The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Friday, March 20, 2009


3-20-09 Where do you stand on brickwalling? I notice you seem to like Re-Masters with LOUD sound / reduced dynamic range.

It’s not so much loud CD’s that I like, it’s truly “low level” CD’s that I do not like. Such as if you are making a sampler CD from assorted discs, and one track has a much lower level than all the others – oh, it’s a late 80’s mastered Euro CD. I’ll buy a re-mastered CD if it adds anything to the original issue – of if it ‘rights a wrong’ (i.e. the original CD did not look like the LP package, the new one does and has bonus tracks). If you do not want bonus tracks, program them out, folks.

I now forget what was the first really loud CD that I heard – maybe in the early 90’s, possibly a re-master of “Surrealistic Pillow” by Jefferson Airplane. At the time, it seemed about 10 times louder than anything else I owned. I recoiled in horror. But many new CD’s I was buying at the time were becoming louder, too. How to make a various artist compilation using both old and new artists? I really do like to try and keep the levels good, on compilations. Alas, not everyone has a minidisk – no ‘scale factor edit’ feature on CD-R that I know of.

I am not Mr. Golden Ears. I have not noticed any audio loudness level on CD’s that has resulted in reduced clarity etc. I run everything through a board, before it goes to MD or whatever – so, sometimes I hear the clicking of the needles, when something pegs in the red. Hey, I can just turn down the level of my CD player, if necessary. There is definitely some adjustment required (on either CD or MD) when trying to match levels, when making a “DJ Style” ‘mix tape’.

Recently (likely due to the recent re-issues), I found original late 80’s Alice Cooper CD’s for “Easy Action” and “Pretties For You”. I do not have the re-mastered CD’s, but these two Rhino CD’s from the late 80’s sound terrible, like whoever mastered them didn’t know or care what they were. Maybe they weren’t the best recordings, but…these CD’s sound terrible: low level, no bass to speak of, and almost no high frequencies. Couldn’t re-mastering help these titles? Maybe. But – as I have original LP’s of both, I am unlikely to go for the re-masters unless really inexpensive copies walk down the pike. We’re talking $3 copies.

Sometimes, the re-mastering of a CD gives it a very harsh sound. Hey, I have a mixing board, I can ‘turn it down’. But for the type of stuff I buy – re-mastering usually helps. Always looking for CD’s that get re-issued with bonus tracks, too. You never know when an unreleased single will turn up – on John Foxx “Metamatic”, you get the not-released single “Young Love” – and that wasn’t even a re-mastering! That was how it was originally issued. I guess one’s expectations of CD’s differ from LP’s. Strictly speaking, I was never a big fan of re-issue LP’s (in the 70’s, 80’s etc.), as I always wanted the original packaging etc. But these days, I don’t mind having a re-issue, particularly on CD. There are even re-issue LP’s that are preferably (in addition to) an original release, such as the Big Brother & The Holding Company debut album. Even the Columbia Special products LP has the “Last Time & “Coo Coo” single added!


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

When I make CDs, I use Roxio's Toast, their Mac disc burning tool. It allows full control of db levels and normalization to make Red Book masters. Roxio have MANY PC products, so I am not certain where this functionality resides on the PC side, but it allows me to keep this problem from happening. I find I have to trim a few db off of a CD rip if it's going to sit next to a vinyl rip without too much difference. As hot as I try to make the vinyl, it can't compete with a brickwalled pro file. I don't have those tools at my disposal.

But some of my vinyl rips have wiped the floor with mid-80s pro mastered product. The 7" edits of Simple Minds Sons + Fascination singles on my BSOG (taken from the US "Themes For Great Cities" Stiff LPs I have, sounded worlds better than actual Virgin product until the remasters happened.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I have always burned my CD-R's straight, without equalization / normalization. No complaints, thus far. When I dump into the computer, I run it through my Sony board, so channels can be balanced etc.

5:19 PM  

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