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Audiophile Quality CD's - What's the Story Here??

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

Hello.

 

Since purchasing a pretty decent Naim kit for my lounge and recently upgrading to a quality set of IEM's and portable Amp - I have really noticed the difference in the recording quality of my music. Some of it is outstanding, to my ears, and some is complete rubbish! I am also hearing new material in some of my music that I have not heard before - very enjoyable icon_smile.gif

 

In the past I have never looked at the production / recording / mastering details on any of my music - CD and vinyl. I usually just buy what is available at the right price.

 

So, I've been digging around a bit on the interweb and discovered: - 

  • DCC - which i think is Steve Hoffman remasters??
  • 24 Karat Gold CD's
  • DCC 24 Karat Gold CD's
  • SHM CD
  • Rec OBI CD's (out of Japan from what I can tell)??

I have also noticed many older CD's are being reissued with the title "Remastered" or "Reengineered" from Original tapes etc. Is this marketing BS or the real deal.

 

I also notice that the price of some of these "Gold" cd's is up in the hundreds of dollars.....some in the thousands!

 

What are you actually paying for here?

 

The reason I ask is that I wouldn't mind paying a bit more to get copies of my favourite albums on CD if they are top quality, Audiophile recordings. Is the return on investment worthwhile?? I know, completely subjective, but I am interested in your opinion.

 

My other questions is how can you determine their quality (ie DCC / 24 K Gold / SHM CD) which is better and why??

Lastly - is there a good online source to buy these CD's that you could share with me please?

 

Thanks for any help or suggestions offered.

 

Cheers.

 

PS - I've posted these questions on the Naim forum also,  so I apologise to any of you having to read it twice....Going for the "ShotGun" approach - biggrin.gif

 

post #2 of 20

The "Gold" CDs are usually CDs made by one of a few companies including DCC (now defunct), Audio Fidelity, and Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Steve Hoffman mastered for DCC and now masters for Audio Fidelity.

 

SHM is a different audio CD format, along the lines of XRCD, meaning backwards-compatible with Redbook CD hardware but somehow able to offer "audiophile sound quality". SHM CDs are usually produced in Japan.

 

"Remasters" of old music are continually being put out all the time - usually of music from the 50s-80s.

 

Here's the real deal on the gold CD / remaster business:

 

Audio Fidelity and MFSL are the two main companies putting out "Gold" CDs today, which really means nothing - it just means the discs have a faux-gold coating on the data side. As you've noticed, there are tons of CDs they've made to date - and the discontinued ones often go up on eBay for as much as hundreds of dollars. Supposedly some of the discontinued ones actually sound pretty good, like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, for example. I have a lot of OOP (Out Of Production) DCC and MFSL Gold CDs myself, from bands like Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, The Who, R.E.M., The Cars, Deep Purple, etc. A lot of them I haven't listened to though so I can't really speak to sound quality.

 

In all cases, supposedly the gold CDs are always "remastered from the original tapes" which means optimal sound quality from the original analog master, but I've personally found cases in which users have reported this to NOT be the case. See Amazon reviews of every gold CD you're thinking about buying - some of them have really informative customer reviews about this. Also, I've seen many reported cases of Steve Hoffman not accurately retaining the source music, sometimes editing out portions of songs, or rearranging songs, etc - again, you have to look out for these on Amazon. This got so reported about that I decided to stop buying Steve Hoffman-mastered CDs about a year ago.

 

Sometimes other 3rd parties will also remaster old music onto regular silver CDs, you can usually spot them on Amazon if they have a year on them, like CTI's 2010 remaster of Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay. The 3rd-party remasters can be hit or miss, it definitely pays to read the Amazon reviews. I've skipped over a lot thanks to Amazon reviews.

 

On the OOP Gold CDs that I've bought on eBay, I never spent more than $80 for one - but that's just me, others will inevitably have lower or higher budgets than that. I used auction sniping a lot. tongue.gif

 

I've read reports that supposedly SHM is high quality but I can't speak for that myself yet.

