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Article: The Best Version Of… Tears for Fears’ The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair

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14 minutes ago, bobflood said:

When is the book coming out?


I’m probably going to pitch 33 1/3 at some point, maybe for Plastic Ono Band. But I won’t object to a letter-writing campaign. Haha. 

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A member over at SHF posted something interesting. HDTracks, which has the Walter version of Big Chair, includes this note:

 

“Songs From The Big Chair was originally recorded on 1/2" analog tape in 1983 using a digital compressor that cut frequencies higher than 20kHz before being written to tape. This 2014 remaster was done by Andy Walter, at Abbey Road Studios from these same analog tapes which were transferred to digital at 96kHz/24-bit.”

 

I noticed that there wasn’t much content above 20kHz on the various hi-res versions, but didn’t know the reason. It really underscores how they were mixing analog and digital technology at that moment in history. 

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One other minor odd and an end worth mentioning is that there’s at least one original ‘85 CD that splits “Head Over Heels” and “Broken (live)” into two tracks. This is the same mastering as the other ‘85 CDs, though. 

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Another fantastic comparison by @JoshM - thank you! Your reviews exemplify the best (IMHO) aspects of subjective and objective listening tests. The DR Meter, R128/crest, and EQ plots are there for those of us who value them - and the subjective impressions are specific, including specific moments and instruments in specific songs, so others can listen for the same things and judge for themselves.

 

As always (at least so far), I agree with Josh's appraisal RE Songs from the Big Chair (haven't had a chance to re-listen to The Hurting yet).

 

The 2006 I'd never even entertained for the reasons Josh notes. As for the 2014 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray/deluxe version, I hadn't listened to it for about 4 years and when I put it on just now, I immediately heard the leftward shift in the soundstage - yuk! (Correctable in software or with a balance control of course, but why bother, especially since it doesn't sound better than the other versions?)

 

That left the original 1985 mastering and the 2014 flat transfer - and if anything, I would say Josh has understated the difference. Yes, the EQ and overall sonic signature is quite similar; but to my ears the 2014 flat transfer sounds quite a bit clearer with better detail retrieval - and unless I was hearing things, the soundstage seems slightly wider as well (perhaps owing to the increased precision and "air" in the mix that I hear in the 2014 vs the 1985).

 

Finally, I know it's apples to oranges, but I will put in a plug for the 2014 Steven Wilson remix, which I've always loved and I think is well worth having. It's a matter of taste because while it remains true to the original mix, it does change what are arguably the two most signature aspects of the original mastering that mark it as an '80s mastering: The Wilson remix has bigger, more impactful bass; and the Wilson remix removes (or at least tames) the slight treble "halo" that gives the original that '80s "sheen." The result is IMHO something that sounds closer to recorded musical performances by all the musicians - aka it sounds like a rock band - while the original '80s mastering sounds more like a cohesive "production," with the sound being more a single unit.

 

Personally I slightly prefer the Wilson remix because I think '80s mastering often sucks when it comes to getting drum sounds right (when there are real drums at all), and the Wilson restores a "live," realistic sound to the drums and entire rhythm section.

 

So I like to have both mixes of this album available to me - the Wilson as noted above, and the original because, well, it's the original and the one we all grew up with!

 

So echoing Josh's recommendation, I would suggest folks who are really into this album get the 2014 SHM-CD or SHM-SACD for the original mix, and the 2014 Blu-Ray for the Wilson remix (simply because it tends to be available more cheaply than the DVD-A version, which is obtainable only as part of the larger 2014 deluxe package).

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5 hours ago, tmtomh said:

Another fantastic comparison by @JoshM - thank you! Your reviews exemplify the best (IMHO) aspects of subjective and objective listening tests. The DR Meter, R128/crest, and EQ plots are there for those of us who value them - and the subjective impressions are specific, including specific moments and instruments in specific songs, so others can listen for the same things and judge for themselves.

 

As always (at least so far), I agree with Josh's appraisal RE Songs from the Big Chair (haven't had a chance to re-listen to The Hurting yet).

 

The 2006 I'd never even entertained for the reasons Josh notes. As for the 2014 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray/deluxe version, I hadn't listened to it for about 4 years and when I put it on just now, I immediately heard the leftward shift in the soundstage - yuk! (Correctable in software or with a balance control of course, but why bother, especially since it doesn't sound better than the other versions?)

 

That left the original 1985 mastering and the 2014 flat transfer - and if anything, I would say Josh has understated the difference. Yes, the EQ and overall sonic signature is quite similar; but to my ears the 2014 flat transfer sounds quite a bit clearer with better detail retrieval - and unless I was hearing things, the soundstage seems slightly wider as well (perhaps owing to the increased precision and "air" in the mix that I hear in the 2014 vs the 1985).

 

Finally, I know it's apples to oranges, but I will put in a plug for the 2014 Steven Wilson remix, which I've always loved and I think is well worth having. It's a matter of taste because while it remains true to the original mix, it does change what are arguably the two most signature aspects of the original mastering that mark it as an '80s mastering: The Wilson remix has bigger, more impactful bass; and the Wilson remix removes (or at least tames) the slight treble "halo" that gives the original that '80s "sheen." The result is IMHO something that sounds closer to recorded musical performances by all the musicians - aka it sounds like a rock band - while the original '80s mastering sounds more like a cohesive "production," with the sound being more a single unit.

