SD/HD test - the truth about 'remastering'
... the professional (sound engineer) listener comments!
Originally Posted by Pluto
One point I should have made long ago is that I only generate and test these audio clips on my own $30 plastic pc speakers. I do not play them through quality speakers or hi-fi system because I am not intent on revealing some extremely subtle nuance but a general point. And I do that by allowing a side-by-side comparison to be made by the listener And for that, your plastic PC speakers should be perfectly adequate. For about $30, Logitec (a brand that makes a wide range of well engineered pc accessories) offer several speakers: these here used to make the clips are their LS11.*
Turning to these two clips first presented in post #32 ...
Loading the player ... SD example
Loading the player ... HD example
The listener's feedback was as I expected and is neatly summarised by Pluto above. 'The HD recording has more stereo width'. Assuming that we agree on that (listen again to the repeated clips above) we can pursue why this is. Without any further background information, you and I casually listening could draw the conclusion that the HD recording brought some additional realism, a greater 'being there' experience. And probably we would cheerfully cough-up an extra few (or many?) dollars for that masterpiece recording even if we already owned the 'SD' recording. That is how the movie and recording industry works; they are very creative in selling you (again) what you already have. Be it VHS>DVD or DVD>BluRay, or LP>CD then CD>Remastered CD. It's a game.
In my post #32 introducing these clips and running with the flow of the discussion I said -
Now the sad fact is that every commercial recording once 'in the can' is frozen in time at the day it was captured, with those performers, those microphones and with the limitations of recording skill and technical equipment on the day. Sounds not 'on' the recording are not on the recording - period. The recording is as complete and sealed as an oil painting. Mono cannot be regenerated as surround sound in post-production. But for marketing purposes, ways have to be found to 'leverage' the significant cost invested in the recording to find new consumers for it. And since music is a highly personal subjective matter, the most likely new market for a re-release is those that have 'already expressed a preference for' (marketing speak) the artist. And so, the crucial importance of remastering what was sealed at a point in time into something new, fresh and sellable.
... neither you nor I, as ordinary members of the public, have (any) awareness of the mysterious process of 'mastering' these recordings. We would be barred from the CD mastering facility. Their tricks and techniques are closely guarded commercial secrets. Their secret business is of increasing the appeal of recorded music. The more they sell the better so 'mastering' is an absolutely crucial step in the commercial process of bringing music from the recording studio to our homes. 'Whatever it takes' is their motto.
The truth is that both of my recordings clips started out as exactly the same. I simply took the original high quality recording and duplicated it. The original I labelled 'SD' and the copy I manipulated - I remastered - and labelled it 'HD'. With a little appreciation of listener preference behaviour (i.e. the sort of things that most people would find audibly attractive most of the time) it took just a few minutes to remaster the clip. I'm sure you have the tools to make the same transformation on your PC: you can remaster your entire audio collection for free! More spaciousness, more open, greater dynamics - more revealing, a greater sense of scale etc. etc. etc. .... all there at the click of a few keys.
What did I do? Can you do it yourself? What can we learn from this?
*The sound quality of active plastic pc speakers can be fairly good. The usual problem though is hum, both mechanical and electrical.
Alan A. Shaw
Harbeth Audio UK