Many years ago, around 2005 or 2006, a friend let me borrow the newly remastered, deluxe edition of an album I'd been quite fond of for the previous decade. Listening through my headphones, there was something about the album that just didn't sound quite right to me, an inferiority to the listening experience that I couldn't quite put my finger on but the existence of which I could identify without difficulty. The music felt lifeless and dull by comparison with the older copy of the album I'd listened to and enjoyed up until that point. I recalled that somewhere I'd read something about modern compact disc releases being compressed for the sake of higher volume, and I had in fact already come across one compilation CD in my collection years before that was noticeably louder than the others and sounded like it was peaking in places. However, it wasn't until years later, with the release of Metallica's Death Magnetic
album, that I was able to make the connection. While reading of the widespread industry criticism of that release, I stumbled upon discussions of a phenomenon known as dynamic range compression. Further research into this finally revealed the reason why many of my later CDs just didn't sound as good as the older ones in my collection: over compression, limiting, and excessively high levels.
It's become quite the trendy thing in recent years to re-release older material "remastered." This is, of course, hardly a new phenomenon, as remasters have been appearing since the late 80s and early 90s. In those days, however, remasters were still produced with an ear toward improved dynamic range and sound quality, while today the goal seems to be to target an audience more accustomed to flat, crushed sounding music at today's unreasonably high mastering levels. This collection of reviews is an ongoing work in progress, with new comparisons being added as time and new acquisitions allow. So join me as I subject some of these to a critical listen.
(Note: The comparisons in this area of the site are opinions formed based on my own listening experiences, and are not professional analyses. They are reviews of various albums and songs as they sound to my ears, and as such may not necessarily align with any criticisms being voiced in other parts of the internet. Nothing herein should be taken as a representation of the entire music community's opinion of any particular release, nor should any of it be construed as an indictment of anyone whose ears don't register things the same way as mine. My musical tastes are varied and the selections featured here will reflect that.)