Finally I did it !!!
This page is dedicated to the best pop group ever and to their entire material, recorded and released between 1973-1982.
I am ABBAmaniac, I live in Germany and I was born a few weeks after ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest. Since many years I work as a professional sound engineer, specialized in engineering, mixing, mastering and audio restoration. Besides my regular interest in rock- and metal music, ABBA is one of my favourite bands to clean my ears from distorted and heavy sounds when I finished my work on several projects.
I grew up with bands like DEEP PURPLE, URIAH HEEP, BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, PINK FLOYD, THE WHO or AC/DC in late seventies. Since the eighties I am into all kinds of metal music and I thought this is all I want...but in 1992, when ABBA GOLD was first released, I entered a new world and became a fan who started to collect all their albums and some rare and unreleased stuff on CD and vinyl and today I have a nice collection, including every single track they recorded back then and a lot of hard-to-find stuff.
The more and more I listened to the albums on my original vinyls, I discovered some small errors like clicks, very little drop-outs etc…I bought different CD pressings to figure out the best possible quality and I found more and more little mistakes. As a perfectionist, I couldn't live with that and I thought about creating my own perfect versions.
In 2008 I decided to compile the best available versions (to my ears) of all tracks and I started a full restoration work for private and non-commercial use. You may be surprised about the fact that I used mostly the not well-received Astley / Tretow remasters from 1997, but some of tracks are available on these releases in best available quality and I use them as a body to sort out some tracks to insert better versions, if I find some.
To make it short: The 1997 versions are definitely not as bad as you think (and as some audiophiles and fans told). Here are some positive points about the first remasters:
When Astley and Tretow started the remastering project, they didn't simply use the vinyl cutting reels. Some tracks were taken from the original mixdown tapes to work with the lowest generation.
In some forums you can read that they used a high amount of noise reduction on all tracks - that's not true, because some tracks on "Ring Ring" or "Waterloo" sound very unprocessed to my very good ears. Of course, there are many tracks were you can hear the artefacts in the fade-outs or very quiet passages, but there are also some songs who sound very similar to the versions included on earlier releases.
The next strange thing of all the "experts" who reviewed the 1997 remasters is the pronouncement that Astley and Tretow altered the equalisation too much. I think this is not the truth. I compared the versions with the releases from the eighties (analyzing the frequency spectrum) and the results are very close to the originals !!! Of course, the 1997 remasters are a little bit louder than the old pressings, but they sound very similar - with a slightly addition of brightness and clarity, a logical result when they used lower generation copies to work with...on most tracks the limiting doesn't affect the sound too much, because Astley and Tretow did not a brickwall thing here, but used the limiter carefully to make it a little bit louder. But some tracks, included on their remasters, have some clippings, a huge amount of noise reduction or a too strong compression - these songs were left off and replaced by me, using different sources like first pressings or early compilation albums.
The main intention to start my restoration project was not to create the loudest, most modern remaster of the tracks, but versions as close as possible to the original vinyl sources. Of course, there are remasters or some compilation albums out there with a sligthly better sound (with some compression on bass frequencies or more brightness), but I am sure someday most fans and listeners will return to the initial sound of each track after all the countless attempts of some sound engineers to create a better result as it was in its original form or to make ABBA another victim of the disturbing loudness war...
When I collected the best sounding versions of all tracks, I had to use some of the 1997 Astley versions, cause they were taken directly from the mixdown tapes and have the most clean sound. If I will decide sometimes to make a complete remaster of the entire stuff, I can do it everytime, cause I didn't use any compressor or too hard limiting for the files and they are always ready to work with it again.
As far as I can say, my restoration project is finished now, but I know that I will check some tracks again in the future and maybe I will interchange a few songs here and there.
From time to time I will add some more information. Soon you will also find some small sound snippets to understand what I did exactly. If you are interested in my possession, please check the blog from time to time...some of the articles I have to correct or refill over and over again, so changes are always possible.
These days, when I visited ABBA Plaza again and read about the critical audiophile reviews of each track, I was thinking about the idea to collect all the best versions again to work on a completely new restoration project, using exactly the same sources as written there to create the ultimate collection of all the songs they recorded, but I cancelled the project when I started compiling the tracks for the first album "Ring Ring". The reason to stop my new activities are very simple to explain: As I used the original Polar-CD from 1988 as a master plate to set the exact gaps between the tracks, I discovered that some of the versions included on the highly recommended "Greatest Hits" CD (Atlantic 19114-2) fade out earlier as on the original album. Also some seconds (!!!) of the intro on "Nina, Pretty Ballerina" are missing there, so I lost all my motivation to do all my work again.
As you can read on my updated articles, instead of creating a complete new job in 2011, I decided to interchange some songs to use better sources from different CD pressings. Another audiophile ABBA fan from Australia offered some lossless copies to me and I could compare track by track with my finished versions.
Now, in June, the entire thing is done and except one bonustrack on the "Waterloo" album and, of course, a high-quality-version of "Just Like That", everything seems to be nearly perfect.
And now have fun reading my articles !!! Feel free to leave comments if you want.
(ABBAmaniac, June 2011)
Finally I did it !!!