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Thread: Blu-ray audio and remastering questions

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    Default Blu-ray audio and remastering questions

    I asked about this in the opera section, but am asking it here to see what anyone who doesn't visit that section thinks about this.

    I've been considering buying this and want to know if it is worth paying about three times the price of the CD release:

    Attachment 134938

    There is a skeptical review for this set here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-r...SIN=B06XH6J98K

    From what the reviewer mentions in the review and from what the comments say,

    1. Does the reviewer know what they are talking about?

    2. Would the blu-ray sound better than the previous CD release?

    3. From what is said about the (P) and (C) dates, can it be concluded that the set is not a new remaster from the previous CD release?

    4. If the set does indeed use the same master as the previous CD release, is it possible that the new pressing could still have better sound quality.

    Here is the thread I previously posted in the opera section: Opera Blu-Ray CD Audio - Worth It?

    It may be helpful to read my previous thread to get more details about our confusion on what the (P) and (C) mean and on whether the set is remastered.

    Sorry for all the questions. I just really want to know if this sort of thing is worth investing in.

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    I’m not familiar with this recording, and therefore I’m afraid that I can’t answer your questions directly.



    Nonetheless, I’ll offer a few opinions about the audio quality of vintage vs. modern recordings, and CD vs. hi-res.

    The back cover of the recording of Tristan Und Isolde you’re inquiring about indicates it was remastered in 2017. At issue is the source that was used for the 2017 remaster – i.e., were the original analog master tapes used to create the new hi-res digital master, or was an earlier digital version of the recording used for the 2017 remaster? (I tried looking at DG’s web site, but they require that I enable cookies, which I am disinclined to do.)

    I understand that many TC members care only about the performance, and not audio quality. However, you asked about audio quality, so that’s what I’ll comment on. IME, generally the audio quality of vintage recordings is not nearly as good as state-of-the-art modern recordings, even if the vintage recording has been remastered from the original tapes. Here’s a few examples of remastered vintage recordings that I own on Pure Audio Blu-ray that form the basis of my opinions:





    (I also own some of the Callas recordings that were remastered and delivered as a hi-res stereo download.)

    Vintage opera recordings have several major deficiencies compared with modern performances (last dozen years or so) that were captured in hi-res and delivered on Blu-ray:

    1. In general, vintage recordings have significantly poorer audio quality.

    2. Vintage recordings generally don’t feature surround-sound. IMO/IME, a Blu-ray of a modern performance (last dozen years or so) delivers outstanding audio quality via its DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround-sound audio track. IMO/IME the center channel helps deliver additional acoustic power that benefits large scale classical music. My Klipsch RC-64III center channel can deliver the full power of the operatic voice, and when driven by the right tube amp sounds natural doing so.

    3. Vintage recordings don’t feature video, and therefore half of opera’s art form is missing – i.e., the acting and scenery.

    4. I have yet to encounter a vintage recording that was remastered to Blu-ray that displays the libretto on the HDTV screen. This misses one of the huge advantages of modern recordings of opera on Blu-ray audio/video – i.e., being able to see the libretto on the screen vs. trying to follow a language I don’t understand in a printed libretto (which invariably has tiny print). In theory, a record company could remaster a vintage recording and deliver it on Blu-ray with the libretto displayed as supertitles on the screen – but apparently, they’re not willing to spend the money.


    This morning I listened briefly to excerpts of the 1972 recording of “La Boheme” referenced above that features Pavarotti and Freni. This recording was remastered from the original analog tapes at 24bit/96kHz. I listened in my TV room via my Oppo UDP-205 universal player, and McIntosh MX110Z / McIntosh MC240 driving Klipsch Palladium P-37F tower speakers, and Klipsch P-312W subwoofer. (There was no point firing up another tube amp for the Klipsch RC-64III center channel and single Klipsch RP-502S rear speaker, because this vintage recording has only a stereo track – i.e., no surround-sound track.) I hadn’t listened to this recording in a while, because I usually listen to modern recordings. When listening to Rodolfo and Mimi introduce themselves to one another via the Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, my initial assessment was that the audio quality is good enough that I could enjoy the recording. Then Freni sang loud, and I was cringing and turning down the volume. IME vintage recordings often sound harsh during loud passages– and this never happens with modern hi-res recordings. When I play modern Blu-ray recordings on one of my hi-fi systems featuring large Klipsch speakers driven by tube amps, the sound quality is never harsh – even for large-scale orchestral music and opera.

