If you’ve ever owned a tie-dye shirt, now would be a good
time to dig it out of the bottom of your closet and throw that sucker on.
HDTracks recently released a special “box set” of all the Grateful Dead’s
studio albums, re-mastered and downloadable in either 192/24 or 96/24 digital files. If
you’d like to have a CD set, you’ll have to burn your own since this collection
is only available via download from HDTracks.
Given that the Grateful Dead’s studio albums have been
released a number of times in different formats and some are even high-def, why
would anyone but a daft deadhead bother to purchase this $249 collection?
Because it is simply the best-sounding and most definitive representation of
the original mixes from the master tapes.
Micky Hart remixed some of the albums, including “American
Beauty,” for DVD-HD release. The version available as a single album on
HDTracks was from this remix. All of the studio albums in the new box set were
sourced from the original two-track masters. I know this because I talked with mastering
engineer David Glasser from Airshow Mastering, who was responsible for all the tape to digital transfers. David also walked
me through the entire mastering process.
“I received the tapes from the Iron Mountain archives in
batches of three. We used a special Ampex ATR recorder for the playback. We
recorded three tracks from the two-track original – the first two tracks were
the left and right channels. The third track was the original tape bias signal,
which was extracted with custom-made tape heads and electronics. Any EQ or
other adjustments were made in the analog domain before encoding into 192/24
PCM. This three-channel digital mix was then sent to Jamie Howarth at Plangent