Bob Ludwig Issues Statement Re: "Queen Studio Collection" Box Set

(An analogplanet.com exclusive): Bob Ludwig today issued a statement about the Queen "Studio Collection vinyl box set.

News that Queen's vinyl box set had been produced using Bob Ludwig's 96k/24bit master files rather than directly from analog tape created speculation about the condition of the tapes as well as why the choice was made to cut from digital.

To end the speculation and with the approval of Queen's "camp", Bob Ludwig issued the following clarification:

Hi Michael,

The people from the Queen camp were the most fastidious listeners I’ve ever encountered. No one I’ve ever worked with has shined a light like this on a project.

The Queen camp wanted to: fix all ticks, fix “bad” edits that couldn’t be re-spliced to correct them with a razor blade, have me change eq if necessary note by note.

They hired an engineer JUST to listen to everything at half-speed, and BACKWARDS as well, to see if the slightest tick or anomaly could be perceived and fixed.

Most importantly to my mind- in addition, there were first generation mixes of certain songs which were mixed at a different studio from the majority of the album and thus they had different alignment tones etc.

Sometimes they were recorded using the CCIR curve instead of the NAB curve, or they were using Dolby instead of non-Dolby and, for the remastering project, Queen used those first generation tapes instead of the former album masters of those certain songs which of course had to contain a COPY of those mixes in order to cut from them.

They ended up having literally countless fixes to make for the most perfect sound they wanted.

I mastered everything from the original master tapes, but the final product, in order to sound like they wanted it to sound, HAD to be cut from the high resolution EQ masters. The difference between some of the first generation mixes and the tape copies of them that had to be inserted into the original cutting album masters was sometimes staggeringly better, for SURE it made for a better final product.

Believe me, they spared NO expense on doing it as perfectly as they thought they possibly could.

Best regards,

Bob Ludwig

COMMENTS
Nightfly3000's picture

I wonder what they are using as a source for the half speed playback? Are they running PT at half speed? Are they creating a new half speed file to play at "normal speed"? Was the digital file recorded to tape and the tape was played at half speed? Just curious.

grey17's picture

Thanks for the additional investigative effort . I am one of the people that emailed you regarding concerns over the set. Not sure this fully address them as it speaks only to the files (but maybe that is enough). The other concern is ‘the most perfect sound they wanted'. Their music so they can do what they want but it seems to imply historical rewriting that may not be for the better, a la who shot first Han or Greedo. I guess we can expect a similar presentation to what was on the remastered CD’s.

IR Shane's picture

Hello Grey17- I don't think this is entirely what you meant, but I think too often people equate digital with CD-quality sound. High-res digital is a whole other animal, and when the bit depth goes up the amount of information increases exponentially. And IMO high-res digital most often sounds best to my ears when cut to LP as crazy as that sounds.

I've got original UKs of a number of Queen records and it's often distracting and obvious that they were trying more complex production than could be accomplished with a true degree of transparency.

I'm not pre-judging this set without hearing it because it's digital, and I'm definitely buying it to hear it for myself. It could end up being revelatory, digital and all.

grey17's picture

IR - No disagreement with you on this. I definitely have some albums that were cut from digital and they sound great, along with well mastered CD's that sound great. However based on some of the negative feedback on the CD remasters and the Queen Forever complication it doesn't leave me with confidence, at least until Michael reviews them.

IR Shane's picture

Is this a completely new mastering effort or are the files from the 2011 remasters the source?

grey17's picture

My understanding is yes. New digital files were not created exclusively for the vinyl (but someone please correct me if I am wrong). That isn't necessarily bad thing based on Bob Ludwig’s response. What isn't clear is if the compression and limiting that was applied for the CD's will be the same for the vinyl release. If that is the case then I can't see these being a justifiable value over just getting the 2011 CD's. If it is the original files prior to any compression then we could have something. I think the baseline for this or any other group jumping on the vinyl bandwagon is the care and attention that is applied to take advantage of the mediums strengths otherwise it is just a pure cash grab.

amarok89's picture

But seriously, if you love the 2011 CDs then listen to the f'ing music! Ten years ago I thought I was an audiophile but now know that I'm not. Listen to the music that you already like and then find NEW!!! Geeze you anal types are too much!

jimhb's picture

Looks like a lot of care went into these. I bet they sound great.

