Have you ever come across an album or a song with the label “Remastered” or “Remastered Version”? Do you wonder what that actually means? In this article, we will delve into the world of song remastering and explore why it plays a crucial role in the music industry.
What is Song Remastering?
“Remastered” or “remastering” refers to an audio processing technique aimed at enhancing the sound quality of a previously mastered piece of music. This technique can be applied to both older musical productions affected by the aging process and more recent recordings seeking sound improvement.
Typically, remastering is used for older pieces that were originally mastered on analog tape to ensure they sound good and, most importantly, loud enough in today’s digital audio landscape. The core mix remains unaltered during the process; technicians work with the already mixed and unmastered stereo file.
Unlike mastering, remastering may also focus on restoring the sound quality of a particularly damaged or deficient track, in which case it is referred to as audio restoration.
The concept of remastering emerged in 1988 as a means to restore and extract the best possible sound quality from damaged, old, or subpar recordings. In recent years, this practice has expanded to newer productions, aimed at enhancing already high-quality sound using modern, often digital techniques that were not available when the original album was released.
For instance, the iconic album “Nevermind” by Nirvana, one of the most famous in music history, was remastered in 2021. Sometimes, however, a song or album is simply remastered because the artist, after some time, decides they no longer like the mix or master of their work and wants a new version.
Remastering is also commonly applied to old movie soundtracks to improve dialogue or music playback and to adapt them to modern home theater multi-channel standards.
The techniques and computer-based methods used vary depending on the source material being processed. Here’s how remastering is typically performed on old, worn, and low-quality recordings:
- Removal of Clicks and Noise: Using noise reduction plug-ins to eliminate clicks and background noise.
- Noise Reduction: Eliminating hums from the 50/60 Hz power supply or noise from cassette recorder motors using noise reduction plug-ins or noise gates.
- Sibilance Removal: De-essing to reduce harsh “s” sounds in dialogues or vocals.
- Equalization: Adjusting the track’s equalization and ensuring uniformity across all tracks of the album using an equalizer.
- Dynamic Expansion or Compression: Applying dynamic processing through compressors, limiters, or noise gates.
- Finalization: Preparing the product following mastering guidelines, respecting maximum levels, and bringing the song to a predetermined volume.
For modern or recent recordings that are considered to need sound improvement, the process involves:
- Equalization: Adjusting the track’s equalization and ensuring uniformity across all tracks of the album.
- Dynamic Expansion or Compression: Utilizing advanced and often costly dynamic processing methods.
- Finalization: Preparing the product following mastering guidelines.
In the realm of restoring old tapes and records, remastering has produced true masterpieces, rejuvenating recordings that are up to half a century old through a genuinely artistic sound restoration process. Examples include the remastering of recordings by the German pianist Walter Gieseking, recently remastered by EMI Classics, and mid-century performances by Maria Callas.
Remastering may also involve converting the original medium to a 24-bit digital standard with sampling frequencies equal to or greater than those of compact discs, as seen in the case of SACD or DVD-Audio. This conversion may also include transitioning from mono to (pseudo) stereo or from stereo to multichannel.
In the world of music, remastering serves as a bridge between the past and the present, preserving the legacy of older recordings while enhancing the quality of newer ones. It is a meticulous process that requires expertise and attention to detail, as each track is unique and demands individual analysis and adjustments.
Whether it’s reviving vintage classics or elevating contemporary hits, remastering ensures that the beauty of music transcends time and technology.