George Harrison Sixteen LP Box Set Readied by UMe and Harrison Estate

The upcoming (available February, 24th 2017) George Harrison sixteen 180 LP box set includes every solo release by "the quiet Beatle" from 1968 to 2002.

The set includes Wonderwall, the three LP set All Things Must Pass, the posthumous Brainwashed, unfinished upon Harrison's passing and finished by son Dhani and everything in between, including a 2LP Live in Japan.

The press blurb says "exact replicas" of the original release track listings and artwork, but it's not clear if these will be in jackets or in a book(let).

According to Capitol mastering engineer Ron McMaster:

Regarding the George Harrison Box Set, the vinyl masters were cut from 96khz/24bit mastered files so that the cut could reflect the EQ choices approved by the Harrison family. Additionally the mastering was done from 96khz/24bit files that were meticulously generated from the original master tapes in order to complete the necessary restoration work required before mastering.

COMMENTS
sdecker's picture

I know this has been brought up dozens of times in every forum, but what's the point of paying all the money for a large box set of LPs that are 96/24 files? If someone wants some or all the analog LPs, they're out there.

But there are so many steps between the digital files and the LP why wouldn't we be better off buying the files directly for less money? Especially given the sketchy pressings so often out there with demand exceeding the supply of presses. Or are the consumer high-res files still dynamically compressed, and the LPs less so?

Having bought records for 45 years now, it seems so many digitally-sourced LPs are better served by getting the files themselves (of known provenance) and skipping all the intermediate vinyl steps and prices that must degrade the sound and wallet along the way. (Assuming we all have good 24/96-capable DACs by now, at least as good as what the studio uses for transfer) Then, if you want the 12" album cover and sleeve, buy a cheap, beat up LP for the artwork,lyrics and notes. I wish it were otherwise.

ViciAudio's picture

Files mastered for commercial release are not the same as master files transferred "raw" from the master tapes, as they use for cutting the LP's (usually these files are not available commercially). Also... cutting vinyl from the master files is, in itself, a new mastering. Sure I would prefer 100% Analog cut vinyl, but I can still see the added value to having this material mastered for vinyl from high resolution transfers of the tapes, when compared to other available options, if the cut is made by someone with the right knowledge and gear. I usually find the mastering for vinyl to sound better and more satisfying :)

Michael Fremer's picture
I will give you my reasons: first the raw files handed to the cutting engineer are not necessarily the same as the ones you can buy for download. But beyond that: most of us have spent a great deal of time and money "tuning" our analog front ends to produce an appealing sound for our sonic tastes. That goes for turntable, arm, cartridge and phono preamp. We have less control over DAC sound. I like the sound of my front end. I like the sound of records played on it. If the cutting engineer does a good job and I like his cutting system sound, chances are good I'll be happy with the records assuming they are well processed and pressed. I have the Nina Simone box set cut from 96/24 sources and the records sound better than Philips originals. Not a high bar set, but I'd rather have the physical records in a box, with the artwork to take out and play on my system.
sdecker's picture

I too have years of tweakage to get my analog front-end to where I want it. And less effort to get my digital front-end to where I want it. Most of the new music I (and likely all of us) have bought on vinyl in the past 20+ years has been recorded at least in part digitally. And in the past decade or so that 24/96 can sound OK, I can be satisfied with the sound of these records, especially if the alternative is a dynamically compressed 16/44 CD, no matter how good my transport/DAC. Recording studio quality becomes more important.

But to my point, you put a lot of conditionals on everything being 'right' to produce an agreeable LP from digital files, from the cutting engineer to the pressing plant. And that was sort of my question, why not skip all those signal-degrading steps and directly decode the high-res files, at least for albums that are of less personal significance to the buyer. Not all of us have the money and storage space for every high-end LP, or the world's best analog rig :-( But it seems modern 24/96 sonics isn't your main concern if you can't have well-recorded AAA.

I understand both your reasons as valid, and agree the biggest problem is that the digital download is likely not that used for the record pressing, and may be something else entirely -- like AAA records, it's awfully hard to find the source and manipulations of the file I may end up buying...

J. Carter's picture

My experience and feedback from engineers I have heard from is that most if not all hi res files that are released are the same mastering of those that are used to cut the vinyl. The reason being that the masterings that need approval (like this set specifically) are not going to have several different permutations. They may release different resolutions but the eq and dynamics will stay the same because that is what the artist/estate has approved.

The bigger issue becomes whether they release the digital files for sale. I think there is a good probability they will for this set since all of George's other releases have been released for hi res download sale.

MrRom92's picture

There is the chance that the mastering engineer worked from a "raw" unprocessed 24/96 file closer to the tape rather than something mastered for commercial release, and the vinyl has a chance of sounding better in that case, but in many cases (especially newer all-digital recordings not sourced from a tape transfer) the hi-res version available IS what they consider to be the master recording and is exactly what they'd send off for cutting. Personally I don't buy digitally sourced LPs where an analog version exists, so indeed I find myself buying digital releases more and more than LPs these days.

In the case of All Things Must Pass, it can get a little confusing but can kinda be used as an example for your question. There is a recent (2014) 24/96 remaster that is pretty decent… but there was an older (2010) 24/96 release that they pulled off all the hi-res sites in order to sell the new remaster, and the old one was much better! Not that the recording is a sonic gem anyway, but much more reserved EQ and less compression makes for a better listening experience. It's actually speculated by some that it might have been a flat transfer. Being that the estate approved that newer remastering in favor of the 2010, and seems to be producing these LPs to match the 2014 remasters, I would venture to guess that the older 24/96 version will easily outperform it. If you can find it of course, the files are still out there if one knows where to look.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Listening to it right now and I agree. I prefer it to the 2001 vinyl reissue, which I listened to yesterday (the one with the colorized cover). Haven't yet followed up with an original US copy (don't have an English one, unfortunately). Investigation in honor of the expanded reissue of "I Me Mine."

