Mastering Engineer Jon Astley on The Who 14 LP Box Set Coming From MCA

UMG/MCA recently announced a new 14 LP The Who studio recordings box set featuring 11 titles (Tommy and Quadrophenia were double LPs).

The set includes all original artwork, posters, inserts and "more."

The set was mastered by "... Jon Astley and Miles Showell at Close to the Edge and Metropolis Studios." Close to the Edge is an all digital facility that does high resolution digital and SACD mastering, while Metropolis is a highly regarded, veteran UK cutting facility.

According to Astley, in an email, "I decided not to squash these at all (as is the current fashion) and ran what tapes I could still run into mastered DSD, 192, or 96 files using analog EQ only where needed." At Metropolis they..." put a "soft valve (tube) analog compressor over nine of the albums."

Astley first saw The Who in 1965.

We're still trying to clarify which albums came from tape for this project and which used previously mastered to DSD material. Also key is who will press.

deckeda's picture

... different mastering houses would be used for a set, especially since the procedures seem quite different? Hopefully that decision was based on what each master benefited from.

My other concern is if Metropolis made new cutting masters with fresh EQ and compression choices or if they did in fact compress the music more.

Purgerificus's picture

What's the backup plan for these "original master tapes" (not these in particular but master tapes in general)? Are new masters made out of analog tape or high-res digital? What's the shelf life of an analog tape?

I take it that "ran what tapes I could still run" means the originals are no longer serviceable. Even the safety copies are bad?

deckeda's picture

What's the shelf life of an analog tape?

There was a period in the 1970s when "shelf life" was nearly zero. Those tapes are often the ones you read about where the magnetic oxide flaked off and gums up machine heads unless literally baked, in a last-dith effort to re-adhere the particles long enough to get one more pass from them. 

It's common to think of analog tape suffering from print-through and some high frequency loss over time. I know that was repeatedly mentioned as a potential problem back when home taping was big. However Steve Hoffman (who's handled his share of old master tapes) maintains that age doesn't actually affect a professional tape's performance unless it's defective as described above.

sluggobeast's picture

I guess this is going to coincide (more or less) with The Who's upcoming tour -- which I would guess might be their last? I can't imagine these besting Classic Records' fantastic Who reissues.


mauidj's picture

The Who used to play in my local pub, The Railway in Harrow Wealdstone. (Featured on the cover of Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy). This was just before they came out with their first hit, Can't Explain. In fact the only hits at that time were the ones we put on each other after the shows as the other Mod gangs (Wembley and Watford) waited outside for us to emerge bleary eyed and ready to rumble.

It was there that we saw Pete Townshend first smash his guitar followed, as I remember, a few shows later by Keith trashing his drum kit. The rest as they say.......

Of course I had a Lambretta, parka and the obligitory fox tail.

Quadrophenia was the life I grew up in so I am super excited to be able to see them play this epic on their tour next year. 10th row center baby!

The point of this preamble, aside from showing off (!) is that to my mind the Classic reissue of Live in Leeds is as close to the real thing as it gets. Hard to imagine that these new ones will better it. come the new discs...same as the old discs?

Paul Boudreau's picture

Nice showing off!

"Live At Leeds" and "Quadrophenia" are still my favorite Who LPs, although I didn't "live the life."

Steelhead's picture

I don't suppose you would remember me but I used to follow you back in 63!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for posting about your experiences on one of the greatest bands of all time. 

I will pass on the box as I have the classic Who's Next, Live at Leeds, and Quad.  Classic knocked it out of the park and their vinyl pressings are the definitive master works imho.

Fun reading!!!!

Chris Vincent's picture

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DigitalIsDead's picture

To me, this will always be the definitive WHO Box set released by Polydor in the early '80s