A New Exile on Main Street "Using the Original Analog Master Tape..."? Doubtful

A recent sales blurb from UMe's "The Sound of Vinyl" website reads: "Using the original analog master tapes this artisan process results in cuts that have superior high frequency response (treble) and very solid and stable stereo images. In short, a very high quality master that helps to create a very high quality record."

Furthermore it states that "Six iconic album releases have been exclusively re-mastered for vinyl at the world famous Abbey Road Studios to bring you a new level of depth and clarity. These records have never sounded so good!"

Since, to the best of my knowledge, Abbey Road's 1/2 speed mastering set-up used by Miles Showell cuts exclusively from 96/24 files, something is definitely wrong here.

First, it's obvious that an advertising copy writer has gotten his hands on a list of audiophile vernacular and he (or she) is sprinkling it liberally and thoughtlessly.

The claim made here is that the original master tapes have been used to produce these half speed mastered cuts. Is that true? I very much doubt it. I think what's being used are digital files sourced at some point from the tapes. That would be very different from what's being claimed. Different enough in my opinion, that if what I think is happening here is true, it constitutes at best deception and at worst outright fraud.

Of course it could be that a clueless copywriter is just carelessly spewing, but regardless, the company is responsible.

I reached out to Mr. Showell, who is of course in a very tight spot here, but I've yet to hear back and I wouldn't blame Showell for not responding. Why should he risk his job for something he had nothing to do with?.

I bet what's being used here are 96/24 files made at some point from the master tapes. Which files? And made by whom? Are these the same files used to cut lacquers for a truly horrible, dynamically squashed Exile On Mainstream box set issued a few years ago? If so, it doesn't matter if the cut is 1/2 speed, full speed, double time, 800x or whatever. It will still suck.

It's time for consumers to put their collective feet down and stop buying this stuff. We must demand where possible, all-analog cuts from master tapes. Period. I understand why Queen did what it did for the box set I haven't heard mastered by Bob Ludwig. There were reasons. Here? I doubt there are any legitimate reasons.

Until we get an Exile on Main Street cut from the tapes and without dynamic compression, we should not be supporting this kind of project—even if it was truthfully, not deceptively marketed. That goes for the entire series in my opinion.

It is sad to see the great Abbey Road Studios name get muddied.

Kirby's picture

I was going to email you with this very question in mind.I was in doubt myself when I seen this advertised and was hoping you may be able to clear it up. Thanks for saving me throwing my money away on another marketing scam. AAA forever!!!

BKsabath's picture

I just got a copy of Free fire and water and it is a real disappointment

There are a few posts on you tube that would give you the impression that they know what they are talking about and that they have the machines to do a proper job of it

That is certainly not the case

I am comparing the Abbey half speed issue whit my old original ILPS9120

The new one is flat distorted and lifeless in my opinion the run off on the Abbey is about 3 times as large than on the old so really, they did not put much effort in making a decent job.

What really get me going is that they did put loads of effort in marketing see the super duper hi quality Mastering Certificate that is a so nice piece of A4 paper whit nice gold stamp and all unfortunately the Hi frequency response they talk about is not there furthermore the paper is so good that the only use I can envisage for it in an emergency is not practical, old news paper work much better.

By searching around I have just found this review
Is there any way that it could be made more accessible ?

john ryan horse's picture

This is my favorite album, and aside from the 1994 CD (Bob Ludvig) every modern edition, vinyl or CD, lacks the magic, musical and emotional. My go-to is a 1972 "dist. by Atco" US pressing. A world of color and detail! Yes the original sounds like a restoration! Re this latest piece of artisanship, frustratingly typical.

Michael Fremer's picture
Was distributed by Atco, but the real clue to originality is the Artisan stamp in the inner groove area. It looks like an encircled letter "A".
Hackmartian's picture

The only thing that would force the labels to up their game would be getting the retailers that sell their releases to push back on them. If our beloved Music Direct, Acoustic Sounds, and Soundstage Direct would either refuse to stock pressings of dubious origin or force the labels to provide an honest statement of the source that was then communicated to customers in the product descriptions, things would change. If Amazon and Urban Outfitters followed suit, things would change overnight. But as it stands, the current attitude at the major labels is all eye-rolls and insults whenever the topic of cutting vinyl from digital comes up. And I'm not saying that speculatively. I've suffered through those meetings and retorts of "fuck 'em...none of them can really tell the difference anyway, they just need something to bitch about in web forums." Of course, this always comes from people who don't have analog systems at all (apart from the requisite beater plastic turntable in the office).

