"The Piper at The Gates of Dawn" From Sony——First Time On Vinyl in Two Decades But From Tape?

Sony/Legacy recently announced that Pink Floyd's catalog would be reissued on vinyl for the first time in twenty years.

Sony/Columbia Records is Pink Floyd's American label. Warner Music will manufacture and distribute in the U.K. and Europe; Sony for the rest of the world.

Long time Pink Floyd curator and engineer James Guthrie (that description sells him short, but that will have to suffice for a record review) along with Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman mastered this and the others in the series from "the original analogue master tapes". Bernie Grundman's "BG" scribe mark is on the inner groove area of the 180g LPs, which I believe were pressed at RTI (the other three albums are soundtrack from the film More, A Saucer Full of Secrets and the double LP Ummagumma.

I was sent three of the four (not sent A Saucerful of Secrets). The packaging, including the artwork reproduction, is outstanding. While the jackets (where appropriate) are not "fold-over", the image of the folds is there, and look so real you will need to run your finger over them to be sure they are just images.

Pink Floyd's startling 1967 debut was a Syd Barrett extravaganza—the workings of a brilliant, but soon to be unhinged mind (if he wasn't already) who wrote all but two of the album's eleven tracks of gliding, swooning, off-kilter psychedelia. One tune, "POW R. TOCH H" is credited to the group and one ("Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk") is by Roger Waters.

Norman Smith, best known for engineering early Beatles albums, produced this one, engineer by Peter Brown. The opening Joe Meek and the Tornadoes meets LSD- twang-bar guitar-drenched "Astonomy Dominé" sets the stage for the album and for Pink Floyd's long career. It hasn't lost its ability to excite the senses and drop you through the worm hole of time into a magnificent cosmic space. Listening now to "Flaming" you can hear Robyn Hitchcock say to himself "I must make a record!".

Much of the "stereo" is panned hard-left/hard-right but with good center vocal fill as in 4 track recording with desperate aspirations for more tracks that would arrive later at EMI.

However, the recording quality is still vibrant, electric and exciting. If, after the first two tunes, your heart isn't racing and the adrenalin isn't flowing even without a laser light show check your heart and then your audio system.

I compared this reissue to a second U.K. Columbia pressing (second lacquer, second mother, fifty fourth stamper) (for those who don't know, Columbia UK was an EMI imprint back then, that was not related to American Columbia ), and to an American pressing that was one record of A Nice Pair (Harvest SABB-11257). Two things of interest to some: the U.K. pressing has The Pink Floyd on the spine, while the American jacket has a completely incorrect description of what's inside!

In any case, the American "twofer" mastered by Wally Traugott sounds absolutely dreadful, as if it was mastered from a cassette with the machine's azimuth improperly set. Okay, that's an exaggeration but not that far off. If that's your experience with this record, you haven't heard this record!

The second press U.K. is a vibrant, top-end emphasis driven, highly transparent and pleasantly in your face edition, that despite the top end "push" demands that you turn it up for maximum effect.

This reissue will blow the minds of those used to the original American release, while those familiar with the U.K. version might have mixed feelings though mostly good ones. The pushed top end quality of the original gives way here to a better tonal balance, with a more impactful drum sound and definitely greater dynamics but it sounds as if the original's balance was what Smith wanted. Guthrie and company have "modernized" to produce a better tonal balance, but perhaps at the expense of the original producer's intent.

But was this cut from the tape? Or from a high resolution file made from the original tape? I"m talking out of my butt here, but my ears tell me the latter. Why? There's a "modern" quality to the reissue, particularly on the very top, which instead of sailing into the "netherworld", hits a ceiling and stops. You especially hear it on vocal sibilants but on high frequency transients in general. The people who say digital is transparent to the source are talking out of their arses! (Or I am, and this was cut from tape).

Still, considering the improvement in dynamics, bass response and the overall improved tonal balance (whether or not that was the original producer's intent), plus great packaging, this is an easy to recommend reissue unless you are willing to pay a great deal for a clean U.K. original (if I'm wrong about the cutting source, I will eat public digital crow!) but why couldn't it have been cut from tape, if in fact it wasn't. Not to bitch too much, but can we have, (ala The Beatles catalog) the mono mix cut from tape if this wasn't?

