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Thread started 02/06/20 6:02pm

PurpleMouse88

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Black Album sound quality

I just recently acquired a copy of the official 1994 Black Album CD as well as a bootleg CD from the late 80's (I presume) that has 8 bonus tracks on it after the main album, and to my ears the bootleg surprisingly sounded better than the official release. Does anyone know why this is?

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Reply #1 posted 02/06/20 7:08pm

VaultCurator

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I’m not an expert on the subject so I may not get all the terminology correct, but I reckon I can summarise the issue.

Prince’s 70s and 80s albums were mastered specifically for analogue formats (vinyl and cassette). When Warner Brothers began transferring their back catalogue to CD it was such a large undertaking that the transfers were done en masse from the original master tapes. The albums were not optimised for the format. CDs have a low ceiling when it comes to dynamic range which is why the volume of these 70s and 80s album sounds so low.

The transfer process produced mixed results. There are some fans who actually prefer digital recordings of the original issue LPs as they sound better to them. There’s actually a bootleg of ‘Sign O The Times’ called the Ridiculously Deluxe Edition which is literally just that. A recording of the vinyl complete with surface noise.

The majority of Black Album bootlegs (the pre 1994 ones) were recordings of the 1987 vinyls that survived the call back. If it was transferred well, the EQ curve was better suited for CD and a little compression was added to boost the overall volume without compromising too much on the dynamic range, it can sound subjectively better than a straight Warner Brother transfer.

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Reply #2 posted 02/06/20 7:15pm

VaultCurator

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Out of curiosity, are the additional tracks on your bootleg CD Witness, Wonderful Ass, Last Heart, Moviestar, A Place In Heaven, Girl O My Dreams, Can't Stop This Feeling I Got & We Can Funk?

My first black album (in fact, my first Prince bootleg) was this edition. It was an incredible introduction to Prince’s unreleased work. I was incredibly lucky that day.

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Reply #3 posted 02/06/20 7:17pm

PurpleMouse88

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VaultCurator said:

Out of curiosity, are the additional tracks on your bootleg CD Witness, Wonderful Ass, Last Heart, Moviestar, A Place In Heaven, Girl O My Dreams, Can't Stop This Feeling I Got & We Can Funk?

My first black album (in fact, my first Prince bootleg) was this edition. It was an incredible introduction to Prince’s unreleased work. I was incredibly lucky that day.

Yes, those are the extra tracks.

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Reply #4 posted 02/06/20 7:33pm

WhisperingDand
elions

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VaultCurator said:

I’m not an expert on the subject so I may not get all the terminology correct, but I reckon I can summarise the issue.

Prince’s 70s and 80s albums were mastered specifically for analogue formats (vinyl and cassette). When Warner Brothers began transferring their back catalogue to CD it was such a large undertaking that the transfers were done en masse from the original master tapes. The albums were not optimised for the format. CDs have a low ceiling when it comes to dynamic range which is why the volume of these 70s and 80s album sounds so low.

The transfer process produced mixed results. There are some fans who actually prefer digital recordings of the original issue LPs as they sound better to them. There’s actually a bootleg of ‘Sign O The Times’ called the Ridiculously Deluxe Edition which is literally just that. A recording of the vinyl complete with surface noise.

The majority of Black Album bootlegs (the pre 1994 ones) were recordings of the 1987 vinyls that survived the call back. If it was transferred well, the EQ curve was better suited for CD and a little compression was added to boost the overall volume without compromising too much on the dynamic range, it can sound subjectively better than a straight Warner Brother transfer.

I thought it was because the constant tape dubbing process associated with bootlegging makes the copies sound "thicker" with more "punch." Like if you took an album and recorded it to cassette, it might be technically sonically "inferior" but might sound "better" from an energy/vibe perspective. Some prefer old bootlegs to some of the "pristine" quality Vault releases we've gotten so far, for instance. Could be wrong.

But the CDs of his 80s catalogue are basic flat transfers of the master tapes. The volume is low because these were first-generation CD releases many years before brickwalling and volume maximizing became the order of the day, not because of a "low ceiling," which may or may not be accurate but there's numerous classical releases that have fantastic range in this regard. All CDs released in the 80s (and not post-90s remasters of 80s albums) are of similar volume.

