Apple Music remaster plague

So, most of my listening habits as a child of the 70s who grew up in the 80s is, for better or worse, classic rock and pop.

I’ve found since I started out that more and more, I simply cannot get the albums that I know and love. They are all remastered, or deluxe, or whatever. I just want the album I know and love and bought when it was released. I wouldn’t mind if all Apple did was give me a tweaked version that sounds better for streaming or whatever. But they’re literally offering songs that sound like they’ve been re-sung into ‘new’ versions or contain other music that’s just a little different. It isn’t the album I bought back in the day.

I try to find “alternative versions” on the page for any given album, but usually they don’t exist. For instance, just try to find an original recording of a Phil Collins album. They’re ALL the remasters with the aged faces on the covers. You simply cannot get the original. More and more, I find this is the case.

Does anyone know of a way to designate original recordings, assuming they’re even there to listen to in the first place?

I mean, I like Apple Music for its integration with Siri. I like to simply ask for my music and have it come on. Otherwise, I’ll go to a different solution.

Thankfully, before I packed all my physical media away for good, I ripped all of my CDs to the NAS, so I recently pointed Plex at the folder (I have a lifetime Plex pass, so I get Plexamp) and I’ve found it to be surprisingly capable, and I get exactly what I want to listen to. Only bad part is it’s got more overhead to actually get things playing where I want to hear them (that, and I only ripped in 128 mp3… if I’d known I’d find myself here, I’d have ripped lossless when I did the do).

Part of me thinks I should just leave Apple Music, but I have years of playlists in there, and my wife likes the new Apple Classical. Sigh. I guess I’m just frustrated Apple decided to fix what isn’t broken.

I believe that many/most classic albums were remastered in the transition from vinyl to CD. As a Beatles fan I found the CDs of Revolver, Sgt Peppers horrible when they first came out - too ultra clean, lost all of the valve amp edge and density. So it would be very hard to please everybody.

But seriously it would be nice if you could identify all the different remasters by date and pick your favourite, all we get is basically the latest.

I think John Siracusa once talked in depth on ATP about the metadata challenges about tracking multiple versions of a song from the same album and how it was a major challenge and probably not achievable (sorry I can’t remember the reasoning).

And don’t get me started on Phil Collins :slight_smile:


So, most of my listening habits as a child of the 70s who grew up in the 80s is, for better or worse, classic rock and pop.

This means you have good taste. And wisdom.


Maybe there’s no hope for it then, and I should be glad I ripped those discs when I did. Maybe it really is time to say bye to Apple Music. Alas. :disappointed:

Ha! Thank you for that. I expected to get eviscerated for the mere mention of Phil Collins. :joy:

Not just Apple music, in my experience the same is true of Spotify. I find the deluxe albums with extra tracks deeply annoying.

Playing the vinyl originals against some of these remasters makes one feel that they are completely different bands.

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I know, right? I’m glad I’m not the only one, at least. It’s really irksome. The original albums should at least be an option.

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Well, that explains it. Sadly, it also pretty much confirms that nothing will be done to correct it. The fans aren’t the ones with the power, it seems. All I can say is god bless the old collection. Looks like I may need to re-rip those albums and make peace with a little friction in my listening.

This is why my CD rips live in Plex, completely separate from Apple Music.

I don’t want things swapping out underneath me with no way to go back.

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CW: long and opinionated, hopefully helpful to some

I am actually a fan of the (good*) remasters, as they tend to have more dynamic range, way better separation between the individually recorded tracks and a much wider soundstage. The added clarity and ability to pick up things I never heard in the original recording is something I find to be a positive addition. It was there all along, but due to technological limitations, I never heard it before.

*) Not all remasters are great, or even an improvement over the original, agreed.

I probably have many details wrong, but to the best of my understanding, when mastering for vinyl you were more or less forced to put the low frequency instruments, like bass guitar and kick drum, dead center in your mix. This produced a pretty symmetrical pattern in the vinyl that was required to keep the needle firmly in the groove. The higher frequencies of mid-range and treble was easier to pan as they required physically smaller movements of the needle. (This is also why 12" singles are louder and with more dynamic range than the LP - because the runtime is much shorter, the grooves can be physically larger, so combined with the higher rotation speed, more movement energy is generated by the coil, producing a stronger signal off the RIAA output than for LPs. Another reason DJs loved them.)

