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Thread started 11/05/12 11:03am

fms

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question about mastering

I was reading the liner notes to Sign of the Times CD and I happened to noticed it says, "originally mastered by...."

Wonder what the "originally" part means? I checked the LP and it says the same.

I also checked Prince's WB catalogue and each album prior to Lovesexy says the same thing. Beginning with Lovesexy, the credits just say "mastered by...at..." with no "originally."

Curious...can anyone who knows shed some light on this? I thought it might have something to do with mastering for LP and cassette vs. mastering for CD, but I would think that began with Purple Rain or Around the World, which were the first Prince titles released on CD.

Does this reflect separate mastering of LPs/cassettes and CDs? And if so, why do the credits not say by whom and where the master for CD was made?

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Reply #1 posted 11/05/12 12:36pm

Tremolina

Maybe it's just a thing they used to say.

Or maybe it's because there were never any true (re)masters made for CD before Lovesexy. True as in meaning an actual sonical improvement of the original multi track tapes and not just the original single master recording.

WB and Prince won't tell, that's for sure.

[Edited 11/5/12 12:38pm]

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Reply #2 posted 11/05/12 4:50pm

dizzidecazz

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Tremolina said:

Maybe it's just a thing they used to say.

Or maybe it's because there were never any true (re)masters made for CD before Lovesexy. True as in meaning an actual sonical improvement of the original multi track tapes and not just the original single master recording.

WB and Prince won't tell, that's for sure.

[Edited 11/5/12 12:38pm]

I know we've been down this path before but tecnically speaking, all mastering, including remastering is done from a stereo mix*, preferably the pre-master mix. Anything involving the multi-tracks is mixing or remixing. Sometimes when people re release material and go back to the multi-tracks, they call it remastered, but that's not technically correct. They use the remaster term because most people associate remixing with the other kind of remixing, which is actually using original and new elements to create an alternative version of the song itself, not just the mix.

Most remasters are genuine remasters, not remixes, more on why later.

In the days of vinyly (which are still upon us) mastering is a two-stage process.

The first mastering stage is what still happens today with CD and other digital formats. The original stereo mixes made from the multi-tracks are done on a song by song basis. This first stage of mastering is taking all those seperate stereo mixes, adjusting levels (not just overall volume but relative volume between loud and soft... dynamic range), EQ, stereo imaging and sequencing to make them sound thier best and consistent across the album. This can also involve noise removal and other restorative techniques. These restorative processes are a big part of 'remastering' but can still be part of initial mastering. Sometimes with remastering, this restoration stage is very complex and done prior to the sonic imrovement aspect of mastering.

The second stage in the vinyl mastering. It is the process of making a physical acetate (or sometimes copper) master from a stereo tape. The process of getting stereo signal into a single groove on a record that spins and the cycles get shorter as it gets close to the centre requires alot of fiddling. The pitch of the groove is changed, the high frequencies change as the signal gets closer to the centre of the disc. This is a more physical, technical, yet still subjective process.

So the stages are

1. Recording to multi-track

2. mixing to stereo pre-masters

3. Sonic Mastering (this is the 'originally mastered by...' stage in the OP)

3. Vinyl Mastering

Here is a good article about vinyl mastering:

http://www.recordingmag.c...l/114.html

A word on the myth that remastering should be done from the original multi-tracks.

Mixing, especially back before computers were involved, is an incrediby subjective, hands-on and real time process. There is a large amount of outboard equipment used, reverbs, dynamic processors, pre-amps, EQ, delays, echos... Back in the day, this equipment were boxes with knobs and faders and meters without any way of saving these settings. You could write them down. These settings are an intergral part of the sound of the song and they are not captured on tape any where but the stereo pre-master. Going back to the multi-tracks to re-release would require trying to find working versions of all the same equipment, exaclty replicating all of the settings which once the sounds are buried in a mix is almost impossible. Going back to the multi-tracks, especially from Princes music where mixing and production formed such a large part of it, would inevitably end up in a sub standard, lack lustre pale comparison of the original mixes. The mixes are part of the music. Go back to the multi-tracks and you undo the music.

True rematering is done from the best available source. This means if the pre-masters are deteriorated beyond help, you use the masters, if they're no good, you use a CD or acetate, or vinyl pressing. Unfortunately, many of the most popular brands and formulations of tape from the pre CD hey day, turned out to be very problematic over time. Google 'tape hydrolysis' or 'sticky shed sydnrome' and you'll see what I mean. One blessing in disguise about the poor sound of the early Prince albums on CD, is that every CD out there is a great copy of the original pre vinyl master, not a rough job of remastering for CD like so many albums of that era suffered. You could do a great job from one of the CDs if you had to. You could do a better job from a premaster tape if it's in decent condition.

