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Sony Music's 22-bit Remasters, What is it? Is it any good?
rohangc
post Jul 20 2003, 10:34
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Hi,
I recently bought three Judas Priest remasters. According to what's written on the CD, it has undergone a 22-bit remastering process. On further investigation I found this wriiten on another Sony Music CD:
QUOTE
Re-mastered using the Sony SBM (Super Bit Mapping Processor) with 22 bit analog to digital conversion yielding an ultra high resolution "Super-CD".

Somehow, I am wary of buying anything with the word "Remaster" written on it due to all that I have read about bad mastering, loud volumes, etc, etc. However, the original versions of the albums are not available in my country and I was compelled to buy the remasters. The songs are great but I find myself wondering whether the re-mastering has screwed up the sound. I edited one of the MP3 (LAME 3.90.3 APS) file in CoolEdit Pro and the waveform is almost one big-continous rectangle. sad.gif However, I was able to procure an MP3 (LAME 3.92 APS) file encoded from the original song and I edited this file too in coolEdit Pro. This one looks good with lots of dynamic range and without any clipping. When I listened to both the songs one after the other, the re-mastered song sounded much louder. But I was unable to distinguish the songs in terms of quality. Maybe I have crappy equipment (Creative SBLive! with Philips HBC HC395 cordless headphones), but I would still like to ask all the audiophiles here if re-mastering songs this way actually ruins the sound. If so, don't the music companies know this? If they know it, why do they continue to do this? Isn't there anything we can do about it? huh.gif
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fewtch
post Jul 20 2003, 10:52
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Sometimes it does ruin the sound (depends on the remastering, and your definition of "ruin"). These days the record companies seem to be going for as much loudness as possible, even at the expense of the music. If you can't hear the dynamic range difference (or it doesn't affect your perception of sound quality) then what you have is probably fine. I've seen very few cordless headphones that didn't have terrible frequency response, tho.

In my opinion, remastering often does ruin the sound, which is one reason why I've gone mostly to vinyl for older recordings.

BTW, the quote you posted sounds like a marketing-driven statement having little to do with actual sound quality.

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 20 2003, 11:01


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SentientPC
post Jul 20 2003, 11:41
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I know the Sony SBM-1 is/was used widely in the concert taping community (there are actually mods for them as well - just search Google). Here is a good description of the technology: http://www.oade.com/Tapers_Section/sbm.html I think other companies are in competition in this marketing "space" now, as I do not even know if Sony still makes the unit.

For what it's worth:

http://support.hrz.uni-oldenburg.de/~floyd...s/remast~1.html :

QUOTE
"Sony's SBM Process"
Sony's Super Bit Map (SBM) Process [from Dave Cowl:]

One samples the analog at 20 bits. (Or one takes a 20 bit master.) Apparently, new digital recorders are being made which will record 20 bit samples - previously a hard disc recording system was required (and seems to be the way they still do it mostly).

Then one analyses the round off bits, to accurately ascertain the quantization noise.

The quantization noise spectrum is calculated, and then shaped so that the noise is shifted to be mainly in the higher frequencies, where it is less audible. The total noise level is the same - just the frequency band where the noise occurs differs. This modified quantization noise is then used to choose the last bit (or 2 bits?) of the 16. So, instead of being white noise added to 14 bits resolution, or (apparently worse) pure quantization noise, it is an accurately sampled waveform with the noise largely shifted away from the lower frequencies.

The result is supposed to be difficult to distinguish from the 20 bit master.


http://remixmag.com/ar/remix_sony_cdrw_cd/ :

QUOTE
MAPPING THE SUPER BIT UNIVERSE
The real star of the CDR-W33's DSP is Sony's SBM, a process that raises the standard of CD recording and playback quality. The basic theory is that when you record on the CDR-W33 through its 24-bit analog converters using SBM, the processor filters the 24-bit audio to yield a final product that sounds better than normal 16-bit quality. SBM does that by weaving out the least significant 8-bit information into 16-bit filtered data.

Sony claims the reshaped noise pattern results in deeper bass and more dynamic midrange. My ears tell me it rocks! I tried playing CDs recorded with SBM on several different CD players, and they all sounded great. I also tried playing CDs recorded without SBM on the unit, and they didn't sound nearly as good. According to Sony, by reorienting quantization noise to frequencies above 15,000 Hz where human hearing is far less sensitive the SBM process can achieve a result that is comparable to nearly 20-bit quality, yet you can still play the disc on any CD player.
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rohangc
post Jul 20 2003, 11:59
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QUOTE (fewtch @ Jul 19 2003, 09:52 PM)
BTW, the quote you posted sounds like a marketing-driven statement having little to do with actual sound quality.

