Effects of Remastering?

Today I went through the boxes of archived CDs in the basement, looking for any CD that so far escaped ripping into iTunes. I happened across Peter Gabriel’s „US“ (Remastered)1, which hadn’t made it into the library, while the original 1992 disk had already made it.

After having ripped the remastered edition, I was curious if the remastering would make a difference in the file size. The theory here being, that Apple MPEG-4 encoding, like MP3, does remove „inaudible“2 parts of the music.

  • So, if remastering was a „fake“, not adding anything to the original edition, file sizes should be the same for original and remastered disks.
  • Different, that is: larger, file sizes for the remastered work would indicate that indeed remastering added some quality the original master didn’t possess.

My totally unscientific findings are, yes, remastering made a difference.

Compare file sizes of the original and remastered edition of Peter Gabriel's Us album.
Compare file sizes of the original and remastered edition of Peter Gabriel’s Us album.

This screenshot shows the file sizes for the original (1992) disk and the remastered (2000) disk, and as you can see, files are somewhat larger. Even those that appear the same, have some extra bytes when you look closely:

12890057 5 Nov 2010 Us/05 Only Us.m4a 12898782 18 Aug 20:52 Us (Remastered)/05 Only Us.m4a

Now, an experiment that seems to confirm your expectations is about the worst you can have. So many things could be different besides the remastering. To name a few:

  • Between encoding the original and the remastered disk, the encoding algorithm could have changed. Probably has, now that I think about it.
  • What about CD aging? The 1992 disk had been ripped in 2010; the 2000 remaster has been ripped 2016. Both disks have waiting about the same time (18 and 16 years, respectively), and Peter Gabriel doesn’t use cheap CDs, so maybe yes, maybe no.
  • What about the CD drives used, and the exact settings for the iTunes encoder? Nothing documented in the lab book? Boo!
  • And shouldn’t we already be worried that the disk detection (that fetches the track listing from Gracenote or some such) can’t readily distinguish between the original and the remaster, offering a pick of both?

Well, luckily for you, dear reader, that hasn’t fallen asleep by now, I have here Peter Gabriel 2 („Scratch“) und 2 Remastered, and I fully intend to be more scientific this time.

Here we go, iTunes import settings, documented:

Screenshot of Import settings in iTunes
Import settings in iTunes











And, of course, I’ll use the same computer, same disk drive to rip both.

I recommend listening to that album yourself just now, while we wait for iTunes. Did you know that none of the songs on Peter Gabriel 2 where included in the greatest hits album „Shaking the Tree“?

And … the results are in:

screenshot of file sizes of ripped Peter Gabriel 2 album and remastered edition
Peter Gabriel 2 CD from probably 1987 vs remaster from 2002


Hey, that was 1) way more scientific and 2) resulted in a visible difference. Maybe there is some benefit in remastering.

(Yes, even Animal Magic gained some discernible bytes:)

6946275 18 Aug 22:12 2_ Scratch [Remastered]/07 Animal Magic.m4a 6905707 18 Aug 22:04 Peter Gabriel (2)/07 Animal Magic.m4a

  1. We talked about that re-releasing business a few days ago
  2. I know, some people claim they can hear MP3 compression, or for that matter any compression. Well, with the encoding set to higher bit rates, I can’t.