UMe Abbey Road 1/2 Speed Mastered Series Update: We Ask the Tough Questions

Miles Showell, who oversees Abbey Road's 1/2 speed mastering responded recently to a series of questions I posed to him. I want to thank him for taking the time to do so. Please read. And please, keep your comments civil and respectful. I think Mr. Showell's comments make clear the seriousness with which he approached this work

One thing he did clarify is that the 96/24 source used for the upcoming Exile on Main Street is the same one Stephen Marcussen produced for the anniversary box set. What's less clear is whether or not the unacceptable dynamic compression was added during the initial A/D transfer or if it was added when the box set lacquers were cut.

The first six titles in the series are available for pre-order here with the releases scheduled towards the end of March, 2016. The titles in addition to Exile.... are The Police Ghost in the Machine, John Martyn Solid Air, Free Fire and Water Cream Disraeli Gears and Simple Minds New Gold Dream.

Price is $38 with the exception of the double LP Exile, which sells for $49.99 and the Cream title, which, for some reason, sells for $32.

I have originals of all of these and so won't be buying them all again, but I'll buy the John Martyn title and compare to the original "pink rim" UK original. That should provide a good "base line" for the series.

By the way, right now there are some heavily discounted LPs and box sets on the UMe site including the Roxy Music box.

Here's what Mr. Showell had to say in response to my questions (which are italicized):

With regard to “Exile on Main Street”, the previous vinyl editions cut from a digital source supplied by The Rolling Stones were dreadful. They were dynamically “squashed” and sonically a distant 10th place (at best) compared to the original, mastered at Artisan Sound. In my opinion a waste of PVC. So before again buying, what my readers want to know is: was the “squashing” done in the original digital transfer or were the full dynamics preserved in the transfer that will hopefully lead to a better result.

MS: This is one that is not easy for me to answer reliably as I have heard neither the master tapes nor the original Artisan Sound cut. Probably best to ask Steven Marcussen Mastering about how exactly the transfers were done. Ultimately The Rolling Stones own the masters on this album, have been involved and have approved Steven’s work on this release. In reality it is their album and whatever anyone else might feel about the sound, it is the artist’s decision on exactly how it should be presented. I would personally say that it is not for me or anyone else to over-rule them on this point.

Also, key to all of this is what A/D converters were used in the original transfers and what D/A converters were used for the lacquer mastering, as every digital converter has a signature sound (despite claims to the contrary), some better than others and some worse.

MS: This is easy to answer. At Abbey Road Mastering we use Benchmark converters. These are connected to the workstation using custom designed and built Abbey Road proprietary digital routing and all locked down with very stable external work clock generators.

I also wonder why, given the success of The Beatles mono box cut directly from the master tapes instead of from digital, why you feel this methodology will result in a superior record. MS:The Beatles in mono were not cut at half-speed. I have already explained why I feel this method is superior. Elimination of the low-frequency roll off on a Studer tape machine (a problem made doubly bad at half speed), better tape handling which will give better HF stability etc. There is a real risk that any advantage gained by half speed cutting is lost in equal measure by losses and other unpredictable problems in the low end and potential inaccuracies with the high end.

Finally, while you indicate the problems with cutting directly from tape and the advantages of using a digital source, there’s nothing there about the disadvantages of cutting from a digital file. Do you think digitization at 96/24 is transparent to the source?

MS:No method is transparent to the source, even an all analogue signal path will add its own character to the audio. However, by working with carefully transferred high-resolution digital, any alterations are quantifiable and consistent. Tape will sound different with every pass, different with every head-block, different on every machine (even identical models of replay machine will not exhibit an identical sound). My method captures it from an Ampex machine fitted with custom extended bass response heads (which are not available for a Studer). In my opinion, a properly maintained Ampex machine fitted with the right heads will give a nicer and more musical sound than a Studer. Working this way also bypasses the disk transfer console as I use two separate play-back feeds from the workstation routed to two separate digital to analogue converters which in turn directly feed the Neumann lathe (the logic here being: Why pass the audio through any more kit than is absolutely required?). Finally, this method brings the advantage of micro-management of the programme. De-essing (always the Achilles' heel of half-speed) can with time and effort only be applied exactly where needed solely to the vocal and nowhere else in the recording. This is impossible at real time from tape where the whole mix runs the risk of being "smoothed out" by the de-esser. Also, there is the advantage that any damage to the tape can be repaired to a greater or lesser extent. One track on one of the tapes in this series has at some point in its history been played on a machine that had not been de-magnetised. This has caused damage to the master in the form of random clicks throughout the music. Targeting and removing just these clicks while leaving the surrounding audio utterly intact is time consuming but with patience is easily achievable digitally. This would be completely impossible via analogue methods. Also, other damage due to wear and tear (usually in the form of dropouts) can to some extent be repaired or at least greatly improved upon digitally.