AnalogJ's picture

Recently we were assured by one of the mastering engineers, himself, that the Peter Gabriel 1/2 speed 45rpm series reissues are the best these albums have ever sounded. Well, they're not close to how good even the Classic Records 33 reissues sound (as long as The copy you get has quiet vinyl). The new reissues can vary from okay to awful.

Don't always believe the hype from the record company itself.

john ryan horse's picture

Michael: An A in a circle? Or could it look like a playing record with a tonearm? and PR's signature?

Michael Fremer's picture
the "PR" stands for Presswell, which was one of Atlantic's pressing plants. Another is "MO", which stands for Monarch. PR was in NJ, MO in Los Angeles Here is the Artisan logo:

Vinyl-Head's picture

Ya, that is what is on mine. Bought in 1972 and it still sounds fantastic. Was thinking of putting it in to retirement and buying another copy hence here I am doing a bit of research. I was already ripped off having bought a 'digitally remastered' Highway 61 Revisited so am now wary of buying any new vinyl copies of an analogue album.

Aussie0zborn's picture

These could easily be half speed mastered from the analogue tapes by almost any cutting studio. It doesn't need Abbey Road's fandangled digital system. Here's how it works :

Rotate turntable on cutting lathe at 16 2/3rd RPM.
Play 15ips analogue tape at speed of 7.5ips (or 30ips tape played at speed of 15ips)
Lower cutter head onto blank lacquer disc and hit "play" on the tape machine.

Records were cut at half speed well before Abbey Road introduced the digital system you mention.

The real question is this....

Are the original 40 year old analogue master tapes playable today?

If not, we should be glad they were transferred to digital back when they were still playable. Bear in mind that the ORIGINAL ANALOGUE MASTER will more than likely have each song spliced together onto the reel. The splicing tape fails and needs to carefully replaced. Certain magnetic tape sheds it's oxide layer on playback. It's not always possible to play a 40 year old tape.

AnalogJ's picture

If they took care in storage of these tapes, I would think they'd be fine. Creedence Clearwater Revival's tapes were beautifully cared for and the reissues are terrific. Aside from the original run of Exile, it's not like the album got reissue after reissue after reissue. And if you hear the Blue Note albums that Music Matters are putting out, and those tapes are far older, you'll hear how great 60 year old tapes can sound!

Aussie0zborn's picture

The aforementioned is no excuse for deceptive advertising but it does mean we may never get the penultimate cut. It's not hard to specify if it was cut DIRECT from the analogue master and the omission of guaranteeing same is somewhat deceptive in itself.

Lothar's picture

You wrote: "It's time for consumers to put their collective feet down and stop buying this stuff. We must demand where possible, all-analog cuts from master tapes. Period. I understand why Queen did what it did for the box set I haven't heard mastered by Bob Ludwig. There were reasons. Here? I doubt there are any legitimate reasons."

I have been burned so many times taking chances on vague or deceptive source info and gotten a badly mastered, dead-sounding record or records and, in the words of my late father, "it burns my ass!" and dammit it does.

Just pressing various and sundry digital audio files to a vinyl record does not create any kind of audiophile product and charging consumers a premium for it is the friggin' height of cynical opportunism and it has to stop.

I never buy any new vinyl unless I've checked here and a few other spots to see if we're getting the real deal or what.

I think there are enough people who enjoy vinyl records and who are sensitive enough to SQ to build an organisation around this -- a pressure group, lobbying group, something.

Bix's picture

Wasn't the 20th Anniversary In Utero set mastered all-analog at Abbey Road?

Michael Fremer's picture
Abbey Road is perfectly capable of cutting from analog tape! The Beatles mono box was done that way. Someone at UMe made the 96/24 decision.
Bix's picture

Whoops, misread what you wrote and had a brainfart. So just their half speed system is digital-sourced only?

gbougard's picture

Abbey Road is not even the greatest of studios. I can think of several in London, Paris, LA and NY. The Beatles went there and that's it. But when you check it out, the Beatles albums dont sound THAT great. So these guys are just piggy backing the Beatles' fame.

