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The Solti Wagner 'Ring' Rereleased, but in 44.1/24


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Just recently saw on HDtracks and ProStudioMasters that Decca has released--yet again--another mastering of the Solti 'Ring', only this time it's in 44.1/24. Huh?!?!?!? A couple of years ago these justly famous recordings were released in 48/24 (the same as on the Blu-ray Audio included with the super-deluxe CD set released back then), so I'm scratching my head wondering what's going on here. Why the reduction in sampling rate? (In fact, HDtracks still has the 48/24 versions still available.). The new files are only a tad cheaper, and AFAIK, no new remastering has been done (or has there?), so what gives?

 

Russell

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Dear oh dear. These recordings have far more limitations (good as they are) than worrying about bit and sample rates. We must love having our legs lifted over re-issued back catelogue. Is there any evidence that a better mastering has been achieved? Given the age of tapes I'm guessing they won't have gone back to them too many times.

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My best guess is that the remastering a couple years back for the deluxe CD box was done in 24/44.1, the sample rate being chosen to match the primary release format, and that the 24/48 version was an afterthought, made from the 24/44.1 master so that they could offer a 24-bit version on a bonus videodisc. Back then, HDTracks probably ripped the bonus disc and got a license from the distributor to sell the ripped tracks online. The new release is probably the first publication of the actual master format from the remastering job of a couple years ago.

 

I'm tempted by the new release of Siegfried. I've got the 1985 CD's of the complete Solti Ring, and the Rheingold and Siegfried both show a lot of faults from the analogue master tapes. I'd definitely prefer a version that's been cleaned up using modern digital audio restoration algorithms. But I'm put off by the price. I don't like to double-buy recordings that I already have on CD, and just Siegfried is about double the price that I paid for the complete box of the early-digital Janowski Ring​.

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I'm tempted by the new release of Siegfried. I've got the 1985 CD's of the complete Solti Ring, and the Rheingold and Siegfried both show a lot of faults from the analogue master tapes. I'd definitely prefer a version that's been cleaned up using modern digital audio restoration algorithms. But I'm put off by the price. I don't like to double-buy recordings that I already have on CD, and just Siegfried is about double the price that I paid for the complete box of the early-digital Janowski Ring​.

 

I also own the complete box from the 1980s. This box cost me an arm and a leg at the time given the prices that prevailed then and my tiny student budget. Therefore, I was reluctant to buy a new release when 24/48 version came out on HDTracks a couple of years ago. However, I paid the price (which by the was was substantially higher than the current one) and never regretted it: the sound-quality improvement is really massive in my experience.

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My best guess is that the remastering a couple years back for the deluxe CD box was done in 24/44.1, the sample rate being chosen to match the primary release format, and that the 24/48 version was an afterthought, made from the 24/44.1 master so that they could offer a 24-bit version on a bonus videodisc.

 

That's a plausible theory, but according to reviewer Michael Sherwin from the Wagner Society, Decca indeed did a 24/48 transfer from the master tapes in 1997, which has been recycled in the later reissues:

 

http://www.wagnersocietyny.org/Special%20Topics/Solti's%20Ring%20Remastered%202013-07-13d.pdf

Claude

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I own the 1984 and the 1997 CD sets. For Boris75 and Jay-dub, the new remaster from 1997 is dramatically improved compared to the 1984 set, unless you think that more background hiss and muffle is "charming". Even though I still own both sets, I only ripped my 1997 set to my NAS for playback. As always, companies lose profits by creating FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) by creating multiple remasterings, starting from the 1997 set then the 2012 release and then a 48/24 release and then a 44/24. Our anxiety makes it impossible for us to know which set to buy so we stick with what we have. Thanks to CatManDo, I'll wait for a 48/24 release...

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according to reviewer Michael Sherwin from the Wagner Society, Decca indeed did a 24/48 transfer from the master tapes in 1997, which has been recycled in the later reissues:

This is puzzling. I've always believed that Decca did their early digital recordings at 48kHz and then switched to 44.1 after the introduction of the CD. Sherwin's article contradicts this, saying that they continued using 48, at least for archival transfers of analogue tapes, up through 1997. Now, I have heard what I believe to be aliasing or other artifacts of sample rate conversion in the 1980's CD's of a number of Decca digital recordings made from 1979-1981, and also in the late 1990's remasters of Solti's Strauss operas (24/96 transfers from analogue tape), but not in the 1984 Ring transfer or any other Decca classical recording from 1984-1997. What I hear in vintage 1984 CD's is antialiasing brickwall filters that sound worse (steeper, more phase distortion) than the ones used ca. 1979-82. Everything I've heard is consistent with the notion that Decca used a good-sounding 48kHz system starting in 1979, switched to a worse-sounding 44.1kHz system around 1983, a succession of better-sounding 44.1kHz systems starting in 1986, and experimented with 96kHz starting in 1998, releasing the first good-sounding CD remasters of their 1979-1982 recordings in 1999, long after they had released many good-sounding transfers of analogue tapes.