Yes!! It was actually written on a re-mastered CD. I don't know anything about this processor, which is why I wanted to know if this enhances or ruins the sound.
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Pio2001
post Jul 20 2003, 13:05
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It is just the normal way to master a CD, it does not "enhances" or "ruins" the sound.
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Sunhillow
post Jul 20 2003, 14:59
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Super Bit Mapping is nothing more than a dither algorithm. Dithering does enhance the dynamics capabilities of the recording. In the hands of a responsible sound engineer 22bit processing can reduce the loss of remixing the analog multitrack tapes to 2-channel.

In the hands of the boys who call themselves "sound engineers" or "mastering engineers" today .... just listen to the results
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atici
post Jul 20 2003, 15:46
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There's also Deutsche Grammophon's "Original Image Bit Processing". I wonder how they compare. These techniques are designed to make the most of 16 bit information when the original is mastered at higher definition. Dither and noise shaping are sound techniques and not snake oil.

This post has been edited by atici: Jul 20 2003, 17:17


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thechronic
post Jul 20 2003, 18:54
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On SBM: as Sunhillow pointed out this is just a noise shaped dither algorithm. It's nothing special or new at all and has existed for years in Sony DAT machines and A/D converters. Noise shaped dithering is a technique that makes low level jitter less noticeable in 16-bit recordings. This is achieved by actually *adding* noise to the signal. It might sound strange to do this but a consistent noise at a very low level is practically indistinguisable by the human ear and masks the jitter artifacts quite effectively. Depending on the manufacturer of the A/D converter this is called SBM, UV22HR, or just plain 'dithering'. Some converters (like Drawmer's) have quite a lot of control over the applied dithering, while others (Sony, Apogee, ...) have just an on/off switch. I expect that nowadays dithering is widely used by most audio engineers, not only for mastering, but every time a signal needs to be A/D or resampled to a lower bitrate, be it in recording, sampling, mixing or mastering.

On remastering / remixing: I find it strange that some people seem to have a bad feeling about this. If the original mix or (digital) master was good there is no need to do remastering. Most of the times when a remix or remaster is done it is because the original recording could be improved. I have a very good example of this: Madonna - Immaculate Collection biggrin.gif This was never marketed as being remastered or anything but all the tracks on this album have been remixed and remastered. If you compare the mixes on this album with the originals you can hear an astounding difference in sound and mix quality.
Maybe the bad idea some people have about remastering is because of the mass of classical recordings that have been released in 'digital remasters' in the early days of the Compact Disc. The A/D converters of that time were not of superb quality, making the digital versions sound much harsher than the vinyl ones...

On perceived loudness / dynamic range: the difference in dynamic range you see is probably because the remaster is more compressed than the original (this has nothing to do with the SBM by the way). This is typical for contemporary music mixes. It all started out by getting your songs noticed on the radio but it is going on for so many years that people nowadays expect music to sound this way. Only music styles such as jazz and classical music are generally not or slightly compressed. If the music has been composed in a way that allows a lot of compression (ie good frequency spectrum) it is not bad to apply a lot of compression. It can sound horrible when overdone (lots of examples in underground dance music biggrin.gif ) but when it is done properly you end up with a loud modern sounding master that lives up to the expectations of today's audience.
Very good examples of well done extreme compression are eg Garbage and The Prodigy. These songs only have a couple dB of dynamic range but still sound very good.
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Audible!
post Jul 20 2003, 22:52
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QUOTE
Depending on the manufacturer of the A/D converter this is called SBM, UV22HR, or just plain 'dithering'


I realize the Apogee UV22 'system' is indeed "just" a dithering system, but isn't the difference in that they put most of the additional noise outside of the audible range, right under the Nyquist frequency (@ about 22kHz)?
I was not aware that Sony did this, or that this was typical for other dithering systems.

This post has been edited by Audible!: Jul 20 2003, 22:52
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fewtch
post Jul 20 2003, 22:56
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QUOTE (thechronic @ Jul 20 2003, 10:54 AM)
On remastering / remixing: I find it strange that some people seem to have a bad feeling about this. If the original mix or (digital) master was good there is no need to do remastering. Most of the times when a remix or remaster is done it is because the original recording could be improved.

