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  1. #1

    Four Tops 'Reach Out' CD sound quality

    I've always loved The Four Tops 'Reach Out' album and it's one of my favourite Motown albums. However I've found that CD reissues over the years have revealed a distorted sound quality which wasn't evident in the 'old days' listening to the LP on sound equipment of the time. I guess it was a result of the recording process and Motown's equipment of that era.

    Has anyone bought either this year's Japanese 'Reach Out' reissue CD or the earlier one by Culture Factory? If so, do they provide better sound quality than the many 'standard' CD reissues over the years?

    Thanks for your help.
    Last edited by alanh; 08-13-2019 at 04:12 PM.

  2. Quote Originally Posted by alanh View Post
    I've always loved The Four Tops 'Reach Out' album and it's one of my favourite Motown albums. However I've found that CD reissues over the years have revealed a distorted sound quality which wasn't eveident in the 'old days' listening to the LP on sound equipment of the time. I guess it was a result of the recording process and Motown's equipment of that era.

    Has anyone bought either this year's Japanese 'Reach Out' reissue CD or the earlier one by Culture Factory? If so, do they provide better sound quality than the many 'standard' CD reissues over the years?

    Thanks for your help.
    I don't think the issue was with the original recordings. My feeling was the first round of CD releases just sounded brittle and harsh perhaps due to the fact that CDs were new at the time. Motown had a lot of high end/treble to those 60's recordings, and I just felt that it was very hard to accurately translate that sound to a digital format. It wasn't just the "Reach Out" album; Martha & The Vandellas' "Dance Party" was
    extremely
    hard on the ears with a ton of distortion on the higher end. Marvin Gaye's "That Stubborn Kind Of Fellow" was another that had a strange "muted" sound. Again, my thought was that it wasn't with the original tapes, but the limitations of digital mastering at that time.

    Digital didn't seem to allow much room for those last nanoseconds of notes, so some things tended to end up with a "clipped", brittle sound. I don't know why other albums seemed to escape the malady. The first CD I bought when Motown started putting their 60's albums out was "The Marvelettes" and the sound was incredible on that one. The majority of Motown's CD releases were good, so the "Reach Out" album was a surprise. I even recall a magazine's review of it mentioned how harsh and distorted the horns sounded on "Walk Away Renee." (Actually, now that I think of it, those horns do have some distortion on the record as well, but maybe it's just that analog is much more forgiving so it's not noticed so much when played on vinyl.) I figured all the subsequent releases were just made from the same original CD masters.

  3. #3
    Listening to a CD today made up of a transfer from 1960s masters is a much fuller sound than listening to a CD which was manufactured in the late 80s or early 90s.

    I don't have the "Reach Out" CD, but the Four Tops seem to suffer more than the other Motown artists from poor audio. Their "Fourever" box set has some tracks which have that same sound as early CDs; kind of a "hollow" or "compressed" sound. In fact, the Four Tops' "Ultimate Collection" too has substandard sound on several tracks.

    On the other hand, the more recent "Still Water" and "Nature Planned It" import releases have stunning sound quality. In addition the Hip-O 50th Anniversary Singles is also well mastered with full sound in good quality.

  4. #4
    The sound is definitely bad on WALK AWAY RENEE

  5. #5
    It's worth noting that most original LPs are likely to be in mono, whereas all CD reissues have probably been in stereo.

    This will introduce an immediate perceived difference between original LP and modern CD since all 12 tracks have separate dedicated mono and stereo mixes.

    Both the mono and stereo mixes have some distortion but it sticks out far more clearly and unpleasantly in stereo, be that on vinyl or CD.

    I have mono and stereo pressings of the LP but I normally play the mono version because it sounds so much better.

  6. Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    It's worth noting that most original LPs are likely to be in mono, whereas all CD reissues have probably been in stereo.

    This will introduce an immediate perceived difference between original LP and modern CD since all 12 tracks have separate dedicated mono and stereo mixes.

    Both the mono and stereo mixes have some distortion but it sticks out far more clearly and unpleasantly in stereo, be that on vinyl or CD.

    I have mono and stereo pressings of the LP but I normally play the mono version because it sounds so much better.
    It goes beyond that and actually, the differences in stereo and mono mixes don't really play a big part with the CD transfers.

    As alanh mentioned, the distortion problem is especially plaguing on the Reach Out CD. It's not so much the original recording and it's not because he's hearing it in stereo vs. mono; it's the CD mastering in particular on this one album. The other Four Tops CDs sound just fine (and they're all in stereo.) The sound is VERY brittle and harsh on some of the tunes on the Reach Out CD. There are lots of other Motown stereo albums that were released in the 80's where this isn't an issue at all (except for Martha and The Vandellas Dance Party)

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