Music Direct Buy It Now

COMMENTS
AlienRendel's picture

I used to own that US "A Nice Pair" and it was dreadful - not even the correct recordings of some songs! The UK version mirrored the original UK individual LP releases though and sounded pretty good.

c1ferrari's picture

Mikey,

Continue championing AAA transfers!

-Sam

Bigrasshopper's picture

Ordered Ummagumma dispite some reservations about seeing three mastering credits. What is Joel Plante's contribution ? So I'm hoping at some point Bernie will confirm and you'll be able to pass that along to us. But at this point the only Floyd reissue that is known to be direct from tape is the last Dark Side, curtesy of BG, from 2008 or something, is that correct ?

AZ's picture

The last AAA PF reissue was the 30th Anniversary Edition of DSOTM, released in 2003. Mastered AAA at AcousTech Mastering by Doug Sax and Kevin Gray. The 2011 DSOTM was cut by Doug Sax at TML from hi-res digital files.

AZ's picture

And don't forget about The Division Bell 2014 reissue. All analog cut by Doug Sax.

Michael Fremer's picture
Doug Sax mastered at Kevin Gray's place?
AZ's picture

In 2003 they mastered the 30th Anniversary DSOTM together at AcousTech (as a result, both "DOUG" and "KPG @ ATM" are in the deadwax). I guess that was before Doug resumed cutting at The Mastering Lab.

gubarenko's picture

While looking at pictures I thought they are tip-on like mono Beatles, but if they are not and you say they look it's not a problem.
Also nice to hear that they were pressed at RTI, because European release were pressed at Optimal (also good).

PAR's picture

EMI issued it in 1997 with gatefold sleeve and insert (7243 8 59857 1 3). However it is a digital remastering which sounds tragic - played my copy once, then filed away for ever. Here's hoping that the new issue will be better.

LaserRanger's picture

I'm not one who's picky on a reissue's source (i.e., analog vs digital), but many people ARE picky about it.

So why in the world is this information sometimes so hard to come by? Why can't they just come out and tell us the process? Would their marketers or bean counters get mad?

marmaduke's picture

Michael,
You give the sound of this reissue an 8 rating.
What would your sound rating be for the original analog in the best version you have experienced?
Just asking, no agenda.
Further thoughts on Mo Fi early Pink Floyd reissues or is that for later?
Thanks.

Michael Fremer's picture
10.... of course all relative....but the original is like WIDE OPEN and exciting...
pmatt's picture

need only shave his eyebrows at this point....

Wimbo's picture

And I must say I'm glad I've registered with AnalogPlanet.
I have been in the Audio Retail Industry since before the release of CD and over a period of time bought TAS and Stereophile and became engulfed in the High End of Audio.Having done numerous demonstrations between CD and Vinyl, I felt there was something very wrong with the Digital format eg (Ice cream aches between my eyes)after extensive listening. I lost one of my sons 9 years ago,sold my Equipment and became lost in the Darkness of depression. I focused on my family and my motorbikes,(Whiched helped a lot) and now recently, have got back into music and HIFI.
I have a modest system now which would not be able to resolve the Reissue problem that you describe relating to dynamic compression or frequency response limitation,but I am happy that this and you are now part of my world again.
Thank you.

Bra d agua's picture

I've lost lots of family recently and Life can be a real unjust bitch. The trick is getting thru that darkness and finding the things you love. I've also lunged back into vinyl and hi fi lately and it's better than I ever remember.

Wimbo's picture

This Arvo I played some Albums I play very rarely (for fear of getting use to them) after your comment.
Floyd's, Animals, Bob's, Blood on the Track's and Al's, Year of the Cat. All originals. Peace to you Bra.

Bob Levin's picture

I'd buy a copy if this is the case.
It would tide me over until they release it in mono.

Michael Fremer's picture
original Columbia label
sunsales's picture

My copy of a nice pair has "Mastered By Capital" and MR in the dead wax. It sounds really good to me on my system. Any idea who mastered it?

jokerman's picture

The UK version of Nice Pair uses the original plates so it sounds awesome. The twofer called "Milestones" also used early UK plates.

