just a mess. Drums ought never be in surround channels.
It’s great to see an artist with recording/mixing skills. Steven Wilson seems to be that rare person who can have a sure footing in both worlds of artist and engineer.
BTW, Had a couple friends over and we listened to “Silver Train” on Stones Goats Head Soup. They included both the 2020 remix and original mix on the same album. the A-B was interesting. Not my favorite Stones song, but showed the delta.
@umiami91 Have to agree regarding Genesis and 5.1 to 7.1 or 300.1 (whatever there’re up to now) seems a bit of a gimmick. Plus I sunk too much money into 2 channel to buy it 2.5x more for all the channels. :7)
“Selling England by the Pound” is pretty good though in 2 channel version in Redbook from HDTracks. Zero compression. Someone uploaded the entire live show from 1973. Pretty cool. Here’s “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” live Genesis - 'Selling England By The Pound' LIVE with Peter Gabriel - 1973 - YouTube
Real 70’s throwback before computer generated stage productions and other theatrics diverted attenuation away from seeing lack of talent. Yeah, I know… Ouch!
Inside that Steve Wilson article are a couple of pictures of what I presume is SW’s mixing area. His surrounds are way up by the fronts, unless there is another explanation.
I have all the Genesis remixes on DSD rips taken from my SACDs. The problem is that in some cases, they are substantially different from the music I have known all my life. The 5.1 mix of SEbtP is particularly egregious in that it really underemphasizes Peter’s flute work on some of it, at least on the BluRay audio version. I haven’t compared the SACD 5.1 to the BluRay; in general I don’t much like 5.1 music except for Pink Floyd. With the recent move by Apple to put most stuff in Atmos, I expect I’ll be swimming against the stream. Which is fine. This is why I have 99.9% of my music in a ripped library vs depending on a streaming source. I am lucky in that I have both the Genesis remixes in the box sets as well as a complete set of the “Definitive Remasters” that were released years ago. As far as I’m concerned, they represent my reference.
For those keeping track at home, I have the complete Genesis discography (studio) on CD (Definitive Remaster), SACD, DVD Audio…it’s kind of sad.
@umiami91 terrific to see somebody with a complete authoritative set of Genesis. Their pre-1980 material is very different than the Phil Collins led years.
Frankly I’ve never really understood the motivations of the publishing holders of Genesis material. None of it is readily available, but appears from time to time and sometimes exceedingly expensive.
Surround mixes really miss the hifi market. Plus it all sounds kind of pseudo given 2 channel was the target format when authored and most fans hold familiarity.
I don’t have all of it on vinyl, but frankly, Genesis always made albums that were just a little too long to sound great on a single LP and a little too short to merit a 2-record set. I have a lot of it though.
Yeah, during the writing of Duke, Phil found his voice and the music reflects that. A lot more immediacy and it becomes significantly more personal. Although Mike Rutherford doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to write perfect pop songs. “Throwing it All Away” is primarily a Mike composition, and it’s about as good a song as has ever been written. “Follow You Follow Me” is also Mike. More than anyone, he’s overlooked for his skills. Listen, for example, to “No Reply at All” and tune out the Fenix Horns. That song is entirely carried by the bounciest, juiciest, phattest bass line. I can’t even detect the guitars in a practical sense. As much as I love prog-Genesis, they really hit their stride when they were able to rein in the worst excesses of Tony Banks.
SEbtP is probably my favorite record even though I tend to prefer Phil-Genesis to Pete-Genesis. YMMV.