Jump to content
The Computer Audiophile

Another Gem Ruined By Rick Rubin and Vlado Meller (RATM)

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Hi Guys - I went to the local record store this morning and noticed Rage Against The Machine's self titled debut album had been remastered and released late in 2012. This is an absolute gem of an album so I picked up the edition with 2 CDs and 1 DVD. I got in the car, opened the liner notes to see who remastered the album. To my surprise and horror it's Vlado Meller from Masterdisk. In addition to this his cohort in destroying the sound quality of a generation Rick Rubin is the Executive Producer on the remaster. I wanted the album to sound good and I really gave it a chance despite the people involved in this version. However, it's terrible. They've taken an album mastered by Bob Ludwig that sounded pretty good and turned it into a disaster with heavy compression. Here are the gory details.

 

 

Original release mastered by Bob Ludwig

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Analyzed folder: /Users/chris/Desktop/Rage Against The Machine

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DR Peak RMS Filename

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

DR8 -0.13 dB -10.38 dB 01-Bombtrack.wav

DR9 -0.10 dB -10.18 dB 02-Killing In The Name.wav

DR9 -0.12 dB -11.27 dB 03-Take The Power Back.wav

DR9 -0.16 dB -13.18 dB 04-Settle For Nothing.wav

DR8 -0.08 dB -9.84 dB 05-Bullet In The Head.wav

DR10 -0.14 dB -11.69 dB 06-Know Your Enemy.wav

DR8 -0.11 dB -10.53 dB 07-Wake Up.wav

DR10 -0.11 dB -12.76 dB 08-Fistful Of Steel.wav

DR10 -0.16 dB -11.54 dB 09-Township Rebellion.wav

DR9 -0.17 dB -11.50 dB 10-Freedom.wav

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Number of files: 10

Official DR value: DR9

 

 

============================================

 

10-Freedom.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Remaster by Vlado Meller

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Analyzed folder: /Users/chris/Desktop/Rage Against the Machine XX (Remastered) (Disc 01)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DR Peak RMS Filename

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

DR4 over -5.87 dB 01 - Bombtrack.wav

DR6 over -7.58 dB 02 - Killing in the Name.wav

DR6 over -7.58 dB 03 - Take the Power Back.wav

DR5 over -8.70 dB 04 - Settle for Nothing.wav

DR4 over -6.28 dB 05 - Bullet in the Head.wav

DR6 over -7.39 dB 06 - Know Your Enemy.wav

DR5 over -6.27 dB 07 - Wake Up.wav

DR7 over -9.85 dB 08 - Fistful of Steel.wav

DR6 over -7.58 dB 09 - Township Rebellion.wav

DR6 over -8.04 dB 10 - Freedom.wav

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Number of files: 10

Official DR value: DR6

 

 

===================================================

 

 

10-Freedom-R.jpg

01-Bombtrack.jpg

02-KillingInTheNameOf.jpg

03-TakeThePowerBack.jpg

04-SettleForNothing.jpg

05-BulletInTheHead.jpg

06-KnowYourEnemy.jpg

07-WakeUp.jpg

08-FistFullOfSteel.jpg

09-TownshipRebellion.jpg

01-Bombtrack-R.jpg

02-KillingInTheNameOf-R.jpg

03-TakeThePowerBack-R.jpg

04-SettleForNothing-R.jpg

05-BulletInTheHead-R.jpg

06-KnowYourEnemy-R.jpg

07-WakeUp-R.jpg

08-FistFullOfSteel-R.jpg

09-TownshipRebellion-R.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris, I think you've got your mad on righteously, but regarding at least one wrong suspect. Have a look in DR Database at Johnny Cash's American Recordings series in date order: DR Database

 

They were all produced by Rubin. Anything strike you about this? In 1994 with the original recording in the series, the DR numbers are way up there for American popular music. By 6-8 years later, though, and through the 2000s, it's time for compression.

 

I've got two Jakob Dylan solo albums, one produced by Rubin, the other by a famous producer lauded as a fighter against the loudness wars, T-Bone Burnett. To my ears, Rubin's production has superior sound quality.

 

The story I see is a producer who works a lot because he's ready to do the bidding of the labels if they want it loud, but if the label doesn't get in his way and the artist wants sound quality, Rubin can also deliver on that. So is he more flexible than we'd like in being willing to compromise sound quality to please execs at the labels? Sure, I'll go for that. But to say he's the guy who's responsible for ruining the remaster? My thinking is, based on history and even more recent projects where Rubin's done a really fine job, the ultimate responsibility for kicking in the compression probably lies where it does for so many current recordings and remasters, squarely with the labels who want it coming across those millions of iPod earphones plenty "good and loud."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry to hear this...I never had listened to Rage Against the Machine when this album was first released but was just blow away with "Maggies Farm" when i heard it recently and bought this one track from iTunes (a true rock and roll classic) and had made a note to buy this album in the near future...bummer...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris, I think you've got your mad on righteously, but regarding at least one wrong suspect. Have a look in DR Database at Johnny Cash's American Recordings series in date order: DR Database

 

They were all produced by Rubin. Anything strike you about this? In 1994 with the original recording in the series, the DR numbers are way up there for American popular music. By 6-8 years later, though, and through the 2000s, it's time for compression.