 

XRCDs are popular too, and I have a lot of them, most of them either OOP or from the AudioWave Blue Note series (jazz music). In my experience, the XRCDs usually sound really good - not that I've done any comparisons to regular CDs, but I had nothing to complain about with the XRCDs.

 

Determining mastering quality for yourself on any CD is pretty simple. Rip the CD on your PC to uncompressed WAV (not sure about the procedure for Macs) using ExactAudioCopy and load the WAV into a program like Audacity to view the waveform and spectrogram. More info on this in general can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

 

As for buying the various CD formats, this is where I buy mine from:

 

- Analogue Productions SACDs: Amazon.com

- Audio Fidelity Gold CDs: ElusiveDisc.com, Amazon.com, & Spun.com

- MFSL Gold CDs: ElusiveDisc.com, eBay.com (for OOP CDs), & Spun.com

- XRCDs: ElusiveDisc.com (have used MusicDirect.com and AcousticSounds.com in the past)

 

In the end, just because something is a remaster doesn't mean it'll sound good. Definitely pays to research a specific CD before you buy it. I've had pretty good success with 3rd-party remasters though, mastered either this year or last year, so far. And I haven't gotten any clunkers from MFSL either yet, so I'll continue to get those. But I've since sworn off AF Gold CDs due to all the reports of substandard work by Steve Hoffman.

post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 

Asr.

 

Outstanding reply!! - Thank you kind Sir for taking the time to write such a comprehensive, informative reply - I really appreciate it.

 

It's people like you that make this forum such a great place to visit!!

 

Cheers Mate!

post #4 of 20

ASR's answer is rather complete.

 

The reason people pay so much is mostly because of their scarce availability and because some people believe certain titles to be the best sounding versions out there. Some are worth the money...others are not. I know because I have a nearly complete collection from all the companies.

 

DCC and Audio Fidelity are better IMHO than MFSL. The notes by Asr about Steve Hoffman are a little inaccurate but keep in mind that not all Audio Fidelity CD's are mastered by Steve Hoffman. MFSL is more hit and miss than spot on on their releases either due to bad mastering or bad sources.

 

A better way to shop IMHO is too look at the mastering/production credits. If you see any of the following names, chances are it will be a good sounding CD/LP:

 

Steve Hoffman

Roy DuNann

Alan Yoshida

Kevin Gray

Joe Tarrantino

George Horn

Barry Diament

George Massenburg

Ron Furmanek

Larry Walsh

Bob Katz

Bob Ludwig

Bernie Grundman

Doug Sax

 

post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 

LFF.

 

Thank you!! some really good info there.

 

Cheers.

 

post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFF View Post
The notes by Asr about Steve Hoffman are a little inaccurate but keep in mind that not all Audio Fidelity CD's are mastered by Steve Hoffman.


I was merely posting about what I was observing, which led to my decision to stop buying AF Gold CDs. I rest my case with the customer reviews of the below-listed AF Gold CDs on Amazon. If you'd like to refute any one of the negative customer reviews, by all means....

 

Billy Joel - 52nd Street
http://www.amazon.com/52nd-Street-Billy-Joel/dp/B0043A0U94/

Billy Joel - Glass Houses
http://www.amazon.com/Glass-Houses-Billy-Joel/dp/B003YJXX5S/

Deep Purple - Fireball
http://www.amazon.com/Fireball-Deep-Purple/dp/B003YJXX6C/

Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme
http://www.amazon.com/Parsley-Rosemary-Thyme-Simon-Garfunkel/dp/B00337KLUG/ref=pd_sim_m42

Styx - The Grand Illusion
http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Illusion-Styx/dp/B003AYBD7W/

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
http://www.amazon.com/Pet-Sounds-Beach-Boys/dp/B00000016W/

The Doors - Morrison Hotel
http://www.amazon.com/Morrison-Hotel-Doors/dp/B002BEXG7W/

The Doors - The Soft Parade
http://www.amazon.com/Soft-Parade-Doors/dp/B001UNSZSA/

The Pretenders - The Pretenders
http://www.amazon.com/Pretenders/dp/B002IRYYE6/

post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post


I was merely posting about what I was observing, which led to my decision to stop buying AF Gold CDs. I rest my case with the customer reviews of the below-listed AF Gold CDs on Amazon. If you'd like to refute any one of the negative customer reviews, by all means....