 

Personally I slightly prefer the Wilson remix because I think '80s mastering often sucks when it comes to getting drum sounds right (when there are real drums at all), and the Wilson restores a "live," realistic sound to the drums and entire rhythm section.

 

So I like to have both mixes of this album available to me - the Wilson as noted above, and the original because, well, it's the original and the one we all grew up with!

 

So echoing Josh's recommendation, I would suggest folks who are really into this album get the 2014 SHM-CD or SHM-SACD for the original mix, and the 2014 Blu-Ray for the Wilson remix (simply because it tends to be available more cheaply than the DVD-A version, which is obtainable only as part of the larger 2014 deluxe package).

 

You're right that I may have slightly underplayed the difference between Whittaker and the '85 CD. I think the mix of gear will determine how large it is. Putting raw detail retrieval aside, I felt that DACs and amps with more front-to-back depth emphasized the Whittaker transfer's advantages more than ones with a flatter soundstage. But I also didn't want to exaggerate the differences, because I think Webb did a really commendable job with the '85 CD, especially given how far A/D conversion has come since then, and you can pick up one of the Webb CDs for a few bucks. For people who really love the album and want to absolute best resolution, the Whittaker is the clear choice, though.  

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4 hours ago, JoshM said:

 

You're right that I may have slightly underplayed the difference between Whittaker and the '85 CD. I think the mix of gear will determine how large it is. Putting raw detail retrieval aside, I felt that DACs and amps with more front-to-back depth emphasized the Whittaker transfer's advantages more than ones with a flatter soundstage. But I also didn't want to exaggerate the differences, because I think Webb did a really commendable job with the '85 CD, especially given how far A/D conversion has come since then, and you can pick up one of the Webb CDs for a few bucks. For people who really love the album and want to absolute best resolution, the Whittaker is the clear choice, though.  

 

Agree 100% - and I hope my comment about understating the difference did not come off as a criticism; it was not intended as such. Thanks again Josh - your TBVO pieces are among the most useful music comparisons anywhere online.

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Tremendous! Never seen anything like this before, thank you so much! The Hurting come from the times when childhoods were full of music sharing but not with playlist and a new interesting CD was a treasure. Made me feel great, now if someone can say that listening to Future Sound of London's Dead Cities a million times too is OK I will be relieved... ;)

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This is... wow. Kudos on such an in-depth piece. The care and work you put into this is clear. 👏

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Yes, thank you! These albums are part of my non-critical listening playlist–songs a system has to emotionally reproduce by getting out of the way. I have been a big fan of Orzabal's "solo" TFF Elemental, Raoul, and self-titled album, too. The later albums are rich, emotionally imbued compositions that make me reflect on different things with each listen. Sorry if that's damning with faint praise, but music is so personal to begin with, YMMV ("must" vary!). Thanks again for this rich history. I'll be rereading it a few times.

 

p.s., And what a great full name! Roland Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana


Fav Gear Schiit Yggdrasil A2 + SR UEF Black power cable, W4S Remedy/Uptone LPS-1, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Naim, PSB, Elac, Uptone Audio USB, Phasure Lush/ZenWave/Transparent Audio cables 

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These long form, academic articles are my favorite on AS.

 

I just listened to the Mobile Fidelity version of Big Chair and I'm glad I still had the original CD which I just ripped and added to Roon.

 

Again, fantastic work.

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So I got the SHM-SACD and ripped it to DSD (with my dedicated PS3). Sounds fantastic BUT... The tonal balance of the mix is still very 80s, that is the bass needs a little help... So in Roon I apply my "80's eq" curve (see below).

 

Headphone setup: Roon > microRendu > Schiit Asgard3 multibit > Aeon 2 closed

 

BTW... The SACD is single layer - so it will not play on a regular CD player. 

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 11.49.02 AM.png


mini+Roon > dCS Rossini DAC + Rossini Master Clock >

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo G2

system pics

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On 1/6/2020 at 5:20 PM, JoshM said:

@JoshM

what a great piece! Your TBVO-essays are by far the most valuable content on this site. Period.

Not saying all the rest is not worth reading - not at all! - but your articles stand out big time!

 

I have to admit - as far as "Songs from the Big Chair" goes - I really like the Steven Wilson Remixes most.

I know they are entirely new mixes and are not really related to the original artists intention of the album, only to Steven Wilsons creative "vision" of the album, which is a pretty "modern" or contemporary take on mixing, sound and timbre.

However, his remixes sound thick, bold, majestic ... and above all: timeless. And touching.

(I also have to admit I give a sh** on the so called artists intention as we really never will be able to understand what it really is ... unless we were present while the album has been produced in the respective studio).

 

Thanks a lot for the great articles!

 

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On 1/21/2020 at 5:30 PM, copy_of_a said:

@JoshM

what a great piece! Your TBVO-essays are by far the most valuable content on this site. Period.

Not saying all the rest is not worth reading - not at all! - but your articles stand out big time!

 

I have to admit - as far as "Songs from the Big Chair" goes - I really like the Steven Wilson Remixes most.

I know they are entirely new mixes and are not really related to the original artists intention of the album, only to Steven Wilsons creative "vision" of the album, which is a pretty "modern" or contemporary take on mixing, sound and timbre.

However, his remixes sound thick, bold, majestic ... and above all: timeless. And touching.

(I also have to admit I give a sh** on the so called artists intention as we really never will be able to understand what it really is ... unless we were present while the album has been produced in the respective studio).

 

Thanks a lot for the great articles!

 

 

Thank you for the kind words!

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