[Edited 2/6/20 19:35pm]

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Reply #5 posted 02/06/20 8:44pm

lavendardrumma
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The difference in quality changes those particular songs so much, doesn't it?

I think it's brightness. I feel the same about a lot of the new mastering releases too, but The Black Album sounds like a different mood with the muddier bootleg qulity. That was also around the era when you would hear mythological stories of producers bouncing to cassette and back to get a certain quality. Whatever the case, it just works on that record.

Le Grind is also really noticeable with the separation in the horns, where on the official version, it doesn't sound like it belongs on that record anymore.

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Reply #6 posted 02/07/20 1:46am

VaultCurator

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WhisperingDandelions said:



I thought it was because the constant tape dubbing process associated with bootlegging makes the copies sound "thicker" with more "punch." Like if you took an album and recorded it to cassette, it might be technically sonically "inferior" but might sound "better" from an energy/vibe perspective. Some prefer old bootlegs to some of the "pristine" quality Vault releases we've gotten so far, for instance. Could be wrong.

But the CDs of his 80s catalogue are basic flat transfers of the master tapes. The volume is low because these were first-generation CD releases many years before brickwalling and volume maximizing became the order of the day, not because of a "low ceiling," which may or may not be accurate but there's numerous classical releases that have fantastic range in this regard. All CDs released in the 80s (and not post-90s remasters of 80s albums) are of similar volume.

[Edited 2/6/20 19:35pm]



Hi WhisperingDandelions,

With regards to you first point of the cassette copies giving the LP more punch. It is true (at least from what I've read) that as the album circulated on cassette the bass did become thicker with every generation that passed. However the OP is referring to a pressed CD bootleg which sounds like it was recorded direct from vinyl. It's been ages since I've listen to this specific boot, but I don't remember it sounding like a third / fourth generation copy.

With regards to the CD volume, I was afraid that the subject of brick walling and the loudness wars would come up.

In my subjective opinion there is a difference between optimising music for CD and brick walling. There may be purists who disagree with me on this, but in my opinion albums like Originals and 1999 remastered have had their dynamic range squeezed to give the volume a boost, but they do not clip and have retained all the detailed quality that is usually lost in the loudness war. As such I wouldn't call them brick walled, just mastered in line with digital limitations.

With regards to what I said about a low ceiling, this is my experience. Take a mid range turn table, amp and speakers (the type of set up that most households would have had in the 80s), and play an 80s Prince LP. The chances are that at 40% to 60% percent volume capacity you'll be able to hear the music comfortably with no issue.

In contrast if you were to take a 90s/00s midi hifi and play the same album from CD then your going to need to crank the sound to near max to get comparable volume. Both the CD and vinyl use the same master tapes and retain the same dynamic range, but to prevent the CD from clipping the volume has to remain low.
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Reply #7 posted 02/07/20 4:30am

funkaholic1972

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I once obtained a 'remastered' version of The Black Album by DJ Foefur. This is the version I still listen to today. It is not brickwalled too much and is sounding better to me than the original 1994 CD, with fuller bass and clearer mids and highs.

RIP Prince: thank U 4 a funky Time!
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Reply #8 posted 02/07/20 4:37am

VaultCurator

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funkaholic1972 said:

I once obtained a 'remastered' version of The Black Album by DJ Foefur. This is the version I still listen to today. It is not brickwalled too much and is sounding better to me than the original 1994 CD, with fuller bass and clearer mids and highs.


It's a great version. Foefur's remaster was also released on PGA in Japan (Bootleg, obviously). But as a neat bonus it also included a fan made Funky House Mix of the album. Not all of the 8 original tracks were included in this remix project, but it's still an interesting listen. Whoever made it really did a number on Bob George. It's great.

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Reply #9 posted 02/07/20 7:24am

djThunderfunk

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VaultCurator said:

There may be purists who disagree with me on this, but in my opinion albums like Originals and 1999 remastered have had their dynamic range squeezed to give the volume a boost, but they do not clip and have retained all the detailed quality that is usually lost in the loudness war.


I have to disagree with you in regards to Originals. I think the CD sounds awful, waaay too much clipping for me, but the vinyl sounds perfect. It really is night and day.