Devilscucumber's picture

Just in from "Super Deluxe Edition quote "SDE has made enquiries about the forthcoming Pink Floyd vinyl reissues with regards to the mastering and whether the vinyl is cut directly from analogue or via digital files…

We can confirm that these vinyl reissues do use brand new remasters from the original analogue tapes, but they are not cut directly from analogue. The vinyl reissues are created from the digital file of the new remaster. This information comes directly from the label, via the PR company."

Lothar's picture

You wrote:

"But was this cut from the tape? Or from a high resolution file made from the original tape? I"m talking out of my butt here, but my ears tell me the latter. Why? There's a "modern" quality to the reissue, particularly on the very top, which instead of sailing into the "netherworld", hits a ceiling and stops. You especially hear it on vocal sibilants but on high frequency transients in general. The people who say digital is transparent to the source are talking out of their arses! (Or I am, and this was cut from tape)."

You're definitely not talking out of your arse. I've been noticing that same set of impressions for 15 years or more and it pisses the hell outta me.

Occasionally, and what I really mean is very rarely, it 'tames' an unruly bad mastering, but nine times outta ten it sucks the air and life out of the recording and instantly lets me know on first listen that I just blew $30 or more on something I won't ever listen to again and why the hell didn't I just spring for an original? Why not? Because hope springs eternal, just like it did for and my buds at the start of the CD era in '85 or so when we thought all CDs were going to be audiophile/remastered from the original master tapes, etc., etc. We got fooled by how good those two Steve Hoffman MCA comps sounded -- the Buddy Holly one and the Bill Haley one. Been a downhill ride on the digital bandwagon ever since.

So, yes, PLEASE keep the faith and be our AAA lobbyist. It is much appreciated AND the reward for the companies that respect our wishes is repeat business.

mother3251's picture

Since we are looking at Pink Floyd re-issues, I thought I would share this with you all. Last week I freshly opened the 2011 The Wall (UK) 180g re-issue, complete with download posters etc, and compared against the original 2 lp from 1979 (UK).
I was intrigued because I saw advertisements claiming that this re-issue was the one to have, having fabulous sound quality.
Well, to say it was poor is an understatement.
Compared to the original, it is washed out, flat, no dynamics, lower in recorded level. Yes everything is there, but I would say it’s a poor digital transfer, your ears don’t lie.
For example, the helicopter scene, with the original, all thats missing is the rotors downdraft, the re-issue, well you can tell it is a helicopter.
Digital file transfers suck (most of the time)
Be very wary about re-issues

BillK's picture

Everyone was going nuts about the reissue of The Wall, but I was left very bored listening to it, one of my favorite albums.

I pulled out my original LP and it was all there - richness, soundstage, dynamics - where the new vinyl sounded like CD.

TommyTunes's picture

And ordered the first three. I spent the last two years tracking down near mint 1st UK pressings of their albums except for DSOTM. So I have a complete UK and US collection along with select other pressings (German, Japan, MOFI etc.) but just had to know how these sound.

Vinyltarian's picture

Ordered the first 3 and 2 need to be returned due to defects. More has an 1/8" wide scrape across half of side 1. Pipers has some debris pressed into the vinyl. Hope you know who doesn't reseal and resell them. The Bowie Reality Tour I got last week, which was pressed at RTI, also was not exactly pristine, but nothing audible fortunately. Hope you all have better luck!

jeffrosen's picture

Just got in my reissue pressing and it is excellent, better than my circa 1975 Harvest/ Capitol pressing. Has the UK Columbia label reproduced. Has BG inscribed on runout grooves. Would highly recommend. Cannot compare to a British pressing though.

bc_budd's picture

I am curious about the quality of the manufacture of these new albums - so many LPs even brand new records are plagued by surface noise, clicks and pops - surface noise ruins the listening experience, especially on quieter ambient styles of music. Recently, I returned to Amazon two brand new copies of Eno's "No Pussyfooting" for this very reason, the surface noise was unacceptable.

essmeier's picture

As far as I know, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn hasn't been available in the U.S. since the original Tower release that went out of print circa 1970, as the version included in A Nice Pair is pretty different from the original issue.

The original U.S. LP had a different track lineup from the UK pressing, omitting "Astronomy Domine", "Flying" and "Bike", but adding "See Emily Play", which had been previously released as a single. The UK had eleven tracks; the U.S. had but nine.