Who decides if/when the original recording could be improved -- and can this anonymous person be trusted?

Is it an improvement to compress things so as to clip peaks and lose most dynamic range? Most of the record companies appear to feel that it is. Thus, *I* find it strange that you have this kind of trust regarding remastering/remixing. IMO, your attitude toward overcompression is misguided at best, and shows a pair of tin ears (sorry, just my opinion). And anyway, overcompressed modern music has nothing to do with remastering old classics and overcompressing in the process, resulting in a crappy sounding recording.

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 20 2003, 23:03


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atici
post Jul 20 2003, 23:05
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QUOTE
and can this anonymous person be trusted?


Well it's that guy's job. I think if he's being paid for that, he'd better be good at it. I'm sure the people who are employed at serious recording companies like Deutsche Grammophon know their job well.

QUOTE
If the original master tape has deteriorated, then please -- don't try to "improve" on what remains digitally. This is providing some kind of artificial crap that has nothing to do with the original recording. Worst case -- broadband noise reduction is applied to reduce or remove tape hiss.


I know with digital techniques quality of old movies are improved drastically (check the criterion collection DVDs for instance). I think the same goes for audio. I agree that one shouldn't over-use and abuse digital methods (and if it's your profession I assume you don't) but I think the analog originals could be improved on a lot.

It might also be a bit of preference. I prefer studio recordings to live ones and care about recording quality because hiss / other kinds of interference impairs the amount of pleasure I get a lot. Like Glenn Gould humming in his recordings upsets me big time. I wish there was some digital method (yes I tried the vocal remove plugins but they don't work well) to get rid of them.

This post has been edited by atici: Jul 20 2003, 23:09


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fewtch
post Jul 20 2003, 23:15
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QUOTE (atici @ Jul 20 2003, 03:05 PM)
I know with digital techniques quality of old movies are improved drastically (check the criterion collection DVDs for instance). I think the same goes for audio. I agree that one shouldn't over-use and abuse digital methods (and if it's your profession I assume you don't) but I think the analog originals could be improved on a lot.

I confess to finding this attitude nearly incomprehensible. I don't see how an original recording can be "improved on" in the studio -- what was recorded is what exists, and digital alterations can't result in improvement, only changes (movies are a very different case). Almost invariably, something is lost when such "improvements" are applied -- dynamic range, frequency extension, original frequency balance (of the instruments), etc. Instead, what we get is the idea of what some mastering engineer thinks things should sound like -- and it doesn't sound what the original sounded like. Yes, this is especially evident in the case of live music.

The only worthwhile case I can think of is when the master tapes have deteriorated so much that they aren't usable, and/or sound terrible -- in that case, there's no choice since there's no other source available.

Yes, it might be a matter of preference -- for example, the fact that many people seem not to mind a bit about constantly-clipping music with little dynamic range shows that many people prefer *volume*, and sound quality never enters into things at all.

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Audible!
post Jul 20 2003, 23:23
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QUOTE
I confess to finding this attitude nearly incomprehensible. I don't see how an original recording can be "improved on" in the studio -- what was recorded is what exists, and digital alterations can't result in improvement, only changes. Almost invariably, something is lost when such "improvements" are applied -- dynamic range, frequency extension, original frequency balance (of the instruments), etc.


Not a big fan of Enrico Caruso huh? wink.gif
Without extensive modern digital manipulation and noise reduction, most of his best work would be totally unlistenable, as would the majority of recordings made pre-1930's, IMO.
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fewtch
post Jul 20 2003, 23:25
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QUOTE (Audible! @ Jul 20 2003, 03:23 PM)
QUOTE
I confess to finding this attitude nearly incomprehensible. I don't see how an original recording can be "improved on" in the studio -- what was recorded is what exists, and digital alterations can't result in improvement, only changes. Almost invariably, something is lost when such "improvements" are applied -- dynamic range, frequency extension, original frequency balance (of the instruments), etc.


Not a big fan of Enrico Caruso huh? wink.gif
Without extensive modern digital manipulation and noise reduction, most of his best work would be totally unlistenable, as would the majority of recordings made pre-1930's, IMO.

I thought we were talking about digital remastering in general, not cleaning up old 78RPM records or master tapes that have turned into gloop. But since we're on the topic: The sound quality of these recordings, were they made equivalent to "modern" performances using these digital techniques? Clearly, it's impossible.