Anyhow - the media properties of vinyl dictated some of the choices available to mixing and mastering engineers and it affected the sound for all recordings of the era.

With digital, we do not have the same limitations, so we CAN put the bass player out to the left and have a kick drum a little right of center - all of the toms, cymbals and the high-hat are arranged according to their physical position on the drum set, with the snare in the center (as you know, drums are generally mic’ed with at least 8 separate microphones). You may have the horn section back right maybe, opposite the backing vocals and keyboard. The lead instrument (or currently soloing) will also be panned mostly center, then it might drift off back to its corner for the rest of the track. So, yes, this DOES alter the experience of the music compared to the original master, I just tend to prefer it this way.

As for the early CDs, I think they sounded like they did not so much due to bad re-masters but rather the cheap, first-gen DACs that shipped in all consumer players. Stuff recorded and played today are using much higher quality components for the analog-to-digital-and-back conversions. I listen all day to lossless music on good headphones, and dang… some recordings are just so perfect, it feels like sitting on stage with the band.

The easiest way to improved sound is, IMHO

  1. Stream from a lossless source
  2. Use open back, high quality headphones WITH A CORD for critical listening
  3. Even a cheap headphone amp can do wonders to elevate your existing cans
  4. For Bluetooth in-ears, use memory foam buds for maximum isolation. “Oh, THERE’s the bass…” :slight_smile:

Lossless is a plus even if you’re using Bluetooth, as you only have the one conversion from the source to AAC (for all Apple devices).


Totally have no problem with remastered tracks. If they can make the recording sound better by going back to the original multitrack tapes and remixing for a wider soundstage, then I’d be on board. My contention is that these are entirely new recordings that often don’t sound like the tracks I remember, so I’m not getting the music I expect. I’d be happy if they included the original version with all the limitations and warts of the original recording session alongside any new remixes.

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Sorry to be pedantic, but they are rarely new recordings except where the songs are re-recorded by the original artists for royalties reasons. They are much more often new mixes of the original recordings - you are still hearing the original musicians playing what they played, the way they played it. Some are remastered - the mix is the same but the overall mix is processed to better meet the demands and opportunities of modern equipment.

Of course, you might prefer the way the original mix sounds to you, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with remixing: it’s been happening since long before the CD came along. There’s also nothing intrinsically wrong about re-recording. that’s been happening as long as there have been recordings.

I agree, newly recorded tracks feels not plausable - getting the artists back into the studio to lay down a new track for a record released 30-40 years ago. I don’t see the business case, and I would think artists themselves would object to altering a recording in this way.

In the early days of Tidal, there were a few times where they kept the original master AND put up the remastered version too. That was a weird experience, listening back to back to a few of these. Some were just very lightly enhanced while others almost sounded like a different band. The gang in the control room are indeed putting a lot of their own sound on the production.

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Always. It’s unavoidable and makes any recording what it is. The recording chain (mic-processing, recording, processing, mixing, mastering) and how everything is set is absolutely as important as what the musicians play, unless you are listening to purely acoustic instruments live, and that’s pretty rare outside “classical” music.

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It’s been pointed out many times since a daft article did the rounds a few years ago that Apple Music (the subscription service) does not touch files you store in your iTunes library (I.e. files you own on your actual device). It will present different recordings if you’re searching in Apple Music, which can be very irritating, but it’s not deleting, overwriting or altering any files stored on your device. It’s feasible that the user could accidentally delete something from their library via iTunes, thinking it’s a cloud file rather than one of their own, so psychologically there may be value in keeping the files in different places so that you know this app has stuff you own, that app has stuff you stream.

I’ve never bothered to look for a satisfactory solution to the “I have a perfectly good recording stored locally, why are you giving me this 50th anniversary remaster I don’t want” conundrum, but manually switching search from Apple Music to “Your library” limits the search to your files, which eliminates the issue (for me at least - I don’t use Siri so I don’t know how doing that works on Siri). (& Also the related issue, not discussed here, of Apple Music telling you a track can’t be played in your location, even though you own a copy it could quite easily play if it would just check your local library :roll_eyes:)

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This is great so long as Apple Music correctly identifies your music, and you only want music on a Mac.

When it wrongly matches, you end up with garbage on your phone, additional Mac, Watch or iPad.

With Plex I’m guaranteed to get exactly what I want.