Remastering Peter Gabriel’s So

peter-gabriel-so

Released in 1986, ‘So‘ became one of the defining albums of the era, landing multitudes of awards, millions of sales and a huge hit single with Sledgehammer. But when Peter started work on this, his fifth album, in February 1985 in an old farmhouse called Ashcombe near Bath he had no idea of the explosive and enduring impact this album would have.

In February 1986 Peter finally finished the album:

“I think when we played the album back we knew it was good. It wasn’t like I was an obscure artist; I’d had hits with Shock The Monkey, Games Without Frontiers and Solsbury Hill but after each of them I’d purposefully retreated partially back into the shadows. With ‘So’ this was the end of the idea of me being a sort of cult artist at the fringes of the mainstream, especially in America. There wasn’t an option to go and hide in the shadows any more.”

‘So’ 25th anniversary edition is the opportunity to explore how the album was made, the stories behind the songs, the evolution of each track and the outstanding live performance of the ‘So’ tour. Gabriel explains the attaction of revisiting the album:

“Time leaves an indelible stamp on everything. When you revisit your past you can no longer live inside it, but you can walk around it, open up old memories and occasionally catch the scent of some place in which you lived”.

The sensitive job of remastering ‘So’ fell to Peter Gabriel’s engineer Richard Chappell, here he explains the background to the process:

 “In planning the 25th anniversary release of ‘So’ Peter was very keen to go back to original sonic ‘vision’ for the album.  The album had been remastered in 2002 by Tony Cousins but Ian Cooper was the original mastering engineer at the Townhouse Studio in 1986.  25 years on Peter went back to Ian to reconsider the mastering process. In early 2012 Peter and Ian met at Metropolis Mastering Studios (where Ian now works) and together they listened to the original half inch master tapes.  Ian made some experimental changes but both he and Peter agreed that it sounded great as it was.  Incredibly Ian actually had the original notes from the session 25 years before!  They ended up approaching the mastering in the same way that they had at the very first session.  A small amount of eq was added now and again and the limiting for the CD master was done using new prism converters.

Peter was happy with the final result. I then came back to Real World Studios to test the remaster and put it up against the first version of ‘So’.  The new remaster by Ian stands up really very well against the original ‘So’ , now with even clearer definition in the top end.  With the 2002 remaster Peter asked Tony to make some significant changes from the original – much more bottom end and mid range plus more compression added.  Ian’s 2012 version is as true to the original as possible, but with the use of improved technology of today’s converters, it is a genuinely superior sound.”

 

25 Comments

  • Steve says:

    Does this article mean that there is no limiting or dynamic range compression applied to the 24-bit studio quality master? Or does it have the same limiting as the CD master?

  • Wobble says:

    No mention of what frequency the download is. Same problem with Tubular Bells download.

    Is it 48kHz, 96kHz, or what?

  • Arild says:

    This is a 24bit 48kHz studio master with an average dynamic range of 10 (according to the DR database (http://www.dr.loudness-war.info/index.php?search_artist=peter+gabriel&search_album=so)). Not bad compared to most new pop/rock recordings, but it would be fantastic to have this recording (one of my favorites from the 80s) in 24bit 192kHz and with a dynamic range close to or better than the original from ’86 (album DR: 12).

  • Tony says:

    Do the downloads include all the 25th Anniversary content as included in the 3-CD package?
    (i.e. does the download include the remastered live tracks?)

  • Arild says:

    Ok. First impression. I’ve finally been able to listen to the 2012 remaster from start to end without any breaks or disturbance. The first characteristics I can think of is; details, tight and well defined bass guitar, big soundstage. I like this, I really do … except for one thing: I can’t stop thinking about what this remaster would sound like with a higher sampling rate (96 or 192 kHz) and a better dynamic range. But most importantly, this sounds great, and it is one the best pop/rock remasters I’ve heard in a long time.

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    Hi Dominic,

    Both So and Tubular Bells are 24-bit 48kHz downloads.

    Kind regards
    Society of Sound

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    The downloads are just from the album “So”.

  • Frank says:

    I’ts very disappointing to me, that my favourite “So” is now also mastered with loudness war (“Big Time” for ex.).
    Is it the same with the higher bitrate downloads here?
    Than I would prefer my old CD…

    kind regards, Frank

  • absorption says:

    wonder why the double tracked harmony vocal on Red Rain was removed?

