Out of curiosity—why no separate recordings for remasters?

Especially when trying to get all versions of a certain recording, knowing which version of a recording is on a certain compilation is very useful. Of course, this requires the person to enter the details to know the difference between the recordings. I like the “unknown” tag suggestion to recordings but I can imagine that will be hard to implement.

On some greatest hits compilations - Bob Seger Ultimate Hits (Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets - Wikipedia) for example, it is described on the back of the CD case or on the liner notes. Some might believe that remastering is a record company ploy to get customers to buy a new version. It’s also true that many tracks were not very well mastered on the original releases. Regardless, it still needs to be entered.

I guess sometimes it is, but for a while I’ve become really interested in the differences, because I want to keep the best-sounding master and get rid of the rest. (It started when I learnt about the loudness war.) Sometimes just a repress has a different mastering in the sense that there are different output levels.

I first added annotations on this release group:

The three CD releases have clearly different mastering. The first is a bit soft, the second is too loud with even clipping (and an indexing error so should be different versions anyway), the third is marketed as a remaster and has a lot of audio compression (loudness war). I want to make that clear in the recordings as well.

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What we buy, though, is releases.
So the annotation telling bad remaster is enough on the release.

If we would separate all remasters again, we would have as many recordings as tracks, because it would be usually very difficult to know the remasters or same, without actually listening to everything, with some kind of deep analysis: it would never happen.


There are long old debates on this. Short version, right or wrong, but MusicBrainz database there is no way to note the mastering of a Recording.

It is all about the source Recording. And if nothing was added or removed then every one of the remastered versions of the recordings released over 50 years get merged into the same recording. No matter how many times an engineer may have returned to the original tapes to make a new version.

Trying to find the “best sounding master” is not something Musicbrainz is designed for.

The best you can do is add annotation notes to specific releases and\or release groups about the different remasters.

The only time a recording can be different is when something has literally been cut out or spliced into that tape. A change of volume of vocals, quieter drums, or awful loudness war clipping is not enough for a new Recording.

An indexing change IS something that causes a new set of recordings. When you create those it is worth making an disambiguation note in that recording so it is easier to select


I have dozens of copies of Dark Side of the Moon and can spot the differences. But then I am also a bit mad. So I am with you on how useful this could be if there was a way of noting it.

I’ve spent far too many hours untangling different versions of The Wall where the CD Mastering sliced and diced that album up in many different ways over the decades. That caused differences in the physically cutting of the audio and therefore separated recordings.

I’ve also merged tons of Dark Side of the Moon recordings that are from 50 years of different releases, but must all link to the same Recordings in MB language as they all came from that same studio tape.

Also on the other side of this I have a 1984 CD of Wish You Were here, and a 1994 “remastered” version which ARE literally identical. Whack them into Audacity and you can see it. Look at the fractions of a second of a DiscID and you can see that the con happens. Sometimes remasters are not what they claim which causes a level of scepticism on it mainly being a marketing trick to resell that same album again. (Pink Floyd are awful skilled at this art). Most of the time “remastered” release is mainly about renewing copyrights.


But for each release group we know a lot about, there are 10,000 release groups where we don’t know that much.
The list of recordings would become a list of tracks, where the similitude would be unverifiable.

I feel it would not be good, but maybe I’m wrong. :wink:


I agree with your thoughts. So few people would look at recording differences in Audacity, etc as most will not have two copies to compare. And anything someone “hears” is purely a personal opinion. There is also a large difference between listening on some iPhone headphones or £5000 speakers.

It would be close to impossible to really create anything of use in the database and yes, we would likely be left with as many tracks as recordings due to not knowing. (I can imagine the complexity of trying to merge Various Artist collections :exploding_head:)

I usually prefer the older copies of non-remastered albums as this is the sound I grew up with. It is personal opinion. We are all different.

I often help people setup HiFi systems. Was working with someone the other day whose speakers were the size of a washing machine. Listening to Dark Side of the Moon on those was like I had never heard the album before. We all hear something different.


woah, don’t say never - it might happen just not right now, but maybe one day :smiley:

Less so in the days of digital downloads where you can buy tracks from a cd.

There is no suggestion to separate all the existing ones, just let the known remasters be marked.

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Then remixes and remasters should really be a new entity, I guess.

I understand why, but the fact that there’s a different recording if someone during mastering makes a mistake in the track index, we do get a new recording/version but not at a remix or remaster, feels off. I mean, there is really is the same recording, but a different track index, which is at mastering level. Again, I understand why, since the link between the recording and track duration, but it just feels off.

I understand. Now I come to think of it (as a software developer and architect), adding a new entity like remix (could even be from different recorded unused tapes) or remaster could make it possible (though not necessarily easy…). Of course, we need to ask ourselves, to what end? In my particular case (but I guess also applies to @IvanDobsky when he talks about ‘‘The Wall’’ or ‘‘Dark Side’’) it is very interesting to see what remix or remaster a certain release contains. But we will probably be part of a very small group.


I think in a perfect world we would have them separate, but as it stands we can barely manage (usually don’t tbh) to get recordings merged even discounting mastering.

Happily (for us) MB errs towards the more complex and fine-grained, which is like a delicious drug to your general MB editor, but unfortunately at some point we just hit a wall of person-power and being able to get new users/have an understandable and usable (if we’re being optimistic, lol) system.