And quite frankly, this obsession with working with original masters and so forth is ridiculous. To make a record sound great, the main thing that matters is how tracks are recorded, be it on tape or on hard drives.

malosuerte's picture

I don't know. Dark Side of the Moon sounds pretty good, and it was recorded there.

There are countless great recordings from that studio.

Michael Fremer's picture
Abbey Road is fantastic studio in every way. It is ridiculous to say "The Beatles were there and that's it". Sorry but that's plain ignorant. And working with masters is not ridiculous! Of course it starts with a great recording but that's a different discussion.
gbougard's picture

Sure Abbey Road is a nice studio.

But give me Royal Studios in Memphis anytime. I absolutely loved working there with Boo Mitchell a few years ago and would return there without even thinking

Among other studios I've used, I just think The Record Plant in LA, Ferber in Paris, even Studio A at Anchor Studios in Kingston or Sound Off in NYC (wicked brand new studio), sound as good if not better. And none of those hold a candle to Compass Point (the only one I've not had the privilege of using) or the Fallout Shelter. And what about George Massenburg Studios...

But that's totally not the point: the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Marley, Dr Dre, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder could have used any studio and the end result would have been FABULOUS.

It's the songs that count, then the musicians, then the studio comes far behind. More than the studio, the miking technician and the mixing engineer are of paramount importance. And, sorry to say, but even though I like vinyl, the media is dead last.

cement_head's picture

Couldn't agree more - I could care less if they masters are digital or analogue - it's how it sounds. I think there's less likelihood of dynamically squashing with analogue pipeline - but still doesn't mean that a digitally recorded & processed source can't sound excellent.

Vinyl-Head's picture

"The Beatles albums dont sound THAT great" I have to disagree there. I know if you listen to something like Sinatra on Capital around the same time for example there is a noticeable lushness compared to a more 'down home' sound in Abbey Road but I like that. Revolver is an amazing album sonically. Funnily enough , I think Please Please me captures them probably best.

firedog55's picture

I have the original LPs (USA) and never liked the sound - it's a little too murky, even if that was part of the artistic intent.
But the more recent remasters (40th anniversary) are way too bright and volume compressed - unlistenable IMO.
I listen either to the old LP or a 24/96 digital transcription I made myself. The sad part is that my homemade digital version sounds orders of magnitude better than all these latter day remasters.

I've been told that there is an SHM "flat transfer" from the original tapes on CD/SACD that sounds good, but it's Japanese and I haven't heard it.

Michael Fremer's picture
I find that the better your front end, the better this album sounds... I should post some files!
Martin's picture

True with all records, but particularly so with this one.

It takes a very good cartridge and phono stage to make sense of the dense mix. Having also heard tracks from this record from a variety of systems, cheaper cartridges are just not up to the job.
I had a spare turntable for a while, a project with a Sumiko blue note, playing Exile on that was one thing, then playing on my my main system, through a Lyra Skala, everything else the same, the difference was huge. The murk disappeared, the mix separated out, the sound unfolded.
What I like about the Bob Ludwig Virgin CD is whatever he did, he made the sonics clearer and more focused. Pity it's just a CD....

forshac's picture

Wasn't that the knock against this album when it first came out?

Silver dot e's picture

Amazing and frustrating that an album of such importance keeps. Isi g the mark with each subsequent reissue. Hard not to see the Stones themselves as only in it for the money, which is truly shameful---imagine the joy and commercial success of a reissue done right. In your opinions (Mikey and the community) of all the versions out there, which release of Exile is the best sounding?

dasacco's picture

I understand that digital copies are made from analog tapes to produce vinyl records, and some can be quite good, and I assume it's because the original tapes may be fragile and need to be protected.

What I don't understand is why they don't make ANALOG copies of the tapes to use for vinyl cutting?

The Mono Masters LP's and Magical Mystery Tour in the Beatles Mono box were cut from analog copies, and they sound great. Same with the recent red and blue reissues, analog copies with great sound.

