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VT Mastered for iTunes (The Studio Albums 1989-2007) sounds much better


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Remember that the latest releases were "mastered for iTunes" which means that during the mastering process they made their tweaks to avoid compression artifacts specific to AAC compression technology. Apple provides special software so one can make adjustments to see what effect the encoding process will have on the file. Then the file is submitted in high quality 24/96 (or better) to Apple who then encodes/compresses them. I don't imagine they made two masters, so any mastering done this go-around was done specifically with AAC compression in mind using Apple's "preview" tools. Therefore the high quality tracks from HDTracks are indeed 24/96 but mastered with another goal in mind (AAC compression, not delivering in 24/96). They may still sound great but something to think about before plopping down that much money.


Also, the limit of human hearing is about 20 kHz. That's why CD encoding is at 44.1. Even with a system that can handle playback of 24/96 - you're not going to tell the difference (well, I'm not anyway.) The higher fidelity is really only useful during the mastering process itself. Selling it to the masses is a bit of marketing and even knowing that bit, some just like to know they have the best quality file as they transcode it to various formats (I'm guilty of this even if I can't tell the difference, I like to know I have the absolute best quality digital file to begin with as close to the recording masters as I can come.)

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I did a side-by-side comparison in Pro Tools. I ripped the CDs (Presto thru Test For Echo were Atlantic remasters) to compare.


Vapor Trails is the same mix, but clearer with more breathing room. You can see the the original CD's wave forms are a solid block with little dynamics. The iTunes remaster fixes this. It's as 'spikey' as it should be with a lot less distortion.


Another big difference I noticed was with Presto. It has a bigger aural sound to it - almost like they added a dash of reverb to take away the thinness. It's not over-compressed either, so still dynamic.


Snakes and Arrows sounds a bit brighter/bigger too. I didn't think I'd like a remastered S&A because I figured it would either, A: sound exactly the same considering only 6 years have gone by in the audio world or B: would get squashed with more compression. Neither are true.


I was a bit disappointed with Roll The Bones though. After the Retro 3 versions of the first 3 tracks, I was expecting something similar, soundwise. Not the case. It's a bit punchier than the Atlantic remaster but not nearly as thick n bassy as the Retro 3 cuts. I get that they probably had to beef up those tracks for smoother transitions between those songs on R3. I mean how do you go from One Little Victory to Dreamline without bumping up the volume and bass? I was hoping for something that sounded more like that. RTB could use a thickening up.


Feedback took the VT remaster route. It's more dynamic now with less distortion. Test For Echo is a little less muddy with more distinguishable instruments.


Counterparts had the least amount of change IMO. It sounds a tad wider but not a huge difference. (How many audio nerd adjectives can I use?)

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