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Original masters used for Dire Straits and Knopfler half-speed vinyl

SDE reports exclusively on mastering

Mark Knopfler / Local Hero half-speed mastered vinyl

Abbey Road mastering engineer Miles Showell has confirmed to SDE that the forthcoming vinyl reissues of both Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms and Mark Knopfler‘s Local Hero soundtrack were half-speed mastered from the very original master tapes.

We can hopefully provide more details on this soon (which tapes, how they were located etc.), but Miles confirmed the tape situation after some SDE enquiries and said he was particularly pleased with Local Hero which required some detective work to track down the original master.

In essence, even if you are sceptical about benefits of half-speed mastering, the sources for the mastering of these two titles were as good as they could be (better than previous reissues) and so, in theory, they should sound about as good as they can on vinyl. Brothers in Arms was cut at 45PRM while Local Hero was done at 33RPM.

Both albums are released on 19 March 2021.

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Dire Straits

Brothers in Arms - 2LP half-speed vinyl

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Mark Knopfler

Local Hero - half-speed mastered vinyl

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Brothers in Arms 2LP half-speed mastered vinyl

Side 1

  1. So Far Away
  2. Money For Nothing

Side 2

  1. Walk Of Life
  2. Your Latest Trick

Side 3

  1. Why Worry
  2. Ride Across The River

Side 4

  1. The Man’s Too Strong
  2. One World
  3. Brothers In Arms

Local Hero half-speed mastered vinyl LP

Side 1

  1. The Rocks And The Water
  2. Wild Theme
  3. Freeway Flyer
  4. Boomtown (Variation Louis’ Favourite)
  5. The Way It Always Starts
  6. The Rocks And The Thunder
  7. The Ceilidh And The Northern Lights

Side 2

  1. The Mist Covered Mountains
  2. The Ceilidh: Louis’ Favourite / Billy’s Tune
  3. Whistle Theme
  4. Smooching
  5. Stargazer
  6. The Rocks And The Thunder
  7. Going Home: Theme Of The Local Hero

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Lars

BIA was not fully digital, because at the time there was no digital mixer with more than 24 tracks available on the market. So, Dire Straits recorded each instrument digitally onto Sony DASH recorders (A to D), then fed the signal from the analogue outputs of that said Sony DASH recorder into an analogue mixer desk SSL4000 (D to A). The mixed tracks then were recorded on a Sony DASH recorder again (A to D). So technically it was a “A-to-D-to-A-to-D” production. :)

The first-generation master would be 48kHz/16 digital, but it is very likely that they also made analogue copies from that digital master for safety. That is probably what is meant when it says “original analogue masters” from BIA.

There is an very interesting article about the making of the 5.1 surround mix of BIA: https://www.highfidelityreview.com/brothers-in-arms.html

Mark S

The two key points here, depending on your perspective are my that 1) any part of the process is digital and 2) no analogue tape was used

In this case 1) the multitrack recordings were made using a digital recorder so digital was used right at the very start and this would have been 16/48 (or 16/44.1) and 2) no analogue tape was used in the process.

Now of course the 24 track multitrack digital recordings may have been backed up to analogue tape but I think it’s almost certain that those 24 tracks on those analogue tapes would never have been mixed down to a final mix.

The final mix using the 24 digital multitrack digital tapes may again have been backed up to analogue tape but this would mean they had a digital source.

Patrick

I’m on the fence with this one. I have the 2018 2Lp mastered by Bob Ludwig and cut by Bernie Grundman & Chris Bellman and claimed to be from the origiinal masters. This used the full lenght tracks not the edited versions heard on the original LP hence the need for 2 LPs. I’m assuming the new one from Miles will revert to the edited tracks. Am i right in assuming the MobFid version also used the edited tracks? Choices choices,

Alessandro

Wrong, the MoFi has the unedited tracks, and my bet is that the Abbey Road will too.
The MoFi is stellar, btw.

Mark S

Doesn’t this cut use a nasty compressed remaster that has almost no bass and too much high end?

Paul Wren

All analogue master tapes will ideally be converted to digital files as they simply deteriorate as time goes by and all information on them will be lost if they aren’t digitised.

Greengo72

First off love the SDE site! The Sony digital multi-track machine (as well as the 2track mixdown DAT tapes) used to record this album also recorded at 48k16bit which, in my experience as an engineer with those machines 48k was the preferred setting, though I can’t speak to these tapes specifically. If it was 48k then the files used to cut the vinyl would be a higher resolution than the CD. The difference however between 44k and 48k would most likely be hard to discern beyond a critical A/B test.In my opinion the labels and manufacturers dropped the ball by not replacing CD with a higher sample and bit rate resolution disc version. Blu-Ray does playback uncompressed 96k24b which is why any newly transferred analog tape would benefit from this format. I look forward to any other info Miles would care to share.

Rich

I wonder if any benefit of the new Local Hero over an original pressing? Is it likely the half speed cut would supersede an original pressing? Either way good to see it get some attention as it’s a great track for a great film.

Paul Taylor

I know from experience that the Abbey Road half speed remaster of Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream blows the original out of the water. Same with Dusty In Memphis, which for an album recorded in the 60s is quite an achievement.
I have to say though that Alchemy’s half speed cut of Vienna added nothing over the 2015 remaster (to my ears, anyway). I think Miles Showell & Abbey Road are gold standard at the moment

Mark S

I suspect Miles used a hi res WAV file here and that this was a flat transfer of the original studio master tape

Of course this was recorded digitally at 16/44.1

Mark S

Of course what is relevant here is that this is the best possible “original” source that can be used to remaster this album for CD or Vinyl and means the mastering engineer is starting from the best possible source.

