I have liked MFSL, but they did not use the original master for this disc, no matter waht they've said. The original master was lost years ago. Here's the story from DCC's website:
This is a compilation of some of the key posts concerning Steve's story behind his remastering of The Who's "Who's Next"...hopefully this will minimize everyone's scrolling...enjoy:
Didn't mean to cause any confusion over the "Who's Next" mastering story, as related in the posts below. I'm glad you guys care so much. I'll fill you in a bit: For whatever reason, Pete Townshend liked the Mastering Lab in Los Angeles. When "Who's Next" was finished, the NAB master tape OR an NAB copy of the master tape OR a "B machine" first generation master tape in NAB playback was sent to The Mastering Lab here in L.A. from Olympic Sound in England. I've never been able to figure out what exact generation the tape was, since it was on German BASF tape (badly shedding when I found it), and had splices in between some of the songs (but not all), and sounded like crap....But read on: The BASF master sounds very dull, very lackluster, needing a great deal of "coaxing" to come to life. This is probably what the people who tried it after me felt as well, dismissing it as just a bad tape copy. But, I don't think so. Other tapes from Olympic that I have heard over the years from that exact era sound just as muffled. Some of this is caused (in my opinion) by the British tape machine's OVER-THE-TOP NAB EQ switch. Extra muffle. If they had just left the mixing machine on the British playback EQ,CCIR, the tape might have come out sounding a bit more, er, crisp. Most NAB tapes that came from England in that era have that same sound---it's like what they thought the silly American NAB playback EQ would probably sound like, without ever actually hearing it... So, I think that Pete's copy that everyone has used in the 90's is just an EQ copy made from this BASF tape, or the "A machine" tape, or whatever, and that the sound of this BASF tape is the true sound of "Who's Next" Now, don't ask me what the British press was cut from. It sounds somewhat like the Mastering Lab copy, but not exactly. Was another master used for the British cut? Did The Mastering Lab send over another EQ tape copy for England to use? That's what Pete T. thought back when I was working on "Who's Missing". In fact, Pete's comment started me looking for his stuff at the Mastering Lab in the first place. Back in 1985, MCA had already mastered and pressed 5000 copies of "Who's Next" made from the Mastering Lab EQ copy. This EQ copy went over to US Decca, and the British tape went out of all human memory, even the folks at the Mastering Lab, until I blundered upon it there, many years later. It was at the bottom of a file cabinet, having been placed there after the first cutting. To their credit (I was a bit surprised, actually), Richard Palmese and Irving Azoff gave the OK for MCA to scrap all 5000 units of their first press CD's, and let me recut it at Bruce Botnick's Digital Magnetics studio using the British tape. Another 5000 units were pressed and shipped. If you have one of them, you will know it by listening: Warm, "breath of life" vocals, dynamic, but not too over-the-top EQ wise. Later versions used a British digital master made from an unknown (be me, at least) source. Gone was the warm sound; back was the wonky "let's try to fix this" EQ of the Mastering Lab version. The Mastering Lab cut the initial American pressings and made an EQ copy of their mastering for recuts. Since all the original DECCA US pressings (and recuts) of "Who's Next" sound EXACTLY like the Mastering Lab EQ tape copy (very much EQ and compression), I doubt the BASF tape was ever used to actually cut any American LP's. I think the folks at Mastering Lab felt in needed serious EQ work. When I prepared "Who's Next" for release by MCA in the middle 80's, I took the analog tape I unearthed at the Mastering Lab to Bruce Botnick's Digital Magnetics studio in Hollywood, next door to the Capitol Records Tower. The only digital game in town at that time. Bruce had recorded the music score to "ET" digitally in 1982 and needed a digital studio setup, so he just built one for himself. Smart move. We dubbed the analog "Who's Next" flat to a Sony 1610 digital master from an Otari analog deck (not my favorite playback machine of all time, but all they had). At the time, believe it or not, you couldn't make a clone from a digital tape. I remember they were using a Sony Video recorder to do the transfer. Sheesh... This was before MCA-Whitney had any kind of digital system whatsoever. At any rate, the digital tape was marked "master, use for all CD manufacturing" and filed in the vault. I GUESS what happened next, is that master copies to be actually sent to the plants were made from the digital tape for all of the countries that wanted to do a CD of the album. But, up until the very late 1980's-early 1990's, the only actual digital production tape of the album was the one I made. There wasn't anything else used. The variations in sound I guess are do to the manufacturing techniques of each country. Make sense? The late 80's "upgraded" version came to America in the form of a 1610 digital clone of the British Polydor digital master. Still a copy, from the EQ'd dub. Always thought it sounded harsher and less musical, but what the hell do I know? It's been a really long time since I've played anything other than my British LP.. What happened after that is foggy to me. I went on to other things, and about 4 months later, "Who's Next" came out on an MCA USA CD. Answers to questions: Yes, the BASF tape sounded like crap. And, yes, I made a good sounding CD from it. How? Well, it’s what I am famous for, you know? Pete's copy was used for an MCA CD. The Gold one? Don't remember. It's mentioned in one of the posts.... It is an EQ'd copy of the BASF tape, but not done by the Mastering Lab. Yes, the Mastering Lab EQ copy is a dub of the BASF tape with "EQ, Compression", etc., added by The Mastering Lab, way back then. I think Glenn Meadows added 6 db at 10k on his "Who's Next". So much for using a flat transfer... Whatever it takes to get the thing to sound good. EQ'ing is just a part of mastering. In the wrong hands, of course, it can be fatal... Why were only 5000 copies made? There were only about 3000 CD players in the whole country at the time...Hard to believe, but true. Check this out. My theory. I think that TWO masters were mixed at the same time. One in NAB EQ (for America), and one (on a different machine, of course) in the European CCIR playback EQ. God only knows what happened to the CCIR tape. The NAB tape ended up at the Mastering Lab. If the CCIR tape is in England, it is lost. I think it was used to make Pete's EQ copy. If I'm wrong, than Pete's copy was made from the NAB Mastering Lab tape. Either way, the original mix is very muddy sounding, as I've described in an earlier post. The art of Mastering is to make something edible out of mush. Some say I do it better than other mastering engineers. Maybe you think I do too...Hope so at any rate! Why did MCA use a different master later? Well, the one I did was shipped to Japan, never to be heard of again. No clone, so they probably went back to the BASF tape, scratched their heads, and then called England for a clone of their tape. My best guess.. But, up until the very late 1980's-early 1990's, the only actual digital production tape of the album was the one I made. There wasn't anything else used. The variations in sound I guess are do to the manufacturing techniques of each country. Make sense? The late 80's "upgraded" version came to America in the form of a 1610 digital clone of the British Polydor digital master. Still a copy, from the EQ'd dub. Always thought it sounded harsher and less musical, but what the hell do I know? It's been a really long time since I've played anything other than my British LP... So does this clear anything up? (Not really)... It's simple, really.