For this series we are dealing solely with half-speed mastering. The greatest variable in all of this is the replay of the master on the tape machine. Just about all of the limitations of analogue cutting from tape are made twice as bad at half-speed. For this reason I firmly believe careful and sympathetic high-resolution digital capture from a well-cared for and customised (i.e. improved) American tape machine will ultimately yield better sounding records which is the sole reason for this series of releases. There is no perfect solution, but I feel by some distance this is the best way to proceed. Neither I nor Universal have decided upon this working practise because it is easier and cheaper. If anything it is probably more time consuming and expensive. I have chosen to work this way for these releases as I firmly believe it will make for the best records capable from the sources available. Even if the three sets of analogue tapes I had for this batch were not Dolby A encoded (in the case of The Police and John Martyn) or (for Simple Minds) be able to fit on a Studer A80 (the only machine that can be used for all analogue cutting) I would have worked in precisely the same way. It is worth noting here that the Simple Minds' album has always been cut via digital. The original cut made at The Townhouse in 1982 would have been made on an Ampex machine (ATR-102, the same model as mine but with less good heads). This machine is incapable of all analogue cutting and there were no Studers at The Townhouse. Instead, the audio would have been passed through a 1979 vintage Ampex digital delay. I hope no-one will question the improvements made to digital converters in the intervening 37 years.

All of this work for the Abbey Road / Universal half-speed cuts is the result of over 30 years’ experience of handling tape and cutting vinyl masters. Stan Ricker the legend of half-speed who was my hero and who sadly died last year had come to a similar way of thinking. In later years he would regularly worked digitally albeit with slightly less esoteric equipment. How do I know this? He and I had several email chats, he was delighted that I was so inspired by his work and was extremely helpful to me with tips and advice when I was attempting to get the half-speed ball rolling again around 15 years ago.

Ktracho's picture

is effectively 24/192? (I'm trying to understand the process.) I'm curious if Mr. Showell feels we would be better off directly listening to the digital files that were used to cut the record, or if the vinyl version somehow sounds better. (I have no opinion on this, since I've heard neither version, but surely Mr. Showell has heard both versions.)

Michael Fremer's picture
The cutting lathe runs at 16 2/3. From what Mr. Showell wrote, he's running the tape at 1/2 speed as well (where there is tape). How he sample converts files he's sent as in the case of The Stones, I'm not sure....
Garven's picture

To run the digital file at half speed does not require any resampling. There are various tools available that allow one to change the sample rate tag that's stored in the file so that the playback of the same digital occurs at a different rate. For instance, changing the 96000 in a 24/96 file to 48000 will result in it playing back at half speed with absolutely no change to the data in the file. Then if the tag is changed back to the original value, the file is untouched.

csxlab's picture

Hi there greetings from Portugal !!!
I am sorry I came late to this topic, but I think I found out why Abbey Road hal-cuts sound so bad, so here is my theory: my first 1/2 speed record was the Technics Audio Inspection Vol.1 (1976) and it really has an impressive sound .. moving forward, a few days ago I had a 80$ credit in a big chain store here nearby and ordered 2 albuns that I wanted ... (Zigy stardust - David Bowie) and Brothers in Arms, I got the brothers in arms because it was 45 rpm, and I saw both with 1/2 cut from Abbey road, so I thought, lets see where this goes. I have both original pressings of Ziggy and brothers, but they where from my sister and I wanted my own copies so I went wiyth this ones, when I listened this new half cuts they sound to me very far off, it seems the cimbals are outside of everything, the bass is not enough compared to the original, and it didn't sound anything close to the beauty of the Technics half cut Mastering that I remembered, so I went to the Technics LP and they have the process they developed described ... I cut and paste here and this is my theory, this new half cuts are not working because groove width, but I don't know, I just noticed that from Technics research, the half cut method in order to be possible the groove widthness had to be expanded and a limit of 16min per side was introduced. Reading this I believe that Abbey Road is doing half speed mastering but keeping the groove dimensions to the limit, and that brings limitations:

Technics research in 1976:
"2. Low speed cutting and frequency response range
In the cutting process, the cutting master tape playback speed was reduced from the conventional 38 cm/sec to one half, or 19 cm/sec, and the speed of the lacquer master disc was also reduced from 33* rpm to 163 rpm, and the cutting was made at these reduced speeds. This made possible increased volume levels and improved transient response, with the frequency response characteristics of the cutting process expanded tics of the cutting process expanded to 20 Hz-45 KHz.

3. Abundantly wide cutting pitch
In order to make the most of the above factors, the groove pitch was chosen that there would be ample clearance between grooves. The actual recording time per side is therefore some 16 minutes, and no attempt was made to compress the groove spacing. This enabled higher peak levels, and a more-than-adequate groove amplitude, so that the low frequency response, in particular, is greatly improved."

So while not aproaching step 3 at the current half cuts.. that means we are loosing indeed the low frequency response....Do you have that Technics LP ? I know you have the Vol.4 :)

It is Technics Audio Inspection Vol. I - It has an amazing version of Caravan - Duke Hellington :)

P.S.: My system for ref. SL-1200GR | EPC-205c Mk3 + Jico SAS on Boron | Mo-Fi Phono

jimhb's picture

You can tell a lot of care went into these. Hopefully they will sound good. I really want to hear the Simple Minds lp.

Bernd's picture

There is a small mastering lab in Germany called Pauler Acoustics (their label is 'Stockfisch'). Mainly using digital sources in 24-bit quality, they do DMM disc cutting with a Neumann VMS-82. The results are often very impressive from an audiophile perspective. There is no sign of 'harshness' or lacking warmth on these albums, which sometimes makes for less pleasant listening of early DMM-cut records. The main reason given for this improvement compared to TELDECs early efforts is the use of better quality (softer) copper, which is easier to cut. Reading about Mr Showell's account suggests that he knows how to properly cut DMM records. Of course, if the digital master sounds bad, then (almost) all is lost...

Bernd's picture

It seems it is too late for me and I should rather go to bed. I thought this was about DMM and not half-speed mastering. Sorry, my mistake!

Michael Fremer's picture
To apologize. Useful information.
HalSF's picture

This is exactly the kind of responsive, transparent communication about mastering sources and methods that should be applauded and encouraged. People want great-sounding vinyl versions of this music and clearly Mr. Showell is doing his utmost to deliver. I hope these LPs are the real deal.

That said, I’m mystified that he’s never heard the Artisan version of Exile. Knowing what the original (and still the best) vinyl release of maybe the greatest rock album of them all sounds like seems like essential, basic research for the project.

Catcher10's picture

I don't know that these were tough questions, probably the right questions is a better description. What Miles is stating is simply the current status of producing albums...Especially much older recordings originally on tape and that in the past 20-30 years have been digitized for long term availability. Bottom line is producing a record from a 40year old tape is not only cost prohibitive and time consuming, but in some cases will not yield the best outcome, talking of a AAA process.

The better tougher question is to find out WHY when mastered to 24bit digital these masters are compressed, too much EQ or things like that and WHY???? Because it makes the finished vinyl product a 12" drink coaster and I just blew $30.

If digital is the best way to cut vinyl, then the process and is still flawed....It's the only choice we have as NOBODY is going to studio record to 2" tape and totally bypass any digital processing. We are kidding ourselves if we think studios will go back to R2R tape recording.

Chemguy's picture

Except that the album that Paul Rodgers put out, with all the Memphis covers, was recorded to tape. It's still the best sounding new release of material that I've heard-digital or analogue-in the past two years.

That record needs to sell 10 million copies, though, for anyone to change their mind about current recording technology.

fdroadrunner's picture

I'm sure you're certainly right, and it makes me think spending a little time and a little more money for an original is the best option, at least it is for me. Take "Exile," for example. For the price of the new reissue (about $50) or maybe a little more, a good original (that is AAA and made before the tapes were decades old) can be had. Even when an original is more expensive, it begins to look like the best option in most cases.