On paper, yeah separate them, in practice… :frowning:


For remix, it’s already the case, hopefully. :wink:

The problem is not that much because small group of people.
The problem is more that distinguishing several sound-alike remasters, this knowledge by few people willing to do it, only concerns very very few recordings, like Ivan with a couple of Pink Floyd albums, me for some small bands with only few re-editions, etc.

But in MB, there are 28,385,131 recordings. :woozy_face:

Never. :shushing_face:

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What @aerozol said above is the main reason why we don’t have:

  1. A master level under recording
  2. An arrangement level under work

They could be useful, but it’s very, very hard as far as we can figure out to make them work in a way where the user interface doesn’t become even more confusing for the majority of people who, let’s be honest, don’t care about any of this and just care about having a tracklist with some track titles. Even works and recordings are still fairly wild with a lot of works missing and a lot of recordings unmerged.


One of the things that I have liked and appreciated about MusicBrainz is that it allows the nitty gritty details to be documented. Those details are important for some of us even when they make user interface design difficult, but MusicBrainz lets different users enter different levels of detail and complexity as we each desire. For some of us, this level of detail is what sets MusicBrainz apart from the other databases because we value accuracy and documenting the truth.

For example, I can create a release which has a list of tracks and their names or I can make each track ‘a recording of a work’ (the more correct version). Then there’s the ability to add lots of other relationships such as who played which instrument etc. Users can add as little or as much detail as they want. Remastered is just another one of those details. Why is it being discounted and dismissed?
It should be possible to have a UI that is ‘incremental’.

Another objection is “It’s too hard to distinguish what is remastered”. There are three different instances of remastering:

  1. The remastering is clearly marked and documented on the packaging of existing mediums. Remastering is a selling point and intended to stimulate sales, often to existing owners. Examples are:
  1. The remastering is not documented, perhaps accidental and is only noticed by listeners. This is the instance where it is not obvious if recordings have been remastered.

  2. Remastering explicitly to take advantage of a new medium and to drive sales. This is also already happening for on-line streaming and downloads see
    qobuz.com, hdtracks. For example Joni Mitchell - Blue, 24bit remaster available at hdtracks

So, we have two kinds of remastering where the remastering is explicitly documented. It is not a problem to determine if those tracks have been remastered! MusicBrainz will need to provide ways to document the remastering if it wants to maintain accuracy in the future. It’s my belief that the remastering will increase driven by the opportunity to get more money from a record company’s existing catalog. This trend will repeat what happened with the movement from vinyl to CDs. Being able to document those remasters clearly will also help the merge problem because it will be possible to keep those known remasters separate.

Another objection has been “it’s too much work to go back and sort things out”.
Providing the ability to document known remasters in the future, doesn’t mean that the existing database content must be analysed and updated. It can be left as-is.

Another objection could be that it will complicate the database design. I don’t know the details of the MB database, but complicated relationships like remaster of recording of work are the motivations behind new database technologies such as GraphML.

My conclusion is that the requirement to document remasters will increase. I understand that implementing it won’t be easy.

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It would be easy to implement as all these are just MB recordings with a recording-recording remaster relationship (that is now deprecated but that’s still exists).


At the beginning of NGS, MB did separate recording for each master.
But it was decided to stop and I agree.

It was unneeded complexity, as in most cases, it’s another unverifiable info so recordings will proliferate, each new releaser will get its set of overkill recordings, without daring to merge them.

And then you I can no longer see if this or that release includes recordings that are or are not yet in your my collection:


Just taking Joni Mitchell as an example. Look at Track One on Blue:

How would you sort through that short list of recordings? We don’t have all the artwork to read. There is no way to know which remaster is used on the collections. Even harder when a track appears on a VA. Some popular artists the recordings page can run to four or five pages of Releases with the track on.

Relying on the text on the CD is also bogus. See above with my copies of Wish You Were Here from 1984 and 1994. That “remaster” isn’t. Was it an error in production, or just a sales repackaging con. I don’t know - but those CDs are identical.

AcoustID is no help to you with remasters either.

This is the kind of data that lives better on fan websites. Or on a Release annotation \ disambig. 90% of users just would not understand it enough to put the correct details in. As it is there is enough mess from people picking wrong recordings (album vs 7" vs 12" vs bad cover artist) when adding a release to the database. If you added in all the remasters it would be impossible to keep them pure.

The other problem comes from the more the more you split up recordings, the less likely you are to find Works, Performers, Locations added. It is hard enough to persuade people to fill out these details on one set of recordings, but if it was splintered more by each reissue then it would lead to not only missing data, but different versions and errors in that data.


It is complexity that exist - and is needed to accurately document.

Not true. In the case of remasters I have shown at least three examples where it is as verifiable as anything else in MB.

Why is this an issue? they are documented to be known to be different.

I don’t need to. I just want to accurately document going forward!

I’m not worried about the design of the database itself :slight_smile: We can easily add complexity to the schema.

I’m worried about how to make it so that the user can make use of that complexity in a way that is understandable. For example, if we were to add a master level under recording, where would that fit in the (already super long and confusing for many users) release editing process? :slight_smile: Would we add yet another tab for master? Would we have optional sections in the Recording tab (which again is already very confusing to many users) to add masters?

I’m not saying it’s impossible - in fact, if we were something like AllMusic with paid staff that works on adding and correcting data and no need to make the tools understandable to anyone else, I think we would have implemented it. I’m just saying it’s hard to find a balance that doesn’t make MusicBrainz so confusing for new casual users that they just run away (in fact, sadly that’s already not that uncommon even now).