    I briefly compared the Pure Audio Blu-ray disc with the CD that was included in this La Boheme box set, and the difference in audio is immediately apparent – but difficult to describe.

    IME, vintage recordings don’t have the audio quality of a state-of-the-art recording from the last dozen years or so, and this is most apparent for large-scale music. The ultimate limiting factor in the audio quality of a recording delivered to the consumer, is the quality of the original recording. Older recordings are limited to what was state-of-the-art recording technology at that time. For example, if someone listens to a 54-year-old recording, the audio quality is limited to 54-year-old recording technology, and they are not hearing what “hi-res” is capable of delivering. Garbage-in/garbage-out. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

    I’ll reiterate the important issue I mentioned above: Classical music lovers sometimes must decide which is more important: performance quality, or audio quality of a recording. I’m not a music scholar, and I’m not hyper-critical of a performance. Very often I enjoy modern performances of classical music. However, I have no tolerance for poor audio quality. I therefore usually choose modern performances of classical music that were recorded in hi-res.

    If you want this particular 1966 performance of Tristan Und Isolde, then IMO $30 (Amazon’s price) is a reasonable price to pay for the best quality that’s available (i.e., Pure Audio Blu-ray). Will you hear a difference between the Pure Audio Blu-ray and an earlier CD release? I can’t say. How much money would you save if you bought used CDs?

    Perhaps you can provide a service to others: For this 1966 Tristan Und Isolde, buy an old CD, and the new Pure Audio Blu-ray, and report on the differences that you perceive.

    If you’re feeling ambitious, also buy a modern Blu-ray audio/video (i.e., much newer performance) of Tristan Und Isolde, and compare the Blu-ray experience (i.e., state-of-the art hi-res surround sound audio, high-definition video, and libretto on the screen) to an older CD. FWIW, I’m considering buying this modern Blu-ray:



    Sorry I didn’t answer your question directly about the 1966 recording of Tristan Und Isolde. Nonetheless, I hope that my comments are helpful.

    Good luck, and please report back your findings.

    P.S. FWIW, following is a thread about modern Blu-ray recordings. I’ll add posts about additional recordings in the weeks ahead.
    Blu-ray Videos of Classical Concerts
    Last edited by RobertKC; Apr-30-2020 at 23:59.

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    RobertKC, I appreciate your response to my post, but I think perhaps you are misunderstanding what I am asking about.

    I am not wondering about old vs. new recordings. The four points you mentioned about what is lacking with older recordings are not of concern to me. I have zero interest in exploring new recordings of this opera. I'm concerned more about quality of performance in this case as I find newer opera performances lacking in quality of singing and in the quality of staging.

    I have my heart set on this one particular performance and want to know if the blu-ray release is capable of giving better sound quality than the CD release. The reviewer on Amazon does not seem to think the blu-ray disc increased the sound quality. He mentioned some technical aspects that I do not have adequate knowledge on to decide if he is correct.

    I am also wondering if the CDs that come with this release have any potential to sound better than the CDs of the previous release even if they are not remastered. Basically I'm wondering if different CD pressings of the same master can sound different.

    I'm not looking for a full blown audiophilic experience as there is a point where better sound doesn't make a difference to me. But I would like to get the best out of this particular recording. I just want to know if it's possible for this album to sound better, specifically in regards to the 4 questions I asked in the OP. In regards to my third question, the reviewer gives some additional information that is not on the cover as far as I know but in the liner notes.
    Last edited by adriesba; May-01-2020 at 00:11.

