Turn off your mind, surrender to the void

April 8th, 2009

Recently, we posted on ‘why CD was a con’. Today we find a fabulous example not only of the audio side of that piece, but also the economic side.

The Beatles, Apple Corps and EMI Music have finally, at long last, agreed to rake in several million pounds. After more than two decades of waiting, all of the band’s original studio albums are to be re-released in digitally remastered stereo versions.

Honesty in a newspaper article? Shocking!

Anyway, to quickly skim over the economics, millions of people will now pay through the nose yet again for yet another version of the same thing. This time, they are told, it will be really good.

From Please Please Me to Abbey Road, the Fab Four’s entire run will be reissued on CD on 9 September, the same day that the mop-tops’ first video game, The Beatles: Rock Band, will be released.

Oh. My. Word. Seems like Mr McCartney is determined to be a billionaire before he dies. However, this is irrelevant.

According to a statement, engineers at EMI’s Abbey Road studios spent four years on the remasters, “utilising state-of-the-art recording technology alongside vintage studio equipment [and] carefully maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings”. The recordings were last overhauled in 1987.

Now, if you have read our previous post(s) on the topic of audio ‘integrity’, and the links to Stereophile articles provided, you would spot the obvious non sequitur. Digital remastering cannot possibly “carefully [maintain] the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings”.

You really can tell the difference,” said Beatles expert Kevin Howlett, who wrote the new liner notes. “It’s an extraordinary thing to sit there and hear LPs that you know so well and hear little nuances that you hadn’t noticed before.”

To paraphrase Bastiat, the “little nuances that you hadn’t noticed before” are what is heard. What Beatles expert Kevin Howlett fails to understand is that in order to hear those nuances, something has been altered, and therefore the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings has been lost. This is what is not heard.

The albums will be available individually or as a box set. For traditionalists, a box set of mono recordings will also be available with each disc styled as a vinyl LP.

So now someone who like to listen to digitally altered versions of analogue music on a CD in a sleeve which looks like an LP (except smaller…) is a traditionalist?

Although the Beatles’ re-remasters have been rumoured for years, most Fab Four fanatics expected them to be part of the Beatles’ entry into online music sales. The Beatles are one of the last major groups to have spurned iTunes Music Store, and their music cannot be legally purchased in MP3 or any other digital form.

Negotiations between the Beatles, their labels, publishers and online distributors appear to have stalled, and these new reissues, among the year’s most important releases, will not be available for purchase in digital form.

Need I point out that CDs are a digital form? Bad writing aside, EMI and the ‘Beatles’ are idiots for not providing downloads. It is presumed they think they will sell more CDs, at greater profit, by denying online sales. This shows again how badly these people understand their market. I would wager that those who would buy the CD would buy it whether or not a cheaper download was available. Moreover, there are probably thousands, possibly millions, of people who would buy the odd album or track on iTunes, but not as a physical format. They will now either (1) do without, or (2) download whatever they like using BitTorrent within minutes of the CDs being released. For nothing. As 192kbps, 360kbps, FLAC or whatever else they could wish for.

On the bright side, Howlett remarked, “they sound louder than previous CD reissues.” Well worth the wait.

Pardon me?

On the bright side, Howlett remarked, “they sound louder than previous CD reissues.” Well worth the wait.

Please refer to our previous posts and linked article to find out exactly how this man has been duped.

Let me conclude by suggesting that if you really wish to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings, listen to the original analogue recordings. Buy a vinyl copy of a Beatles album – they are almost being given away! - and listen to it on a record player.

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