No no-noise on the remastered BBC album

The Beatles, being noisy in Sweden, 1963

This from Steve Hoffman’s Music forums: Robert Haagsma interviewed Kevin Howlett for a Dutch music magazine about the upcoming releases. Howlett is not only the author of the upcoming new book about the Beatles’ recording sessions for BBC radio, he has also been heavily involved in recompiling the remastered “Live at the BBC” album from 1994, due out November 11, along with the new album “On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2”. The interview made Haagsma look forward to the reissue of the 1994 BBC sessions album even more. Howlett said that because of improved techniques the set sounds considerably better. In some cases they found better sources for the songs. Kevin also mentioned that they got rid of a lot of the ‘no noise’ treatment that was used the first time around, because these days “people don’t mind a little hiss, when it makes the music sound so much better”.

Photo: © 2013 Apple Corps Ltd.

This is, indeed, good news for Beatles aficionados. Sonic solution’s “no-noise” filtering techniques were very much in vogue around the time the original album was assembled, but audio enthusiasts have always complained that this also affects the sound of the recordings. “It takes the life out of the material, rendering a ‘dead’ sound”, is an often heard complaint.

Another Beatles related example is the 1993 streamlining of Paul McCartney’s albums on CD, released as a series, “The Paul McCartney Collection”. McCartney’s albums were released on CD in the eighties in a hap-hazard way, without a master plan behind it. The albums appeared randomly on CD, in no particular order. This was remedied by the 1993 re-release plan, but the amount of “no-noise” techniques applied by remastering engineer Peter Mew to the new CD series made audio fans hold on to their eighties versions of the same CD’s, which may have been noisier, but also livelier.

Peter Mew was also the engineer who worked on the initial release of “Live at the BBC” and retires from Abbey Road studios this autumn, having worked there for 48 years.

Also, of course, we are happy to hear that Howlett now confirms having replaced some of the original sources for that album with newly found better recordings of the same radio broadcasts. As far as we know, better versions of songs like “The Honeymoon Song”, “That’s All Right”, “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”, “Slow Down” and a few other recordings used on “Live at the BBC” have so far been aired on BBC radio in later years.

6 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Great news that they are substituting some inferior material with the newly surfaced superior sources. Sounds like they have put a lot of work into revamping this collection. Really looking forward to these two releases in November.

  2. maukel says:

    i think there will be noise reduction techniques anyway, the good thing is that those filters have been improved so much through all these years, so when they say no problem leaving a little of "hiss", before that there was a lot of noise removed, i guess.

  3. db says:

    Because there's musical info within that hiss/surface noise. The remastered Robert Johnson set from 2011 is a good example of why leaving in hiss benefits the recording.

    The Lennon Anthology (such as 'Dear John') could seriously do with un-nonoising.

  4. James Peet says:

    I see that are selling Live At The BBC triple vinyl, saying it's from this year.

  5. James Peet says:

    On the subject of vinyl – this is on sale on as well…

  6. SUPERSLEUTH says:

    Just listened to "On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2". Hard to be sure but sounds to me like some sort of NR used. Two telltale signs are lack of tape hiss where you'd expect there to be some, and exaggerated tape dropouts. On many tracks here the tape dropouts are very audible, especially on Ringo's cymbals. The original recordings would have been made on full track 1/4" tapes where you dont expect nearly that amount of dropout. There is also a great deal of tape distortion, suggesting another explanation. Possibly second or third generation copies were used for some tracks.

Leave a Reply