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You Tell Me Which "The Man Who Sold The World" You Prefer !

You Tell Me Which "The Man Who Sold The World" You Prefer !
Here are five "fair use" length 96/24 aif files of David Bowie's sublime "The Man Who Sold The World" (the song). The cover art is from the original German issues, that I do not have.

The five are: the original American Mercury pressing, the UK RCA early '70s reissue, the Japanese late '70's reissue, the Rykodisc digitally remastered and finally the new "Five Years" box set version, whose provenance remains unknown.

The files are not presented in that order, nor are they identified in any way. This is not a formal test so while I normalized peak levels, these are not all presented at identical levels. Please try to adjust levels for each when listening and don't spectrum analyze and spill the analog/digital beans okay? Just listen for yourself and pick your favorite, or maybe you think they all sound good (or not). Also please comment!

I'd pay particular attention to the güiro and to the flanging on Bowie's voice as well as to the air and space around the instruments. Unfortunately the tracks are limited to 45 seconds to avoid legal issues.

And yes you can say there's something oxymoronic about presenting digital files of what might be digitally sourced LPs, or you could say the entire exercise is moronic, which is fine with me.

Source: Caliburn TT, SAT arm, Lyra Atlas cartridge, Ypsilon MC-10 SUT/VPS-100 phono preamp, Lynx Hilo A/D converter.

(Note: when these files were first posted the file names accidentally gave away their identities. The names have been changed as have the order so "A" before is not "A" now!)

File "A"

File "B"

File "C"

File "D"

File "E"

pmaligaya's picture

The filenames reveal the sources

Michael Fremer's picture
I'll go back and fix this immediately!
2_channel_ears's picture

The requested page "/images/1115BowieManB..aif" could not be found.

Michael Fremer's picture
Now fixed....
John M Roberts's picture

Disclaimer-didn't bother running through my main system. Listened with a Dragonfly plugged into my macbook on Grado SR-80s. I favored B because the bass wasn't boosted. It sounded like an older mix to me. Didn't like C or D for the same reasons-too much bass. No one had voted for E when I voted, but it was my 2nd favorite.

Michael Fremer's picture
Because I had to rename and re-upload the files because they were inadvertently identified the first time I uploaded them and when I redid it, I changed the identities...sorry.
vinylrules's picture

B was my favorite with E totally in second place.


Oz's picture

in File E I did not hear in the others. Do I have to surrender my audiophile card if I chose the digitally remastered version?

Jazzfan62's picture

I figure A will be popular because it was tipped towards the brighter side of things. I thought C was overall the best combination of tight base and revealing character.

Fabio's picture

... C was also quite slow and I think that added to it's character. I'd also call it exactly that, "the best combination of tight base and revealing character".

2_channel_ears's picture

Thought A had a lot of detail, very clean, shimmering percussion. E was warm and even sounding, the guiro still stood out as did the duo track vocal. B, C, D, fawwget about d'em.

jennesi's picture

Guitars intro: A very sharp/edgy, C muddy, B,D,E image okay.
Bass: C too prominent. Please listen to where the bass drops (37') - this should have some punch and I don't find it in D and E.
Drums: A less distant than the others.
Güiro: D,E far more to the left.
Organ: D,E sound wider, broader.
Voice: okay everywhere.

To my ears D en E are related, but they sound flat/shallow. I would never choose these.
C in my opinion is a bit too muddy overall.
A is probably the most transparent but too sharp and edgy - a "digital" sound.
So I choose B. C would be my second choice.

Flash77's picture


wyatt72's picture

B is my choice, it is either the American Mercury or UK RCA, cannot tell

A is the digital Rykodisc one, not bad however

C is the Japanese

D is the Five Years

E as for B is either the American Mercury or UK RCA, cannot tell

firedog55's picture

I liked A the best, for me it was the clearest and cleanest sound.
E was a close second, sometimes I prefer it. I think for long term listening I might prefer a sound like E.

vinylrules's picture

Too squeaky clean if you ask me. At first impressive but it doesn't seem to have that warmth one would expect of a recording from that period. Surprised that one is winning or should that be *not* surprised? Anyway terrible fun so keep up the great work Mikey!

LTBS & Phonogram

Mistermuse1's picture

I would have chosen D but too much bass, so B is my choice followed closely by A,D. C was horribly flat and E un-listenable, must be the Ryko.

M-Sevs's picture

I chose E, but D was very close. In many ways I thought D was better: greater separation between instruments, lack of warm distortion, woody and hollow giro, yada yada yada. But E had most of that plus better organ. I hated A almost as much as I hated B, but I hated them for opposite reasons.

Question(s): In what ways does digitizing vinyl change the sound? Shouldn't it have the same effect as digitally remastering? I've never done/made a needle drop. I listen to records almost exclusively (of course, I occasionally don some headphones when I'm on the internet, like right now, but not too often because I hate headphones). So, I feel like I am missing a baseline with which to judge. Viz., how can I know that the digital version I am hearing is a transparent view of the Lp? Or, can I not?

Mistermuse1's picture

I can't believe how different everyone's listening perceptions are. Wow!

firedog55's picture

It's not necessarily different perception; we can perceive the same sound but not evaluate it the same way. The same sound may sound "clean" to me and "too digital" to someone else.
In other words, different "taste" in sound, just like we have different tastes in other areas.

cdlp4578's picture

Not surprising to me. Everyone's eyes are different and no one thinks it's unusual. Ears (and tongues and noses) are different too.

canonlon's picture

Sample A sounded less compressed, but, dynamic, distinctive, resonant, 'warm' - so I chose it over the other samples

canonlon's picture

Sample A sounded less compressed, but, dynamic, distinctive, resonant, 'warm' - so I chose it over the other samples

kozakjj's picture

I like sample B.

theboogeydown's picture

Detail rich on opening guitar as well.

zbub's picture

I voted A as it sounded most open and clear. E was also very good. Didn't care for B, C, and D in my system.
After I voted I cued Mikey's (old) Rockport CDR which contained this track from a UK pressing. It was also interesting to compare the Rockport CDR (44.1/16) to these newer 96/24 needle drops. Sound-wise, my preference is still A.

earsandeyes's picture

A sounds familiar to what is imprinted in my mind: Mercury pressing (I had to check the vaults) I listened endlessly to as a student over 30 years ago. Did not played it for 20 years, used other (digital) sources. The best, or closest to good memories, IMHO.

E sounded very good as well to my ears.
In the others I heard things happening unfamiliar to me.

What I find interesting about this exercise is that I played at that time with either a Lenco l75, with I think a goldring cartridge and later with a Thorens TD115 with an Ortofon VMS??? or something. If A is indeed the Mercury pressing the "fingerprint" is the same whether played with a multi-k USD system you use or a under a 500 USD system I used in the past.
During the weekend I will take some time to wash the record and play it with a vd Hull cartridge.

Consoleman's picture

I'm using Windows 10 with Windows media player 12, no luck in playing these files. Any advice?

dayday's picture

use QuickTime player

Rudy's picture

AIFF is hardly cross-platform (in fact, it comes from a minority platform). No offense to Mr. Fremer, but it takes only a moment to convert to WAV format, so all visitors can play them. I use my Oppo 105 to play back music from a network server or USB drive so I don't need to fuss with computer playback.

I wonder if JRiver plays AIFF files. I think VLC Media Player might. I had no issues playing previous files of Mikey's but to be honest, can't recall which computer player I used. Around here, computers are for doing work, not playing music.