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes, the headline was "click bait". I live and die (not literally fortunately) by web traffic. However, Chad Kassem cuts from tape, Music Matters cuts from tape, Mo-Fi and ORG all cut from tape and the superior results speak for themselves.

If you carefully read what Showell said, he did not use a twenty year old file. Where possible he 'cut from tape'----"My method captures it from an Ampex machine fitted with custom extended bass response heads (which are not available for a Studer). In my opinion, a properly maintained Ampex machine fitted with the right heads will give a nicer and more musical sound than a Studer. Working this way also bypasses the disk transfer console as I use two separate play-back feeds from the workstation routed to two separate digital to analogue converters which in turn directly feed the Neumann lathe".

BTW: there are people still recording to 2" analog tape and releasing AAA vinyl.

deaconblue66's picture

Check the fine print on DBT albums where it states 'Produced, Engineered and Mixed...on glorious 2" analog tape'. I don't think they're kidding.

OldschoolE's picture

Michael makes sense for asking the tough questions here and Mr Showell makes sense in his answers which I thought were rather forthright. I do get nervous around new vinyl and have yet to purchase any new vinyl due to fear of digital to vinyl, but having said that (or confessed it), Mr. Showell makes logical sense. (Yes, I'm still scared, I have experienced digital source to vinyl cut before and thankfully not with a $25+ record, but the experience left me avoiding new vinyl like the plague. My only main concern is dynamics (or loss thereof).

Catcher10's picture

I know Mr Fremer, I bought The New Standard jazz trio album based on your review, article...sight unseen. Very well done no doubt!! But...I have been tremendously pleased with new records from overseas, artists most here do not listen to. Like Riverside, issues that are mastered very well and usually come with the CD version, I never play the CD version as they don't compare.
I am pretty sure these are all recorded as digital mastered to 24bit, the vinyl sounds brilliant. For this reason, I keep buying new vinyl...I for one LOVE the LZ reissues on vinyl, main reason is my originals are worn out. Would I love new LZ issues from the 70s?? You bet, but will never happen....MoFi is real nice but the catalog is old.

I am a vinyl listener, always will be and will take it to my grave.....Digital has done some nice things for new vinyl, but digital has some work still to do, although I am not sure they can better it anymore...

Jim Tavegia's picture

I am surprised that more and more old tapes are not being transferred to 24/192 or 24/384 just to get them transferred before the tapes deteriorate even more just because of "time". We know that many tapes were not stored properly and I would think that something transferred to at least 24/192 (or DSD) would be better than waiting. Converter quality today is really exceptional and disc space for storage so cheap you would think we would hear more about this.

thomoz's picture

I would love for the audio review of this upcoming Stones recut to declare it sonically "definitive" - stranger things have happened!

vinyl listener's picture


fetuso's picture

I am in no way qualified to comment on the technology discussed in the interview. However, I think Miles' answer to the question regarding the dynamics of the Exile digital file was somewhat evasive. In fact he didn't answer it. That tells me that the file itself is probably compressed. Further, the fact that he mentions how the Stones own the masters and it's how they want it to sound also alludes to the file itself being compressed.

Keen Observer's picture

Concerning Exile, Miles further explains (see the product page)

"...the source tapes for this album are held in an archive in America. The days of shipping precious analogue masters over the Atlantic are long gone. Even if Universal were to break their internal no overseas shipping rule, it would be close to impossible to get insurance cover for the tapes. Also analogue tape becomes degraded with each pass over the replay heads. These tapes are getting old and it is no longer considered good practise to play and play and play precious old original masters for fear of wearing them out. I can completely understand the reasons for the concerns that some people have when cutting classic albums from digital sources. Historically, there have been some horrible digital transfers used as a vinyl cutting source. This has absolutely not been the case with this series. Micro-management of the audio and attention to detail has been the order of the day."

Whether he has or has not heard the original tapes and/or previous releases, he could have commented on what he thought of the digital transfer he received from the Stones. So I agree with you calling his answer "evasive."

fetuso's picture

Just a couple of other points / questions; why can't these classic tapes be copied onto fresh analog tape and preserved using modern methods? These are historic works of art and every effort should be made to allow people to hear this music in their native format. Nobody wants to go to a museum to see a photo of the Mona Lisa. I understand that the original tapes are fragile, but to me an analog reissue using a copy of the master is preferable over a digital copy. Mofi often master from a copy of the original tapes, so it can be done.