 

Billy Joel - 52nd Street
http://www.amazon.com/52nd-Street-Billy-Joel/dp/B0043A0U94/

Billy Joel - Glass Houses
http://www.amazon.com/Glass-Houses-Billy-Joel/dp/B003YJXX5S/

Deep Purple - Fireball
http://www.amazon.com/Fireball-Deep-Purple/dp/B003YJXX6C/

Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme
http://www.amazon.com/Parsley-Rosemary-Thyme-Simon-Garfunkel/dp/B00337KLUG/ref=pd_sim_m42

Styx - The Grand Illusion
http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Illusion-Styx/dp/B003AYBD7W/

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
http://www.amazon.com/Pet-Sounds-Beach-Boys/dp/B00000016W/

The Doors - Morrison Hotel
http://www.amazon.com/Morrison-Hotel-Doors/dp/B002BEXG7W/

The Doors - The Soft Parade
http://www.amazon.com/Soft-Parade-Doors/dp/B001UNSZSA/

The Pretenders - The Pretenders
http://www.amazon.com/Pretenders/dp/B002IRYYE6/


I can't really refute those reviews as they are all opinions on something very subjective. The only 2 CD's from AF that I know for a fact that had actual problems were Morrison Hotel (digital glitch but subsequently fixed) and The Pretenders (problems with the mixing). Both of these were not the fault of Steve Hoffman. There was also the problem of bad source with PSR&T.

 


Edited by LFF - 9/20/11 at 3:13pm
post #8 of 20

One thing I would say though is to not buy something just because its a gold disc or MFSL. Sometimes the albums they put out were never high quality recordings to begin with, and unless you enjoy the music and are a real fan of the particular album, you aint gonna get too much out of it. But if you are looking for specific albums, and if Mofi or AF or DCC has had a shot at it, theres a fairly good chance that it will be a good pick up.

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

The Doors, LA Woman and Morrison Hotel are both ones I am quite keen on actually........

post #10 of 20

The DCC of the The Doors is supposedly good and the one to get. I have a DCC L.A. Woman, it sounds good, not bright or thin.

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 

New LA Women versions start on Amazon at $155 USD!! That's a pretty hefty price tag........I love that Album, just not sure if I love THAT much.

post #12 of 20

Bought my copy new back in the late '90s. Check out the Eagles DCC Greatest Hits, $349, I didn't pay anywhere close to that in the '90s. Same with Hotel California.

And others like Steely Dan. Guess its a time thing.

post #13 of 20

DCC of Cream - Wheels of Fire is outstanding. I think it's the only DCC I own.

I agree with the statements about MFSL. I have tried too many that I feel are inferior to either previous or subsequent releases (Layla).

post #14 of 20


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by shane55 View Post

DCC of Cream - Wheels of Fire is outstanding. I think it's the only DCC I own.

I agree with the statements about MFSL. I have tried too many that I feel are inferior to either previous or subsequent releases (Layla).



That Cream album on DCC is amazing.

 

Layla is something special. I believe the MFSL is a flat transfer of the master tape with full dynamics left intact. I think that makes it a worthwhile acquisition. That said, the master tape does NOT sound good. I remastered it for myself and it was one hell of an album to get right. Each song sounds so different and needs different things to get all of them to play nice. That said, I would put my version of Layla up against any other release.

post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 

OK - now that I've had a good search through the remastered  titles that are available from those you have mentioned, there are quite a few that interest me.

 

I think I'll just buy one or two (that are ok priced) and listen to them......if they please my senses in a superior way to my other copies, maybe I'll start collecting a few.

I'll check the reviews on Amazon beforehand and maybe on the Hoffman site.......or would that be perhaps a little bit biased??rolleyes.gif

 

Thanks once again for all your help.

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