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Chris A

Unmastered Albums: The Best Of...

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I thought it would be nice to have a place to capture only the results of the best unmastered albums that I've run across.  These unmastering curves--in Audacity XML equalization import format--are used to correct the as-bought condition of each album, as well as any noise-reduction notch filters, and "Clip Fix" to restore any clipped peaks, together used to improve the hi-fi sound of each album.

 

The objective is to approximate as close as possible the mixdown sound of these albums. 

 

The purpose is to provide anyone using the freeware tool Audacity the ability to unmaster their own albums without the issues or legal encumbrances of sharing the actual music tracks. 

 

A description of the process that I use to build these equalization files:

 

This is a spin-off of a subject in an older more comprehensive thread on the subject.  The album that launched this idea was Joni Mitchell's album "Blue". 

 

220px-Bluealbumcover.jpg

 

The XML file containing the importable Audacity equalization files for each track on the CD (Reprise 2038-2): Joni Mitchell-Blue-Unmastering EQ curves.XML

 

Chris

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MI0001141566.jpg

 

The Best of Andrés Segovia--The Millennium Collection (20th Century Masters).

 

The XML Import equalization files (use the first one for solo guitar tracks 1-8, and the second curve for guitar with orchestra accompaniment:  Segovia - Best Of unmastering EQ files.XML

 

Chris

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1 hour ago, Chris A said:

 

This is a spin-off of a subject in an older more comprehensive thread on the subject.  The album that launched this idea was Joni Mitchell's album "Blue". 

 

220px-Bluealbumcover.jpg

 

The XML file containing the importable Audacity equalization files for each track on the CD (Reprise 2038-2): Joni Mitchell-Blue-Unmastering EQ curves.XML...

Chris

 

Excellent!  

My version of "Blue" is from HDtracks.com in 24bit / 96kHz format.  I'm thinking of using your curves as a start to see how the plot spectrum looks and hear how it sounds.  HDtracks tells you nothing about where their recordings come from which I think actually speaks volumes about where they come from.  It is easy to imagine that these are the same mastering.  How would you know?

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I've found very little difference in EQ among "remastered discs", but a great deal of difference in loudness levels, i.e., clipping, the use of compression (which is the greatest real killer of fidelity), and other effects that are transient in nature applied over very short intervals to add emphasis to certain transients or to add "punch" without lowering the loudness levels.  I don't really consider these to be "remasters" but rather, "louders".

 

 

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61fOF+yL1vL.jpg

 

Mickey Hart, et al. Global Drum Project (2007, Shout Records 826663-10706)

 

This entire album must first be de-clipped using "Clip Fix" at 95% (i.e., the only variable used in the Clip Fix dialog box).  I use a "chain" (i.e., a macro) within Audacity to run this for all the tracks on a disc that's been ripped to hard drive, then Normalized to reduce the reconstructed peaks back to -0.3 dBFS.  You must remember to move the resulting tracks placed in a directory called "cleaned" underneath the main Audacity file directory back to the main directory, replacing the original ripped files.  For this album, that resulted in a jump of two points on the DB Database scale (about 3-4 dB of actual peak reconstruction). 

 

The import unmastering EQ curves using Audacity for unmastering this album:  Global Drum Project unmastering EQ files.XML

 

 

Many thanks to Seti for identifying this album on his web site.  This album has grown on me over time.

 

Chris

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R-3152359-1335651372.jpeg.jpg

 

Capitol CDP 7 46046 2

 

Unmastering curve: Nine Tonight - Bob Seger.XML

 

And a screen shot of the unmastering EQ curve:

 

Nine Tonight EQ curve.GIF

 

The album DR rating improved to "14" and its listenability improved much more than the DR Database  dynamic range increase.  I recommend using "normalize" after applying the EQ curve, although it's very close to being a "neutral loudness curve" as-is.

 

Chris

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On 9/8/2016 at 9:56 AM, muel said:

HDtracks tells you nothing about where their recordings come from which I think actually speaks volumes about where they come from.  It is easy to imagine that these are the same mastering.  How would you know?

The mastering used on HDTracks is likely very close to the same used on the album version that I posted.  Try it.  Look at the "plot spectrum" curve to see if the resulting spectrum curve is relatively flat--which is a characteristic of all the resulting spectrum curves that result from the unmastering curves. 

 

I'd bet it is.

 

Chris

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Well, you've given me some work to do!  This will be interesting to hear!

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On 10/11/2016 at 3:48 PM, Chris A said:

R-3152359-1335651372.jpeg.jpg

 

Capitol CDP 7 46046 2

 

Unmastering curve: Nine Tonight - Bob Seger.XML

 

And a screen shot of the unmastering EQ curve:

 

Nine Tonight EQ curve.GIF

 

The album DR rating improved to "14" and its listenability improved much more than the DR Database  dynamic range increase.  I recommend using "normalize" after applying the EQ curve, although it's very close to being a "neutral loudness curve" as-is.

 

Chris

Interesting... when I ran the DR meter it improved from a "6" to a "10."   Wonder why the difference?  Anyway, it is certainly more listenable!  

I've been playing around with your method on some Billy Joel recordings... actually had more success than I expected but not quite there really.

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You're using a remastered version of the album that has limiting/compression.  Here is the version that I used from Amazon Marketplace: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000002U94/

 

You can try using "Clix Fix" then "Normalize" on the original tracks before applying the EQ curve.  This should allow you to regain at least a couple of dB on average, or you can spring for the $4 above and get the "golden oldie" 1989 version without added compression.

 

Chris

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Usually, if you look closely at the "plot spectrum" curve (the purple mountain as my wife calls it...), and adjust the EQ curve slope up or down and take out a few more bumps and valleys in the curve, you will find further success.

 

Additionally, if you look at the Spectrogram log(f) view (setting the frequency gain to 16 dB/decade in the preferences dialog (the next to last setting), close the preferences dialog, then click on the gray left panel area, you should be able to see the frequency intensities vs. time.  If there are any areas across the width of the track that seem to be more intense than the other frequencies, you can go back and adjust the EQ curve downward in those areas until the whole Spectrogram log(f) view looks more uniform in color intensity.  Then play the track at somewhere close to 80 dB.  I think that you'll find that you can walk-in the EQ curve in a couple of iterations, and it will sound much better.

 

Spectrogram Log(f) view and preferences dialog.GIF

 

 

FYI: I'm using version 2.1.0 of Audacity.  I recommend that version only. There is a thread that I started at the Audacity forum on why that version is the one that I currently use.  When the Audacity team gets enough "round tuits" perhaps they'll fix Audacity to display the colors properly within the Spectrogram view again (see page 2 of that thread for details).

 

Chris

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Grover Washington Jr's Winelight:

 

image

 

This album is considered by many to be an "audiophile" album.  I've always found the CD to be somewhat bass shy and its high end somewhat harsh.

 

The two Audacity EQ files to unmaster this CD's tracks (first curve is for the first track only, while the second is for the remainder of the album's tracks):  Winelight - Grover Washington Jr.XML

 

Chris

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I think that you're gonna like this one...

 

acdc-back-in-black-album-cover-650.jpg

 

Back in Black - AC-DC EQ curves for Columbia 69699 80207 2.XML

 

Make sure that you first run Clip Fix at the 90% level, then Normalize, then run the respective EQ curve found in the XML import file, above.  I use the following "chain" (you know it as a macro), which places everything in a directory underneath the directory holding your files, called "cleaned":

 

Clip Fix than Normalize macro.GIF

 

The average track loudness decreased about 9 dB, and the DR Database rating improved from "8" to "13" for the album... :emotion-21:

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