I have no issue with vinyl being properly mastered from 24/96 digitalised flat transfers of the original analogue tapes

Mark S

Paul,

I did say that in my post, BIA was a 16/44.1 digital studio recording

Steve F

Miles in an old interview (might be on SDE?) uses 24/94 files. If the tapes are in less than perfect condition, mastering in hi-res digital allows much better mastering-for-vinyl than all-analogue.

I have several Miles 1/2 speed masters and they’re never less than very good.

Timm Davison

A lot of time seems to be spent discussing ‘analog master tapes’ ‘original masters’ ‘newly remastered digital files’ etc. I think a very interesting book (for everyone who reads this site regularly, and maybe 5-6 other people) could be written about today’s ‘reissue on vinyl’ culture, the sources used, how the various sources differ, and the ways labels try to ‘trick’ people into believing a sound file is from an all-analog chain, when in actuality, it might not be.
I think that would be a fascinating read, and I think Paul is probably the guy to deliver it to us. What do you say Paul?

Mark E

An all analogue chain is going to be unlikely and rare.

If the studio master tapes (either multitrack or final 2ch mix) were analogue (of course BIA was 16/44.1 digital) it’s highly likely that flat 24/96 digital files will be provided for any CD or vinyl remaster but I’m fine with this.

The point here is they the DAC used to create the vinyl from the 24/96 file is going to be a better quality than the DAC used to replay a CD

Mike Croft

I am astonished that master “tapes”are still used at all? When reading some of Neil Young’s comments about his remastering process, you could be forgiven for thinking that vinyl has become just another way of listening to a digital file. As much as I enjoy the physical benefits of playing vinyl, once a master tape goes digital, is that not the end of any sense of “original”? But more to the point, growing up I played the Brothers in Arms track constantly on my fathers set up. For some reason on his vinyl copy, just as the final solo began there was the slightest distortion coming from the playback. Could have been the pressing, could have been stylus angle defect?!? Anyway, that was how I listened to it for years. The day I bought the CD and “enjoyed” the DDD experience, the distortion was gone and in a sense, so was that unique experience. I love the vinyl experience and in some ways I don’t want it to become just another playback device for a 192/24 wav file.

Kevin O

That makes sense. Distortion is more likely towards the end of a side than at the beginning.

A Pedant

“Brothers in Arms was cut at 45PRM while Local Hero was done at 33RPM.”

Strictly speaking, they were *cut* at 22.5RPM and 16.67Hz respectively.

Sorry!

Arnd

“16.67Hz” ? ;-)

A Pedant

Hoisted by my own petard!

Mike the Fish

A gracious response. :D

Gisabun

I am assuming that the Brothers in Arms release is the full length tracks.
Wish there was a 5.1 mix of that album.

Scott G

There is also a two-sided DVD-Audio/CD (20th Anniversary Edition) release. One side is the standard CD the other has 2 high resolution soundtracks:
5.1 Surround MLP 24bit 96kHz
Stereo 24bit 48kHz

I suspect the SACD uses the same source. Both SACD and DVD-Audio surround mixes are superb. Excellent way to demonstrate your surround system.

I have often read that the original master was 16bit 44.1kHz digital so why bother to up-sample it to 24bit? Unless they were just trying to please the audiophile market.

Personally I would like to think the originally master was actually 24/96 but since CDs were all the rage when it was recorded it was mistakenly put out that the album was recorded for this (16/44.1) market and that it has been assumed that the master is only 16/44.1.

MFG

I have the SACD version (CD/SACD hybrid disc). Fair warning: the mastering is very compressed. Too much for a band like Dire Straits.

I prefer the simple CD reissue from 2000 (that’s the reissue date in the USA). It’s not hi-res, but it has better dynamic range and sounds just fine on a decent stereo system. Also sounds better when played in mixes with other DS songs from other albums (volume levels about equal).

MFG

Ah yes, point taken. I was referring to the CD layer.

MLM

The good thing about Mobile Fidelity reissues is that they indicate right on the album cover when an original master was used. Their BIA issue says yes. Their Tears for Fears Sowing the Seeds of Love is an example where they could not guarantee that the original master was used.

Remon

This calls for an in-depth insight on the recording of this album (24-track digital tape) and what that means for the 45 rpm album cuts in relation to the digital releases (CD/SACD). Also
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a double 12″ cut at 45 rpm but not sure what (re)master they used. And then we had the Abbey Road edition on vinyl part of the Studio Album box sets. So, SDE, take it away!

Julian De Backer

Japanese releases are always expensive (bonus tracks, exclusive artwork, the works), but this time, the high price (50.81 pound sterling!!) doesn’t really seem justified. Or does the amazon.co.jp release include some unexpected surprises?

Andy

Amazon US want $66 plus tax for Brothers In Arms. Ouch.

Plus the Dire Straits remasters came out recently via Mobile Fidelity, same 45rpm, same master tapes. The only thing they don’t mention is the half speed mastering, so not sure why they wanted to go through the process all over again so soon just for that.

Buckmonsta

Thanks for your detective work. While you’re at it, there’s a credible rumor that Local Hero is coming out on SACD soon- it was spotted on a Mobile Fidelity email promoting their upcoming releases a few months ago by someone on a Local Hero (film) discussion group that I follow. However, I still haven’t seen any official mention of it online. No doubt it’s not a coincidence that this vinyl version is also coming soon. Perhaps you can turn up some more information…

Andy

Mofi mentioned that Local Hero is coming soon on SACD in an Instagram post back in December – https://www.instagram.com/p/CJcHSjTlkdG/?igshid=11ry3r9lgvlsc – but no actual confirmed release date yet.