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.
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.
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.