Question for those with “Golden ears”, and a frustration! (The Loudness Wars)

Hello! My first text! My user name, is short for my Companies name.
  Anyway, I ALWAYS wondered, which sounds better to you with $$$$ equipment? The Led Zeppelin Rhino Black box of Japanese made, mini copies of the record album sleeves CD’s of ALL the albums? Or, the large sized four CD disk boxset with the crop circle picture on the front(1990 release?), and the later small box, that had the songs missing from the four box “crop circles” box? The mini-album Japanese CD’s sound pretty damn good to me!  Any thoughts? Which sounds better to you? Those with CD based systems I can only dream of owning?  As to my rant, I went to the Wiki article of: The Sound Wars! And there was a link where you can put in your CD or album title and artist, and it tells you if it’s been compressed(LOUD!), or, not. Specifically: CD’s, (if it’s compressed, the VU meters will stay locked in the red) My favorite Fleetwood Mac CD, The Dance, all in the RED, BAD! 😢 U2’s Joshua Tree (special boxed edt.) All in the GREEN (GOOD). But I swear, the drums/cymbals, IMO, sound awful on that CD! Especially the cymbals! NEVER could find a good sounding Joshua Tree CD that the drums and cymbals sounded good. 🙁 That was my FAVORITE concert!!! 4’th. row seats!! AWESOME! Other albums, NIN CD’s all in the red, Van Halen as well. And the worst, totally unlistenable, got it for Christmas many years ago, Led Zep., The Mothership CD’s. 🤮

Thank you all!!!
I had the 1990 LP box set. Didn't like it! The original pressings from the pre-digital era sounded way better! That set was digitally mastered! Now I am listening to some of the first Zeppelin CDs and comparing them to the later "mastered by George Marino and Jimmy Page at Sterling Sound". So far I like the very first versions more! These are apparently flat transfers. 
I still think the first pressings of the Zeppelin LPs are the best, followed by the first CD issues. There is a raw elemental energy on those LPs that is diminished by digital transfers! Using increasingly expensive DACs and streamers does not restore the "magic" missing!
The same thing applies to the first LP pressings of Black Sabbath compared to the first CD issues. The later remastered CDs again come in at third place. I expect streamed versions to be in last place! Those who have never heard the first versions of the Sabbath LPs and CDs may not know what they are missing!
 Of course the finest LPs with realistic dynamic range are those made by Doug Sax of The Mastering Lab - Sheffield Labs Direct-to-Disc! Unfortunately there are so few of them! Next place goes to Telarc for their LPs made from the Soundstream masters. Dynamic range in abundance - even if the top end isn't quite as smooth as a 30 IPS Studer!
Consensus of music critics (Q, Allmusic, etc) seems to be that the 2014 remasters overseen by Page are the ones to go for. Back to the proper master tapes, and a format choice (96/24) which can capture absolutely everything on the tape.
I’ve listened to LZ’s albums in every format for 40 years, and the 2014 versions streamed from Qobuz sound the best to me.

I have all the 2014 remasters on vinyl. They’re as good as it gets for remastering.

I don’t have the CD boxed sets, but I own multiple early and first release CDs. In most cases, the German pressings have the best SQ; very analogue-like with well-defined bass and kick drum which later pressings and remasters lack. There’s very good imaging and soundstaging. These original flat transfers are the reason the original issue LPs are so coveted.
All CDs were first pressed in the UK and Germany since the US did not have facilities yet. Japanese LZ issues have excellent sonics, although they tend to sound more detailed and analytical.

You’re spot on about Mothership. I have the LP and it’s compressed crap.
I learned my lesson about buying rock remasters and now only buy used original releases. There were some rock albums that were such poor quality that remastering was able to create a better version. But that was way before The Loudness Wars started.

The Classic Records Zeppelin releases are much better than the 2014 remasters, at least the two I own - I and House of the Holy.
The only 2014 Zeppelin LP remaster I own is the III. I will have to dig it out and have a listen! I do have it on the 2014 CD. This should be an interesting comparison! Also on hand is the 2014 Physical Graffiti CD. I don't remember if I have a first pressing of the LP. One of the perils of owning a large collection!
Lots more happens between a master tape and a CD or LP than compression, so while it is good to know what has been compressed or not, it's not a total quality assessment.
Most original LP releases sounded better. 
 Love the Japanese releases of everything, they just sound better.

