Review of 347 EST on Klaatunes Records
There are PLENTY of examples where a "remastered" disc falls short of expectations and is generally panned as a bad move. The number of times a certain album has come out with too much hiss or too much noise reduction that has sucked the life out of a recording is a very huge number indeed.
There are also labels that have touted 20-bit mastering, 20-bit super mastering, and even 24-bit mastering. However, youíre hearing the recording on a CD which is 16-bit. Are the advantages lost in the downsampling? Will you even hear the difference? If you can't, maybe they didn't do it right.....
And in a culture where iTunes and lossy compression are the norm and more people download music ruined by these "advances" than buy physical CDs, where is the incentive to remaster, let alone to do so properly and improve the product?
And with more people downloading than buying CDs, whereís the incentive to release something with expanded packaging and new additions to existing artwork?
And yet, this is just what Klaatu has done.
Klaatu have formed their own record company (Klaatunes Records) and are in the process of re-transferring their master tapes (which they own) and having their albums remastered for new CD releases.
The first release from Klaatunes Records was a straight copy (no remastering) of the Bullseye Records release of "Solology" but with an expanded booklet.
Their second release is now out, the first Klaatu album, fully remastered with expanded artwork to go with it. The artwork includes new elements created by original album cover artist Ted Jones specifically for this release. The booklet is beautiful and the overall packaging of the CD is fantastic!
Note, I said the booklet contains NEW ELEMENTS created by TED JONES for this release.
I'll say it again, the booklet contains NEW ELEMENTS created by TED JONES for this release.
Now on to the sound.
This album has been released on CD many times over the years. There are 2 sources out there for these CDs. The first is the copy of the master that Capitol Records has, which is another generation away from the original recording. The second is the ORIGINAL master that Klaatu has.
Capitol, Collectorís Choice Music, and BGO have all released CDs of the first album based on Capitolís COPY of the master. Keep in mind that weíre not talking digital, weíre talking copy in the analog realm where a copy introduces generational loss. And while the band employed some rather brilliant methodology in their copying process to minimize the generational loss, itís still a copy with lower fidelity, even if only slightly lower, than the original master. These CDs have all had the high end squashed to hide tape hiss and the low end was always muddy.
Justin Entertainment, Attic Records, and Bullseye Records have all used the tape which Klaatu owns which is the original master tape. The Justin CD was VERY hissy. The Attic CD was a BIG improvement, but was missing some high end, and the mouse squeak was totally missing from the end of the album. The Bullseye CD was astounding for both super high fidelity, low hiss, and great artwork. (Although a first pressing DID include a mastering error that was NOT on any of the three versions of test pressings that I had been sent, namely that California Jam was presented in mono, which was immediately corrected on a second pressing.)
However, one or two vocal critics claimed that the dynamic range of the album was squashed and compressed to the point of lifelessness and that the disc sounded horrible. Nothing could be further from the truth, but 10 years later I STILL get emails from people saying they wouldnít buy the Bullseye CD because they read that it was too compressed and sounded horrible (and yet, I bet they have no problems buying lossy compression tracks from iTunes which really DOES mess with and destroy the quality of the sound. but I digress).
When Klaatu had the master tape transferred this time around, they went with 176.4 KHz 32-bit digital. The remastering has been done in this realm so that they have greater control over the fine details. The end result is nothing short of amazing. The high end is brighter and cleaner than Iíve ever heard on ANY commercial release of this album, and Iíve checked vinyl, cassette, 8-track (yes, Iím serious) and several CD releases!
The Bullseye CD was rich in bass and had a nice punch to the bottom end as a result. The album didnít just play on your stereo, it jumped out and danced around the room for you. This new CD has pulled back on that bass response a little (you can still get it by turning up the bass on your amplifier, even just 1 notch) and given a more smooth overall sound from low to high.
Overall, Iíd say itís got the best frequency response of any issue of this album, ever.
The compression will most likely make the same vocal critics (that didnít like the Bullseye release) angry since itís along the same lines. The overall Bullseye CD had from 11 to 15 dB of dynamic range, and this CD has the same. BUT, there are some differences. The Bullseye CD hovered just below 0 dB on the loudest passages and this one hits 0 dB on the loudest passages. Some tracks on the Bullseye CD were around 11 to 13 dB of dynamic range, some were 13 to 15 dB of dynamic range. With this new CD, the ranges are almost identical, but not always for the same song. Some that were 13 to 15 on Bullseye are 11 to 13 on this release, and some that were 11 to 13 on Bullseye are 13 to 15 on this release... and some songs have almost identical dynamic ranges from the Bullseye to the Klaatunes cd.
Sound quality on this release 9.9999999 out of 10 (I personally would have loved a tiny bit more bass).
Hiss level on this release, perfect! Itís MOSTLY inaudible and where you CAN hear it, itís not distractingly loud.
Dynamic range, as good as the original vinyl (you arenít going to get much better without doing a remix, which has never been done to the Klaatu albums on CD).
Is it worth buying? Yes.
Where can you buy it?
- Dave Bradley (http://www.klaatu.org) October 5, 2011