Deluxe My Foot

AAAAARRRRRGH! Why Do They Insist On Doing This?

A friend told us that the new 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Murmur sounded really good. Woo-hoo! Remastered R.E.M.!

Well, not so fast there, bucko.

Let’s look at the booklet… In the remastering credits, no one from the band or the original production team is listed. That’s a bit of a bad sign, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they ruined it, right?

It sounds… loud. Which is the current trend in remastering. But as we’ve previously discussed, that’s generally not a good thing.

Let’s analyze three versions of the first track, Radio Free Europe. If you open each in an audio editor and normalize the peaks to -0 dB FSD, you get a good comparison of how they are mastered.

The original IRS CD release has RMS levels of -19.73 dB and -20.85 dB (left and right channels, respectively) and looks pretty normal.



The European import CD (The I.R.S. Years Vintage 1983) is almost identical to the domestic release, with RMS levels of -19.19 dB and -20.31 dB. This is the version I listen to.

Import CD

Import CD

The UMG Deluxe Edition, on the other hand, looks like a modern over-compressed rock song, with RMS levels of -12.76 dB and -12.93 dB. That’s a significant amount of dynamic range compression. And the difference is quite noticeable in a quick A/B comparison.

Deluxe Edition

Deluxe Edition

So, I do not think I will be replacing my import version of Murmur with this new Deluxe Edition. Fortunately, the purchase was not a waste, as the CD comes with a bonus second disc containing a nice live R.E.M. show from 1983 in Toronto, and while it is similarly overcompressed, the sound quality is otherwise very nice for a 25 year old live recording.


  1. Posted 5 December 2008 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, I’ve done some comparisons like this at my blog. This is very disappointing, but predictable. I’ve read a lot of people think the reissue sounds good, but I don’t think they even know what to listen for anymore. Unfortunately, this is entirely typical of what passes for remastering these days. Accelerate was compressed to death with tons of clipping.

    Have you heard the original LP or the Mobile Fidelity version on either LP or CD?

  2. Posted 5 December 2008 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I have the LP from back in the day, but haven’t listened to it in ages. Not entirely sure where it is. It would be an interesting comparison, one I’ll do if I get a chance.

    I did not know that Mobile Fidelity did a release of Murmur. Do you have it? I’d like to see some numbers from it.

    On REM HQ, there is a press release that says that Greg Calbi mastered the original album and this new release. Which is surprising. But given the trend for massive dynamic range compression, perhaps not surprising.

    Nice blog, by the way. I love old music finds like that.

  3. Posted 6 December 2008 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I don’t have the MoFi version. They released the first two albums on both LP and CD back in the mid 90s. I have a bid in for the MoFi LP of Murmur on eBay, so we’ll see how that turns out (they tend to get expensive).

    I have done a very good quality digital transcription of my original pressing of Murmur. I normalized “Radio Free Europe” to 0 dB, and the numbers are very close to the two earlier CDs (-19.1 dB/-19.6 dB). And just as another data point the remastered version that on the “And I Feel Fine” compilation is -12.9 dB/-13.6 dB, pretty close to the so-called “Deluxe Edition.”

    I wouldn’t expect the dynamic range on the MoFi version to be dramatically different from the original CD or LP–most likely they offer some added clarity at the frequency extremes due to the careful mastering and superior equipment used.

    Email me if you are interested in hearing the LP transcription.

  4. Posted 8 December 2008 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t even think of looking at “Radio Free Europe” on the “I Feel Fine” compilation! Thanks for that data.

    From what I’ve read, it sounds like the IRS CD version may be using the same master as the LP, thus containing the dreaded RIAA EQ curve. Which makes sense, because the “remastered” version does have clearer high and low frequency details that seem to be missing on the IRS CD. And that was a common practice at that time. Mobile Fidelity would hopefully have made their own master from the un-EQ’d master tapes, for their release. I have a friend who may have the Mobile Fidelity release. If he does, I plan on borrowing it for some testing.

    I’d very much like to hear the LP version. E-mail coming.

  5. Posted 8 December 2008 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I posted my impressions of the remastered CD versus the CD-R I made from the LP on my blog. I’d be interested to hear what you think. I cited your post and the measurements you made.

    Despite the obvious compression, I think the remaster sounds pretty good, certainly better than I remember the old CD sounding. This version sounded better to me than the one on “And I Feel Fine” (which I noticed also had a decent amount of clipping which is absent from the deluxe version despite the fact that it’s slightly louder). But I really felt like the CD-R was more compelling to listen to than the remaster. That just could be kookiness on my part.

    I don’t know what IRS did wrong on the first CD issue, but I remember it sounded really bad.

  6. Posted 1 September 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Cool site, love the info.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By R.E.M. on 16 January 2009 at 4:25 pm


    Cool Post! R.E.M. is my passion! Thank you! Keep up the good work. Best regards. Art. Friday…

  2. […] First Tweet Dec 5, 2008 bangsplat bangsplat 25th Anniversary "Deluxe" edition of Murmur pretty much sucks. Why do they insist on doing this? view retweet […]

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