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?

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COMMENTS
Steven Plaskin's picture

I listened to some titles from both the Perception Box Set HD stereo ripped from the DVD-As and the HDtracks releases.  The Perception HD mixes are a little brighter with a more up front sound to Morrison's voice. Morrison's voice is more distant and has more reverb with the HDtracks than the Perception Box Set.

Jon did a good job describing the other differences between the two sets.

The HDtracks does have a larger deeper soundstage than the Perception Box.

Overall, I liked the HDtracks a little better, but enjoyed both in terms of the music.

Regor Ladan's picture

HDTracks is an excercise in total an utter frustration.

So it took an article on Audiostream for us to find out what mixes are being sold.

Thank you by the way, the information you provided above is great

No liner notes supplied???? No mastering or mix information???? No individual album purchases? A big 79 track mess???? For $99????

The download business will continue to be a miniscule blip until the artists, record companies, and vendors start taking this seriously.

BTW, there are conflicting claims that the first album is the remxi from the DVD-A and NOT the origina mix.

Can you verify one way or the other

Thanks again for the write up.

 

Jon Iverson's picture

The sound on the first album is closer than the others. But they sound disctinctly different. The HDTracks version is a bit louder in some spots, but the upper midrange peakiness is tamed compared to the Perception set. But I'm going to guess that they had less variables to play with on this album because there were fewer tracks on the tape deck it was recorded on, thus they couldn't split out the instruments as well for the Perception box. The differences between the HDTracks and Perception versions are not consistent from track to track on the first album - which would also lead me to believe they are not the same remasters. I'll have to go back to my original vinyl to know for sure.

Regor Ladan's picture

Thank you.

I just reread the liner notes from the Perception box.

It seems that 2007 remix is the way to go anyway you slice it.

It is the only version ever released running at the correct speed.

It also has lyrics restored that were edited out due to censoring standards of the day.

My original LP of the first album was horrid. Thin, tinny, no bass, tons of inner groove distortion.

slim's picture

into comparing the HDTracks versions with the Perception Box 24-96 stereos - had a fascinating evening.

Went straight for some of my favorite tracks (Wishful Sinful, The Soft Parade, and above all, Soul Kitchen) and was quite surprised a) to hear such substantial differences and b) to end up preferring the Perception versions - they intelligently transpose the Doors' audio signature into nowaday's listening, while the HDTracks pull the utmost from the early 70's sound.

In the Perception version of Wishful Sinful, I liked the way the strings and the solo oboe are given sonic weight and presence, while the "classic" version may be more coherent, but also remains lean.

Didn't manage to compare the Soft Parades adequately due to overwhelming negative power of the song ("when all else fails we can whip the horses eyes, and make the sleep, and cry") 

Soul Kitchen: way too artificial separation of the instruments on the HDTracks, much smoother blend on Perception, with only minor improvements of the latter versus the 2007 Rhino CD reissues - them are good-sounding CDs, man!

That's when the evening started to take off ...

... with an intermission: after five versions of Soul Kitchen by the Doors, I dug out Patti Smith's cover (from Twelve), which is great & lovely in a Patti Smith or most any standard context, but not after 2 hours of Doors; consoled myself with her banjo-studded Nirvana - Teen Spirit cover, before ...

... returning to the Doors: there are three fantastic Soul Kitchens on the Doors' Live at Felt Forum, New York, 1970, the best one IMHO track 19 of the first night --- illustrating perfectly that the quest for higher resolution is so vain in the light of music that unsettles your soul ...

... stepped back further to a time shortly after my swaddling clothes and enjoyed the (CDs of the) concerts of Jerry Lee Lewis Live At The Star-Club Hamburg (April 5th 1964) and thereafter Roger Chapman And The Shortlist - August 28th 1979 at the Markthalle, Hamburg (Who Pulled the Night Down On Me et al.). Both amazing records despite the lack of any audiophile claim. 

Chasing the golden middle in-between those two, I concluded the evening in style with the Dead's concert in Hamburg during their Europe '72 tour (1972-04-29). At 2:30 a.m. they were playing "Another Saturday Night" as one of their signature encores when I realized it was Tuesday rather than Sunday morning and my boss would be waiting at 8:00 ...

 

Associated equipment: Audirvana Plus 1.3.9.7 on iMac OS 10.6.8 => E-MU 0202 USB => Audio Technica AD700 headphones (as most of this went on past midnight)

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