Remastering is a word we're hearing more and more in the music industry over the last 10 years, ever since digital recording techniques overtook traditional tape recording. For those unfamiliar with the term, the basic concept stems from improving yesterday's albums with today's technology: crisper instrumentation with a broader dynamic range. It's the musical equivalent of a facelift, bringing analog albums into a digital age.
One of the first examples of remastering happened through Led Zeppelin in 1990 with the release of their aptly titled Remasters box set, compiling the band's best-loved selections with a cleaner sound. It's a process that has continually been refined over the 17 years since, attempting to spruce up best-selling acts with fresh coats of sonic paint—from the progressive rock of Yes and Genesis to the piano pop of Elton John and Billy Joel, and seemingly everyone in between, including AC/DC, Pink Floyd, and Madonna.
Aggressive marketing campaigns for remasters reel in mounds of media attention, not to mention cash. When it comes to best-selling artists, remastered albums are almost as big a deal as an all-new album. But it's also the new source of music controversy: some diehard fans don't like people tampering with their favorite albums.
You can't really blame record labels for trying, right? When done right, technological advancements can improve the audio quality enough for a fan to buy the same album again (and again and again). But some diehard purists will insist that the production tweaks are too much of a change. And let's face it—the average listener probably doesn't even notice the difference.
One thing that's clear from the debate is that not all remasters are created equal. Some albums ...1