Bigrasshopper's picture

I'm a bigger fan of ELO, who like Queen, pushed the boundaries on a very carefully hyper-crafted sound. When Jeff Lynne remastered in the digital domain a couple years back, a best of compilation LP, because he wanted to "fix" all the things that could never fully satisfy with tape ( per the accompaning notes). I had to sell the album immediately after one listen because it sounded like Pro Tools cut and paste. We all know the sound. But Lynne was happy, apparently. It seems people who listen have their obsessions and the people who record have a whole other kind of obsession. Both of which can sometimes obscure the other. I hope in this case there was a balancing of those concerns. But in any case, Queen is just too much crystalline commercial wiggy bombast for these ears.

Hats Domino's picture

I work with Pro Tools, as a profession, on a daily basis. What exactly does "Pro Tools cut and paste" sound like?

My good friend, Joe Palmaccio, did the ELO remasters, and I know the amount of work, tape research and attention to detail that went into that reissue series. But, I'm guessing if Queen has too much "crystalline commercial wiggy bombast" for your ears, no amount of care or precision would satisfy you. Maybe try the Easy Listening section for something more soothing.

Bigrasshopper's picture

Sorry, that was best subjective description I could come up with on short notice. I don't wish to think long or hard about Queen. On the other hand, Easy Listening just leaves me flaccid. But I'm fine with being flaccid when playing Dean Martin. It would have been easier but more correct to say - I hate queen. That feels better. But hate is not a word I choose first, to use in public, but sense you asked.
I would really enjoy being enlightened on what did take place with the mastering of Jeff Lynne's Blue. I thought it sounded like an interesting project. My knowledge of digital and analog mastering is almost entirely based on what I hear. Since I make a big effort to seek out analog pressings, that experience is mainly what I have as comparison when I put on a digital record. There are a few exception but mostly I hear a difference, ragged high frequency transients. The exceptions are generally from well respected labs, but then again, the recent Bob Ludwig Yellow Brick Road sounded marred by the same distortion. Though I understood that he was not the first to get his hands on it. Speakers Corner version is much smoother on top, more dimensional but less well defined bass and dynamics. On Blue the soundstage was flat and generally compressed sounding. And I didn't spend $35 hoping I wouldn't like it. As much as it is about the appreciation of work or the effort and craft, if in the end the result is not reflective then questions need to be asked, what is missing that was here before, in spite of certain improvements. Was it compared to original pressings ? Was this primarily intended for vinyl release - How sensitive can I be to my process - is my equipment desensitizing me - what I am I taking for granted, What do I care about, What is beyond my control ??? These are some of question I try to ask myself when preforming my craft.
It's been along time since I played it but I can tell you - comparison tracks played from my fairly respectable analog chain - Dynavector xv1s, Grahm Phantom II arm, Raven One table, Stealth cable, Boulder 1008 preamp. Both the cartridge and the pre reside on the warm side of neutral. As does the digital front. But the diamond tweeter on the speakers can be very smooth or very unforgiving depending on the source. - I don't have original pressing, so compared to unspecified CD compilation from usb HD, Mac mini to updated Ayre Qb-9, Boulder components and out the 802s, was much more tolerable and non offensive. Also, I can forgive a CD much more easily those kinds of sonic sins than I can a record, which is capable of delivering more of things that please me. Perhaps I'll try the CD.
I am a listening chair critic no doubt. And your right, I really have no idea what protools cut and paste sounds like. If we knew more about the entire chain of events maybe someone could say with assurance - this is why you hear it like that, or not. What do you think of the record ? Can Mr. Palmaccio speak on record. Can you say more in his stead ? I do have a sneaking suspicion that people who do a lot, or mostly, digital work may be more susceptible to being unaware of some of the benefits of remaining completely in the anaog domain or at critical junctures. We can become hypnotized by our envirornment. What I would love to hear is an all analog version Blue track list, minus all the digital processing and compare the two. Which reminds me how I passed up a used ELO compilation 4 or 5 record set housed in a beigh cloth bound book, mastered at the lab where Kevin Gray started ? that's not listed in Discogs. I guess I'll be searching the used market again.

mauidj's picture

Thats a rather dismissive and somewhat insulting response to a genuine concern shown by the writer. You sound very defensive of all things Pro Tools.

amarok89's picture

Some fresh air. Thanks!

