Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s birthday. He was born on October 9, 1940 and would have been 74 years old today. In honor of this special occasion, Capitol/UMe is making available newly remastered “HD” digital audio files in a variety of sample rates and word lengths. The headline on Yahoo’s site reads, “John Lennon Studio Albums and Collections Debut in High Definition Digital Audio, Beginning with Today’s Release of ‘Imagine’ and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’. The downloads will be available as 96 kHz/24-bit PCM downloads from the usual HRA sites including HDtracks.
Curiously, I read that the remasters were sourced from John Lennon’s original mixes. I’m not sure what that means and there was no further information on any of the news sites that I read. One could surmise that the 2-channel flat stereo mixes (before the previous mastering was done) were transferred to digital at 96 kHz/24-bits (why not go all the way and do 192 kHz conversions?) and then “digitally remastered”. This is what Pono is saying that they won’t do…but the major labels are. And I think it’s great. Going back to the best possible master and making new transfers and carefully remastering the tracks with high-resolution, audiophile sensibilities in mind is the way to go. Are they really High-Resolution Audio? No, not really. But they can claim to be the best available presentation or the “Master Quality”. For any album that was recorded on analog tape and mixed to analog tape, this is the best that we can hope for.
I also noticed a brief article about this news on the AudioStream website (check it out by clicking here) with a image from the “Imagine” album complete with the JAS (Japan Audio Society) High-Res Audio logo added in the lower right hand corner of the artwork. I don’t know whether Michael Lavorgna or someone else at Audiostream placed the logo there, but it’s clearly misplaced…at least according to the specifications laid out by the JAS. The chart that I published in my article about the use of the logo rules out any analog master being categorized as worthy of the JAS logo. You can read that article here.
The albums will be available through iTunes. But contrary to the announcement I read, they won’t be available at 96 kHz/24-bits. The labels do deliver in this format to iTunes but Apple simply uses the “higher resolution” source files as input to their machine…which spits out AAC files with the “Mastered for iTunes” identifier.
Other albums will be released at 44.1 kHz/24-bits. The “Gimme Some Truth” 72-track set will be limited to the CD sampling rate but raise the word length from 16 to 24-bits. Like that will make a difference. I suppose the mastering engineers working with all of this material output their new masters at 24-bits because it’s easy and matters to the marketing folks. But given that the original recording doesn’t have dynamic range or a noise floor that requires or would benefit from 24-bits…why bother? It’s OK to archive in 24-bits and maybe, just maybe, the filters in the 24-bit DACs will “sound better” at that spec, but in reality you won’t be able to tell a difference.
This is current state of the art in HRA…although most of the press announcements I read called it “High Definition”. What hope do we have when nobody agrees on something as simple as the name?