The version of the album included in A Nice Pair restored "Flaming" and "Bike", but replaced "Astronomy Domine" with the live version from Ummagumma.

The original studio version of "Astronomy Domine" has never been available on vinyl in the U.S.

The double album sounds awful. The U.S. original wasn't bad. The early UK and Japanese pressings were a lot better....provided you can find them and are willing (and able!) to pay. A Japanese first issue with obi runs upwards of $5000.

Bonus on the Japanese LP - it includes all eleven tracks from the original UK pressing plus "See Emily Play", but that track is in rechanneled stereo.

Want to hear "See Emily Play" in the original mono? The album was issued in mono in the U.S. (with the track) and the UK (without it), but not in Japan, and the mono mixes (particularly on "Flaming") are dramatically different.

If you want all twelve tracks in mono, you'll need both the U.S. issue and either the UK or Canadian pressings (same tracks as the UK), as the U.S. issue was missing the three tracks listed above.

Because of all of that, I've got four different copies of that album sitting on my shelf - UK stereo, Japanese stereo, U.S. mono, Canadian mono.

Sounds like the reissue isn't going to deliver anything that the earlier pressings didn't already do, aside from putting in buyers' hands at a more affordable price.

Charlie

WaxtotheMax's picture

Been a long while since I have posted any comments. After reading some other reviews from folks in the UK, US and elsewhere on the dreaded Steve Hoffman Forums. I have decided to pick up the four out now. Some discussion about dishing and minor surface noise was noted, but nothing that exchanges wont generally fix. Most all that have their copies are raving about the sound quality, with some saying they don't really hear anything that screams digital so loud as to not fully enjoy these. Looks like I will hear for myself tomorrow.

longlivevinyl's picture

I just compared the new reissues of Pipers... / A saucerful of.. / Ummagumma with my copies of Pipers.. (1969 EMI/Columbia UK re-issue SCX 6157), A saucerful ...(German 1968 EMI/Columbia original) and Ummagumma (1978 UK Re-issue Harvest SHDW 1/2).
Result: forget the new re-issues if you are expecting anything that will be emotive.
I wonder why BG gives his name for this remastering. I can't believe that he was involved in the process except for just scribing on the inner groove.

swansong123's picture

To my ears these sound beautiful. I was only able to get Saucers through Umma so far and my pressings were dead silent and had great detail. I don't have the income to own the stereo systems that many here own, but I do have a nice stereo and these new masters sound amazing to me. Can't wait to hear Piper. AAA or not, they sound great.

mother3251's picture

Swansong, I think you raise a valid point there. Many of us are extremely fortunate to have hi resolution turntables and hifi systems, but we are possibly an older generation that have spent our lives building up to that quality.
We all started somewhere with Dansettes, Garrards, Rega Planar, Linn etc, and there are thousands of people getting into vinyl now at the bottom of the ladder, so yes, the new re-issues probably do sound fine there.
But it is frustrating for those of us who love vinyl, and have the original pressings, to think that a new remastering is going to be the holy grail of that recording, only to be bitterly disappointed.
However, keep buying the vinyl, and keep looking for the originals.

WaxtotheMax's picture

Recieved only one of three I purchased from SoundStage Direct, and waiting for "More" to arrive from Deep Discount. "Ummagumma" came flat, centered labels, and after an initial cleaning played noise free throughout. The live album wasn't really a revelation outside of sound being a wee tad more detailed than my original US pressing, but it was a dead silent slab of wax and I certainly enjoyed it more than the US original. The studio vinyl was the clincher for me. I heard it like never before, and found the detail, and dynamics to be ever so sweetly pleasing. The sound filled my listening room, and had me thinking a few times that certain nuances where coming from some place other than my speakers. I wasn't expecting it to deliver so much, and I was so wrong. This reissue is definitely a keeper in my view, although I have only heard a UK original once, in a true listening environment and I indeed loved that one just as much and probably even more, but I found this reissue to be a real treat and would define it as a "different" listen rather than trumpet an opinion of "It's the best ever". I would however, recommend anyone who doesn't have a UK original pressings budget to grab this one. It definitely is worth it.

jpvisual's picture

Great review Michael,

I love this album and have been waiting for it to be reissued. It sounds like you have mixed feelings about the reissue because you don't think it was cut from the tapes.