 

For the most part, Sherwin says that transfers were done at 48kHz because (as he understands it) that was the industry standard in the 80's and 90's. This could be incorrect surmise. What Sherwin documents on the matter is that Stefan Bock of MSM Studios received 24/48 files to master the Blu-Ray and is quoted saying that he had been told that the restoration had been done at 48kHz so no 96kHz Blu-Ray would be feasible. With such a game of telephone, Bock's quote is not entirely reliable.

 

In short, I think Michael Sherwin was probably misinformed as to which transfers were done at 48kHz and which at 44.1, and is not a reliable source of information on the matter. At any rate, he seems to regard the two sample rates as essentially equivalent, and does not worry about the possibility of a suboptimal sample rate conversion.

 

I'm left thinking that my original surmise is still very likely: that the 1997 and 2012 remasters were restored at 44.1kHz sample rate, and that the 48kHz version was made specifically to use for Blu-Ray mastering. However, I have no reason to believe that the 2012 sample rate conversion, whether it was 44.1 -> 48 or 48 -> 44.1, was anything other than excellent.

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Well, to end the argument (or continue the discussion), here's a spectrogram of the opening of Act III of 'Walkure' (the Ride of the Valkyries) that I just took from my rip of the Blu-ray, and very likely identical to the "48/24" files that were on HDtracks a couple of years ago. (I've also sampled other tracks from the other 'Ring' operas, with identical results.) It's pretty obvious that there's nothing above 21 kHz, indicating that this was upsampled to 48 kHz from 44.1 kHz. Can't test for the "24-bitness" of the file, though....

 

Russell

 

Walkure-Spectrogram.jpg

 

(click on the image to enlarge it.)

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Ugh, what a mess! So possibly the latest 16/44.1 Ring download on HDTracks is actually the "real" master from the 2012 release (which was upsampled for the Blu-ray disc)? It would be so nice if some information was included on HDTrack about the files. I guess I will stick with my 1984 set until I know exactly what I would be buying.

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That's it. But it's 24bit not 16.

 

Sorry, I meant 24 not 16.

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Well, to end the argument (or continue the discussion), here's a spectrogram of the opening of Act III of 'Walkure' (the Ride of the Valkyries) that I just took from my rip of the Blu-ray, and very likely identical to the "48/24" files that were on HDtracks a couple of years ago. (I've also sampled other tracks from the other 'Ring' operas, with identical results.) It's pretty obvious that there's nothing above 21 kHz, indicating that this was upsampled to 48 kHz from 44.1 kHz. Can't test for the "24-bitness" of the file, though....

 

Russell

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]16463[/ATTACH]

 

(click on the image to enlarge it.)

 

I don't think you can assume an upsampling from 44.1 to 48 kHz, based on that spectrogram. Maybe the signal above about 20.5 kHz was filtered out at some stage of engineering the 24-bit 48 kHz archive, such as the de-hissing mentioned in the Stereophile article.

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I decided to buy the new 24/44.1 download. Here's a spectrogram. Clearly the bandwidth is the same as the 48kHz version. It is not definitive which version was made from the other. I think the 20.5 kHz lowpass is very natural to apply in the mastering stage, whether you're working in 44.1 kHz or in 48 with a mind for later transfer to CD.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 2.30.39 PM.png

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so, i think the "new" 24/44 files may be from the Esoteric SACDs. see the cover image here:

 

Amazon.com: Richard Wagner, Georg Solti, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (Super Deluxe): Music

 

and compare to the image here:

 

Wagner: Das Rheingold | HDtracks - The World's Greatest-Sounding Music Downloads

 

this is different from the images on the 24/48 set.