 

I've got two Jakob Dylan solo albums, one produced by Rubin, the other by a famous producer lauded as a fighter against the loudness wars, T-Bone Burnett. To my ears, Rubin's production has superior sound quality.

 

The story I see is a producer who works a lot because he's ready to do the bidding of the labels if they want it loud, but if the label doesn't get in his way and the artist wants sound quality, Rubin can also deliver on that. So is he more flexible than we'd like in being willing to compromise sound quality to please execs at the labels? Sure, I'll go for that. But to say he's the guy who's responsible for ruining the remaster? My thinking is, based on history and even more recent projects where Rubin's done a really fine job, the ultimate responsibility for kicking in the compression probably lies where it does for so many current recordings and remasters, squarely with the labels who want it coming across those millions of iPod earphones plenty "good and loud."

 

I hear ya Jud. Maybe it's the fact that this dynamic duo, pardon the pun, is involved in several albums containing my favorite music that gets me most.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the original cd sounded fantastic maybe not "audiophile demo" quality but one of the better rock albums for sound in that genre at that time. Listen to any Biohazard album for comparison. I wouldn't touch this remaster with a ten foot pole.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, the original CD had a DR of 9 - already probably pretty loud - and they lowered it to 6!?

 

Bob Ludwig is a great producer with great ears (and an audiophile); I'm not sure that you could beat his master. Who knows, maybe they asked him to do the remaster and he didn't want to do the heavy VC?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got two Jakob Dylan solo albums, one produced by Rubin, the other by a famous producer lauded as a fighter against the loudness wars, T-Bone Burnett. To my ears, Rubin's production has superior sound quality.

 

While I generally like the 'sound' of much of T-Bone Burnett's production work, I'm not so sure it is a result of it being completely free from the effects of the Loudness Wars. I think at times he uses some compression as part of his 'sound'. Take, for example, Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. For the most part, it's a very nice sounding recording, but it's far from spacious. Similarly, Gregg Allman's Low Country Blues has the same set of sonic traits as Raising Sand. And Diana Krall's Glad Rag Doll isn't all that different, either. Each of these recordings have an 'organic fullness and warmth' about them, but neither are blessed with audiophile spaciousness and clarity.

 

That said, none of the recordings I've mentioned are dynamically squashed like the main topic of this thread, but I'm simply saying that a producer like T-Bone Burnett is not necessarily an avoid-compression-at-all-costs kinda guy...:)

 

Cheers,

 

Trevor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
While I generally like the 'sound' of much of T-Bone Burnett's production work, I'm not so sure it is a result of it being completely free from the effects of the Loudness Wars. I think at times he uses some compression as part of his 'sound'. Take, for example, Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. For the most part, it's a very nice sounding recording, but it's far from spacious. Similarly, Gregg Allman's Low Country Blues has the same set of sonic traits as Raising Sand. And Diana Krall's Glad Rag Doll isn't all that different, either. Each of these recordings have an 'organic fullness and warmth' about them, but neither are blessed with audiophile spaciousness and clarity.

 

That said, none of the recordings I've mentioned are dynamically squashed like the main topic of this thread, but I'm simply saying that a producer like T-Bone Burnett is not necessarily an avoid-compression-at-all-costs kinda guy...:)

 

Cheers,

 

Trevor

 

I've noticed the "house sound" as well, and have actually written about it in other threads on the forum. In fact I said T-Bone's recording of Ryan Bingham's "Junky Star" album sounded like he had Bingham singing in a plywood box. (He may in fact have, or the physical equivalent, I don't know.) But he's been a frequent interview guest on various radio shows I've listened to inveighing against the loudness wars, and in fact even has some sort of website about it (forgotten the name or URL, sorry). This leads me to believe that perhaps he doesn't use particular compression tools, or at least tries not to, but it doesn't mean the recordings he produces are necessarily open-sounding; clearly they're not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I hear ya Jud. Maybe it's the fact that this dynamic duo, pardon the pun, is involved in several albums containing my favorite music that gets me most.

 

The producer gets his orders from the label and passes that down the line to the mastering engineer.

 

Despite a particular forum wishing to make the mastering engineer out to be near biblical, the fact is that the mastering person is a contractor, not an artist. If he or she does not wish to do what the customer wants done, he or she joins the unemployment line. That's as simple as it gets.

 

Vlado and Rubin both know perfectly well how to master with or without dynamic compression. Vlado makes none of the choices himself.

 

To drag his name into an online critical thread is unfair. Write the label.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi Robert - I certainly hear what you're saying, but I don't think it's that simple. Some in the industry have immense power and are allowed to do what they think is best.

 

Chris, that is indisputably true, and Rubin is certainly one of those who wields power.