Erin's picture

We are often told that the analog tapes are fragile and deteriorate with every play, there is some truth to this, but if the original tapes are presently in playable condition then it makes a lot of sense to:
1) copy them to new tape
2) cut the vinyl from the original tape without a digital delay line.

Since we are at a point in time when vinyl sales are drastically increasing, and who can really say if this is a lasting phenomenon, or if it is vinyls last great resurgence that will slowly loose popularity? I hope it’s here to stay! But we never know?

It makes a lot of sense to use the tape to make what possibly might be the last run of vinyl pressings and do it completely analog!

What is the point of keeping the original tapes in a vault and not using them for their intended purpose which is for releasing the music - in an analog format!

Do we not play our records because they will eventually wear out?
Of course not, we play them and enjoy them!

If the master tapes are good, they need to be used. They need to be heard in their warts and all analog glory.

What is the exact point of locking the tapes up in a vault if they are simply going to deteriorate with every passing year?

Are the owners of the tapes keeping them simply as objects to be looked at?

Or is it that the record companies and audio industry professionals know that the current digital audio doesn’t quite cut the mustard and so they are hoping that a new and better form of audio capture technology will come along and then they can use their sparsely played tapes to make a better master?

melody maker's picture

Brilliant Erin

Dpoggenburg's picture

For me, that's one of the key take-aways from your article, as far as Exile is concerned anyway...So, let's get these 70+ year old guys (NOT normal 70 year olds, by the way: men who have spent DECADES subjecting themselves to very high decibels) to determine what sounds "good." Inarguably that is their right, but (almost) inarguably, the result will probably not sound terrific.

Mikey, Thanks for the ongoing richness of information about all things analogue your site provides!

elvis's picture

I read the first three paragraphs and stopped when I read "I have already explained why I feel this method is superior. Elimination of the low-frequency roll off on a Studer tape machine (a problem made doubly bad at half speed), better tape handling which will give better HF stability etc. There is a real risk that any advantage gained by half speed cutting is lost in equal measure by losses and other unpredictable problems in the low end and potential inaccuracies with the high end".
Come on, that digital transfer they received was sourced from the Master analog tape in the first place, so any "low-frequency roll off" will be on the transfer already. Why don't they just admit that they could not get the 2 track Master Tape, or they don't have the equipment to master the analog Master. Why not contact MOFI, they can half speed master analog tape for them.

J. Carter's picture

I agree 100% about the Mofi comment however why do you assume the digital transfer had the low-frequency roll off done? He mentions when he does tape transfers he uses an Ampex machine so the roll off doesn't need to be done.

my new username's picture

I read cutting from digital is better, I read where transferring from tape was used. So which was cut from tape and what was cut from a file?

I read a lot about 1/2 speed mastering was what matters. Um no, I disagree it's not primary here, there nor anywhere. Overall I'm not satisfied the questions were answered, sometimes at all and other times not with the understanding we have about fidelity. Issues of particular technical problems are typically not the sorts of things the overall sonic character is about. The only viable response there was with the master that had been damaged with clicks.

If the digital source is the same as the previously squashed one you can just about bank on the new one being the same way; it's de rigueur at the labels. I've read more than once how modern mastering engineers don't "get" to do much anymore regarding levels and simple EQ because they're provided a "perfect" file. We'll know soon enough.

VirginVinyl's picture

As I read the article I immediately drifted into the FOX GOP debate and kept thinking of Megan-Kelly. Mmmm, her gorgeous eyes.
(In a trance like state) Yes I love digital, 1/2 speed feels good... tape is old

Spewey's picture

He oversees mastering at Abbey Road and has never head the Artisan cut of Exile.

Let me repeat....

He oversees mastering at Abbey Road...

....and has never head the Artisan cut of Exile.

He's never heard the Artisan cut of Exile

He's never heard the Artisan cut of Exile

He's never heard the Artisan cut of Exile

....and He oversees mastering at Abbey Road...

J. Carter's picture

Why would it be a requirement for him to hear the Artisan cut of Exile? Unless he was head of the project to cut Exile at any point I don't know why that would be a requirement or a big deal that he didn't.