My question to you is...why not just ask Bernie what the source was? After all, you do know the guy and your not just some no name blogger. You can easily access this information, so why not put it in your reviews?

Thanks.

fotthilla's picture

JPvisual, I wonder the same thing. Why aren't established, respected people (like Michael Fremer), just asking (and then telling). It seems to me that the people marketing these crap digital albums don't want the digital part of the chain to be revealed, because they know it would hurt their sales. Sadly, it seems that people (like Michael) are perpetuating this non-disclosure sales tactic. Your very reasonable question was asked over two months ago, and never answered (yet he's commented on much less relevant posts in this discussion chain). It sure seems suspect.

jsaliga's picture

That's a very good question. That would be much better than guessing (or talking out his ass to use his own words) and then continuing the review as though he knows for sure that it was cut from a digital file.

Furthermore I would not assume that a cut from tape would sound the same unless it was cut on the same equipment as the original. I don't know what Bernie is using these days so I won't even hazard a guess.

swansong123's picture

Mother3251: Thanks for your thoughtful response. I am 60 years old and already own all the original pressings of Pink Floyd's catalog, and found these new pressings to be a wonderful listening experience. The detail and soundscape are brilliant to my ears. Most of my originals are U.S. pressings and are a bit flat sounding, where these new ones feel more three dimensional. I'm hearing these through a Yamaha CA-810 amp from the 1970's, and Polk Audio tower speakers, with a Music Hall mmf 5.1 se turntable. Certainly not the high end equipment many here are using, but it fills the room with warmth and clarity.

jokerman's picture

I have found some later US pressings of several Floyd LPs to sound noticable better than the UK first pressings. For Ummagumma, the first UK press destroys the first US pressing but I bought a later US pressng of Ummagumma that was obviously better than the UK. I found the same thing comparing first UK pressings of Meddle, WYWH and The Wall to US pressings. The first UK pressing of WYWH doesn't sound that great. Goes to show. I look foward to hearing some of the reissues for comparison

WaxtotheMax's picture

I will be brief... This US pressing came in from Deep Discount in perfect condition, and it sounds absolutely wonderful. That is all...

hans altena's picture

I have bought all four vinyl editions to replace mine that I acquired in 75, (a nice pair had to do, for the originals were not available in Holland then)... I must say, fabulous! I always thought seventies pressings to be to 'soft' on everything, lacking dynamics, only umagumma could pass for a good one, but these remasters beat all. Warm, dimensional. Okay, maybe the digital transfer takes away some of the sheen that could have been achieved, yet it still doesn't sound like digital to me, the netherworld is reached, especially with more and umagumma. By the way, my first new umagumma had a deffect on side three right before the pict starts to rave, but the next copy was faultless. Beautiful, I have never enjoyed pink floyd so much as now!

luvvinyl's picture

I just bought all four albums and I think they're amazing. Pristine vinyl, of course ultrasonically cleaned first. I would definately recommend these to everyone. I usually don't like digital transfers, but it's really hard to tell here. Buy them and enjoy!

audiotom's picture

I bought the Saucer Full of Secrets and More lps as I had the others already in analog. After an ultrasonic cleaning these sides hit the turntable interspersed in an evening of music.

In general the songs sounded good although a little closed in and less transparent on the top end. Good enough for early Floyd.

I bought a preemptive original Meddle UK first pressing to get ahead of the next batch of releases.

The really louder congested songs like The Nile Song sounded quite distorted. Is that normal?

My big A copy of More was dished and had a scratch that ticked on side 2

lucaillou's picture

Thanks Michael for the review!
Are you planning to do others, from the last Pink Floyd 2016 reissues?

alexdias's picture

Hi Michael!
I really appreciate your reviews. I'm been looking around for information about these releases, now that most of them are out, and it's overwhelming!
There are the US, UK and Japanese presses if I'm not mistaken and some people talk about issues with different pressing, etc. Anyway, have you had time to review any other reissue?
Thank you,
Alex

JE WARD's picture

Thank you for the review of this issue.

Again, are you planning to do others, from the last Pink Floyd 2016 - 2017 reissues? ("remastered from the original analogue tapes for vinyl by James Guthrie and Joel Plante" -Lacquers cut- by Bernie Grundman)

X