Taming edge from remastered CDs?

It seems a common trait in my system that re-mastered CDs have better resolution and spatial information (e.g., 2003 Rhino "Fragile" by Yes) but seem sort of edgy and a little hard sounding. No such problem w/regular CDs or vinyl. I've been thinking about an equalizer to use for listening to only such recordings. Just tame the upper frequencies a little. Any suggestions? System is Cyber 800SE monoblocks, Consonance Ref 50 Preamp, David Schulte mod'd. Denon 2910, KAB mod'd Technics w/Heed Quasar Phono-pre. Acoustic treatments in use. Again, issue is with a minor segment of the listening I do.
Oh...forgot, Totem Forest speakers.
Get a DAC that will lower jitter and provide a better algorithm for sampling along with a beefy power supply and clean analog conversion and output. That will get rid of the digital nasties. Your Denon is the weak link, IMHO. Like to see what others think.
Been searching the forums on "taming". Came across "toilet paper" as a recommendation. Surprised how many posts came up here when I searched on "toilet".
Burn new CD-R from those CDs. You may find that helps.
Just copy your CDs on your computer and burn a CD-R of them
Trying just one to see if it helps takes only a few minutes.
You need to clean your AC. It's not the CDs.
It is often just bad remastering. Many engineers when they do a remaster will re-equalize to try to create more detail. That makes it seem that there is better resolution but really they are most often making the remaster brighter. This brightness can cause the edginess and hardness you are hearing. If it is a minor issue I would not spend a lot of effort or money in trying to fix it
Ghosthouse, I agree with u about the harshness of some remastered cds. Having worked in recording studios, some engineers overemphasize the the highs when trying to get more detail from the old masters. I'm still looking for a solution to play these cds on my system. Maybe a good DAC is the way to go as Swanny76109 suggested.
In my system, I have found that cleaning the AC takes the harshness away. When "the AC problem" is dealt with the edge comes off those too-bright CDs.
Many remastered CDs are just louder. If highs are really "redone" to be emphasized and you hear them, then don't listen to the remaster, stick with the old. If a different DAC makes them go away, then it's not a very good DAC is it? At least from the standpoint of reproducing what's on the disc. Before going off the deep end, try a dB level matched blind test between the two versions and see what's what.

Also, room reflections do not help in this regard and it may have nothing to do with a remastered album. Maybe that's where some effort is needed?
Why not just get the original version, if available?
It's not the CDs.

The OP describes a property that many, such as Lowrider and Arh, have also attributed to "remastered" CDs. IMO, the source material itself -- see ELH's remastered "Luxury Liner" -- has much to do with this perceived edginess.

While I'd not expect to make a silk purse of a sow's ear, an upgrade to your DAC might help, and perhaps room treatments or AC. Before doing anything, I'd try some ABs of remastered and original recordings, as Larry suggests. I'd also compare a couple of CDs that you know to be reference recordings (e.g., Valerie Joyce, New York Blue, from Chesky). I'm betting a lot of the trouble is on the silver discs. The difference between a good recording and a bad one can swamp large differences in gear.
Thanks to all for the input. I'll note again the "edge" I'm objecting to does seem to be limited to re-mastered CDs. Most of the time I don't have complaints with other source material - so not sure it's an AC power issue (not saying over all system performance wouldn't benefit from an investment there).

Maybe avoiding re-masters is the way to go, although they aren't all "scams" are they? For whatever reason they do seem to have better resolution and "pop". I have a SPL meter. Will try comparing dB at constant volume setting between old and re-master. Either way, not a major issues...maybe just taping some toilet paper over the tweeter for these is the simple fix.

Equipment-wise I was mainly wondering if there might be an equalizer or outboard tone control that could be used on such material. Bypass it the rest of the time. Don't have $ for a Cello Palette, however!
I had the same problem for a while, but once I got all the right components the problem disappeared.
All remasters are not equal, of course. I have noticed a very big difference in sound quality with really good remasters but only a modest improvement in sound quality with average remasters. Generally speaking, the better the remaster the more "crisp" the highs are. I have found that cleaning the AC solves the problem in my system. But realizing that my system is very resolving, this might not be the solution for all systems.