Is it cost prohibitive?

gbougard's picture

When you copy something onto tape, there is a infinitesimal loss. So if you copy a tape of a tape of a tape, etc... the sound is degraded and one can hear it.
by contrast, when a file is copied many times over it is not altered

isaacrivera's picture

I like the idea of collaborating on some form of 3rd party AAA certification body that could discover, certify and maintain accurate listings of AAA vinyl editions. It could also help understand and standardize the vernacular of editions.

john ryan horse's picture

3rd party certification! Like certifying gluten free, or grass fed beef...It would help, and lead to awareness within the vinyl consumer base. And I too have wondered, why not transfer to analog tape? One tip off re the original "Exile" is that there is (intentional I suspect) a long (5 to 10 seconds) pause between "Just Want To See His Face" & "Let It Loose"...Not replicated on any of the later versions. The sense of "murk" seems part of the mood of post-Altamont ennui/exhaustion that the album also pushes back against. Much of "Goats Head" is terrific, but that album is one uninviting sonic picture made by the best people in the business...

wpjs@rocketmail.com's picture

I'm currently reading Greenfield's book on the making of this album.
The sense of murk may have something to do with the recording space being a basement.
If you listen to the LP knowing that- it's pretty cool.
Andy Johns went through heck to get that stuff on tape.
That said- I imagine the condition of those original tapes not being very good.(?)

I have an original US press and it sounds OK.
And yes- it's a sin how god awful that re-master sounds.
Jagger has said, revisting the past is boring- so maybe he doesn't care.
Keith talks a lot about the sound and searching for a new sound- so all jokes aside- he should be tuned into what is being released of his legacy.
Surprised he signed off on it.

Would love to see an early Stones Mono box similar to the Beatles box.

Martin's picture

For such a classic record as this, it is almost unbelievable that there has not been a reissue to do this justice since the original "Artisan" pressings.

And it seems to have a very convoluted history.
For me, the best sounding versions are the original first pressings mastered at Artisan, of which the German pressing using the Artisan plates is out in front. Because of the better vinyl quality. However, the German press uses Artisan plates for sides 2,3,4, but side 1 being of local/unknown providence. And it’s noticeable. Side 1 sounds flatter, more distant than the others sides. What happened?? Maybe the plate or lacquer that was shipped got damaged and a tape copy was used locally?? Seems to be a general case, all four of my copies are the same.

To add to the weirdness, the UK first press uses the Artisan mastering on all four sides… But the vinyl is noisier than the German. The American first press sounds great, but, noisy vinyl, noisier than the UK - at least on the two I own.

For the reissues, when Bob Ludwig did the 1994 Virgin reissue, "apparently" the original tape used for the original pressings was AWOL, worn out, stolen or otherwise unusable. So "apparently" using the three track tapes, he or someone mixed a new one using a U.S. first pressing as reference. So on that CD you hear Bob Ludwig doing working his magic and doing whatever he does on the Virgin CD. And for a CD, that sounds great. This is what I heard and I'd love to know if it's correct. Whatever, it's a clearer, more focused mix than the original.

Coming to the recent SHM - SACD reissue, the Japanese single layer SACD. Playing them, I think this is actually a different tape yet again for the SACD. Bringing us up to three.
The SACD sounds great, there is more there, there for the SACD, all the extra bits coming across from DSD, like 705kbs for the CD vs. 2,800 kbs for the SACD... So I play the SACD or the LP if I'm going to play this. That said, the SACD, if I was guessing sounds like a 2nd or 3rd gen. copy of a master. If I had to guess...

It has to be said though - in my opinion.... -- Bob Ludwigs mastering is the best of the lot. Pity it's only a CD. He did a vinyl issue of that mastering, but that was screwed up by Virgin and sounds just flat and lifeless. It's awful. That one has been relegated to the cellar never to see the light of day again...
Now what happened to that tape he apparently mixed???

At the bottom of the list, sounding truly bad, awful, disgraceful is the recent squashed reissue. That sounds bad on both vinyl and CD. With the bonus tracks - in my opinion - an utter waste of time. Sounding equally bad. The various boots out there - Taxile on main street, etc. - have more mojo than those contrived efforts.

