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Comprehensive compiling let down by destructive loudness & EQ added to master transfers
on 3 September 2012
At last we have another comprehensively expanded release of cult disco gems on Disco Recharge. As with the preceding release Voyage, I was so looking forward to listening to these after hearing the great sound on the 2009 Discharge releases from Demon Music Group's sub-label, Harmless Records. Included on this new release, amongst other rarities, is the second of rare 1978 special instrumental albums of tracks from this album Fly Away and Voyage, given to DJ's for promotional play.
Again it was to my utter disbelief and my heart sank, when on playing this expanded release I found the recordings have again been ruined by someone after master tape transfer, having destructively altered loudness and EQ levels. After a minute of listening at normal volume level to each track it hurts my ears, gives me a headache and listener fatigue is experienced due to overwhelming loud frequencies. I notice the extremities of frequencies have been clipped and the girls vocals and the base noticeably begin to break apart at times and distorted due to levels made too loud by the mastering. When I turn the volume control down to low background music level, I am unable to turn down the loudness. The levels of the vocals are still 'shouting' and base booming, each of which the sound begins to break up at times.
I then spin the 1978 vinyl pressing and 1993 U.S. CD pressing of Fly Away and my ears no longer hurt, I don't get fatigued. I enjoy hearing the dynamics of the original recordings which can be heard in the 1978 and 1993 pressings, but this has been blasted away in the mastering of the 2012 release. I'm frustrated I can't enjoy listening to any of the tracks on this 2012 release. But I'm not a moaning audiophile. I know when my ears hurt and when I get a headache. I found the same problem with the preceding Harmless expanded release of Voyage - Voyage. I simply can't listen to these CD's without experiencing headache and fatigue. The MP3's of this 2012 release also use the same painful mastering.
I have a volume control on my hi-fi and computer and I like to decide for myself when I can turn the volume up. I shouldn't have to turn volume down by 50% from normal listening volume and still hear vocals and base so loud that at times they break up and distort, giving me headache and fatigue.
Such a travesty when clearly so much time has been spent on source transfers, compiling and detailed informative liner notes for which I'm very grateful to all those involved at Harmless. Lovely to hear from Stephanie De Sykes as backing singer, contributing for an interview in the liner notes for this release, even though it would have been great to hear from main members of the group.
This reduces what would have been an overall 5 star customer rating from me for this release due to comprehensive track compiling, research and value for two discs of content, to only 2 stars.
** Update 12/09/12. It's not a problem due to mastering at Harmless. Notification received that the licensor Square Peg who owns the master rights, and licensed the transfers made by Telemusic in France who provided them, and that the Harmless mastering engineer hardly touched them. The levels were therefore altered before they reached Harmless. In essence this means the transfers were altered before they reached Harmless, which of course should usually be left to the licensee and their mastering engineer to decide how they want the recordings to sound. Sadly this also means the same altered transfers may be used by the master rights owner on compilations in future if kept as reference copies rather than the expense of transferring tapes again **