Arh, that is what I'm saying. It doesn't apply to all remastered cds. I buy classical and EMI Classics and Chesky do an excellent job of remastering where as some other labels produce these harsh sounding discs.
So, I too would like to find a solution or I'll just stop buying remasters. (rock cds are the worst case of remastering).
You might consider getting a 2d CDP, one with tubes, to use with the brighter (remasters?) CD's. Then put some soft toned tubes in it. Works for me. :-)
Newbee, that's a priceless answer!
I have never found this to be the case. I believe it is because you either did not use a CD burner and media that achieves the lowest jitter, or you have other sibilant components in your system, such as your CD transport, cables or preamp. Sometimes, when the source is cleaned-up, it aggravates other problems in the system.

Try a Plextor writer and good media such as Mitsui Audio Master disks. Clean the blanks with a quality cleaner/treatment before burning them.

If this does not work, then I recommend a reclocker for the digital signal feeding a good DAC, such as the Metrum Octave.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I second Elizabeths suggestion to burn a cd-r from the cd's and try that.
It's the cheapest test and involves exactly zero changes to your system. I now do this with almost all of the cd's I like. They sound better than the factory discs in every case I've tried so far. I did a blind swap with a friend with very good ears: a/b'd the factory disc and a burned disc (played one song- then played the same song back to back) and in 4 cases he was able to identify the copy as the better sounding disc.
I agree with many of these comments. I often find remastered rock CD's do have more detail at the expense of being edgy. My friend brought over the recent remaster of The Stones' "Exile on Main Street." We both found it hard to listen to. I pulled out a vintage CD of the same album to play. No comparison. The older CD was MUCH better. Smooth highs and a broader sound stage. I also found this with a couple of Alejandro Escovedo remasters.
Thanks all. Elizabeth & Ths364 - I will definitely try burning a CD and comparing. I've often wondered at the absolutely fantastic sound I hear at the audio dealer I frequent. He always seems to be playing a copy and not the original. [Audioengr - the issue for me is the sound on SOME re-mastered CDs; not on copies of these. I've not done any copying yet. Making copies sounds like it could be the fix and actually reminds me of another thread that touched on the virtues of copies vs originals; my recollection is you contributed to that thread. Not sure which writer my PC uses. I will clean the blank before burning. Thanks for the suggestions.]
Audioengr - Any opinion on the Plex Easy? Looks very convenient.
Can someone explain why a copy of a bad disc makes it sound better? This seems backwards.
I have never used this solution. I'll have to try it out. I have had the "too-bright" problem, like so many others, for a long time. As I cleaned up my AC the problem started to disappear. The more I cleaned up the AC the better things got. I'm now at the point where there is no more harshness whatsoever on any CDs.

Mine is an expensive solution but the upside is that, not only is the brightness taken out, the sonic qualities that are hidden in CDs emerge -- low level detail, sound stage, etc. The all-round musicality of recordings is greatly enhanced. This solution has been well worth the cost.
Agree with Audioengr. Rarely have I purchased a remastered CD that did not sound superior to a previous issue. When puchasing CD's I specifically look for ones that have some sort of notation about being remastered (although I admit that is in-and-of-itself no guarantee of good sound quality). Most of what I listen to is jazz where there is almost always better recording quality to begin with, and spacial cues within the music, that makes remastering worthwhile. Same with classical. With rock music, it is (generally) a different story, and come to think of it, the remasters that I can think of that sound more edgy and hard sounding are mostly in the rock music genre. Ghosthouse can you corroborate that most of your remasters are in the rock music genre?
Agree with Sabai, a good power conditioning solution makes ALL your CD's sound right. For me, it not only "took the edge off", but in fact made all digital playback sound like analog, and I mean finally and once and for all, not like the empty promises of so many CDP makers. Regards.
Percentage of CD's in my collection that were noticeably bright or edgy before a successful amount of power conditioning was applied: 30-40%.

After: Z-E-R-O!!!