DanaHolmes's picture

I think you two gentlemen above are talking about two different ELO releases. I believe one guy is speaking about the recent release where Jeff Lynne went into the / his studio and rerecorded his favorite/ greatest hits to sound more like he envisioned way back then. The title of the LP made it sound like some older greatest hits release but it was new and blue vinyl. I picked a up a copy and it was of course warped so I returned it and never purchased another. The other guy above is speaking of all of the older ELO albums being remastered several years back. At least I think that is what you both were speaking of. What I would like to have and hear is the original recording and sequence of Secret Messages which was originally meant to be a 2-record set and concept album but the label said it was too long and made Jeff slice it down to one LP and we lost some great tracks relocated to B-sides, etc.

boogieman's picture

If The 30th Anniversary A Night at The Opera is any indication of how these will sound, they will be very impressive. The only issue is how quiet will the colored vinyl be? Will the pressings be as quiet as the Beatles Japanese Red Vinyl mono LP's?

Also, People say that Queen ll sounds distorted due to it being recorede in the red. Not sure if this pressing will sound any better than the original

Paul Boudreau's picture

Black vinyl is colored vinyl, you know.

Dukerbud88's picture

Black isn't a colour.

planarhead's picture

I really appreciate the transparency from Bob Ludwig, I wish more labels/engineers/producers were more forth coming about the sources their vinyl reissues are using.

Jon's picture

I think the attitude of some companies is staggering in the contempt and disregard they show towards enquiring customers who simply want a better understanding of what they are getting for their money. As a result, I have now made a firm decision to boycott each and every recording where the provenance of the source is not disclosed and / or the company refuses to answer questions relating to the same.

As an example, I now refuse to buy any and all Decca classical reissues under the Universal banner, because not only do they not disclose any details of the source, but their customer-relations people refuse to answer email queries relating to it, nor do the engineers they use the cut the LPs.

My mindset is pretty simple and straight forward here. If a company doesn't disclose this information, then I will assume they took a CD, stuck it in the tray and pressed the play button as the cutter head carved that groove into the lacquer.

I will happily buy any vinyl LP made from a 24 / 96 source (or better) so long as the price is commensurately lower than a pure, fully analogue reissue. What I will not buy (except in highly exceptional cases), is any vinyl record cut from a 16/44.1 source, quite simply because it is not nearly transparent to an original analogue source (including an open reel tape) no matter how good the equipment.

I've even told Decca, for example, that I am perfectly happy to buy records cut from their 24 / 96 masters. Still, I get the silent treatment.Actually, as an aside, I've found communication from most companies is terrible - infact the only two companies producing vinyl records that respond to technical enquiries (or musical ones) in my experience are Reference Recordings and Speakers Corner. All the rest might as well live in Pluto, so unless they provide the information to retailers or on their official web pages, there is simply no way to know these days for the vast majority of reissues.

howardk's picture

At first, I couldn't believe that a high-res digital file could sound better after being cut to a vinyl LP; it seemed counter-intuitive. Then I realized that it may all depend on the quality of the D/A converter used by the mastering lab vs the consumer D/A converter used at home. Unless an audiophile has a cost-no-object D/A converter, chances are that the mastering lab uses a much higher quality (i.e., expensive) converter, which may still sound better even after the file is cut to vinyl. So, if that's the case, it might actually make sense to buy vinyl LPs cut from digital masters and let the mastering lab pay for the expensive D/A converter. That said, I would still much prefer an LP cut from an analog master tape, but digital masters may eventually become our only option.

planarhead's picture

It doesn't take a "cost no object" D/A converter to sound better, money doesn't equal good sound. One of the best DACs I have EVER heard cost $3000, beating some dry sounding $25k DAC.

Lets not forget that the cutting file is going through a D/A converter, the RIAA filters, a lacquer, plating and then pressing to vinyl. And then being played back on a stylus which then goes through another EQ unit (RIAA on our side).