Spewey's picture


J. Carter's picture


Superfuzz's picture

Because that's the standard by which this reissue will be judged. Something that ought to concern any good re-mastering engineer.

J. Carter's picture

This is true but he isn't the re-mastering engineer for the project.

Superfuzz's picture

According to the first sentence in this article, Miles Showell oversees this entire 1/2 speed mastered series. My point still stands. He ought to know what original pressings sound like... And Artisan cuts are not hard to find, you can find American, German, Canadian, and of course UK pressings that are Artisan cuts.

Spewey's picture

Classic defense strategy.

Kenneth Lay tried it at his Enron trial.

"I have no idea what is going on with the re-masters under my supervision and I've never heard an Artisan cut of Exile on Main St."

Martin's picture

And I also will not be getting this version of Exile. Nor any of the others in the series.

Sorry, half speed mastering and no amount of care - IMO - compensates or makes up for in any way what is lost in the 96/24 digital transfer. 96/24 is where digital starts, only starts, to sound acceptable. The Bob Dylan latest in the bootleg series is a case in point, that sounds pretty good. The sound does not however in any way compare to the '60's originals or the recent MoFis.

I'm also surprised that Mr. Showell has not not listened carefully to an original Artisan. It's not like they are particularly rare. Lots of English pressed Artisans around too. They all sound great. Assuming you have a good cartridge of course. That original Artisan cut is the reference.

With Exile you are reissuing a record which is in the top ten of Rolling Stone magazines best albums of all time, one of the Stones best three or four records, depending on your point of view, a record which basically everyone knows and new people are discovering all the time. The last reissue - from "Masher" Marcussen - was unlistenable. Literally, it's awful. The only good thing about the package was the photo book which came with it. That alone made the purchase worthwhile. The recent SACD was very good - IMO. But again, only 2.8 MHz DSD.

Exile deserves a lot more respect.

Kurt's picture

Lots of good records on sale (under the "Offers" tab), by The Who, Rod Stewart, etc. Do we know which of these, if any, are mastered from analog tapes?

Kurt's picture

I see the info for Who LPs specify they are "re-mastered in 24-96 format," however, other titles make no mention of their source.

firedog55's picture

As an aside, the old Police reissues on CD and SACD are excellent. No volume compression - they have some of the highest dynamics of any classic rock converted to digital.
I hope this means the upcoming half speed masters will be made from those excellent digital masters (since they aren't going to do them from tape anyway).

Rudy's picture

I have been wanting to get the half-speed Abbey Road "Ghost", but haven't seen any indication as to what the vinyl was cut from. At anywhere from $30 to $40, that is a hell of a gamble to see if it could equal an original Sterling (?) pressing (which sounded excellent but, as with other records, I stupidly traded it in when the CDs came out). The SACD does sound good. But I don't need a vinyl copy of the same mastering. At $20-$25? Maybe. But not $35-ish. Mastering it from analog again would be worth buying.

Universal has not had a good track record releasing vinyl--they had an earlier Back to Black reissue of "Zenyatta Mondatta" that is a sonic turd. No dynamics, rolled off highs. My original LP trounces it.

azmoon's picture

I don't see where you can buy anything on their site?

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture
azmoon's picture

I appreciate it.

Zardoz's picture

about the price on the Roxy box set, until I saw that I would have to pay over $100 for shipping. The box set is available at Music Direct for $160 now. To bad I don't live in England instead of the US, I guess.

kruhlin's picture

With my vinyl copies of Exile On Main Street. But I'm really hoping to see a positive review of the new reissue of John Martyn's Solid Air. My copies of Solid Air are much more worn then Exile. I first heard Solid Air as a DJ in college and have been hooked ever since. I'll be watching for Michael's review and hoping for an 11.

bfwiat's picture

So, I have a vinyl collection in the 1000's spanning from 50's to Latest New release, I still buy a lot of new music that is originally recorded all digital (some of it is electronic music).

.... 90% of the time the vinyl sounds better (to all my friends and my ears anyway)..
...the CD is ALWAYS LOUDER and YELLS at you..
.. the CD reverb tales are mushy and smeared and bass is kind of bloated yet thin and un-dynamic and slow..
... stereo separation is smeared and as things get busy, things get worse.
I digitally capture my own 24/96 vinyl rips to compare to CD... the vinyl rip kills the CD every time.
So I believe the problem is not inherently because it is in the digital domain, the problem is the volume maximised masters for CD/MP3 digital distribution.

