London, UK (May 5, 2016)—Abbey Road Studios recently spent nine months remastering Phil Collins’ eight solo albums for a new reissue campaign across digital, CD and vinyl formats. Curated by Collins himself, the project faced a number of challenges, as the 30-years worth of album masters were recorded across a variety of media.
Long-time Collins collaborator, Grammy-nominated Genesis producer and soundman Nick Davis oversaw the nine-month remastering project with Abbey Road Mastering engineer Miles Showell.
“It’s been a interesting series of remasters,” said Showell. “There were a lot of technical changes happening over the period from 1980 to 2010 when these albums were first recorded. You see that in how the albums were recorded—it was Face Value, of course, that really took drums to the next level and kicked off the big 80s fashion for drum sounds with gated reverb on them, like on ‘In The Air Tonight’—and it’s also reflected in the media the masters are stored on.”
The tapes for Face Value and Hello, I Must Be Going were the only two analogue album masters in Phil’s back catalogue. The rest, with the exception of Collins’ 2010 covers album Going Back, which was a higher-resolution digital master, were recorded to Sony digital tapes at the CD standard sampling rate of 16-bit, 44.1kHz. Paradoxically, this meant that the tapes recorded more recently were sometimes more troublesome to remaster than the oldest two albums in the series.
“Those old digital tapes can be very problematic on playback,” explains Showell. “If the machines have crunched the tape at some stage in the past, and there are dropouts, if they’re bad enough that the error correction on the machine can’t reconstitute the bit stream, there’s nothing you can do to retrieve the audio information.”
Because of these challenges, the first thing Showell did was to record high-resolution versions of the albums on the SADiE 6 workstation in his studio at Abbey Road, so he could work on the albums without having to keep playing the potentially problematic master tapes. The two analogue-mastered albums were mastered to 24-bit, 96kHz files via Abbey Road’s externally word-clocked Benchmark Audio converters, and the later digital album masters were upsampled to 96kHz.