Catcher10's picture

I will take this all day long!! I cannot think of any LP in my collection that has been pressed from a 24bit file that does not sound brilliant. The same album on CD is not even fun to listen to.
We have to become very comfortable with the fact that these 70's albums will for the most part be issued from remixed/remastered digital files. The original tapes are approaching 40-45yrs old....I say take all these tapes and save them as 24bit files and let the engineers do their magic. Seems to me as digital processing (DAC/ADC) technology gets better, the vinyl sound will improve.

mauidj's picture

I can't wait to read your reviews.

swimming1's picture

Queen,really?

labjr's picture

I find it hard to believe that the digital files themselves won't sound better than vinyl made from digital files. But also don't understand why they aren't using 192k sample rate instead of 96K. Everything I've listened to at 192k sounds better, closer to analog than 96k.

ericleehall's picture

I'd love to have this but @ $466.98 (Amazon)....

I'll have to pass...

swimming1's picture

All of these lps are readily available for $1-$15 used,first or second pressings. IF you really want them?

VirginVinyl's picture

A fastidious eager record label with a shorten pedigree, willing to pull the one arm bandit and gamble with naive consumers. Over priced license fees. Who's who on their rodster. Skittles, (sounds of skittle all around you)
A eye candy box-set with short comings on the most important part THE ORIGINAL MASTER ANALOGUE TAPES.

alholio71's picture

cause Bob Ludwig any permanent damage?

I hope not - cheers, Bob

swimming1's picture

The real question is digital or not, will anyone actually be listening to Queen in 20-40 years? Probably Bohemian Rhapsody on classic rock stations. Not me baby!

Jay's picture

...for what it's worth is that this project encapsulates what is wrong with so many re-mastering projects. The excessive cleaning and digital touch-ups applied are like using sand paper on a painting to remove the traces of the artists brush strokes. The result is sanitised, bleached and devoid of much of the character the music had when it was new and fresh.

iyke's picture

THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING DISCONCERTING TO HEAR A MASTERING ENGINEER SAY THEY TOOK ANALOG SIGNAL FROM TAPE AND CONVERTED IT TO DIGITAL SO THEY CAN MAKE IT SOUND BETTER?

my interpretation of this Ludwig statement is that the tapes are kaput. We had to do digital

Catcher10's picture

That is what I am taking from his comments. I cannot believe that all analog reel to reel tapes from the 70's and 80's are in good enough condition to remix/remaster and re-release in AAA form and sound good.

Some/most of these must be saved to digital so the music will still be available....And isn't that the most important point?

iyke's picture

music is important for sure but record labels their mastering engineers should stop treating vinyl buyers like we're idiots. The reason Ludwig had to put out this statement is because both him and the record label were insufficiently forthright about this reissue in the first place.

If an album I like is cut from digital I will still buy it. I bought Morning Phase which Ludwig cut from digital files and I thought it was a nice sounding record with great music to boot.

mauidj's picture

are some people commenting on a band they dislike so much? Why bother? What's the point? How does it forward the discussion? So you hate Queen. So what!

usernaim250's picture

I could care less about Queen but it's hard to read what Ludwig said without thinking "ok, there will be nary a glitch--but what about the sound?" Good sound is not the same as the absence of audible edits.

But maybe he's just citing that as an example of how careful they were.

Musiclover's picture

I get the impression Ludwig reveals everything and nothing. At least I do not understand which sources he actually used. I just hope they will offer this set as a Hi-Resolution download or CD Box so one can get close to "master tape" quality instead of this inferior vinyl quality. But maybe Queen offers this only on vinyl out of sentimental reasons. Who knows?

john ryan horse's picture

I remember Zappa re-invented his legacy (in a bad way) when he "improved" his catalog for Rykodisc in the early '90s. If you can still make a great sounding Sinatra or Ellington album from 1956 or 1950 then why not Queen, other than the music of course. The 'rewriting history' is the relevant phrase in this discussion. I do not need the Stones to make "Suzie Q' or 'Grown Up Wrong' (on "12 x 5") sound like they were recorded at Chess like 'Confessin' The Blues' or 'Around & Around'...