Understand?? :)

Also have a digital, 10-band parametric EQ in my rig...an otherwise extremely valuable tool that, for this problem, did next to nothing.
Actually, the idea that digital edginess or harshness must therefore be the result of a digital problem is currently one of the biggest myths in all of audio. The recognition of the impact of successful power conditioning solutions on this problem is just not, so far, all that widespread, although it has begun to change.
Hi Nicitico - I listened to a remaster of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" last night. No edginess there. It does seem to be associated more with Rock re-masters (e.g., ELP's first).

Ivan - what power conditioner do you use?
Ghosthouse described the problem as some recordings sounding "sort of edgy and a little hard sounding". Based upon that description I find the majority of responses unhelpful. The suggestions to get a new CD player, a new D/A, reclockers, power conditioners, etc. are out of proportion to the described problem. Ghosthouse isn't saying that all his CDs sound edgy, nor is he saying that the few he objects to are unlistenable. So why the drastic, expensive solutions? Changing equipment is not an effective solution to every audiophile situation.

In all probability the slight edginess/hardness is how the recording has been remastered. Remastering has been reduced to a marketing term, but basically if you take a a pop/rock analog recording from the 60s thru 80s and try to make it somewhat modern sounding you'll run the risk of making it edgy/hard. In their original incarnation these recordings were heavily processed and never intended as audiophile recordings. A straightforward remastering of the material will reveal the "bad" nature of the recording. To counteract the high frequency response roll off from massive overdubbing or tape wear the remaster engineer will EQ for added treble and "air" which can make the recording sound more detailed. Couple that with the current commercial requirement for a loud recording and you have a formula for edgy and hard.

If the situation really is only a few recordings with a slight edgy/hardness, then do nothing and just accept the situation.

Doctor, it hurts when I do this...
With all respect, Ivan, I find it remarkable that *none* of your CDs are tizzy. What is the composition of your collection? I'd be very surprised to learn that you have a lot of "classic rock," for example. On the other hand, if your collection were all 50s-60s Jazz, I'd be somewhat less surprised.

Onhwy61 -
Thanks for your careful read and spot-on reiteration of the "issue". You are right of course, simply not listening to edgy re-masters is certainly one option. I was hoping there might be a relatively simple, low-cost "fix" since various of these recordings do have certain positive aspects over the "original". Some good suggestions have been provided. AC power "clean up" got me looking. While I am not likely to invest $1K+ into a conditioner, I did come across very positive comments about affordable devices from Blue Circle. Am thinking to pursue that avenue as well. Worth doing even if it doesn't tame the edge on the CDs in question - or so I think. Thanks once again to all. Certainly hope the discussion has been as helpful to others as it has been to me.
Cleaning up your AC can never hurt. Just don't expect miracles.

As an experiment rip an offending CD to your computer and run it through a program that can analyze its level and harmonic content. I wonder if there are consistent digital overs? The harmonic analysis can help you zero in on where you might use a parametric EQ to filter out the offending frequencies. I know that the playback software PureVinyl allows for use of high quality EQ plug-ins.
Nicotico - remastering from the master tape or disk is usually an improvement, but what we are talking about here is re-writing the disk to reduce jitter. Even remastered disks are made from glass-masters that have high-jitter in the pits. Rewriting them helps a lot. Jitter is the #1 problem in digital. This is the reason why I dont use or sell any modded CD transports anymore, only computer audio. Lower jitter.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Ivan - you are totally wrong in this one. Jitter is what makes 99% of digital systems edgy, harsh and fatigueing. You have just never heard a low jitter system, and if you did, there was probabl an active preamp in the way creating so much distortion and compression that you did not hear the benefits of low jitter.

Most DAC designers agree on this one. The ones that dont agree dont know what they are doing anyway.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Last_lemming - The pits in the commercial disk made from a glass-master are not precisely placed. This is because these are virtually "stamped-out" rather than written using a laser and a drive.