Will someone, someone, anyone, please dig out Bob Ludwigs tape and do a proper all analogue reissue?
And while you're at it, do one at 33 and one at 45rpm for the true obsessives who have this record imprinted onto their brains.

mb's picture

One, where do people come up with this stuff and then, two, actually post it as though it is fact? There is only one mix of Exile. Any differences one hears is due to choices in EQ, compression, limiting, mastering equipment, etc.

To these ears, for the most part, Ludwig chose to use more upper mids to give the illusion of more energy - but at the expense of added harshness.

The SHM-SACD - while not perfect - is the best digital version (I think I have all of them) and perhaps the best version overall I've heard.

Martin's picture

And I really don't know how true this is, but as I understand, back in 1993, when Bob Ludwig was doing the Virgin CD reissues of several of the records, the Exile master tape was missing. AWOL, unusable, vanished, not findable, whatever.

So.... A call was put out in Los Angeles; "Wanted, one mint condition first pressing copy of Exile on Main Street".
Because a reference was needed.
A minty copy was duly located and the owner was asked if he wouldn't mind bringing it by to a house in LA. The gas naturally and his time would be paid.
Arriving at the house, this guy walked in to meet Bob Ludwig, who he had no idea who he was. And apparently Mick and Keith, sitting there on the sofa. He most certainly knew who they were. In a state of mild shock, he handed over his copy of Exile, was given his 30 bucks, shook hands with all and departed.
Bob Ludwig, or someone (??) -- apparently -- got a bunch of mix down masters, three tracks, or whatever to reproduce as closely the original pressing as he could.
I don't know how true this story is, but it is simply true that that 1994 CD is clearer and more distinct than the original mix. For whatever reason.
Plus Bob Ludwig got the '60s catalogue to do ten years later and he used the original Deccas as references to get the sound they had. In all cases, he did a fabulous job.

mb's picture

The 1994 CD is not a re-mix. Period.

As for the story behind it, ask yourself...why would an "APB" for a mint copy have to be put out? While mint original cuts copies of Exile (and why "mint" -- it's not as though they were doing a needle drop for commercial release) weren't exactly growing on trees by the early 90's, they weren't exactly unicorns either. I'm sure it would have been easy to find one in a place like LA - hell, a quick trip to Ameoba Records would have probably resulted in several that would have been good enough for reference purposes.

Second, if a re-mix was being done, you wouldn't need an LP copy (or three tracks...huh?) for reference. You would use the stereo master tape (aka a mix-down master). An LP reference would be for mastering purposes.

Thirdly, Bob Ludwig is a mastering engineer; he is not a mixing engineer -- try to find one mixing credit for him. I seriously doubt the Rolling Stones would have hired him to re-mix Exile for his one and only serious attempt at mixing.

And why would Mick and Keith be there for someone handing over an LP copy of Exile, but not, say, Goats Head Soup (which along with all of the LPs from Sticky Fingers thru Tattoo You were done in 1994)? Why not Charlie and/or Bill too?

As I said before, any additional clarity you hear in the '94 CD is due to Ludwig's mastering choices -- which in my opinion generally came at the expense of a certain harshness. To each his own on those, I suppose.

Lastly, IMO, while the Ludwig SACDs of the 60's catalog was mostly very good, Aftermath (as one example) was treated to excessive noise reduction in spots. Listen to the original '87 German/UK Decca CD of Aftermath (and a few others) to hear a much much smoother, more listenable version than the Ludwig SACDs.

Martin's picture

From an interview with Don Was in 2010. They were talking about the Virgin 1994 remasters, Was being the Stones producer at the time… The conversation turned to “Exile”.,

“Was talked about Pierre DeBeauport, and recounted a humorous story, involving the fact that he and the band needed to get a copy of the original release on vinyl in mint condition. Therefore, resorting to look in the record collectors magazine Goldmine, and found two people selling it, who they talked to coming down to deliver the albums. “We were recording at my house on Mullholland Drive. said Was. “They didn’t know who it was, and Mick and Keith were buying their albums”. “

In an interview with Bill Wyman, in 2010, in Bass Player Mag, Wyman mentions in a podcast done from the interview that the original reference, the '72 LP was used for the '94 Virgin CD release. He states that Bob Ludwig used that reference to master the 1994 CD to be as faithful as possible to the LP.

