So here we go. For the first comparison coming up I'll review the album Back Home Again. I just bought the original CD on ebay and I have had the 2005 remaster for a while now. I'm ripping the RCA collection version as we speak.
Anyhow, I am comparing the original and the remaster at the moment and I'm both disappointed and surprised at the same time. The original CD has all the dynamics I knew I remembered the songs having. The new CD is definitely not bad, and compared to new CD mastering in general it isn't very compressed. However, it is not as open and doesn't breath as much as the original CD. So for dynamics the original wins hands down. However, holy cow, the remaster is cleaner and then some.
There are blurps and durps all over the old CD. The remaster only has a few that they probably couldn't eliminate very easily if at all. However, the remaster sounds newer and less like an old worn tape. Also, the remaster has a very noticeably wider and more balanced stereo mix. The old CD has a sort of strange hollow sounds sometimes, and things almost sound halfway mono. The new CD is wider and more realistic in terms of imaging. So much so, I 'm finding it hard to listen to some songs on the original CD when comparing. But the new CD is a bit more "in your face" or forward. Things don't sound as far away and spacious, which I sort of liked about the original. This is probably due to the compression and EQ applied. Things sound fuller in frequency and more even in dynamics, which makes reverb trails not sound so deep. So they're both a mixed bag. However, neither are bad and neither are amazing. But both are amazing, because of the songs and content. And really thy both sound good for the style of music in general.
Good news. The rhymes and reasons CD is identical to the remaster I have, which I think was a 2000-something year remaster. This is good in my opinion, because I found this a very excellent mastering. I also have a Japanese import version of this CD, and it is better than the US, but only but the very slightest margin, and some people might even find the opposite is true depending on their preferences of warmth vs. "cold" accuracy. But even then, the difference is so small only the most critical audiophiles would probably even hear it. In essence they're the same basic mastering. The Japanese might have used a double speed mastering process and slightly less compression. Needless to say the collection version is identical to the US remaster and is very good. Granted, I haven't heard the true original recording.
However, there is no obvious noise reduction. Things are clear and distinct. Basses and everything are tight and punchy (as far as john denver goes. ;P ) There is no dynamic compression either really (maybe 2% compared to the japanese version, but audibly almost non existent). So in my book this is an audiophile grade john denver release.
More to come as I listen and compare. Stay tuned!...