Tom Petty Catalog Gets the Hi-Res Treatment
The email shouts, “The Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers catalog is now available in Hi-Res digital formats!” I saw the announcement this morning and a couple of people forwarded the press release and links to the video. It’s actually a great headline because it’s true. Tom Petty’s albums, which decidedly standard resolution having been recorded on analog tape, have been remastered and are being sold in high-resolution digital formats. I can appreciate that they didn’t say that these new masters are real high-resolution audio…but they pitch them as such.
The YouTube video is pretty interesting…very casual and hip. It’s only a couple of minutes long but nicely done…if somewhat challenged in the accuracy department.
Video 1 – Tom Petty talking about high-resolution audio and the availability of his back catalog in “high-res” on HDtracks.
I have to admit to being a die hard Tom Petty fan. His music, his guitar focused productions, his singing, and his dedication to good sound works for me. But I had to pause for a minute when I heard Tom rave about high-resolution audio. Does he really know what he’s talking about? His opening statement, “Hi-res is actually a great thing. Many people haven’t discovered it yet. And, maybe you don’t understand it but you will understand it when you listen to it. It’s many, many times the resolution of any MP3 or a CD. You really can’t miss it. If you turn it on, it’s going to change everything for you musically,” is just a bunch of the same tried and false nonsense about high-resolution being dramatically different than what we’ve been used to in the past.
Hold on a second. Let’s stop and take a look at the Tom Petty catalog. He’s written and released some really classic rock ‘n roll records including some very iconic hits. But they were recorded on analog tape, mixed through an analog console (the desk behind him in the video is a Neve, I believe), and eventually mastered to vinyl LPs. The digital versions on CD came later. And they were mastered to the standards of the time…pretty loud.
Now he wants us to revisit and repurchase the same albums again. Only this time, he claims the mastering engineers have lightened up on the compression and left some dynamics on the recordings. You can hear things in the new high-resolution versions that may require you to turn the volume up on your system. “You’ll actually hear what we hear in the studio sitting behind the console, which would make me very happy.”
What he’s really talking about are new masters that have had less compression applied…probably a touch more bass and a tweak to the high frequencies. These versions will undoubtedly sound terrific and be richer and more dynamic than the original versions. But they are not high-resolution. They are “Master Quality” and reflect the best versions that we will likely ever have of Tom’s classics…but unless he recorded them using high-resolution equipment and produced them with the intent to keep the fidelity as high as possible, the recordings will never be high-resolution. His speech sounds like he was told what to say by the marketing people behind the project.
To be continued tomorrow…
20 thoughts on “Tom Petty Catalog Gets the Hi-Res Treatment”
And what more could we reasonably ask for than genuine “Master Quality”? The ‘first gen’ is IT!
We could ask that artists and labels accurately report on what they’re selling. The Petty stuff is not high-resolution audio.
No need to re-cover any ground here.
But please take this thought from a quality conscious music consumer perspective. If a given re-mastered recording sounds way, way better than original release in terms of much closer to master tape audio characteristics such as increased bandwidth, spatial qualities revealed, and dynamic swings missing from previous release, then…If it was a good recording to begin with, it just might sound great after re-mastering.By that, I mean sound quality that will impress seasoned listeners on good systems. When that level of audio quality /musical listening experience is available, the hierarchy of HRA becomes irrelevant to the end user. They were just blown away by great first gen sound. At that point consideration of HRA “specsmanship” simply is not part of anybody’s reaction process.
None of this is in conflict with your admirable insistence on HRA standards.
As for the questionable marketing platforms you so resent, this too is a valid complaint from a professional who maintains the highest audio standards. But heck Mark, if we jumped up and down about every marketing driven ploy in our consumer universe, we would have a full-time job on our hands.There’s always a hole in the donut, but that sure doesn’t keep folks from buying them.
OTH,two incredible, parallel trends are occuring in our lives that both stem from widespread consumer demand for higher quality. One is in the food industry, where organic food is now mainstream.Originally, you had to find a little “health food store.”, but now even the worst fast-food offenders are being forced by increased consumer awareness and market response to significantly clean up the ingredients they use.Wow!
In turn, the public’s dissatisfaction with data-reduced music sound quality has spawned at least two obvious trends that are both very welcome and possibly even game-changing: the emergence and instant ultra-popularity of Tidal’s clean 16/44 streaming music service, and the “vinyl thing.” Yes, I know the statistics, but I now firmly know something else too. The reason needle drop gets near-ectsatic reactions from folks is not the presence of “better sound.” No it is the complete ABSENCE of the MP-3 distortion family that has lived in homes now for a very long time. So, to wrap up, it does appear that both types of “food” are coming up the quality ladder. That’s what counts, not the numbers.Best, Craig
Craig, you preface your long comment with you don’t want to rehash old territory…and the go right on and present the same sentiments as before.
IT is possible to remaster a correct source mix and achieve superior results or “better” sound than a previous version. It’s also possible to ruin a source master by making overzealous tweaks that in one person’s opinion enhances a track. That’s all well and good but it doesn’t fundamentally change the maximum potential fidelity of the source recording…it exists in a box defined by the equipment that was used during the original sessions. As I stated, the original can be wonderful but it will never reach the level of a real high-resolution recording. Listeners can react positively and even jump up and down with glee, but the hard facts remain. HRA is relevant and will remain so as long as there are individuals insisting that simple listening is all that matters. Just like the video folks, resolution in audio is important.
Calling out false or exaggerated marketing in the audiophile realm comes with the territory. When I encounter it, I will continue to point it out. If it saves on audiophile the cost of an expensive power cord or accessory, I’m stating what needs to be stated.