* in more recent times, sometimes mastering is done from stems, where the track is mixed but then the mix engineers creates seperate elements as stereo pairs, e.g. all the drums mixed together, all the keyboards, all the guitars, all the vocals. So instead of having say, 32 tracks of individual instruments, you'd have 8 groups of them.

[Edited 11/5/12 17:01pm]

may display symptoms of sarcasm
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Reply #3 posted 11/15/12 10:38am

Purpleaxxe1972

dizzidecazz said:

Tremolina said:

Maybe it's just a thing they used to say.

Or maybe it's because there were never any true (re)masters made for CD before Lovesexy. True as in meaning an actual sonical improvement of the original multi track tapes and not just the original single master recording.

WB and Prince won't tell, that's for sure.

[Edited 11/5/12 12:38pm]

I know we've been down this path before but tecnically speaking, all mastering, including remastering is done from a stereo mix*, preferably the pre-master mix. Anything involving the multi-tracks is mixing or remixing. Sometimes when people re release material and go back to the multi-tracks, they call it remastered, but that's not technically correct. They use the remaster term because most people associate remixing with the other kind of remixing, which is actually using original and new elements to create an alternative version of the song itself, not just the mix.

Most remasters are genuine remasters, not remixes, more on why later.

In the days of vinyly (which are still upon us) mastering is a two-stage process.

The first mastering stage is what still happens today with CD and other digital formats. The original stereo mixes made from the multi-tracks are done on a song by song basis. This first stage of mastering is taking all those seperate stereo mixes, adjusting levels (not just overall volume but relative volume between loud and soft... dynamic range), EQ, stereo imaging and sequencing to make them sound thier best and consistent across the album. This can also involve noise removal and other restorative techniques. These restorative processes are a big part of 'remastering' but can still be part of initial mastering. Sometimes with remastering, this restoration stage is very complex and done prior to the sonic imrovement aspect of mastering.

The second stage in the vinyl mastering. It is the process of making a physical acetate (or sometimes copper) master from a stereo tape. The process of getting stereo signal into a single groove on a record that spins and the cycles get shorter as it gets close to the centre requires alot of fiddling. The pitch of the groove is changed, the high frequencies change as the signal gets closer to the centre of the disc. This is a more physical, technical, yet still subjective process.

So the stages are

1. Recording to multi-track

2. mixing to stereo pre-masters

3. Sonic Mastering (this is the 'originally mastered by...' stage in the OP)

3. Vinyl Mastering

Here is a good article about vinyl mastering:

http://www.recordingmag.c...l/114.html

A word on the myth that remastering should be done from the original multi-tracks.

Mixing, especially back before computers were involved, is an incrediby subjective, hands-on and real time process. There is a large amount of outboard equipment used, reverbs, dynamic processors, pre-amps, EQ, delays, echos... Back in the day, this equipment were boxes with knobs and faders and meters without any way of saving these settings. You could write them down. These settings are an intergral part of the sound of the song and they are not captured on tape any where but the stereo pre-master. Going back to the multi-tracks to re-release would require trying to find working versions of all the same equipment, exaclty replicating all of the settings which once the sounds are buried in a mix is almost impossible. Going back to the multi-tracks, especially from Princes music where mixing and production formed such a large part of it, would inevitably end up in a sub standard, lack lustre pale comparison of the original mixes. The mixes are part of the music. Go back to the multi-tracks and you undo the music.

True rematering is done from the best available source. This means if the pre-masters are deteriorated beyond help, you use the masters, if they're no good, you use a CD or acetate, or vinyl pressing. Unfortunately, many of the most popular brands and formulations of tape from the pre CD hey day, turned out to be very problematic over time. Google 'tape hydrolysis' or 'sticky shed sydnrome' and you'll see what I mean. One blessing in disguise about the poor sound of the early Prince albums on CD, is that every CD out there is a great copy of the original pre vinyl master, not a rough job of remastering for CD like so many albums of that era suffered. You could do a great job from one of the CDs if you had to. You could do a better job from a premaster tape if it's in decent condition.

* in more recent times, sometimes mastering is done from stems, where the track is mixed but then the mix engineers creates seperate elements as stereo pairs, e.g. all the drums mixed together, all the keyboards, all the guitars, all the vocals. So instead of having say, 32 tracks of individual instruments, you'd have 8 groups of them.

[Edited 11/5/12 17:01pm]

It's amazing some of the technical education I get music-wise is from this site. dizzidecazz, thank you for the edumacation. Audio quality is generally not a big deal to me so when I read something like this that shows the effort involved in producing a record I'm a little astonished.

When I burn my CDs I usually up the stereo using Nero, maybe my own "remastering"?

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