David Bowie Off Masters albums High Resolution

It is the first 13 original albums from Space Oddity to Heroes (without David Live) as direct copies from the original masters. They come as flac-files in 24 bit/96 kHz (so you can’t burn them directly on CD). The sound is phenomenal.

 

A High Compliance Restore

In 2012 I was passed a bunch of flat transfer masters, on a HDD in Hi-Res format,  that came from a studio in NY. They had been transferred on an Ampex ATR-102 Reel tape machine; they were in a pile left for destruction as the studio was being converted into apartments.  They were “apparently” bin masters; bin masters are normally the high speed tape masters used in the tape duplication process for cassettes, they are normally ½ or 1” tape and run at speeds up to 120 inches per second. The tape transfers in question were in general 15 IPS ¼” tape and in some cases 30Ips ¼”. The only thing, there was a common thread – that they sounded odd (Apart from the 30 IPS). They also were noted as being from Magtec. I do believe that the versions you feature on here are the “leaked” versions, when we compared different observations, on what the problems were.. To tell, on analysis, they are 44k1KHz transfers in a 96KHz container – this was caused by a Windows/ pro-Tools set up error, at the time.

Now Magtec are known as being providers of duplication facilities, however on all accounts they provided production masters to other studios and record plants.

I spoke to the engineer that did the transfer, he was in fact a minor record producer, and he confirmed that they all were transferred on the hoof so to speak and they used the standard settings used to transfer production masters, to pro-tools.

Anyway to cut the chase, before lock-down, a friend of mine who is also a producer and engineer, asked me to re-evaluate these along with some good quality out-takes; with a view to putting some of these tracks on an impending commissioned Bowie DVD; which I do believe may have been postponed (Covid related). I am known in my circles a being a bit of a tape buff and a closet restorer, so I do get approaches from time strapped friends to help them out. ( I am in fact a retired telecoms Product Manager/Consultant etc). The outcome was I realised that the odd sound was due to the fact that these were UK Production Masters and masters in CCIRR (Equalisation) and not  – as in the standard  image of the American Production Master (PM), featured on Michael Harvey’s, Bowie site. which is 15 IPS NASRTB (NAB).

Therefore using the Magnetic reference Library (MRL) tables for changing one playback EQ to another I constructed a FIR filter in my DAW, to rectify the anomalies.  This indeed converted them back to the sound I would have expected. Some of them are Dolby A and to decode this I manged to Contact Dyson-Hess to obtain a copy and licence of their Dolby A decoder.

There were nearly the entire (14) collection of RCA tapes and I think these are the basis of the U-Matic transfers that the original CDs were created from. http://picknmixed.blogspot.com/p/the-bowie-rca-cds.html

Anyway these are the comments made by my audio producer friend:

“It makes my cynical old heart rrally (sic) happy to read so many positive comments on this little collection, as I am blown away by the restoration job that lokkerman (my on-line name)  has done here.

These 14 tapes are literally streets ahead of the recent remasters, and to be blunt I simply do not understand why they are so highly regarded as when you set up and A/B against the(se) Production Masters there really is no comparison.

For anyone still unconvinced, try loading the official High Res remasters (the Ray Staff analogue ones) and align the same album’s tape transfer.

Mute the tape, and get to grips with how the remaster sounds (you should probably start by dropping the remaster’s volume by 6dB downwards if looking at Ziggy). Hear the width of the image, the quality of the vocal sound. So far so good – it even seems to sound okay.

Now mute the remaster by soloing the tape, and prepare to be blown away as the stereo image widens out, and the whole mix becomes more balanced & even and best of all the vocals lose that nasal quality.

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2 thoughts on “”

  1. Hi,
    Were can we find those audio dreams ? I got these albums on CD and LP, but the masters without compression I definitely want to hear that !
    Thank you in advance

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