DanaHolmes's picture

I think you two gentlemen above are talking about two different ELO releases. I believe one guy is speaking about the recent release where Jeff Lynne went into the / his studio and rerecorded his favorite/ greatest hits to sound more like he envisioned way back then. The title of the LP made it sound like some older greatest hits release but it was new and blue vinyl. I picked a up a copy and it was of course warped so I returned it and never purchased another. The other guy above is speaking of all of the older ELO albums being remastered several years back. At least I think that is what you both were speaking of. What I would like to have and hear is the original recording and sequence of Secret Messages which was originally meant to be a 2-record set and concept album but the label said it was too long and made Jeff slice it down to one LP and we lost some great tracks relocated to B-sides, etc.

warpig's picture

As someone said earlier the age of these tapes has to be a concern. Some tapes will last longer than others. Where they were stored original tape used and such. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky-shed_syndrome I am in the camp that I would love to see all tapes converted to high res to preserve the music. Just have that copy as is direct from the tape with nothing done to it. That way we would have an original copy. Then who ever wants to toy with a copy of the digital file let them at it. I would gladly store the high res originals for the companies. :-)

Who would have thought that the tapes would be desired so highly now. Digital was where it was at why spend money on proper storage of the tapes? Its on CD I am sure that was the thought process. I think the companies that take a cd and cut vinyl with it should be shot. They are a plague on the industry.

Anyway the tapes will not be around forever.

peace all

Ian M. Gordon's picture

This discussion regarding analog cutting with digital boils down to the following subjective points:

1. Analog purist:

I conditionally am one of them. This view versus market driven digital file remastering with OVERLY aggressive noise reduction sucking the living life out of the music, harmonics and natural sounding upper treble where the signal rides on that "noise" like pre-dolby and disc recordings. Remove the noise too much and the harmonics and upper bandwidth energy is gone from the music like a glove over your mouth.

2. Source tapes:

I read an article saying that Queen's masters are not in very good shape. Yet I take Bob at his word that the originals were used for "one pass" and then processed according to the band's wishes.

Many MODERN digital recordings suffer from side effects when cut to vinyl and played back on cheap gear. These side effects include fatiguing, over modulation, very harsh treble and truncated transients due to the limitations and physics of cutting them on a analog lacquer due to digital's dynamic range and pro-gear recording levels exceeding the clean signal that can be cut to most records. Every studio and every recording or playback chain is going to make a difference. (an argument which will go on forever and which I have no desire to engage in).

There are very few turntables and cartridges to match (believe me I've heard them) that can get rid of 80 - 90 % of this congestion. Most very very expensive. It can be done to a point so close to master. That is what the last 10% gets you. Garbage in, garbage out and visa - versa.

3. Music Purist:

I am strongly against classic recordings (or films for that matter) being reworked in the studio to such a subjective degree that the history of the art becomes revisionist. Yes, it is the artists work but it does a disservice to both historical preservation and to listeners who wish the technology to enhance and bring out musically what earlier technology couldn't reveal in the source, even with the LP cutting master copies which is a reality of what exists in certain cases. This is especially true of the disco era and other 70's songs left to dust after the records were sold. Some have no tape at all or haven't been found yet.

I admire Queen and other artists efforts to label new mixes from the classic originals by separating them on the CD's as bonus tracks and labeling them. Best of both worlds without deception if the original pressings are not owned by the listener.

4. Playback:

I argue that the highest quality playback systems coupled with analog or digital front ends will extract, like a microscope, musical information in the final two track or session tape that has never been heard before other than the two track master itself.

If Queen insisted on doing it this way fine. Yet I don't have to agree with certain aspects of it. If tape is in excellent condition in other remastering projects and the best labels are issuing 45 RPM repressings with those analog tapes, the sound truly is like a master, at least to my ears. Cross the technology over and you are guaranteed problems by sub-par mastering, cheap vinyl, subjective engineering and the physics described above.

To answer the 24/96 question: with certain types of music, 96 is more dynamic, faster transients and natural for certain types of music; rock and roll being one of them. 192 is incredible but another interpretation. I was convinced of this by the classic Musical Fidelity A324 DAC which gave you a choice of 96 or 192.

