Download of the Week: The Complete Doors Studio Albums
All eight studio albums from The Doors, including the last two without Jim Morrison, are now available as a single download bundle in 24/96 HD audio for $99 at HDTracks.com. These are stereo HD versions of the original album mixes and not the DVD-Audio remixed HD versions from the Perception box set released several years back. More on that in a bit.
There are a couple of quirks with this bundle: First, when you download this set, the tracks are not broken out by album, but rather all 79 songs are in one long directory, labelled with the song titles and the numbers 1 to 79. I had to break them into albums before loading into the Sooloos, which was able to reset the track numbers and pull the rest of the metadata.
Second, Warners again opted to cheap out on the details. You get the front album covers (some of which are not the best versions of these images I've seen) and no other liner notes. Also, you can't buy the individual albums, but can only get them as a set. At least for now [one week after this story was posted the individual albums are now available for $17.98 each, which makes this set a deal any way you look at it]. $99 is not bad for eight albums, but if you toss aside the last two that were made without Morrison--which most fans might listen to once or twice--you're up to $16.50/album which is more in line with other individual releases.
But we're here for the sound, and these do not disappoint, though making comparisons is a tricky business.
When the original CD versions of these albums came out, they sounded thin and were easily improved upon when DCC released their versions. All of the CDs were then remastered and released as a set in 1999 and there was also four channel DVD-Audio. Then the Perception box set was released in 2006 with the first six albums released in both two channel CD (identical to the 1999 remasters) and two and 5.1 channel HD formats (all new mixes from the multitrack analog tapes).
Both the CD and HD two-channel versions from the Perception box set included bonus tracks with each album, but the mixes and track timings were quite different for the HD discs. Extra vocal and instrumental tidbits were added back in and some intros and outros altered and extended. Instruments were panned to different spots and levels changed. The entire enterprise was punched up and made, well, more fun. If you didn't get too high on your historical accuracy horse, it was easy to like some of these new mixes, but I was frustrated that the originals were still not available in HD and just appeared as CDs in the box.
For the new HDTracks set, the bonus tracks are gone and the mixes are again back to the originals. With the early albums, the HDTracks versions sport less tape noise than on the CD remasters and a slight overall softening of midrange peakiness--a welcome improvement. Bottom end is overall more consistent between the two formats, but wIth every album, the advantages of the HDTracks versions over the CDs are apparent with much greater detail and soundstage depth throughout.
Comparing the HDTracks albums to the Perception HD versions is a tougher call and will largely depend on if you like what they did with the Perception remixes. The Perception mixes are obviously different, adding more bass to most tracks, along with moving the drums just slightly to the right of center, keeping them out of the way of Morrison's voice. The Perception HD versions are overall louder and more aggressive, with a very modern punchy feel to the instruments especially in the later albums.
So if you prefer the original mixes or don't want to mess with buying discs and transferring DVD-Audio to your hard drive, the HDTracks editions are clearly the ones to have. No reservations. If you do have access to the Perception box files and like those mixes, I would still seriously suggest getting the HDTracks versions as a reference point, and toss the CD versions that came in the box.
And I'm curious. If you've heard the Perception HD mixes, what do you think about them compared to the originals, sonically or musically?