Which "Wish You Were Here" Do You Want?

It's a bit late in the day to write a review of the music on this album, which concerns itself with how the music business chews up musicians with dreams and spits them out—not that Syd Barrett, the subject of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was done in by the business.

So how does this reissue, "sourced" from the original analog tape (which is not the same thing as "cut from" the original analog tape), as in this was cut from a high rez digital file created from the master tape and cut from that, all supervised and approved of by James Guthrie.

Why was it done that way? I can't answer that but based on what I hear here, the master tape was probably not in the greatest shape so rather than chance destruction, one "flat" pass was used and whatever was done subsequently occurred in the digital domain.

I say that because while the bottom end is full and rich, the soundstage relatively deep and transparent, and the RTI pressing drop dead quiet, high frequency transients are soft and muted as in "this tape, from an era when recording tape was not nearly as robust as the stuff produced during the 1960s, and especially during the 1950s, is very tired."

The overall transient attack is soft, robbing of their full potency Gilmour's airy, shimmering guitar lines. You just wish you could turn up by a few notches the "contrast" knob, of which there is none in audio—and I'm comparing this new reissue to a -H/-AD Columbia pressing, so I can only imagine what a -1A, 1B or 1C pressing might sound like—that is unless I lucked into a "hot stamper" (just kidding since there's no such thing as a "hot stamper" according to the pressmen with whom I've spoken at every major pressing plant around the world.

There's nothing bad about this reissue, in the sense that every care was taken to produce the best result, from the use of the original tape, to Guthrie's oversight of the digital conversion, to Doug Sax's lacquer cut and RTI's pressing, to the quality of the packaging. The problem is the sonic health of the master tape.

So, I'd say, if you already have a quiet, good sounding original (regardless of lacquer/stamper number) and you hear clean, sharp transients, particularly on the guitar and drums, I'd say you're set and should stand pat. I say that because while the reissue betters my original copy in some ways, overall when I want to hear this album, I know I'll reach for it and not the reissue.

On the other hand if you want to buy a vinyl copy of this, you can chance an original at auction or buy from a used record store or online, but you can be sure pressing and sound quality of such a mass produced product will vary all over the map, while the sonic variability of the very good sounding reissue will probably be minor.

Were it not for the soft transients and scarcity of air and shimmer on top, this would be a superb reissue. As it is, and probably due to the almost forty year old tape's condition, it's merely very good.

I know we're on the Analog Planet, but if you have an SACD player and especially if you have a surround sound system, don't miss the 5.1 channel remix from the original multitrack master. It's clearly in much better condition, which makes sense since it probably hasn't seen much if any use since the original mix.

alan james's picture

The last paragraph says it all about where you stand...you love vinyl, but if something digital is worth listening to, you lay it out there for us to consider. That is truly fair, and besides SACD done right is closer to vinyl that most of what is out there, but I should include that  24/192 is very nice, but who hears much if any of that. Great job keeping us informed. 

todd95008's picture

Glad you finally posted this review...

I could not agree more about this re-issue !!

I also borrowed the SACD (stereo layer only) and it too is a bit dull sounding.

Too bad they did not do a re-mix for stereo ??

Hard to find a decent original since these came in a cardboard sleeve.

milleman's picture

Yup, you're right.  I bought the reissue when it came out 6(?) months ago, as my original copy has some miles on it, but still sounds fine, albeit with surface noise.  Sure enough, the dead quiet reissue sounds (relatively!) muddy with less resolution than my original.  During some passages this can be pleasant (like an old-school tube amp) but the extended horn and guitar solos are the 'clearest' examples of the loss of bite and transparency of the reissue, and a classic case of dulled-out tape. 

If they had the multitrack tapes on hand for the surround mix you assert sounds much better, and the producers were aware of the deficits of the 2ch master, you'd think they'd find the notes to mix down the multitrack to a reasonable replica of the original stereo mix and release that on SACD and vinyl, rather than go to all that effort for a premier product with flawed master tapes...

jeff0000's picture

Back in the day (never thought I'd get old enough to say that) I was really into Pink Floyd. I bought every album when it was relaesed with the idea in mind of having a complete Pink Floyd collection - seemed like a great idea at the time. However, Dark Side, The Wall and Final Cut were the only 3 albums that I ever played ... don't know why it worked out that way, it just did.

After reading this review my curisoty was tweeked and sure enough in an old wooden crate (the kind you used to buy and assemble to store albums in) I happen to have an original Wish You Were Here album that has never been played. It has been opened because when I purchased an album I always replaced the paper (cardboard in this case) sleve with a protective sleve. I also saved the original sleve if it was anything but plain paper. The album jacket does show the effects (like being able to see the outline of the vinyl) of being stuffed in that crate (with several other albums that have never been played) through several moves over the years but the vinyl looks unscathed except for a smudge or two that I am guessing came about from rubbing against the other albums during moves even though it was in the sleve and album jacket. I am guessing that a good cleaning would completely eliminate that.

I was wondering:

1) How do you tell which pressing it is?

2) Are there any special precautions I should take before playing the album given that it's been in that crate for over 35 years?



deckeda's picture

1) Look at the deadwax, i.e. the "blank" area where the last groove ends. You should see a letter/number matrix for each side and possibly more, depending on the record. Examples were given in Michael's text above. Interpreting/looking up info on what you find is another matter.

2) No. Records can get dirty, moldy, have "embedded" dust that should be cleaned out, become warped etc. depending on the environment they've been subjected to, but age per se isn't a problem with vinyl. I've got a few very early LPs (from the late '40s) that play OK.

jeff0000's picture


Thanks for your response.

Sure enough, there are some letters and numbers right where you said they would be.

It's easy once you know where to look smiley.

On my copy:

Side one: There is a hand etched "D" followed by typed "AL 33453 - 3F" then more hand etched " 1T" . 

Side two: No hand etching at the beginning ... typed "BL 33453 - 1B then hand etched "1 T"

I am guessing that the AL and BL mean side A LP and side B LP. The 33453 would be the Columbia catalog number.

3F & 1B I haven't a clue ... same with the hand etched stuff.

I don't mean to go on and on but I've discovered something new and am curious.

Thanks again for responding,


gman's picture

Har, har, har - Hot stamper my ass!  You slay me Mikey.

detroitvinylrob's picture

So let's see... I'm left with Wishing You(a little more fidelity) Were Here...

I have a UK Harvest, blue cellophane original, have a Columbia 1/2 speed master, now the SACD... I think I'll stop paying for some fat cats cigar.

I'll skip the reissue. 

Thanks again Mikey

Happy Listener!

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

I agree that the sound on this record has softened transients, but the rest of this reissue series has the same sound. It might just be James Guthrie's mastering style and not tape degradation (although I'm sure that is also a factor).

The top end on the Guthrie discs is just too muted for me and the sound doesn't have the focus and pinpoint imaging that the Doug Sax masterings had. I much prefer the sound of the Doug Sax versions. 

JohnEcc's picture

For those of you lucky enough to hear this album performed Live in the summer of 1975 you will forever have in your head David Gilmour's astonishing guitar intro spread across the whole stadiumI. This reissue sounds like I am listening to a different album, I have a Canadian CBS Master Sound pressing which has tons of energy in it. Whatever was done, not done to this record, for me it does not work.

Sinsonido's picture

Out of the half dozen or so pressings I have at the moment, the two that stand out the most are my A-1/B-5 original UK and my original US with AL-1C/BL-3C stampers. Different masterings, but the best I have heard this album sound.

No "soft transients" here, no digital records necessary.