Given the album and the fanatical devotion and emotions it can raise, witness some of the comments here, I can imagine, even at the time, if true…. nobody wanted to publically admit that the tape had been, well, umm, lost. No. 4 or 5 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of greatest records of all time, a milestone, a classic, an icon, etc., etc. Possibly not what you want to be admitting. Oops, we lost the tape to an icon… Can’t find it, sorry…
Of course it could all be a shaggy dog story, the original master tape may be alive and well, living among us. In which case someone should dig it out and press a record with it.

I’m a big fan of the SHM-SACD. I think it sounds great. However. If you look on the credits for the SHM-SACD, it says “DSD flat transferred from UK original analogue master tapes by Mick McKenna and Richard Whittaker at FX Copyroom, London, in 2011.
So the SACD is the tape, no tweaking. Presumably. It being a flat transfer is probably why I like it so much.

My guess is this UK tape is a 2nd or even 3rd generation copy of the master. Presumably made for later UK pressings. The first UK pressings used the US Artisan matrices.

Whatever. It's just a great record. I just wish someone would dig out whatever tape Bob Ludwig used to do that 1994 CD and press all-analogue vinyl with it. Preferably at 45rpm.

mb's picture

The UK tape might be the actual 1st generation master even though the lacquers were cut at Artisan. Tapes do travel. And tape descriptions -- especially when translated from Japanese -- can be incorrect. Or it might be a dub. Regardless, a flat 2nd generation dub can sound almost indistinguishable from the original.

The story about the mint LP seems like a non-sequitur to me and has nothing to do with the re-mastering of the Exile per se. I also call bullshit on it, but that's a different discussion for a different day.

That Ludwig used an original vinyl pressing as a reference for a mastering project is not at all surprising. What is surprising is that the original vinyl and the '94 CD bear so little resemblance tonally - as if the vinyl wasn't really used as a reference.

There is no evidence that the original tape was or is currently lost. The original CD wasn't likely made from the original master (it sounds like a vinyl cutting master to me), but that was not at all uncommon in the late 80's. There were other original Columbia Stones CDs weren't likely made from the original masters either - that doesn't mean they were lost.

The tape Ludwig used in '94 has likely been used since then for CD and vinyl -- although probably using a digital copy. It's that the modern mastering has made it unrecognizable as the same tape.

Kirby's picture

I missed the "DSD flat transfer etc."on my copy of the SHM SACD, no wonder I liked it as much as I did. It has to be the best digital copy of this record out there and also well worth picking up a copy if you got a SACD player.

singhcr's picture

I agree, Mike. I hate this trend of mysteriously sourced LP releases. On a lot of them I can't find reviews (Steve Perry's "Street Talk", for example) but at least I knew it was a 96/24 source, so I stuck with my original pressing.

I wanted a Robocop LP and found a re-release. Was it AAA? I had no clue. After listening to it I discovered that it was, but it was a picture disc and had a lot of surface noise as a result.

Generally, unless I see a review from a place that I trust (I bought the TRON OST because of your review, for one) I just steer clear of all modern re-releases because I must assume they come from dubious sources. To make matters worse, the consumer is being downright lied to with this Stones LP. Pathetic.

usernaim250's picture

Gotta love the new lingo of oldness. Ironic here of course because Artisan cut the originals. Even more ironic because this is one of the easiest "still the best" first masterings to find used. It was a number one record. There are several master lacquers, written in two hands (one with Gs that look like Gs, one that look like 9s; sides are often mixed). In the US, stampers from these original lacquers were used at least through the 1977 issue with 75 Rock and the W pill logo--perhaps there are copies that don't, but some of them are still original mastering. And Artisan plates were also used in Canada, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and possibly others.

The first side on my unipak 1841 copy that is on the heaviest vinyl (and thus surely an actual 1972) also isn't stamped with the Artisan stamp like the first press German, but the hand writing the rest is the same, so I am sure they just forgot the stamp, and this is still a genuine first press Artisan master.

And PR is a plant (Presswell), not an engineer.

RobWynn's picture

I almost bought this a month or so ago when I got the newsletter from the mfg.

Then I noticed "artisinal" and put on the breaks. Sounds like something bandwagon jumpers would use.

For example, I can see the ads now for the new artisinal, hand-crafted Crosley turntable available at all Best Buys.