 

It's actually the same cover that was on the Super Deluxe set. (Image from Amazon)

 

418KsitMf5L.jpg

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What booklets did the super-deluxe CD set and the 24/48 downloads come with? The new release has a 218-page 4:3 landscape format PDF containing essays in English and German and the complete Spencer translation in parallel columns with the German. It definitely is not scanned pages, and may be newly typeset for tablet use. Cover image same as the super-deluxe CD set. I'm very pleased to have a digital copy of the Spencer translation, which is outstanding and in my opinion communicates Wagner's poetic conception better than the original German.

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What booklets did the super-deluxe CD set and the 24/48 downloads come with? The new release has a 218-page 4:3 landscape format PDF containing essays in English and German and the complete Spencer translation in parallel columns with the German. It definitely is not scanned pages, and may be newly typeset for tablet use. Cover image same as the super-deluxe CD set. I'm very pleased to have a digital copy of the Spencer translation, which is outstanding and in my opinion communicates Wagner's poetic conception better than the original German.

 

Full details are given in the link from posting #12

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Full details are given in the link from posting #12

OK, the booklet with the new download issue definitely is not just the libretto booklet from the super-deluxe CD set converted to PDF, but is a separate format designed specifically for digital distribution.

 

 

First impression on the sound quality: no negatives. The equalization is very natural, maybe a touch too full in the bass, but close to perfect. We've already determined that the bandwidth is the same as in the 48kHz release, and there is neither an overly abrupt brickwall nor any aliasing at the top end. I've heard recordings in which dehissing was applied aggressively enough to cause loss of atmosphere; this is not one of them. For other possible artifacts of sample rate conversion (SRC), I compared the sound against the late-90's issue of Solti's Rosenkavalier, which I think suffers from in-band aliasing due to SRC with inadequate stop-band attenuation. The harmonic space in the Rosenkavalier recording doesn't feel perfectly clean; the Ring download sounds clean, just like a recording that has never gone through SRC. If it was converted from a 48kHz master, the conversion was managed perfectly.

 

So: no reason for people with the 1984 set to hesitate on the new release.

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I contacted my friend Raymond McGill of Decca/Universal in London who is responsible for many of the Decca releases from their back catalogue. He said the following:

 

"Yes the Ring was first done as a 24/96 Blu-Ray disc in the huge edition for Solti's 100th; it has now been released as a stand-alone version (but with dull libretti) and it is available as various downloads.

 

Hope that clarifies?"

 

Larry

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"Yes the Ring was first done as a 24/96 Blu-Ray disc in the huge edition for Solti's 100th; it has now been released as a stand-alone version (but with dull libretti) and it is available as various downloads.

 

Hope that clarifies?"

 

The HDTracks files I bought a couple of years ago are 24/48. As far as I know, the Blu-Ray files are 24/48, aren't they? Is there a Blu-Ray with 24/96 files? Your message left me totally confused.

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More unreliable information about the sample rates . . . But I'm pretty sure there is one Blu-ray master, with 24/48 sound, and two releases: as a bonus in the Super Deluxe box, and now as a standalone issue with a printed libretto but no other printed materials.

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I'll check again with Raymond. Larry

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  • 2 months later...
Mr McGill simply got that wrong. There is only one Blu-ray release, with 24/48 sound.

 

I bought the Blu-ray edition from Amazon and it is indeed 48/24. The tracks are sequential and follow the pattern as per the DECCA release on this page.

 

However if you do decide to rip the BD with DVD Extractor, the tracks are listed Title1, Title2, Title3, Title4, with chapters Title1 chapter 01.

This is fine, the number of tracks are the same 178, however the Title1 does not refer to the Rheingold, Title 02 Walkure and so on sequentially as per the Opera.

 

Some bright spark decided to shuffle the main titles out of sequence, so when MP3tag matched the sequential order, it was '178 pickup' and no tracks matched the time and sequence when compared to the Decca official release.

 

If you decide to rip the BD, strongly suggest to rename the files with Bulk Rename like this:

 

Title1 chapters 01 to 43 = 02 Walkure chapters 01 to 43

Title2 chapters 01 to 54 = 04 Gotterdammerung chapters 01 to 54

Title3 chapters 01 to 30 = 01 Das Rheingold chapters 01 to 30

Title4 chapters 01 to 51 = 03 Siegfried chapters 01 to 51

 

This way the tracks are in correct order and MP3tag can line up the tracks with the times and sequence.

 

The SQ is very good indeed.

 

I would have paid for the Esoteric SACD of the Der Ring des Nibelungen, but with only a 1000 sets made in late 2009, these are extinct for sale.

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