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sensei_russ's picture
Last seen: 8 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 11/06/2008 - 22:49
Posts: 125
Classical cd's - original releases or remasters?

Not sure which section to post this in, hope this one will generate some replies though...

Generally speaking, which issue of a classical cd would sound better, an original issue (say from the 80's) or a remaster issued in the past few years?

I generally like to buy original issues as the packaging/notes tend to be better - especially with Opera box sets.

Just wondering whether I could expect great improved sound by upgrading to remastered versions. For example, I have the original cd release of Karajans Tosca with Leontyne Price which dates from around 1989-ish. I've seen two 24bit remastered editions online dating from 2000 and 2006, would these sound better or worse?

I ask this, as from what I've read, remastering can sometimes have a detrimental effect on sound quality.






nopiano's picture
Last seen: 4 days 8 hours ago
Joined: 15/02/2009 - 19:25
Posts: 2777
RE: Classical cd's - original releases or remasters?

I think the not-very-helpful answer is that it all depends.

Certainly, some early CD transfers were pretty much warts 'n' all productions, sometimes with digital silence interrupting the original master tape and hall ambient noise between movements.  They also aped the LP timings, so you sometimes got a single concerto on a disc running for 30 to 40 minutes.

There was then a phase of 'original bit', 24bit and so on remasterings.  Some were re-edited or missing tracks reinserted.  Later, the early digital recording were similarly remade, which generally meant reducing the glare or hardness they once had.

Some of these subtleties were picked up by reviewers in Gramophone (for example) but not necessarily always.  Releases like the Living Stereo series were all released as remasters with noises intact and sensitive run-offs at the end of a work.  I recall reading some fairly damning comments about some EMI box sets with dodgy sound (often bargain priced on mailorder sites beginning with A).  But I think many labels had these issues.

Personally, I have found the Universal double-packs - Philips Duo, Decca Doubles et al to be pretty good.  If the Tosca you mention is the Decca Originals or Legends one, I'd be pretty confident it would be preferable to an earlier release, though I haven't tracked down any reviews particularly, and unsure if the two packages are different.  

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