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The Beatles most recent offering is a collection of twenty seven songs that they released as singles, all #1’s. I like a greatest hits compilation such as this, because it fits so well into a CD jukebox, not that I own one. The idea is to stuff a CD changer full of discs of greatest hits compilations. Nakamichi released a machine several years back that can hold as many discs as you have, since it can be daisy chained to increase its capacity, I suppose, indefinitely.
Odd way to start a record review of the greatest band ever?
I apologize, but not really. For a disc with such pedigreed content, one that arguably contains some of the most engaging songs of the Twentieth Century, the sound of the songs themselves proved to be a major disappointment. Only All you need is love is better on disc than it is on vinyl: It sounds like they “fixed the balance” a bit, and dispensed with some of the screechiness of the original. The later period songs sound no better and marginally worse than the original records did, and the early songs sound worse. There is a brittle hardness to the transient energy on the first three tracks (Love me do, From me to you, She loves you), and I want to hold your hand sounds a bit flat.
These original analog masters have been digitally remastered at 24 bits resolution, processed using Sonic Solutions NoNoise technology and mastered to 16 bit for CD using Prism SNS Noise Shaping.
The liner notes indicate that careful thought has gone into the creation of this CD. Although I question how analog masters can be remastered to digital (this stage of the process is really a format conversion), sampling at a 24 bit word depth at what I assume has to be 96 or 192k bandwidth should have allowed the producers to catch everything on the analogue master tapes. Some of those tapes date back to 1962. Nothing lasts forever, and magnetic tape, no matter how carefully it is stored, will shed, debond, even disintegrate from brittleness. Scared you enough?
But there are other possible reasons for sonic ennuie. In the first place, using a high bit rate and wide bandwidth won’t do much to add to the integrity of the record making process if you must down convert the recording to the CD format. Downconversion creates aliases (literally alternate identities that don’t belong to the original sound “profile”). The producers claim to have used a couple of noise reduction and noise shaping devices during the downconversion. The former production step (NoNoise) was applied during the editing of the individual tracks (to suit each) in 24 bits, and the latter is a fancy reference to alias reduction, regardless of what the technical description for the process may suggest. A distortion, alias is noise - indeed the one of greatest consequence in this instance.
I’ve heard some excellent sounding CD’s, including Wings’ Venus and Mars, not to mention The White Album, and I know that part of my discomfort in listening to the music on this CD may be attributed to the way that it was made. That said, I know that downconversions, if done well, can be very successful. And from an editing perspective, the more bits, the wider the dynamic range; the higher the sampling rate, the greater the detail in the resolution of the acoustic wave.
So that is that, I suppose. A great collection of songs, with adequate sound. But I was looking for more. On the plus side, the record stores have priced the CD to sell (both Sam the Record Man and HMV have priced it in the $15.00 (CDN) range, well below a dollar a song.
I look forward to a definitive release of this music from a fresh perspective.