"Lithium" CD single (1992)
With the Lights Out box set (2004)
Nevermind remaster (2011)
And the winner is: 1992 "Lithium" CD single
This comparison was suggested by one of the best video demonstrations I've seen of the Loudness War, found here on YouTube
. I had to borrow a copy of the With the Lights Out
box set version for this comparison, as I refuse to spend $40 or more to purchase such a poorly mastered collection of CDs. The "Lithium" CD single version from 1992 sounds great, as expected, while the two reissues both sound predictably terrible by comparison, with the snare drum in particular practically disappearing from the mix. The added little bits at the beginning and end of the box set version are interesting to have but hardly essential, and add nothing of value to the song. Pick up an original copy of the "Lithium" single for this one if you can find it.