As an amateur recording/mastering engineer my understanding is the CD master is finalized to sound LOUD (volume maximized/limited)
... BUT if they cut that finalized/limited master to vinyl the needle would literally jump out the groove.
......Sooooo.. the digital file for vinyl masters are (thankfully) missing the final volume maximization (Limiter) stage of their digital for CD counterparts.... this is why even vinyl cut from digital sounds better than the CD... they are cut from slightly different stages within the digital master.

The other thing I am sure appeals to many people about vinyl is of course the EXPERIENCE of having large artwork, lyrics sheets, gatefold covers etc... the EXPERIENCE of choosing an entire album to listen to and not just a shuffle of a playlist on a touch screen ... the pride of owning something you can physically touch, show, read, share.

Fundamentally, VINYL IS AN EXPERIENCE :)

Catcher10's picture

Way up top in my first post, the tough question to ask and get an answer is why the 24bit master is mastered badly with compression, bad EQ, loud on, making some of these vinyl issues worthless?

It also seems that a lot of us are good with digital recording..the problem is the downstream work that is not yielding the best product possible, which is also a tough question to ask.

CDs sux soundwise because they are truncated from 24bit, the vinyl in my collection always beats the CD. I can easily tell when the digital file has been well mastered for vinyl.

I also find it un-acceptable when an artist from the 60s or 70s wants to approve the reissues, their ears SUX!!!!! At least Robert Fripp trusted the ears of Steven Wilson, thank GOD.

rakalm's picture

Can someone post the link for the vinyl for sale on the site? Can't seem to find it. Very interesting interview. Thanks

gbougard's picture

Technical details, open communication (except the 1st answer re Exile's masters). All of that is great.

The real thing, though, is how these will sound. I don't care what the source is, what the process is, what the equipment is, who the engineer is, I just want the record to sound as wicked as possible based on MY own expectations of what a record should sound like on MY stereo.

My hunch is that the original releases are the ones to get, but I might give Exile a chance for the sake of having it...

Kirby's picture

24/96 to vinyl can sound good as per Michaels review of The Who's Tommy, I bought this version and am very happy with it. How ever I prefer the Classic version better, that said try to get a copy of the Classic, Good Luck. I truly hope that these Abbey Road Lps sound as good as the Tommy, but I'm not holding my breath and I will not purchase any of them until i've read Michael's review of one of the titles. I was just lucky enough to buy a original copy of the Artisan Exile on Main St so I won't be picking up that one anyways and yes it is that good! Followed closely by the SHM SACD. For my own interest I just bought a 1986 CBS Holland Cd of Exile and will be comparing it to the new Cd reissue and the Pure Audio 24/96 Blu-Ray (both of which are glaringly bright) I'll try to post my thoughts on this later. Michael, good job on getting to the bottom of this one for us.

AnalogJ's picture

I have written here about the new Peter Gabriel 1/2 speed mastered LPs cut at 45. In my opinion, they're not good. They seem to be okay in quieter passages, with spaciousness associated with 45rpm records, but they don't have the rich harmonic tonality of the Classic Records series (33 or 45), and they get congested and harsh when they get loud and dense. The Classic Records editions sound much better (as long as the vinyl sounds reasonably quiet).

That Classic Records reissues can be expensive is not the point. Real World Records decided to do the PG reissues from digital masters rather than the analog masters. Through the decision to use digital masters or through sheer incompetence, the new 1/2 speed 45s are inferior to most people have them (There are some people who like them, but I don't know one person who has heard them and Classic Records editions who don't greatly prefer the CRs reissues.).

Bob Levin's picture

At least with '70's and '80's material, due to the degradation of the tape stock used.
The Queen l.p.s were digitally remastered for that reason, in large part.
It would help if good reference copies were used, but that wasn't necessarily Miles' job.

moog_man's picture

This is typical Universal blowing smoke over the mirrors... mastering is one thing, but what about the pressing? Who's doing that? In Europe, UMG work with GZ Vinyl in the Czech Rep. Sadly, a guarantee of mediocrity.
You can sink your marketing budgets into promoting how you took the tapes to Abbey Rd, blah blah blah but all that work is wasted if you press the vinyl poorly.
Record companies are hilarious..... they just cannot get a handle on what quality means...