Ian M. Gordon
CT Audio Society

pbthal's picture

First...the masters they used (at least for I and II) are not compressed (anymore than the original). Second, the first 2 were cut at a low volume. Here is a sample from Queen I

https://yadi.sk/d/oSaUZViOjSB6m

Mile High Audio's picture

The official website for this FIVE year project has some other interesting info / claims when you click on the "Queen on Vinyl...read more" section - http://studiocollection.queenonline.com/

"...The original plan was to master everything straight from the analogue mix tapes, where available. But in fact most of those tapes, having suffered from the effects of time, were in need of some restoration. The problems encountered included speed errors, missing audio, newly developing clicks and other unwanted noise. So the decision was made to create new super-high quality digital masters, using 24 bit samples and a sampling rate of 96 kHz. All the restoration was then performed in the digital domain, and the vinyl was cut from these perfected files. All restoration was carried out with the lightest of touches, with a profound respect for the originals, and the resulting masters are undoubtedly the finest ever..."

"...The colour discs have been custom-produced especially for this set, using new material technology which ensures the sound quality is uncompromised..."

Hajidub's picture

Anyone know (or heard) whether they'll release individual albums from this set (like the recent Beatles mono releases)? I'd rather pick and chose then spend $400+ on this boxset.

Hajidub's picture

Nevermind; did some research and individual versions are available, but in black vinyl ONLY.

traveln's picture

The complete studio collection is available in BOTH Black and Coloured.

Here is ANATO http://www.northernvolume.com/queen-a-night-at-the-opera-remastered-whit... and Matt carries the rest also in Colour.

Happy travels...

DysonDave's picture

OK, Apologies as this would have been more useful to users ten months ago, but I have finally got round to listening to my Queen set - well, a few tracks at least. I've been a Queen fan for 25 years - sadly I only started getting into them the year Freddie died - and whilst I have all their stuff on vinyl, it is a ragbag of sources: the Complete Works boxset, a DCC of ANATO, a MOFI of The Game, an EMI of ADATR, and some of the re-issues they did a few years back, which weren't great but were generally better quality than the Complete Works ones.
I had high hopes for this set - especially after reading the Bob Ludwig statement about the amount of effort that went into this, and all the listening tests etc etc. Having played a few tracks I can only assume that the people listening were doing so from across the street or were simply deaf.
The sound on some of the LPs is the audio equivalent of wading through sludge. It has no drive or energy. Play one of these LPs and it sounds like you're listening to it from behind a wall, that Freddie was singing a further wall behind that, and that the band were playing in their sleep - under blankets. It is THE WORST quality sound reproduction I have ever heard. Disappointed does not even begin to cover how I feel about this hugely expensive set.
In detail: I started comparing The Works against my 22 year old standard vinyl copy from The Complete Works (TCW). Radio Gaga sounded a little distant and lacking in clarity (on both, slightly worse on this set), but I want to Break Free was simply appalling on this set. The TCW copy crapped all over the new one. If the song had been originally released in this quality it would never have been a hit as it just sounds shit. There is no drive, rhythm, clarity. The TCW version explodes out of the speakers. The new one just spews audio sludge out of them.
I hoped it was an anomaly. Back 1 album to Hot Space and Under Pressure. Same issue: the new one sounds like audio sludge, and no-one would ever have bought it sounding like this. My comparator copy was from the re-issues of 2011-ish (?). That was far superior in every way - sounded like it is supposed to.
Attempt No. 3 - Flash soundtrack, Football fight. Comparator again the 2011 re-issue. Same result. This is a driving track, or should be, but the new one conveys no drive, excitement at all.

I'm afraid I gave up after this, I was so disappointed. Not even going to try comparing the MOFI, EMI, and DCC albums against the new set. If the 3 albums I listened to from the new set are the standard, it would be like comparing flat, stale lemonade to vintage champagne.
What the hell Queen, Ludwig and whoever else was involved in this project were thinking of I have no idea. This is an absolute travesty. This was the most expensive vinyl set I have, and the worst. All that crap about listening and comparing all the versions: they could have farted better quality sound than this.
Save your money. Go after the 2011 re-issues, or other versions if you can find them.

jpvisual's picture

Do it the right way, or don't do it.

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