And nope, I'm not a fan of Enrico Caruso. smile.gif

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atici
post Jul 20 2003, 23:27
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QUOTE (fewtch @ Jul 20 2003, 05:15 PM)
I confess to finding this attitude nearly incomprehensible. I don't see how an original recording can be "improved on" in the studio -- what was recorded is what exists, and digital alterations can't result in improvement, only changes. Almost invariably, something is lost when such "improvements" are applied -- dynamic range, frequency extension, original frequency balance (of the instruments), etc. Instead, what we get is the idea of what some mastering engineer thinks things should sound like -- and it doesn't sound what the original sounded like.

Then you're underestimating the sort of technologies applied. One of these companies who specializes in restoration is Mathematical Technologies, Inc., the same people mostly behind Criterion Collection DVDs. I am sure there're very sophisticated processes involved, and only very naively I can suggest the natural detoriation of magnetic tape could up to some extent be simulated and recovered. Thus some of the loss is reversible.

I am sure they make some assumptions for recovery based on partial data which you can challenge but it is clear that the algorithms do a very good job based on what I saw. As I said check Seven Samurai of Kurosawa on Criterion DVD for instance...

This post has been edited by atici: Jul 21 2003, 00:02


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fewtch
post Jul 20 2003, 23:31
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QUOTE (atici @ Jul 20 2003, 03:27 PM)
QUOTE (fewtch @ Jul 20 2003, 05:15 PM)
I confess to finding this attitude nearly incomprehensible. I don't see how an original recording can be "improved on" in the studio -- what was recorded is what exists, and digital alterations can't result in improvement, only changes. Almost invariably, something is lost when such "improvements" are applied -- dynamic range, frequency extension, original frequency balance (of the instruments), etc. Instead, what we get is the idea of what some mastering engineer thinks things should sound like -- and it doesn't sound what the original sounded like.

Then you're underestimating the sort of technologies applied.

Unless they've invented a time machine to go back and re-record the original performances then no, I'm not.

I've said enough on this thread... this is ridiculous, arguing over opinions. If you like the sound of whatever specific remastered recording, then by all means enjoy it. I'm not saying I think every remaster in existence sounds terrible simply because it was "remastered" (only that more often than not, SQ is screwed imo).

This post has been edited by fewtch: Jul 20 2003, 23:40


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atici
post Jul 20 2003, 23:43
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QUOTE
Unless they've invented a time machine to go back and re-record the original performances then no, I'm not.

I've said enough on this thread... this is ridiculous. Enjoy those remastered horrors.


Well of course it's up to you to remain opinionated and ignorant and go on thinking what these companies offer are snake-oil methods. Very respectable companies like Deutsche Grammophone which focuses on classical music are using these methods (so is the Criterion and so are many others). And you can usually find the same recording (in an older CD) without digital image bit processing applied. I haven't heard one review so far that favors the older version. And with Criterion movies, the difference is just plain obvious.

Just because some other companies overcompress some popular records does not reflect to the entire recording industry. Rest assured there're very knowledgeable people who make their living on these.

For who started the thread, check this link.

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Audible!
post Jul 20 2003, 23:57
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QUOTE
I thought we were talking about digital remastering in general, not cleaning up old 78RPM records or master tapes that have turned into gloop.


In the case of pre-1930's recordings, there is no such thing as master tape, and the source is ideally an original master since a 78 is even worse, and 78 rpm was not the standard until about 1914, about 12 years after Caruso recorded the songs in the collection I linked wink.gif

Digital remastering "in general" does not have the problems you list, which are the results of overeager mastering engineers or pushy execs, and not the inevitable result of making a higher resolution transfer with better equipment, which is the ideal smile.gif

QUOTE
Unless they've invented a time machine to go back and re-record the original performances then no, I'm not.


Physical modeling of analog instruments allows excellent reproduction via purely digital methods - applying similar technology to low-bandwidth recordings to extrapolate what the instrument _Did_ and _Does_ sound like involves less contrivance than it appears you think it does.

I believe a similar system was used to minimize the problems the recording equipment Caruso recorded on introduced - the recorder (no electrical amplification then remember!) was reverse-engineered to find out what kinds of distortion it introduced, and what it did to the sounds (in particular the voice of a tenor) it did record.
The result is recordings that (with a very high degree of surety) sound more like the man in the recording booth than does the master itself! Obviously, this is a limited scenario, since the master sounds so bad and there is only the single voice involved, with little ambient detail possible.

