XR remastering was developed by Andrew Rose in early 2007 and has been in continual development and refinement ever since. Its aim is to go much further than simply “cleaning up” old recordings, using cutting edge technology and innovative, proven techniques to get as close as possible to the original sound heard in the concert hall or recording studio before it was corrupted by early recording equipment.
It starts with what has been termed elsewhere “tonal balancing”. Most of the microphones used to make historic recordings (and even more so the horns used in acoustic recordings) had very uneven frequency responses. We use advanced computer analysis of the tonal content of these recordings to “reverse engineer” and counter the impact of those tonal distortions. This results in a much more natural and realistic sounding recording, limited only by the other constraints of the original source (frequency range, noise levels etc.).
But this is just the beginning. We were the first to release recordings where wow and flutter – the inconsistencies of pitch common to all analogue playback systems, but particularly prevalent in older recordings – had been fixed using a ground-breaking German computer solution called “Capstan”. Its pricing means we remain one of the few companies working in this field to use it and its impact, particularly in piano music, can be immense.
Another innovation has been the use of a technique called convolution reverberation. A large number of older recordings were made in especially “dry” acoustics to combat the noisy, low-quality reproduction systems of the time. Yet we hear music in concert halls specially designed for acoustics that complement and enhance the sound of the musicians playing there. Convolution (a complex mathematical procedure) allows us to effectively “place” our recordings in some of the finest acoustic spaces in the world – renowned concert halls, opera houses, churches and cathedrals. When sensitively and delicately applied this can add an extra dimension and sense of sonic reality to even the oldest recordings. It’s a far cry from using echo or digital reverberation to try and hide problems in recordings!
There are many other steps involved in making an XR recording – it soon gets very complex, and it takes a lot of painstaking work to produce each of our releases. Over the years XR remastering has become increasingly recognised as producing some of the finest audio restorations around.
Here’s Henry Fogel in Fanfare Magazine in 2016:
“Sony and the Met, in their set Wagner at the Met, issued this same performance, and one might wonder why Pristine would bother. After all, the resources of the Metropolitan Opera Company and Sony should permit the transfer to be as good as technology is capable of. And indeed I have enjoyed that edition for the year or so that I have owned it…
An A-B comparison of this with the Sony set is shocking. The difference is not subtle. The Sony set sounds like a 1940 AM broadcast. This sounds like a professional studio commercial recording from 1940, and a good one at that. Pristine’s XR [ambient] stereo remastering gives a sense of the space of the Met, and the result is thrilling in a way one never thought this performance would be.”