What’s the Difference Between Mastering and Remastering?

What’s the Difference Between Mastering and Remastering?

14th August 2022
If you’ve ever bought a record or listened to a track online you’ll be familiar with the word ‘remastered’ – it will often be emblazoned on a sticker on your shiny new record or in brackets after certain track names on your streaming service.

Since the mid-1980s and the explosion of CD sales, classic (and not so classic!) albums have been repackaged and remastered for new generations of fans to discover afresh or existing fans to rediscover.
But nowhere on those stickers or in those brackets does it explain what remastering actually is. So, here’s what you need to know about the remastering process…

What is the difference between mastering and remastering?

We’ve talked elsewhere about what mastering a track is – it’s essentially the final polish given to a track to ensure it sounds as good as it can, that it’s loud enough and all the vital elements are given the prominence they deserve.

Re-mastering is essentially the same process – but re-done!

It’s important to note that just because a track or album has been remastered, it doesn’t mean that the original mastering process was flawed or somehow inferior.

There are numerous reasons why artists would want their music to be remastered and foremost amongst them is the fact that new technology allows a greater level of detail to be achieved than was available even just a few years ago.

Where possible, mastering engineers will go back to the original un-mastered recordings –these can even be the analogue recordings from decades ago – and work from those rather than using the already mastered tracks and building upon those.

This allows the engineer to get a real sense of how the songs originally sounded and possibly get a better idea of what the intention for the music was.

Modern technology makes it possible for our mastering engineers to separate the individual tracks on multi track analogue recordings and make each one sound as good as possible before ‘reassembling’ them for the final recording with respect to the original outcomes.

This means the engineers are able to remove some elements of the unwanted background noise and even to raise or lower certain elements of the music if desired.

However, the engineers tend to respect the authenticity of the original mix and not to tamper and change, but rather preserve and restore.

Music may also be remastered because the artist would like to release a version that was closer to their original intention or they would like an ‘alternate’ version to be available – kind of like a director’s cut of a movie.

Other elements like the emergence of new listening platforms or trends also play a part in deciding whether to remaster music.
Many records released in the ‘60s and ‘70s were mastered to sound good on record players, tracks released in the ‘80s and ‘90s were often mastered to be optimised for listening on a CD player, while tracks released in the past decade may have been mastered to sound great through in-ear headphones.

The remastering process will take all of these things – and more – into account when preparing their new master for release.

Abbey Road has an extensive history of remastering records and in 2009 The Beatles’ entire back catalogue of studio albums was remastered here with the help of mastering engineers Simon Gibson and Andy Walter – the first time the records had been remastered since their release on CD back in 1987.

Speaking about the remastering process, Andy said: “Remastering and the use of ‘state of the art’ technology allows us to polish and remove the gremlins of both time and the recording medium such as analogue tape.

“We can reduce background noise and hum, enhance and expand frequencies, improve analogue tape edits, remove unwanted electrical clicks and other extraneous unwanted noises - as well as better capture, at a much higher resolution, the magic of the original recording to any medium.

“It’s both a preservation job as well as a future-proofing enhancement of the catalogue!”

Simon and Andy are two of the Abbey Road mastering engineers who are available through our online mastering service, which allows you to have the best engineers in the world working on your own music.

Learn more about online mastering and working with our team of world-leading engineers now.

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