QUOTE
But since we're on the topic: The sound quality of these recordings, were they made equivalent to "modern" performances using these digital techniques? Clearly, it's impossible.

No one was trying to claim they were, were they? wink.gif
With the much higher resolution of studio taping systems, remastering can and often does result in a superior copy of the source, if the transfer process was imperfect, something that is virtually guaranteed with older processes.

What you appear to object to is what happens (usually, not sure) after the transfer - compression and normalization of the signal to make the source sound "more loud".
Not all labels insist on this and not all engineers will do it. It is indeed annoying, but more rare in classical recordings, and certainly not ubiquitous.

edit:
QUOTE
And nope, I'm not a fan of Enrico Caruso.

More of a Judas Priest fan, huh? wink.gif Too bad for you biggrin.gif

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fewtch
post Jul 21 2003, 01:32
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QUOTE (Audible! @ Jul 20 2003, 03:57 PM)
What you appear to object to is what happens (usually, not sure) after the transfer - compression and normalization of the signal to make the source sound "more loud".
Not all labels insist on this and not all engineers will do it. It is indeed annoying, but more rare in classical recordings, and certainly not ubiquitous.

I also object to broadband noise reduction in more modern recordings (I'm not talking the ancient stuff here). It's nearly impossible to remove hiss and other types of broadband noise without harming sound quality -- having tried this many different ways myself, it's just clearly obvious. Those who insist on having a black background and perfectly "clean" sound from music coming off analog tape don't seem to realize what they've lost with this harmful tradeoff.

I also don't care much for drastic re-equalizations of original recordings, and various other digital tweaks. Music and movies are two different mediums, and it seems pretty specious to me to compare the two in terms of what large-scale digital manipulation does to the final product. I guess my basic philosophy with audio is, f**k with it as little as possible lest you f**k it up. If this goes against the prevailing philosophy these days, so be it.

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Audible!
post Jul 21 2003, 02:16
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QUOTE
It's nearly impossible to remove hiss and other types of broadband noise without harming sound quality -


Besides Dolby SR which is used in nearly all of the premiere analog recording studios, eh?

QUOTE
I guess my basic philosophy with audio is, f**k with it as little as possible lest you f**k it up.


Seems like a good philosophy, but what if it's already totally f**ked up to begin with?

And what if, as in the Case of King Crimson's incomparable ItCotCK, one of the channels has always had a fault in the right channel of the Og. Master tapes (caused by an error in the head), which was corrected in the initial vinyl releases by heavy equalization. Should the original "true" equalization be used instead of a significantly more conservative dynamic digital eq correction?
Robert Fripp (a notorious analog-phile) says "hell no", and appears to feel the current release version is closer to what he intended in '69 than the original (and every subsequent) vinyl pressing was.
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atici
post Jul 21 2003, 02:17
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QUOTE
f**k with it as little as possible lest you f**k it up


Everyone agrees with that fewtch wink.gif And it's not up to us (well I don't know much about you but I assume you are not a recording engineer) to educate the professionals in their area of expertise.

Of course manipulating the data might make you think you're actually losing something in the process, and maybe you indeed are. But dither and noise shaping are very scientific methods and make perfect sense (they're the sort of manipulation this thread is about anyway).


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rohangc
post Jul 21 2003, 09:30
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Hi Folks!!
Is there any place where I can buy new, Un-Remastered Judas Priest CDs? sad.gif Please let me know. Thanks.
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Pio2001
post Jul 21 2003, 12:02
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Among the processes that benefits to the sound, there is the manual click removal, and the correction of speed variations along an old record (in the pre-electric times, when disc cutters were moved by weights), for example.
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lexor
post Jul 21 2003, 13:52
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ok I don't know if music records are done in the same way, but here is what I read on my Terminator 2 special edition (new one, released this year, not from 1991 or something)

they say that the original sound for the movie is on a huge HDD (they don't say how big) but they do say that to get it to DVD it is set to some company that uses some process to make the file DVD friendly and the file looses 98% (!) of the size. So they could really improve sound in this new T2 release since, the original master contains just so much more stuff/information.

so if music records have masters like that wouldn't re-masering possibly bring you bigger pie of those 98%? unsure.gif


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