Paul Boudreau's picture
Rudy's picture

My take on cutting digital to vinyl: the cutting head introduces its own electrical effect to the process.

Consider an incandescent light bulb. Does it turn on instantly? No. The filament takes a small amount of time to light up. We don't notice this in everyday use, but compare it to some LED bulbs which light nearly instantaneously and you can easily see the difference. (Of all places, you can observe this in brake lights on an automobile--replace one side with LED bulbs and the difference is easily seen.)

The cutting head on a lathe is essential comprised of coils, and they similarly take time to "energize" and de-energize as the signal is fed to them. Granted, they react faster than a filament in a light bulb, but the effect is the same.

My feeling is that this adds a very subtle effect (perhaps a very subtle smoothing) to the signal fed to it. Sort of a filter, if you will. Which could be why the vinyl version of the source digital file might sound ever so slightly warmer.

Just some food for thought.

misterc59's picture

I'm the same when it comes to the enjoyment of selecting your record, enjoying the cover graphics which is all included in the purchase price (almost a bonus these days compared to digital).
I listen to most recorded formats, but prefer the LP when given a choice. Getting up to change records, select songs, is a non-issue for me.

Regards,
Terry

misterc59's picture

This comment was a reply to Mr. Fremer...

Bigrasshopper's picture

I agree in general with that take on digital transfers. What has me scratching my head is why on earth were they not done at Abbey Road or some place I trust. No, I don't think RM or his facility has anything close to audiophile remastering credentials. That's based on listening and reputation not on any knowledge. I haven't purchased many RM mastering because the ones I have, sound like digits in worst way. In this case my experience says the vinyl won't be better. I'm not buying these because their digital but because of the mastering. That said, If your going to review any of them, sold singly also, I would be interested in your take.
Do you plan to review one or two ?

Michael Fremer's picture
He's done some really good transfers, and many poor ones too, but I wouldn't rule one out based upon it being RM. For instance Cassandra Wilson "Blue Light Oil Dawn" on Pure Pleasure.
Bigrasshopper's picture

I have that album and it does sound good. Are you going to listen to any of these remasters ?

AZ's picture

that it's not AAA :(

J. Carter's picture

Many times this is done because the original tapes are not in perfect condition and the need some digital restoration to make them sound better (dropouts, mangled or damaged tapes). So they take the best sources they can and do some blending and repairing so they sound their best. Doing this in the analog domain is not only very costly but also will most likely degrade the sound quality since you are usually adding another generation to the tape to restore it.

Rudy's picture

Some master tapes out there are, literally, falling apart. Poor storage conditions, poor tape formulations, or even just repeated use over the years can cause all sorts of degradation to the tape. For those restoring a recording, they are lucky to get one good playback out of tapes, sometimes after baking them to stabilize the binder so the oxide does not shed. Could they use backups? Sure, but they are not always the best sounding sources either--they are a generation or more away from the master, and some could have been EQed or compressed for other uses. As buyers, we want that sound from the original master tape, yet I don't feel we have the room to complain if the only way to get that sound is through an intermediate digital step. For some of these tapes, there is no other way.

tparker14's picture

That's why it's all the more remarkable that the Beatles, Dylan, and recent Kinks mono boxes were AAA.

SimonH's picture

Yes it would be nice for the answer to be straightforward - much like what is the right equioment support or what are the right cables....

So back to Hi-Rez vs Vinyl - for me I have some Hi-Rez that I play from a USB, and I prefer them to CD's but I don't normally chose either - I mostly I just go and play a record - much more satisfying (note my amp digitises the phono signal anyway just to put another spanner in the works).

However there are tmes I will just stream MP3's from my phone. or have a session flitting though a USB from my phone - bottom line is if you are happy with what you are listening to that is all that matters. BUT as much as I would like to kick the vinyl habit (space, heartache, etc) I can't.

And I think the GH Turntable would give me nightmares.

Noah985's picture

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JC1957's picture

Is one that could be so much better (mastering issues aside) if a little research and guidance from hard core fans were put into it. First of all where is the elusive mono mix of Wonderwall Music? We once again get the stereo mix when the mono master gathers dust in the vault at Abbey Road.This mix has not been available since 1969. Secondly how about an LP of b-sides and outtakes (Miss O' Dell, Deep Blue, I Live For You etc.)? Where's The Best Of The Dark Horse Years 1976-1989? There's some nuggets on there that aren't available elsewhere. Let's get rid of the pointless picture discs and include a real nice book that the music from George Harrison so richly deserves.

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audiotom's picture

At least sample the masters at 192/24
Then downsample copies for the cd and less expensive lower res digital files

Dukerbud88's picture

Just grabbed this and it sounds absolutely stunning. You can even hear some of tape nuances in the transfer. I had bought the 2001 (coloured box) remaster and was really disappointed. Sold it and thought I would invest in a sealed original or RSD reissue. So glad I held off.. I am so soooo happy with this. Regardless of the source (straight off the tape or mirrored digital file) which to me is irrelevant, this reissue is a true joy. I think maybe some people need to stop focusing and honing on the actual words of analog and digital when it comes to these reissues and use their ears for their assumptions and conclusions instead.

gramps's picture

I agree with Dukerbud88 this reissue sounds great to me. I received my copy from Acoustic Sounds yesterday and listened straight through. All of the LPs were flat, silent with no ticks or pops. Packaging was first rate. It is worth the investment if you don't have an original pressing INMHO.

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