"No one can keep track of how many times you've quit, with all the histrionics and ball clutching." - Angry Troll

"No one can count to 2? Wow!" - Me
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Reply #10 posted 02/07/20 8:08am

VaultCurator

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djThunderfunk said:

VaultCurator said:

There may be purists who disagree with me on this, but in my opinion albums like Originals and 1999 remastered have had their dynamic range squeezed to give the volume a boost, but they do not clip and have retained all the detailed quality that is usually lost in the loudness war.


I have to disagree with you in regards to Originals. I think the CD sounds awful, waaay too much clipping for me, but the vinyl sounds perfect. It really is night and day.


Hi Thunderfunk,

I'm not exactly an audiophile so I will give way to your better judgement. Maybe Original's wasn't the best example. But do you agree that there is an optimal way to master music for CDs, or do you think that Warner Brothers old method is better in preserving all of the dynamic range of the vinyl at the expence of the overall volume?

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Reply #11 posted 02/07/20 9:15am

djThunderfunk

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VaultCurator said:

djThunderfunk said:


I have to disagree with you in regards to Originals. I think the CD sounds awful, waaay too much clipping for me, but the vinyl sounds perfect. It really is night and day.


Hi Thunderfunk,

I'm not exactly an audiophile so I will give way to your better judgement. Maybe Original's wasn't the best example. But do you agree that there is an optimal way to master music for CDs, or do you think that Warner Brothers old method is better in preserving all of the dynamic range of the vinyl at the expence of the overall volume?


If I have to choose between 80s CDs and recent remasters (last 10-20 years) I would choose the originals. I can adjust volume and EQ to make them sound excellent. I cannot restore dynamic range to a brickwalled CD no matter how I tweak it.

That said, I prefer somewhere in the middle, they had it right in the early to mid 90s, in my not-so-humble opinion.

I like to use Led Zeppelin as my example. The original CDs are much like the 80s Prince CDs.
In the late 80s early 90s Page remastered everything for CD. These are perfect, imo.
Over the last decade they were remastered again, this time they're brickwalled.

For Prince, I'm happy with the mastering on say Batman through Come, after that, not so much.

Did I answer or you question or merely go off on a tangent? lol

I guess I prefer preserving the dynamic range of vinyl for the most part, but am accepting of minimal compression on the peaks. If only the peaks are clipped (slightly) distortion is not a problem and dynamic range is maintained.




[Edited 2/7/20 9:44am]

"No one can keep track of how many times you've quit, with all the histrionics and ball clutching." - Angry Troll

"No one can count to 2? Wow!" - Me
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Reply #12 posted 02/07/20 9:32am

VaultCurator

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djThunderfunk said:


Did I answer or you question or merely go off on a tangent? :lol


No tangent at all Thunderfunk. Great answer. smile

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Reply #13 posted 02/07/20 7:25pm

Sydney

The Foefur re-master, while not perfect, shows how great this album sounds with a bit more clarity, shine. The released version is quite muddy and submerged (which I like too) but the re-master really highlights the instrumentation and the hooks on the record. I think it's a must at some point to re-master "The Black Album" & "SOTT".

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Reply #14 posted 02/07/20 8:31pm

williamb610

The digital version off of Tidal is the best I've heard, but that's comparing it to the low volume bootleg cassette that I had and the limited edition CD version that I had before it was stolen.

It could be remastered even better, but I'm satisfied with the louder volume that I've got for now.

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Reply #15 posted 02/08/20 10:41am

jfenster

its insane...the other black album bootleg with offs and all my dreams is also better quality

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Reply #16 posted 02/11/20 1:22am

razord

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VaultCurator said:

Out of curiosity, are the additional tracks on your bootleg CD Witness, Wonderful Ass, Last Heart, Moviestar, A Place In Heaven, Girl O My Dreams, Can't Stop This Feeling I Got & We Can Funk?

My first black album (in fact, my first Prince bootleg) was this edition. It was an incredible introduction to Prince’s unreleased work. I was incredibly lucky that day.



That's the one I purchased years ago, a picture of Prince and Sheila E walking together
All u haters need to recognize, if u cant c right through these lies, good gawd!
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