There is not “widespread consumer demand” for high-resolution audio. When there are only 5000-10,000 high-resolution transfers of old standard res tracks and about 2000 real HD audio recordings, I don’t think you can claim that quality is ruling the audio ecosystem.
Have you checked the number of Tidal subscribers at the $20 level? You call it “instant ultra-popularity” and yet the increase in subscribers is a mere trickle. And BTW the resurgence of vinyl LPs amounts to less than 2% of the total music industry revenue.
Sorry, but numbers do count.
Perfect Sound Eventually.
Mark you are referenced here a few times by Michael Lavorgna, interesting post.
Thanks, I saw that.
I see you posted late in the comments.
Just read that Doug Sax had passed away, sad. Always knew that when his name was on the credits you were getting the best engineering/mastering available at the time. RIP Doug
Very unfortunate…Doug was one of the best.
Just give me a CD version of the new remastered recordings – and I’ll be happy 😉
“He claims the mastering engineers have lightened up on the compression”?
Why phrase it like this when the lack of compression is easily verifiable as fact.
There’s no way to know until I hear it.
Incorrect, unless you’re saying Ryan Ulyate is in the habit of lying when he discusses compression as he has done several times in the past with the releases of Mojo, Hypnotic Eye and Damn The Torpedoes.
There’s also the DR database:
foobar2000 1.3.7 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2015-04-07 23:10:25
Analyzed: Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers / Southern Accents (Remastered)
DR Peak RMS Duration Track
DR12 -0.57 dB -15.56 dB 5:19 01-Rebels
DR14 -0.64 dB -17.19 dB 5:10 02-It Ain’t Nothin’ To Me
DR13 -1.42 dB -17.04 dB 5:04 03-Don’t Come Around Here No More
DR12 -4.91 dB -20.78 dB 4:44 04-Southern Accents
DR13 -0.80 dB -16.14 dB 4:22 05-Make It Better (Forget About Me)
DR15 -1.31 dB -19.02 dB 3:32 06-Spike
DR12 -1.95 dB -16.58 dB 3:39 07-Dogs On The Run
DR12 -4.06 dB -18.94 dB 3:44 08-Mary’s New Car
DR12 -3.99 dB -19.75 dB 4:02 09-The Best Of Everything
Number of tracks: 9
Official DR value: DR13
Samplerate: 96000 Hz
Bits per sample: 24
Bitrate: 3090 kbps
No clipping, obviously a fully dynamic release.
Thanks Steve. I think the DR database is a good place to start but I don’t put much faith in the accuracy of the numbers. When using the tools, if the user includes the whole tune…it increases the dynamic range. When in reality, the internal DR is actually very limited. This is because the fade in and fade out are included when you do the whole track. I applaud TP and Ryan for the effort and I’m confident that there is more dynamic range on these versions than previously…but I’ll have to see for myself what the actual dynamic range is.
I agree with Mark, the DR number calculations are appalling and should not be used for any purpose. ANY purpose.
As for ‘no clipping, note that you can clip heaps then normalise to minus-something dB and it looks like no clipping.
You know what Mark, I really respect your honesty but there are many ‘out there’ who will attack and deride you because it appears that you are on a one man crusade to expose those within the music industry who have one thing tattooed on their foreheads (and we all know what that is)!
My bullshit meter goes into the red so often with all these claims but they prey on the great uneducated public who would not known hi res if it hit them in the chops. Maybe time to to focus on what you do best which is produce hi res material and champion your own cause and let the others blindly go on in their own self serving manner but educate the young upcoming music professionals in maintaining dynamic range, signal to noise ratios and all the things that good engineers did with tape( a limited medium) but in the digital age.
“Start with the end in mind” and think about what you want to be remembered by. I would be happy if it was me in saying I helped bring about an awareness that hi res means exactly that and the provenance of the music is all important and the recording process has to be of a quality that is indeed hi res.
Your daily blog keeps me informed but it has developed a flavour IMV of attack everyone else which I now feel is maybe not the best way to tackle the current issue of all these re releases of old material, fit it into a bigger bit bucket by whatever means serves and re sell it as hi res at a premium price.
Every one loves a winner but whiners get whipped, champion you own recordings and pave your own way to greater success and if a few along the way come to recognise what can be accomplished, many may try which means you have a win win and a legacy. Just my two cents worth.
Thanks for the comments…I feel the need to report on the high-resolution claims going around. Simply hammering away on how good things can be with my own stuff would be problematic. I’ll do better.
Right on Steve. I’m thinking you may well have read my ongoing dialogues with Mark on this very topic.
His point of view is valid, but in the simplest of terms, it just doesn’t help. Neil Young’s effort, flawed though it may be, has been the single most powerful messaage that the public has received from a true music icon.(hate that word), concerning the need for better sound, and it looks like this has had a major result: streaming clean 16/44 is becoming the preference of many now
Thank you for confirming that there may well be a goodly number of folks who look at things similarly as do we; the big picture is so much more important than this sniping which will one day be seen as pure folly.
As I’ve written before, if they’d simply called it “First Gen Sound”, all this huffing and puffing about ‘provenance’ would never have occurred.All that would be apparent upon download is much better sound, and that’s enough.
Isn’t there a way for the industry to agree on a provenance report for each release?? — you sort of get at it here — http://www.audiostream.com/content/musical-provenance-tracking-tracks-mark-waldrep
Really just a simple database field where if they know how and where it was recorded? they could include the data – Ampex 1000 circa 1967, Mastered to CD in 1983, AAD: ADD: DDD but with more information.
Discogs or Musicbrainz could include the information, crowd sourced maybe? Problem is most people are not educated about the recording process and will not appreciate the additional information. It is part of being a good consumer though, could be appreciated more and more over time and ease of access to the info.
I’m trying to get this going on my HRADB.com site. Still in progress.