  They lose and gain something when transferring to a CD. 
  My dogs will not stay in the room for long when a cd is playing.  They will lay next to me or in the room when an LP is spinning. 
@big_greg, I know Classic Records uses original sources for mastering when possible. Do you know what they used to master LZ? 
So, the consensus is the “Crop Circles” CD Boxset, not so good (1990?). And the Black Box, with all Japanese CD’s best. I also bought the first four CD albums in SHM-CD format. Not to be confused with SACD’s. SHM-CD’s can play on any CD player, something with the usual plastic/silver side, the plastic is a more transparent polymer than regular CD’s use. Maybe a money grab by the Japanese, IDK. I think the SHM process was invented by Pioneer, and another company. I cannot hear a difference. But I have B&W bookshelf speakers with the aluminum nautilus tweeters, and yellow (Kevlar?) main drivers? 
Any other thoughts would be appreciated! Anyone else buy the Led Zep Japanese SHM CD’s??
SHM CDs are produced using the original digital master, either from digital tape or audio file. The quality of the master will determine the how the SHM disc sounds.

I have very good digital playback and well mastered Redbook sounds as good as SHM CD.

The real improvement in sound is from XRCD's. This is JVC's 24bit remastering process. I have a few classical discs. Don't know if there are any Zeppelin.

I think what makes the SQ of the LZ SHM CDs so good is the high quality of the Japanese pressing plants. The original masters are from the 90's and the Japanese have improved upon them.

@lowrider57 I believe that my friend said that it was from the original masters but I can't answer that question definitively.
i've gotten into the habit of re-remastering the sound of many releases both old and new, to suit my preferences and nervous system. brick-walled recordings can at least be somewhat ameliorated via more digital trickery. 
I’m just very sad some stupid “suit”, god help us if it was the artist choice, but some “suit”, saying: “GOTTA BE LOUDER TO SELL!!”. 😡😡😡😡😡. I can sorta understand: Van Halen, DEFINITELY Metallica’s album that everyone talked about being UNLISTENABLE! But I REALLY respect: the members of: Fleetwood Mac, especially Lindsey B., and Trent Reznor, and how they could release albums (CD’s), that have ZERO sonics, just to make them LOUDER! And that goes for R. Plant, and “The Mothership”. I call it “The Mothers##t”.
So, who’s responsible for RUINING my “The Dance” by Fleetwood Mac?? Yes, I KNOW, the LP would be “sonically” perfect, because if they cranked the LP master up, the needle, would literally bounce off of the record!!! But not CD’s.😞 I had records, many worth a lot now, sold by my mom at her garage sale, along with my: Star-wars toys. And comic books. I just like the convenience of CD’s. Play at home, play in car, saved as FLAC files on my MacBook Pro. And no pops, warps, no static electricity issues, no, OMG! I scratched it!!! So, who’s fault is it? How could R. Plant have approved “The Mothers##t”? Glad I didn’t pay for it! Bummed. So many wonderful CD’s ruined....
It all depends on YOUR ears brother. Not only how your ears decipher sound, but what type of sound pleases you. Give you an example. If your ears simply cannot decipher and process certain frequencies as well as others, then generally (remember i said generally lol) the sounds that you hear best and are produced really well by the musicians sound fuller, clearer, and crisper. Those that your physiology doesnt process as well often sound dull or muddied. No one else can for sure hear what you hear, so while looking for consensus might give you a proper lead, it may not. I’ve always just bit the bullet and buy several versions that i can compare on my gear, keep the best, and sell the rest. Personally, I’ve usually found the Japanese versions of most of my Rock recordings to pretty consistently provide the best listening along with some mofi and dcc. Some will say they’re too precise, analytical, etc. Well i would say if you’re a Rock fan and like the power bands (Zep), there’s a good chance depending on your age that you’ve lost a bit of your high frequency hearing. If accurate, you need precision or you’ll wonder why Bonham was using such shitty cymbals ! Hopefully, your hifi system can adapt to exactly what YOUR hearing preferences and adaptations are. Good luck my friend!
Sorry, but I can't resist. Anyone notice how many posts in this thread about Led Zep and the Loudness Wars overuse exclamation points? And ALL CAPS? And even loud emojis? Gotta love it.
Dear Psychranger,
                             Thank you for your post!! You may not believe this, but I went for a hearing test at my ear Dr., just to see what’s what. Unbelievably, he told me, “you can hear all the way up to 14 KHz! Very impressive!”  Someone your age shouldn’t be able to hear high frequencies that high at “your age”🙄. I’m 52. I’ve been very protective of my hearing, since, when I was a teenager, went to have a bang’n ALPINE stereo system put in my car, and the teenage installer had very bad hearing loss. That scared me. He has been partially deaf since about 18 y.o. That’s sad. Not from meds, or fever, but listening to LOUD music. Very sad. Permanent damage.  But I’m very upset these great albums (CD’s) have been victims of the “LOUDNESS WARS”. No transients, bad sonics. I will try to buy Japanese copies. Or, bite the bullet, and dive back into LP’s.
  My Japanese Led Zep CD’s have AWESOME sonics of my favorite drummer Bonham! It’s the crappy drum/cymbals on “The Joshua Tree”. Listen to the opening drums/cymbal crashes being so muted on “Where the Streets have no name”. No bright cymbal crash/no decay. Drums muted. Have three copies of this album, all sound the same. Honestly, the drums/cymbals sound better on the YouTube video of that song, that they filmed on the roof of I think, a liquor store in LA. Listen to the difference, see if I’m right. But Bonham on 1,2,3, are AWESOME!