RobWynn's picture

I've been meaning to share this with Michale in an email, but I think this is the appropriate posting to share with the group.

This is the sticker/label the Chicago-based indie label KRANKY has used:

no digital process was used in the
production of this sound recording!
pressed on premium grade 150 gram vinyl

Very specific and to the point. I wish I could post a picture because this is beautiful.

This is from "Secret Name" by LOW, and I know it is on a few other LOW titles. Not sure about the other artists or titles in the Kranky catalog.

I think it is a model to adopt, once we can get labels to be forthcoming with this sort of info.

my new username's picture

The only "message" delivered to marketing wonks is that "Oh well, no one wants LPs. Again."

And we know this, because of how "audiophile" LPs such as this continue to be made. They don't know, because unless they read Internet comments, they can't hear the message. Sales popularity should point to why something is bought, but sales unpopularity just results in the assumption that the product "was fine" but no body wants it. The "why" doesn't get addressed.

I don't know the answer to this continuously frustrating situation.

my new username's picture

"Sourced from original analog tapes" is something we probably brought upon ourselves. It remains true, but as we now know, has become meaningless."

It's time to start asking for "CUT from original tapes." Just leave out the "analog" part because they're getting confused by it, thinking the digital copy = same quality. Emphasize CUT from tape. It reiterates the need to use a tape player when cutting!

xtcfan80's picture

I agree with john ryan horse on his favorite versions of Exile. I have a UK vinyl pressing that sounds great (not sure what vintage) and the 1994 Bob Ludwig CD is nice as well. In 1972,I remember dropping my Shure (N55?)stylus that was on my second hand Garrard table and hearing the first chords of "Rocks Off" like it was yesterday. AND seeing The Stones in June 1972 with Stevie Wonder opening.....never forget that

AnalogJ's picture

I recently bought an original US, complete with the postcards. I had never heard the entire album before. I had read about the "murkiness" of the sound. It ain't audiophile, per se, but it sounds natural and analog. The music flows. Certain cuts sound better than others. None of it sounds bad, some of it sounds really good. I have heard FAR WORSE sounding albums. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give the album sonically somewhere between a 7 and 8. That ain't hay.

john ryan horse's picture

I recently bought a copy of the Sundazed reissue of "The '5' Royales" (originally released by King in 1959); the front and back cover graphics are reproduced. Funny, this rock 'n' roll record, marketed to kids mostly, has a blurb on the back: "King records are produced and recorded utilizing the latest in electronic equipment and production techniques - Telefunken mikes, Ampex tape recorders, Scully mastering lathe, Grampion recording head. Pure nickel processing and virgin materials...[assure] the listener of the ultimate in sound reproduction, full frequency range response, and the quietest surfaces possible."
King was hardly known for audiophile recordings (check James Brown's 1967 "Live At The Garden"), but the very fact that this paragraph was included in ALL CAPS on this title (regardless of whether it was possibly used at the time on all King LPs) and half a century later companies can dissemble when it comes to expensive audiophile LPs struck me as worth noting. BTW the reissued album sounds terrific!

cundare's picture

...gibes with what I've read many times over the years. Even Geoff Emerick admits that Abbey Road was far from state of the art, and technologically years behind the best U.S. studios at the time. He blames conservative, stodgy (and frugal) management, which repeatedly told Martin to just "make do" with what was already in place. The Beatles, once they became a known quantity, scored the best studio most of the time, but even that studio didn't go 8-track until, what, Yellow Submarine? (The movie soundtrack, not Revolver.) Those of us with decent stereos can hear every one of those four tracks on Sgt. Pepper's.

So, yeah, I digress, but my point is that Abbey Road, especially as it was in the 60s & 70s, shouldn't be considered any kind of benchmark. The best thing it had going for it was George Martin.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

I believe Miles Showell has the capability to cut from analogue but most (if not all) the release so far have been from 24/96. Some of the Repertoire label titles he has done are rather good however. I too doubt very much this is from tape but it could be a new flat transfer rather than the earlier compressed remaster. Here's hoping. I did think the most recent Sticky Fingers sounded rather good - a rare occasion were I disagreed with Mr Fremer.

