Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Remastered Cars: Heartbeat City & More

Audio Fidelity issue Heartbeat City

In March 2009 as part of the relaunch of Audio Fidelity the 1984 Cars album Heartbeat City got re-issued and re-mastered from the original 30IPS master tapes by Steve Hoffman. This event created an awful lot of posting on the forum as you'd expect for the resumption of the 24karat audiophile cd format. From what Steve said this is the first time since the original lp was cut in 1984 that these tapes had been used as all the CD versions used copytapes with equalization applied to aid vinyl cutting and the best of these is the WG Target which was one of the first CD's issued around the time of the lp issue (pressing capacity was a real problem back then).

Above is my copy showing the 'Target' design.
This was in many respects the last good Cars album and a staple of FM radio featuring the smash 45's Drive, You Might Think and Magic. It sure wasn't off my tape player having back the original on chromedioxide tape - that happened to sound rather good back then but both it and the target cd always sounded a bit bright which took away the edge from Ric Ocasek's vocals.
The following is from my review at
"The equalization on this transfer is very good - those of us who lived through the era know it was a bit light of bass and that tended to emphasize the keyboard sound which could be a touch piercing. That was certainly the case on the Chrome Cassette issue and the Target cd isn't free from this either as much as I love my copy. The area around 3-5khz is much smoother to listen to at high levels and this disc is one you can crank up."

There was a storm blowing because the tapes as give to Steve had oxide free tape "leader tape" applied between the tracks so where as the songs kind of butt together on the original, this cd doesn't.
There has been much speculation
concerning why it was issued like this.
Steve maintains he didn't wish to either remove them by physically cutting out the leader tape or by electronically trimming in a Digital Work Station prior to cutting the glass master for cd manufacture. His justification for the latter is he feels it would affect the sound. Several members some whom are mastering engineers themselves respectfully disagree with that idea and I would agree with them.

That said "for the most part I didn't notice them apart from a seven second countdown before You Might Think - the lead off track for side two of the lp - this might be leader tape. There is no detectable gap at all between the end of I Refuse and the start of Heartbeat City. If there was I would be having civil words."

Some did report issues with the HDCD encoding that only affects players suitable equipped (it offers potentially higher resolution).
My comments: "HDCD encoding. No chirps or pops on my NAD C541i. Several tracks do have brief periods at the fades where the lights go off but I heard no reduction in sound quality. While this is something Steve may wish to look at in the future, on my player at least this is a non issue. For reference here's a lights out list. Last four seconds: Looking For Love, Magic,Why Can't I Have You Last three seconds: It's Not The Night Last two seconds: Drive, You Might Think.I would conclude by saying I did not regret buying this Cd - it sounds great - and will be main listening copy for now on.

The Cars Greatest Hits DCC CD GZS 1123

Shortly afterwards I was able to get this CD also re-mastered by Steve Hoffman with a 19.99% reduction at a price I could just about afford as it's been out of print for just over a decade

This also uses the "original mastertapes" and is quite useful having all the top 40 45's from the first five albums on as Steve only tackled Heartbeat City for AF and The Cars S/T for DCC which is well out of print commanding three figure prices.
It does sound really good although I should note Steve used the album versions of I'm Not The Only One - a 1986 '45 and Heartbeat City rather than the remixes done by Elektra - the bands label - for the original Greatest Hits lp/cd.
A real step up from my regular German cd.

I also got the Joe Gastwirt HDCD re-master of the bands 1980 Panorama album which in Europe remains in a murky sounding version with very little top response. This had to be imported.
While in every respect the finest version of this album remains the US original lp, the re-master is a considerable improvement obviously sourced from a good quality tape for anyone needing a cd.
The only negative is it is slightly bright on my system - with tone controls you need to turn the treble back to about 11 o'clock.
If you have access to an equalizer or care to burn this to a CD-R use a program - the sound effects - Equalizer function of Nero would be okay for this and take down the 5 or 6 Khz settings by about minus 1.5db for each track remembering to Apply it. That should fix it.

In November of 2009 Mofi issued this remastered version of the bands fifth album Shake It Up in goldplated UDII form with a mini lp style package.
Remastered by Rob LoVerde this is the best CD I've ever heard of this title and although it's a limited edition it is highly recommended.
CD catalogue number UDCD788
Also See Cars: Candy-O entry

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