God bless all!!
Another vote for the 2014 remasters. They're not perfect but I doubt whether there will be a better digital set than them.

The Barry Diament remasters were always well regarded but alas he didn't get to have a go at Led Zeppelin lV.

The Mothership was indeed awfully compressed. Not really fit for audio playback.

I've posted a link below to the results of a Stevehoffman music forum poll which I wouldn't argue with.
OP, look for early release German pressings; close to analogue sound, good dynamic range. You can hear Bonham’s tight deep kick drum and JPJ’s bassline. Bonzo is my favorite drummer and you can hear that he’s using a smaller kit on LZ I.
I bought all my flat transfer Zep on Discogs. Also, found the best quality Jimi CDs and other classic rock.

I can tell you that the japanese vinyl reissues by pioneer for led zeppelin are incredible sounding zeppelin albums.
                         Good evening!! I have Led Zep.: 1-4 Japanese SHM-CD’s, as well as all the totally cool Japanese CD’s, that look like mini LP albums, Zep. 1 thru CODA, they sound great as well! But because of $$ limitations, I have the Bowers and Wilkins bookshelf sized speakers, with the aluminum nautilus tweeters, and yellow (Kevlar?) main drivers with the black buttons in the center, so, I’m not able to tell a difference between the SHM CD’s, and the “regular” Japanese CD’s. I think I’d need a HUGE upgrade to all my equipment to notice anything between them. 🙁 I’m just happy to FINALLY hear Sandy Denny’s(?) voice clearly on Zeppelin 4’th. album (CD).   I usually use my B&W P-7 headphones for critical listening, as I live in a townhome (neighbors). No: floor standing speakers, no sub’s. No: “Turn it up to 11!”. 😔  I did hear Elton John’s YBR CD thru a: Rotel CD player, Macintosh amp, and the brand new, at the time, B&W floor standing speakers with the diamond tweeters! WOW! It was as if Sir. E. John was standing 10 feet in front of me! Holographic! WOW! That was fun!! Amazing equipment!! All I need is: THAT system in my new big house (away from neighbors), and a Porsche 911 Turbo in the driveway, I’d be: “don’t need nothin else!”
                   Where do you go to purchase W. German CD’s? I know where to buy Japanese CD’s, but not ones from Germany. I’d LOVE to buy/re-buy those CD’s I love, that have been ruined by the: “Loudness Wars”. Especially Fleetwood Mac, and some others. I’m not opposed to buying uncompressed files of albums, but I like the tactile feeling of owning the “actual” CD, in its nice jewel-case. And being able to play It in my car as well. I have a high-end: ALPINE CD head unit, amps, and Focal speakers in my Honda.   Thank you in advance for telling me where to go to buy German CD’s. This is gonna put a dent in my wallet! But, you only live once! Why not?? Thank you!

Enter Led Zeppelin cd Germany.
You’ll have to scroll through hundreds of releases, each will list country of origin. RM means remaster, so skip those. And you’re looking for dates 1985, 86, or 87 for original issues.
Some will say country: Europe, but click on the picture and look for Made in Germany or Manufactured in Gemany on the CD label.

Here's one that says country: Europe 1987. But there was no EU in 1987, if you click on the pics you'll see manufactured in Germany on the back cover.
Early releases will have Germany stamped on the disc.

Picked up a few of scorpions CDs from Japan few years ago.
the shrill highs are so up front and in your face, I sold them and dug out my old Mercury and bmg releases of them on cd. 
 They are so bad, I think of the sound even now, I press my jaw together and hope it’s over soon.

anyone else get some of those scorpions releases on cd?