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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    RobertKC, I appreciate your response to my post, but I think perhaps you are misunderstanding what I am asking about.

    I am not wondering about old vs. new recordings. The four points you mentioned about what is lacking with older recordings are not of concern to me. I have zero interest in exploring new recordings of this opera. I'm concerned more about quality of performance in this case as I find newer opera performances lacking in quality of singing and in the quality of staging.

    I have my heart set on this one particular performance and want to know if the blu-ray release is capable of giving better sound quality than the CD release. The reviewer on Amazon does not seem to think the blu-ray disc increased the sound quality. He mentioned some technical aspects that I do not have adequate knowledge on to decide if he is correct.

    I am also wondering if the CDs that come with this release have any potential to sound better than the CDs of the previous release even if they are not remastered. Basically I'm wondering if different CD pressings of the same master can sound different.

    I'm not looking for a full blown audiophilic experience as there is a point where better sound doesn't make a difference to me. But I would like to get the best out of this particular recording. I just want to know if it's possible for this album to sound better, specifically in regards to the 4 questions I asked in the OP. In regards to my third question, the reviewer gives some additional information that is not on the cover as far as I know but in the liner notes.
    Respectfully, I suggest that you invest $30 in the Pure Audio Blu-ray and share your assessment.
    Last edited by RobertKC; May-01-2020 at 00:49.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    I can't speak for the Böhm Tristan specifically, but for all of the DG Blu-ray editions I have, the Blu-ray disc was remastered from the original analogue tapes specially for the Blu-ray disc. The included CDs (why?) are the previous CD master or remaster from whenever that was.

    In all cases, to my ears, the Blu-ray disc remaster sounds superior to any previous recorded format for that release. Whether that's because it's a superior remaster, or because the higher resolution is actually audible, or because I'm hallucinating, is unclear.
    Last edited by Knorf; May-01-2020 at 00:38.

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    Senior Member jegreenwood's Avatar
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    I can't speak to that "Tristan" (and perhaps I shouldn't speak at all) but in deciding to buy the Blu-Ray Solti Ring, I read this extended review. I never owned the Solti Ring in any other format, so I can't compare.

    Here is an excerpt:

    While the Blu-ray’s sound quality was not dramatically different from the 2012 CDs, the
    accuracy of the soundstage was amazing. In “Ride of the Valkyries,” the offstage Valkyrie
    voices sounded like they were integrated into the Sofiensaal’s acoustics and not off in some kind
    of echoey, ersatz electronic limbo. Throughout the operas, one could locate exactly where the
    singers were standing, and their voices had more body than could be heard on the CDs. In
    Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene, sung with transcendent mastery by Birgit Nilsson, her voice
    was reproduced with almost holographic reality, conveying not just amplitude but depth as well.
    The same precision of imaging applied to the instruments and sections of the orchestra. There
    was no sense of strain or congestion even in the loudest brass or percussion climaxes; the sound
    remained transparent. It was obvious that no small amount of art and craft went into the creation
    of this latest incarnation, allowing listeners to experience Solti’s Ring more faithfully than
    previously possible.

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertKC View Post
    Respectfully, I suggest that you invest $30 in the Pure Audio Blu-ray and share your assessment.
    Well, I would, but I don't have the previous release. The reason I'm asking is so that I don't spend more money than I need to for it to potentially be a disappointment. It would be around $50 for me to get both. I'd just prefer not to invest so much in a single album if the blu-ray turns out to be just a gimmick. Of course, the blu-ray does have the extra recorded rehearsal. IDK.

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    I can't speak for the Böhm Tristan specifically, but for all of the DG Blu-ray editions I have, the Blu-ray disc was remastered from the original analogue tapes specially for the Blu-ray disc. The included CDs (why?) are the previous CD master or remaster from whenever that was.