  • Rob Tilton says:

    Still sounds like crap. Great if you love treble though.

  • Kevin says:

    Is the fact that they are 48kHz a bad thing? Were they restricted to 48kHz because of the technology at the time? If they could’ve been remastered at 192kHz, why weren’t they?

  • Guill says:

    I wonder why not include all 12″ Singles along with the remastering as it is a digital download after all.
    Also I see no reason why the remastering was not recorded on a 24 bit/96 Khz or 192 Khz instead.

  • Andrew says:

    48KHz maybe for playback limitations. My system will not cope with 192KHz files, and certainly the mixing desks are way behind being able to deal with very large bit densities.

  • dave says:

    why am i being charged for this when its supposed to be a free download ?

  • Susanna Grant says:

    Hi Dave,
    So is not available as a free download anywhere on this site.
    Kind regards
    Susanna

  • dave says:

    Hi susanna

    with respect I was given the So deluxe box set for xmas which was advertised as having a Code to obtain the 24 bit So recording as well as the bonus material from said box.
    seems not to be the case

    d

  • Susanna Grant says:

    Hi Dave,

    Sorry, I didn’t realise you had the box-set. I’m not sure whether you’re saying that there was not a code in the box or that it does not work but email sos@bwgroup.com and we’ll sort it out for you,

    Kind regards
    Susanna

  • Jeremy Hunt says:

    I think “So” was AAD in it’s original CD form hence it has a analog Master tape. It should be pretty easy to create a 24/192 Digital version for Network players or to rip to a DVD-Audio disc. Given MUSE have a 24/96 FLAC version of “The 2nd Law” which does sound superb and doe not suffer from any intrusion from the “loudness wars”. So this is a bit of a let down. It could be the 24/48 comes from the SACD version of “So” released on the early nineties but surely if they went back to the original tapes it should be easier to re-master. I have to say most labels and artists are hopeless at giving the listeners the best possible listening experience. I would buy the new disc but I get the feeling I would be disappointed.

  • James Crompton says:

    I too would purchase this new Re-Master but am worried that it will not be an improvement due to the ‘Loudness War’ phenomenon.

    I think I will stick to my original CD release version.

    JC

  • Tomás Mulcahy says:

    Here is why 24 bit 192kHz downloads don’t make sense:
    http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

    I’m surprised to hear that this new remaster is loud? Article states Ian Cooper used the same settings as the original 1986 CD. It was the 2002 remaster that was changed to “loud”, not this new one apparently.

  • Rich says:

    What AD/DA converters were used in the Mastering Process? Also, what other equipment was used during the mastering process, out of curiosity.

    I’ve always wondered if these record labels would ever release digital versions of the original masters for those that are interested in doing their own mastering for personal use. there is a growing number of individuals with DAW systems that would LOVE to play around with the original masters to create their own private mix.

    I think that would actually be fun to take original masters and create one’s own private mix.

  • Tomás Mulcahy says:

    Ian Cooper mastered it, He works at Metropolis:
    http://metropolis-group.co.uk/mastering/

    Well, to those who complained that it’s too loud- you’re hearing things. Well, there are some minor differences such as the “Hi There” in Big Time is actually quieter than before which might make the track sound louder. But listening, and looking at the waveforms, the dynamics are the same as the 1986 CD. The sound is fuller and more detailed. I am really enjoying it. It makes me feel the same way as when I first heard these wonderful songs when they were first released.

    So thanks to PG and his team for this wonderful production. :)

  • Rich Davis says:

    I really wish they would use the DAD converters. That’s what a lot of the top recording studios are now using, they can do practically any resolution and they have amongst the best sounding input stages. A lot of the HD Tracks are using those converters.

    I do wish there was some consistency in that if they are going to bother doing a remaster job, that they do the higher bit rate and sample rates because we can always down sample.

  • Robert DuPont says:

    No reason given why the reissue is 24/48. Please explain. Isn’t the standard 24/96 or 24/192? Hi def downloads will suffer the same fate as Dvd-Audio or SACD if standards are not established…

  • Ryan Locke says:

    More than likely these remasters were taken from a digital master. Im pretty sure those tapes are pretty old and fragile even when stored properly.

    My problem with buying hi def music is that the source material is always ambiguous.

    I can take a cd (16/44) and “remaster” it by running it through some outboard gear and convert it to (24/192). Its not going to sound the same. Just different.

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