No Scorpions, but I have some Japanese CDs mostly Blu-spec that are exactly as you described. They’re in my never to be played again pile.
Me too Lowrider. I just wish that the U2’s Joshua Tree album, I’m not joking, sounded as good, cymbal crashes/drum wise, as the YouTube official video of “The Streets have no name”.  Don’t understand that at all. Could a German CD copy of the CD album sound better?? Do you like U2? Thanks!
And on a side note. Do any of you cherish a vintage audio piece of equipment?? I LOVE my SONY D-EJ1000 and D-EJ925 They both still work and look brand new, bought for $200.00 each, new in 1990? The BEST made Diskman’s SONY ever made. Both have optical line-outs. That’s pretty rare! And both are solid magnesium, the bodies are solid magnesium and aluminum, no plastic, except the blue background lit remotes. And so thin! I don’t listen to them very often, but they have a soft spot in my heart. Carefree HS days at the pool during summer, listening to: a lot of: Van Halen, Led Zep., Motley Crue, Pink Floyd, etc., on my Diskman.


I just wish that the U2’s Joshua Tree album, I’m not joking, sounded as good, cymbal crashes/drum wise, as the YouTube official video of “The Streets have no name”. Don’t understand that at all. Could a German CD copy of the CD album sound better??

This has sometimes puzzled me too on those occasions when the online one sounds better than my CD one.

I put it down to different masterings used by various pressing plants.

Mastering matters and sometimes the YouTuber may have uploaded a superior one.

As for the Joshua Tree, well Daniel Lanois was known for that muddy sound.
Some folks feel the same about his work with Dylan but I like it, and U2 must have wanted it too.

It’s certainly a far cry from the ultra clean sterile work provided by Steve Lillywhite on their earlier LPs.

Maybe the best version of JT is the mfsl one.

I like it and it compares well with my brother’s original 87 UK LP.

So, they have a 24K gold Mobile Fidelity copy, in “near mint” for $125.00. Ouch! And there is a German CD as well. A lot cheaper, obviously. My question is, it seems that, I believe CD318 saying it was mastered that way, to sound “muddy”. However, the official video, on YouTube, of “The streets have no name”, sounds SO much BETTER!! Crisp cymbals, drums. I do not know Disklogs return policy. I’d REALLY hate to drop $125.00 for the exact same sound as on my Ltd. Edt. Joshua Tree Box set CD. A large sum for “Muddy” cymbals and drums, all over again... 😞 Unless somebody here owns the 24K gold disk, and can assure me, the cymbals and drums sound GREAT! Nothing like the regular CD, or LP Album, for that matter. Both sound bad in the cymbals and drums dept. Except the official video’s BETTER sonics. Just damn...

We have very similar musical tastes. The original 1st pressing Led Zep Atlantic CDs are the best. As well as the 80's Joshua Tree CD. The advent of the CD and 1980's grew up together. New technology all around as pressing plants moved to a digitized format. Big drums, muddy sound, it was a sign of the times. 
The 1st major CD re-master(s) wave hit in 1994. Certain catalogs fare well, while, most do not. If you enjoy your fave bands on Vinyl, stick with the original pressings on CD format. Most of the MoFi Gold CDs are very good price permitting.

Happy Listening!
@jafant ,

Yes, it's now accepted that many of the original 80s CD transfers are often still the best available, despite their faults.

Even the 87 Beatles George Martin CDs are holding up well, despite all the various reissues.


"Unless somebody here owns the 24K gold disk, and can assure me, the cymbals and drums sound GREAT!"

No they don't. It's a warm, expansive and somewhat muddy sound that breathes.

I suspect the 80s CD might be best for what you are after, but I've not heard it.

Maybe you could post the YouTube link so we can get a better idea of what you are looking for? 

There must be various different versions of Joshua Tree amongst the collections of members here.

Someone here might even have the same copy as the one that was uploaded.
There’s no way to know which master was used to make the music video. By 1990, a record label would use an audio production facility to transfer the track to digital videotape and send it to the editing house. This was now the master and the video was edited directly onto this tape.
It’s possible the track was tweaked for broadcast on television.

MTV was calling the shots by then and had specifications for audio and video, such as limited compression, playback levels, S/N, etc.

Forgot to mention, in the 80’s the process was the same except a 1/4" audio tape was sent to the editing house which was typically transferred to 1" videotape. So the original audio master may have been digital, but the master for MTV was analogue videotape.

The point is, the music video master may be different than the mastering for vinyl and CD.