Tullman's picture

It is really a shame that with analog tapes available we are often getting digitally mastered vinyl. It is really defeating the purpose.

jamesg11's picture

Reading all this & just checked my EOMS which I bought ~ '73-4 ... that pic of the Artisan logo is there on the UK '72 pressing S1 ... will play it tomorrow on my just upgraded TT to see if it still sounds as 'murky' as it did decades ago on my old AR XB1 ... oh yeh, better go wash it first ... new TT, new habits ...

Kirby's picture

After reading this article I decided that I was going to find a UK copy of this album. A quick note to Mr Fremer which he promptly answered (thank you very much) with what to look for and what to ask the seller,and wham bam thank you mam, I'm now the proud owner of a org. 1972 UK Artisan copy in very good shape(for a 44 year old album).How does it compare, well In my humble opinion, there is no comparison. The Pure Audio Blu-Ray has to be cut from the new digital remaster as it is so glaringly bright it almost hurts the ears, still much better that the newer cd, that I also own. As for the SHM single layer SACD, MUCH! better, this one must be cut from the org tapes, as it levels the 96/24 Blu-Ray, no comparison there. Now for the crem della crem, as good as the SHM SACD is over the Blu-Ray, the org UK lp is over the SACD. It is that good, bottom end slam (not bloat) soundstage, mids, top end, all better! All this from a 44 yr old album. Sure there is a little surface noise, as one might expect from a album that old, but nothing I can't live with. If you can find a reasonable priced copy (I payed $70 US) buy one, it's worth it. Can't remember off hand but I'm sure I payed over $50 US for the SACD and around $25 US for the Blu-Ray. I hope this was of some help.

bongo-hifi's picture

I too am getting increasingly incensed at the so called "vinyl revival" marketing fraud. My view is that the major record companies are preparing the market for high resolution streaming and producing high resolution digital files for that market. High res digital has yet to widely penetrate the mainstream and the companies need to turn a profit. So, in the meantime market a completely false "vinyl revival" and press those files to LP's label them as "audiophile" and charge top dollar.

ThePan's picture

Looks like your suspicions were correct. However, in the remaining Q/A, they go on to sing praises regarding the digital sources for this project. Any validity to their claims?


4.What was the source for this record?
24bit/96khz digital transfers supplied by the Stones made from original ¼” tapes. This album was cut from a high-resolution digital transfer from the best known analogue tape in existence. Only minimal sympathetic equalisation was applied to the transfer to keep everything as pure as possible. Also, as this was an analogue, vinyl only high quality release, I did not apply any digital limiting. This is added to almost all digital releases to make them appear to be loud and is responsible for “the loudness war” and in almost every case is anything but natural and pure sounding.

Richardharmer's picture

I'm not joking either! Listening to this album at reasonable volume is very difficult on my system. If I make it through I enjoy the silence at the end. Living in Perth, Australia (I'm British) it is difficult to source high quality used vinyl. There is much of it around, but it is mostly junk that nobody wants with the occasional gem. As such, I end up relying on reissues on a regular basis, which is very disappointing when they turn out with poor sound.

hans altena's picture

and it really had dynamics and the details stood out very good, it had magic in Just want to see His Face, and that says it all for me. When I compared it with my old Artisan it was in parts even better yet beaten overall because it somehow missed that analogue space, still I am very glad with this excellent pressing! It sounds better than all other, except the first Artisan, though that one is murkier by the way, and I do like how this Abby Road edition has more clearness. If I really had to choose, I would have a difficulty, want them both I guess!

Audionut Music's picture

Hi, have finally registered on site though frequent browser and mailed Mr.Fremer directly many times to add my 2 cents worth here.I was MASSIVELY sceptical about these Miles Showell Abbey road half speed masters until they released Brian Eno's before and after science on 45.I took a chance, and although Miles takes into digital domain before cutting laquer I couldn't argue with the results.See his response to Mikey elsswhere on this site.I have since bought many others in the series, and they are all really GOOD sounding records.It seems EXILE has been damned here without anyone actually hearing it.I own it, and an AVID/SME/BENZ SONUS FABER system and it is very, very good IMHO.Proof in the pudding, don't write these remasters off without listening to a few, I was angry about the digital part of the process as a purist importing vinyl into South Africa for the last 15 years but seriously, the results really speak for themselves.