 

But there is NO mastering engineer who wields such influence.

 

The labels - and Rubin runs one - view the compact disc as a commodity CPG type product. Remastering is done - particularly of titles with mass market appeal - to be played in cars, in bars, on radio, and other venues where loudness in relation to the typical listener is a selling virtue. Sometimes a label will remaster a title with broad audiophile appeal, or in the rare cases where the artist both cares enough and has the ability to over-ride the label, with a more holistic approach. And of course, compression has been around since the 1960's and is far from the universal evil it is sometimes made out to be - within reason.

 

The labels are remastering according to the mass market. They master to sell product. They rarely master for the sake of pure art.

 

We have on this board (right now, actually) these silly arguments about whether or not hi-res is distinguishable from redbook. But it is very rare on any audio board for there to be a discussion on whether or not Joe Average CD buyer could hear a difference between an original CD issue and a remaster done with the same DR. Probably they cannot, and would therefore not buy remasters, and the labels are in the business of recycling product and selling it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
and the labels are in the business of recycling product and selling it.

 

Agreed......as far as the majors are concerned.

 

If memory serves me correctly, this legendary album was recorded at Sound City, a very analog environment. Was the remastering done from the original Tape?, was the Tape stored properly?...or was it allowed to degrade as so many of the classics have been.

 

Thanx Chris for sharing. I doubt I'd waste the money on the remaster now, but curiosity of the unreleased material may get the better of me. I've been burned by remasters this way in the past! Lol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know this is an old thread. I just wanted to mention that Vlado Meller crushed Red Hot Chilli Peppers Stadium Arcadium CD to a point it sounds awful. (Everyone agrees this is a poster child for bad mastering work of the worst kind - listed on many forums as one of the worst sounding albums that even non audiophiles dislike)

 

Anyway - the reason for my post is that the most recent vinyl release of Stadium Arcadium mastered by Bernie Grundman sounds incredible.

 

The contrast is the all time biggest I have ever heard in mastering quality. The vinyl sounds sublime. The CD is total crap - only works passably in the car because the musicianship still shines through.

 

I do not believe vinyl has any inherent qualities that make it better than digital (in fact technically it is far worse) - so please don't make this into a silly digital bashing thread. My point is that Mastering quality is incredibly important as Chris mentions earlier.

 

Given that good sound existed on the mix tapes - I think one can say the Rick Rubin did a fantastic job and deserves all the kudos he gets.

 

Vlado Meller on the other hand has no integrity or pride. Anyone, and I don't care who they are, who produces such total garbage and let's that garbage out into the commercial world deserves all the criticism they get.

 

There are legendary sound engineers like Ludwig, Scheiner, Jensen, Sax, Grundman who compress also (nearly all pop rock has this) but only very tastefully to add punch to drums.

 

Vlado is legendary for the wrong reasons - for legendary BAD quality!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just had a very paranoid thought without the formality of smoking anything illegal (or legal):

 

What if heavy compression is used to make the digital files sound awful, as a calculated policy of making vinyl sound better to drive sales of this expensive but nearly impossible to pirate (analogue) medium?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Anyway - the reason for my post is that the most recent vinyl release of Stadium Arcadium mastered by Bernie Grundman sounds incredible.

 

Funny thing is, according to Discogs, the 2012 vinyl remastering you are referring to was done by Hoffman and Grey, not by Grundman. Unless there is a newer one that I am not aware of. Sure wish someone would do a decent digital remastering of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Funny thing is, according to Discogs, the 2012 vinyl remastering you are referring to was done by Hoffman and Grey, not by Grundman. Unless there is a newer one that I am not aware of. Sure wish someone would do a decent digital remastering of it.

 

You are right! My bad. Californication was Grundman.

 

And yes sadly there has been no digital remastering!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What if heavy compression is used to make the digital files sound awful, as a calculated policy of making vinyl sound better to drive sales of this expensive but nearly impossible to pirate (analogue) medium?
They do it because portable players are the main source of music for most people now, and a lot of people listen on headphones or crappy bluetooth speakers these days.

 

It's too bad that Apple didn't think to include a dynamic range compressor either in iTunes when transferring files over, or doing it in hardware on the player itself.

That way you wouldn't have to release compressed masters, and people that want low dynamic range can get it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris, that is indisputably true, and Rubin is certainly one of those who wields power.

 

But there is NO mastering engineer who wields such influence. ...

 

Sorry but this is just plain wrong. Just ask some mastering engineers.

 

The overwhelming majority of projects I've mastered over the past four decades have been left to me to make the decisions on. The producer or label representative (and sometimes the artist) *might* provide input, such as responding to my questions before the session about what they like and what they don't like in their masters, for example, "can you do something bring out the guitar solo a bit more in the third track?"

And of course the producer is the one to give the final approval but much more often than not, a mastering engineer is selected because the person doing the selecting (usually the producer) is familiar with their work and trusts them.

 

And all that said, as a listener and music lover, sometimes I feel the work of some producers and engineers should be punishable. ;-}

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×