When you use a laser disk writer with a low-jitter master clock, clean high-quality media and write the CDROM disk at a 1X rate, the pits are not only more geometrically perfect, the positions of them are more accurately placed on the disk. These things enable the disk to be read in a CD player with lower jitter, since the clock in the drive must synchronize to the pits in the disk.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
It takes a lot more than a power conditioner and a lot more than $1000 to really clean up AC, in my experience. There is no quick fix -- no single device will do the complete job. It is the synergy of many elements that accomplished this in my system.
Audioengr, I do understand what you're saying and you're perfectly right, there are many contributing (purely) digital factors that help with this problem, but I suppose what I'm getting at above is really that many people who've spent a considerable amount of taming things like jitter (and disc treatments and etc) still complain of having this kind of problem. If you want to see what I mean, just visit any thread where people are comparing the turntables they own to their CD solutions (or start your own thread) and see what are saying about the topic. There are a lot of things in play and I certainly don't want to say that the money anyone has spent toward a digital solution is money they never should have spent or anything like that, but a successful amount of power conditioning (whatever that turns out to be) IME turns out to be (provided you do your homework first) generally much cheaper and can completely solve the problem of the digital nasties while also improving the usual parameters involved with that approach (blacker background, better decay, better extension etc). The big problem I see with conditioning is that there is no way on earth anyone can predict or predetermine how much of to use - you end up having to continue to apply it in order to see how things progress, but I managed to effect all the changes I had on my list, plus a few more, for not much over $1K. Are the digital changes you describe relavent? YES. Should they be applied? Probably. Should they be the first thing that most should turn to when addressing this problem? I really don't think so. There is at least one considerably cheaper and more sonically effective alternative.

Ghosthouse, I'm running out of time at the moment, but I'll take all this up again in a few hours.
Ivan_nosnibor, Pretty much everything affects jitter. Power conditioning is very important to avoid system noise induced jitter, but it won't help in reduction of the jitter already present in digital signal coming from the transport. Clean power to transport is only one of the factors but there is also quality of media and laser, mechanical quality of the transport, quality of CDP's electronics, quality of digital cable and quality of D/A converter's clock not to mention ambient electrical noise.
Rarely any edge for me. Carefull built my system on reproducing clearly with no edge for one and only input: CDs. There still are some which can make my ears bleed if played too loud, but they were so poorly recorded or remastered they are hopeless. I refuse to sacrifice clarity for pleasantness of bad recordings/remasters. But mediocre recordings still need to be listenable on my system.
Kijanki, I agee with you, there are really 2 different problems like you say, and to a degree I've done both in my rig, but the conditioning had a bigger impact on it and was a bigger bang for the buck. Apologies all around if I got carried away with my first post, but I still think audiophiles ought to be considering both when it comes to the specific problem CD harshness/edginess. It does not get mentioned enough for a variety of reasons.

Ghosthouse, I use a variety of Alan Maher Designs gear, but for a few reasons it can be a bit of a tough recommendation: Alan doesn't believe in the all-in-one-box solutions, he says they physically can't address all the individual sources of noise in the home (which he says is anything and everything that's plugged into the home, even when in sleep mode), so you end up with a bunch of different smaller devices that are scattered throughout the house, but it's both cheaper and more effective at reducing noise because it's a more efficient application. The drawback for most is that you have to be patient and experiment at various places around the home (Alan guides you through all that) and see what works best (that takes anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks even), but if you can get past all that, it's bit like tube rolling - you may be getting into uncharted territory in a sense, but when you hit paydirt, you know it!! There's a little more assurance of a good outcome than with tube rolling, but in the beginning it may feel like it's a little uncertain, it just takes some time.

Regards to all.
Ive never heard a Rhino recording of anything I liked. I think those guys have wax in their ears.

I have a Rhino re-issue of Mark Almond Band's cuts from the first album and it sound like trash compared to the original German LINE label recording.

Jitter be dammned. Its the recording. And I am not sure how re-burning a crappy recording makes it better.
Audioengr wrote: "You have just never heard a low jitter system, and if you did, there was probabl an active preamp in the way creating so much distortion and compression that you did not hear the benefits of low jitter".

FWIW, I use an Oknyo DX-C390 CD changer as a transp. (certainly nothing special there), out via a Mapleshade Double Helix, digital RCA to a Monarchy DIP Combo, out via another Helix, to a Ric-Schultz-modified, diffrentially balanced Begringer DEQ2496. From there, out via balanced Mapleshade Excaliburs to Goldpoint SMD series attenuators installed in the rear of a pair of Monarchy SM-70 Pro's as balanced monoblocks. A CD-only system with no active pre. I do believe I am hearing the benefits of low jitter.