    In all cases, to my ears, the Blu-ray disc remaster sounds superior to any previous recorded format for that release. Whether that's because it's a superior remaster, or because the higher resolution is actually audible, or because I'm hallucinating, is unclear.
    The recording I'm asking about isn't really clear as to what sources they use though.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    The recording I'm asking about isn't really clear as to what sources they use though.
    Yes, it is. You're letting yourself be unduly influenced by some knobhead on Amazon.

    The CDs are the 1997 remaster, as is the booklet (notes, translations, artwork.)
    The Blu-ray Audio disc is a special 2017 remaster for this edition.
    Last edited by Knorf; May-01-2020 at 18:06.

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    Yes, it is. You're letting yourself be unduly influenced by some knobhead on Amazon.

    The CDs are the 1997 remaster, as is the booklet (notes, translations, artwork.)
    The Blu-ray Audio disc is a special 2017 remaster for this edition.
    So the guy on Amazon doesn't know what he's talking about with the sound quality.?

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    So the guy on Amazon doesn't know what he's talking about with the sound quality.?
    He says he hears no improvement. Who knows what he's listening to the recording on, or whether he even has the ears to hear the difference?

    Other reviewers say they hear a clear improvement. Why would the single negative one override the others?

    Every DG Blu-ray edition I own is a clear improvement. Why would this one be different?

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    He says he hears no improvement. Who knows what he's listening to the recording on, or whether he even has the ears to hear the difference?

    Other reviewers say they hear a clear improvement. Why would the single negative one override the others?

    Every DG Blu-ray edition I own is a clear improvement. Why would this one be different?
    I don't remember many reviews talking about the technical aspects for one. I took his review more seriously because of that. I just need clarification since I don't understand all that stuff.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    I am also wondering if the CDs that come with this release have any potential to sound better than the CDs of the previous release even if they are not remastered. Basically I'm wondering if different CD pressings of the same master can sound different.
    The answer to that is no. The CD contains a sequence of numbers that are read and sent to whatever digital-to-analog converter you have (whether that is a CD player, DAC connected to your computer, etc). If they are the same numbers you get the same sound.

    You could argue that if an old disc was in really bad condition there could be errors. That is true, but I find this invariably manifests itself as pops or crackle, or another extremely obvious extraneous noise (rather than a subtle degradation of sound). Even this is rare, judging by the fact that when I rip CDs the the computer the software almost always reports that the disc is bit-for-bit entirely identical to the rips other users have made.
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    The answer to that is no. The CD contains a sequence of numbers that are read and sent to whatever digital-to-analog converter you have (whether that is a CD player, DAC connected to your computer, etc). If they are the same numbers you get the same sound.

    You could argue that if an old disc was in really bad condition there could be errors. That is true, but I find this invariably manifests itself as pops or crackle, or another extremely obvious extraneous noise (rather than a subtle degradation of sound). Even this is rare, judging by the fact that when I rip CDs the the computer the software almost always reports that the disc is bit-for-bit entirely identical to the rips other users have made.
    A poster in the thread I linked thought that the CDs with the blu-ray release sounded better than the previous CD release. We were confused by this. That's why I came here for clarification. So now I'm just confused. Is it possible that they were remastered but didn't clarify this in the set?

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adriesba View Post
    I don't remember many reviews talking about the technical aspects for one. I took his review more seriously because of that. I just need clarification since I don't understand all that stuff.
    He doesn't mention a single "technical aspect." Only his confusion about there being different copyright (for the booklet and older CD remaster) and production (for the Blu-ray master) dates. And that he can't hear any difference, which could well just be on him.

    Look, if you're that nervous about it, forget it.

    One thing I like very much about Blu-ray Audio discs, aside from the potential for improved sound, is that you can listen to this entire opera without switching discs three times. I mean, the entire Ring cycle at 24 bit 96khz can fit on a single Blu-ray Audio disc!
    Last edited by Knorf; May-01-2020 at 18:55.

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