“I want to hear what the band heard during playback in the studio. And I want to respect the sound that the engineers and producers tried so hard to capture.” It’s a mantra engineer Steve Hoffman follows whenever he remasters classic, iconic albums, and perhaps those words should be etched between the monitors perched above the mixing consoles in every mastering studio across the globe. One recent labor of reissued love is near and dear to Hoffman's audiophile heart – namely, The Audio Fidelity Collection limited-edition box set that houses four classic Deep Purple albums he remastered: In Rock (1970), Fireball (1971), Machine Head (1972), and Who Do We Think We Are (1973).
“Jeff has incredible studio I.Q. Ask anyone who makes music: he’s one of the great record producers, period.” So says Tom Petty, and? if anyone should know, it’s him, having worked with Jeff Lynne as a producer on sonic blockbusters like his own Full Moon Fever and the Traveling Wilburys’ Volume? 1.
The Dark Side of the Moon has long been considered to be the audiophile benchmark. It's been remastered and reissued a number of times over the years since it was initially released March 1, 1973 and proceeded to spend a record 741 weeks (that's 14.25 years!) on the album charts.
Editor's Note: Following Sound & Vision's initial print publication of this article, Neil Young took the post of PonoMusic CEO, replacing John Hamm. The company also named Rick Cohen, PonoMusic's general counsel, to be its COO, and accomplished producer Bruce Botnick to be its Head of Content Acquisition.
If there’s one thing we know about Neil Young, it’s that he’s deeply passionate about how his music gets heard. As an artist who’s long championed sound quality over final-mix compromise, Young has been on a lifelong quest to make sure listeners have the opportunity to hear his music the way he intended from both the studio and the stage, whether it be via high-grade 180-gram virgin vinyl or high-resolution stereo PCM on Blu-ray. “That’s all I do now—192/24,” he tells me. “Back when I started recording, we did everything we could so that our listeners could hear the music. The more we presented and the more you were able to hear, the happier you were. We lost touch with that.”
When asked how he'd like to see his own role defined in our ever-escalating high-definition home-entertainment world, Masi Oka, star of NBC's hit fantasy/sci-fi series Heroes, reaches for the stars. "I'd like to be known as a visionary Blu-ray Bluetooth," he smiles.
It’s nice to feel that the music can be improved, and in the case of Aqualung [which saw a 40th anniversary box-set reissue in 2011 with new stereo and 5.1 mixes by Steven Wilson], that wasn’t difficult because it wasn’t a very good recording.