But, if you thought that I myself was somehow against any and all attempts to employ digital jitter reduction stategies, then I suppose I am pretty much the one to blame for that and I apologize to you for it. What I misfired on when I said that it was the biggest myth in all of audio, and which is what need to seriously amend, was the idea that all those digital strategies were indeed the first and only consideration. I'm of the opinion that, in practice, successful conditioning is just as crucial as digital/mechanical/optical jitter reduction toward overcoming the problem of CD harshness/edginess/brightness in particular.
I just want to throw this out there. I found a tweak on Ric Schultz's site EVS. It has to do with some sand paper and a black magic marker that you use on your cd's!I tried it and it works pretty awesome!!.I couldn't believe it, but it worked for me every time.It takes that digital edge off the sound!!! Gives the sound maybe a little more warmth if you want to call it that. I have done it with everyone of my cd's so far and not just cd's but dvd's, sacd's, blu-rays too..i've noticed a difference every single time. One of the best tweaks i've ever found. and its not subtle either, you will notice it right away!
"power conditioning (whatever that turns out to be) IME turns out to be (provided you do your homework first) generally much cheaper and can completely solve the problem of the digital nasties while also improving the usual parameters involved with that approach (blacker background, better decay, better extension etc)."

This depends entirely on the component. If the jitter is high, no amount of AC power conditioning will fix this. It can however act like a tube buffer, adding compression and HF rolloff, which can smooth-out the music, at the expense of detail and imaging. Even poorly designed cables can do this. Its going down the garden path however, not addressing the real problem.

I use no conditioning whatsoever and never have, even at shows. I still earn best sound of show frequently.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"FWIW, I use an Oknyo DX-C390 CD changer as a transp. (certainly nothing special there), out via a Mapleshade Double Helix, digital RCA to a Monarchy DIP Combo, out via another Helix, to a Ric-Schultz-modified, diffrentially balanced Begringer DEQ2496."

You are evidently trying to address jitter, but believe me, you are not even remotely close to getting there. The digital source is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing in the system, next to the speakers and amps. Even more important than a modded DAC. I used to mod the DIP for customers, but I dont mod anymore. There are much better ways than this to reduce jitter in CD players. However you must either replace your transport with a megabuck transport and then re-write your CDs to reduce pit jitter, or add a better reclocker to your existing transport that totally blocks its jitter.

Even if you do either of these, it will still not approach the jitter levels now possible with USB interfaces, at least some of them. For the same money, you are better off to buy a 2009 Mac Mini and a USB converter than an expensive CD transport. I have had many CD transports from customer in my system over the years, which I used to mod for them. None of thse hold a candle to a good USB interface.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"It has to do with some sand paper and a black magic marker that you use on your cd's!I tried it and it works pretty awesome!!."

You would get better results if you rewrote the CD on CDROM from a .wav file ripped using dbpoweramp on a PC. Use Mitsui Gold Audio Master CDROM disks and clean with with a a good conditioner before burning them. Use a plextor drive on 1X speed.

Even after all of this however, it will still not be as good as just playing back the .wav file using a good USB converter from a Mac Mini. Been there and done that. Seems like a lot of trouble just to try to salvage an aging technology. I have not had a CD transport in my rack for probably 5 years.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Audioengr, thanks for tip on the Mac Mini, I've been stumped so far as to the Onkyo's replacement. Don't want to hijack the thread, but, which Mini would be best? (Somewhat unfamiliar with the computer end of things).
Ivan - I have tried several minis, including the Mach2music when they were around. The best I have found is the late 2009 with AC adapter:



Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Audioengr - Mind translating into words of one syllable for the digital ignorant?

"playing back the .wav file using a good USB converter from a Mac Mini."

OK - I know I can copy a CD onto my computer's hard drive as a .wav file. What's a USB converter? Do you mean computer USB out to DAC to pre-amp? Why a Mac Mini, and in particular a 2009 version? Will no other PC, Laptop or Netbook work?

Thanks in advance.