Excellent points all around. Various incarnations of catalog re-masters are hit-and-miss as well as SHM CD/SACD titles. Enjoy the Music.
Happy Listening!
Excellent counterpoints as well. In a modern era, we tend to forget how much MTV and Radio Stations media played a significant part in consumers receiving their "product". A different time to be sure.Enjoy the Music.
Happy Listening!
I was editing music videos as well as MTV content in the 90's. I experienced the changeover from analogue to digital technology as well as MTV's increased dominance in the biz and in our culture. 
One change I saw was they started to reject videos not only for explicit content but because they didn't like a shot or sequence.
BTW, all video and audio was required to be uncompressed. 

Getting back to modern day audio quality, on the Dynamic Range DB I've seen entries for "MTV version" in addition to the various audio releases. Saw this 2 or 3 times but didn't check to see the DR measurements. That would be interesting.

Very cool personal history. I miss MTV Unplugged series from the 90's.
I wish I could purchase the Don Henley episode on CD or DVD.
Happy Listening!
Worst gripe for me. 
  The CDs that are recorded so loud, the music distorts and gets too loud way to early on the volume knob. Drives me nuts. 
 I will put the cd on my cheap 99$ computer, run it through audiolab 3.0 and lower the entire album to a more listenable level.
then record to a cdr. Sounds much better to me this way. 
 Not a fan of 3000 decibel recordings on newer CDs (some)
@lowrider57 ,

Thanks for the 'inside' information - mystery solved.

The fact that they can tweak the sound for broadcast probably renders it impossible for the OP to get a commercial equivalent of his preferred version of The Joshua Tree.

The fact that they sometimes actually improve it can also be a little frustrating when the supposedly official version fails to match up. 

I've experienced similar situations where I wanted a recording of a certain song from a film only to find the version on the official soundtrack album significantly worse sounding and/or edited/ truncated.

[Elvis Presley's Wooden Heart from G.I. Blues and Oom-Pah-Pah from Oliver! are two examples, but there are  numerous others.]

In the end I would sometimes resort to downloading the music off the preferred YouTube clip and then fixing it in Audacity if required. 

In this laborious way I've managed to back up quite a few of my preferred versions of  favourite recordings over the years to a USB stick. Before anyone asks, yes I have also backed that USB up to a hard drive. 


I sometimes do the same thing with MP3Gain if the CD is recorded a little too hot for its own good.

It kind of works but then I worry that I've destroyed the precise balance that was intended, as MP3Gain tends to average out the differences in volume between the various tracks

Or if I can I just try to find a better mastering. 

On a side note - one of my friends bought all the remastered Scott Walker albums (1-4 and maybe Til the Band Comes In, I think) to replace his originals only to later have to admit his mistake and then go back and find copies of the originals!
WOW! 1500+ views! I’m humbled! Thanks all! And, as a final note, I’m gonna buy a Japanese pressed CD of: The Joshua Tree, in the faint hopes, I can actually HEAR a better sound then the sonics of the song: The Streets have no name, on YouTube! Pathetic. But true. Honestly, the sonics on Beatles: Sgt. Peppers CD sounds like a very recent recording, SERIOUSLY! What’s U2’s excuse?? Probably wasting my $$, but Amazon let’s you return ANYTHING! To the BASTARD RETARD WANKER that mastered this work of art, The Joshua Tree album: I HATE YOU!!!! I HATE YOU!!!! I SO HATE YOU!!! A 2 y.o. could have done a better job than YOU!!! YouTube DOES a BETTER job than YOU!! So glad I got fourth row seats to the first Joshua Tree Tour!! But they never released a live version of that album/tour. Would have sold GREAT! Hopefully, would have SOUNDED great!!?? Does the LP sound noticeably better?? I just thought to ask. If so, would you buy an original copy? Or, these 180 gram LP’s??? Or, does the LP sound as crappy as the CD?? I own three versions, all sound equally crappy.🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬
God bless you all! God bless our Country! MAGA!!
Lowrider57, I bet you’ve got either a lead-sled, or a SWEET Harley or Indian! Anyways, how would I record the audio of the official video of: U2’s “The streets have no name”?? Only problem is the disk-jockey talking above the song about the AWESOMENESS of U2 pissing off the LA police by doing the video, and attracting 30K+ people to see the music video being done on the roof of a liquor store. I need a clean version. The drums sound SO good! As opposed to the CD recording. 🤬🤬🤬
And EVERYONE in the video, the people of all races, SO HAPPY!! No RIOTS! Just JOY and dancing!! No real issue for the police then... Our Country is not the same as it was in the early 90’s. 😢😢