Rudy's picture

GZ Vinyl presses crap. I have a beautiful sounding 2-LP set of Dire Straits "On Every Street", mastered by Chris Bellman. I had my first set replaced due to all the scratches and scuffs on these brand new records, and the second set was no better. I could not even "Frankenstein" a playable set together. What a waste. Get great mastering, and waste it on an inept pressing plant. Typical Universal cost-cutting...

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JR465's picture

Hi Michael- I read the Abbey Road ½ speed master LP article with great interest. I would like to offer some information that may be helpful to Abbey Road. Miles Showell indicated that extended response heads are not available for Studer A-80s and that an Ampex ATR 102 is not capable of cutting all analog masters.

I believe that JRF Magnetics still offers Flux Magnetics extended response heads for Studer A-80s, at least the website still indicates as such ( Also, as you may know, ATR Services ( outfitted a preview head to the ATR at Sterling Sound for the late George Marino to allow all analog cutting. I believe this is the machine currently in use by Ryan Smith.

Lastly, Tim De Paravicini outfitted a head/electronics package to the A80 in use at Mobile Fidelity which this article talks about ( The article talks about frequency response from 10Hz(!)-44kHz plus 0-1db across the range, which is incredible, leave it to Tim to pull that one off!

Best of luck to Miles and the Abbey Road team on their latest LP remastering efforts, and I hope this information is useful.

Best Regards

bent river music's picture

If you happen to read the magazine TapeOp (which is free by the way) and read endless discussions about which mic, where to place it, which compressor, DI or from the amp, etc., etc., etc. you begin to appreciate that digital vs. analog is not the black/white decision some think. There are so many variables, the biggest ones being the recording engineer/producer/mastering engineer then the only solution is to listen to the specific release rather than decide ahead of time that digital somewhere in the process is not worth your time.

By the way the Mumbai message is the most fascinating one!

cundare's picture

One thing that has confused me since talk began last year of meticulously remastering "Exile." During the 1970s, I read several interviews with band members that were consistent in maintaining that the crappy sound of the original -- vocals mixed down to incomprehensibility, recordings done on the cheap in the basement & kitchen of a house in France -- was an express goal of the musicians. Supposedly, the Stones (translation: Jagger) *wanted* the album to have a muddy garage sound, as something of a rebuttal to the sparkly studio-overdub productions that had been increasingly expected since "Satanic Majesties." So now we're all jumping through hoops to, what, undo all that and make the content more "clear"? So much for moral rights of artists. (And, yes, I read the comment about the musicians approving the results.)

Me, I'm waiting instead for "Disreaeli Gears." I'd pay an extra four bucks for a remastered copy to replace the first pressing I bought off the racks in high school. And let's see if they can reproduce that crazy day-glo cover.

Keen Observer's picture

The lower price for Disraeli Gears is likely because of its play length and it should be noted that the product page (visit says it's mono:

<<Digital transfers made from the original 1/4" MONO masters (with edits) from Atlantic Studios NYC, 1967 - transfers were made at Sterling Sound, NYC, in 2013>>

SimonH's picture

If I am reading the deadwax scribe correctly the two new Parolphone (WB) reissues of Deep Purple in Rock and Fireball have been cut using the Abbey Road ½ Speed Process. These issues look really nice and true to the original UK issues (based on my recollectoion of 45 years gone by) and reasonably priced here in the UK [cheaper than the UMe series]. Alas I do not have originals to compare to, and my memory says that the sound was lackiing in that critical something anyway but playing bits of both these tonight (uncleaned as yet) i was left underwhelmed - quite a clear sound but lacking body, dynamics and bottom power that I was hoping for. The new Them reissues have more life even with poorer recording. (I don't recognise the deadwax scibe of these - at first i thought it was a KG scribe as it has some similarities but if it is it is not his normal scribing)

Mike Foley's picture

This might be of interest. Miles Showell featured in The Independant.

MikeTz's picture

Here's hoping you'll get your hands on one of the albums for a review, I'd be very intrigued to hear your thoughts, as I and many others are a bit skeptical.

Michael Fremer's picture
The John Martyn because I have an original...
Mile High Music's picture

I too look forward to your review Mikey - thanks in advance!