Four Seasons from the UK

The Search For The BEST Masters – The Sound Test Results

In the last blog I outlined how I wanted to review the sound test results with both ‘ears’ and software for the Snapper Box Set. I tested all of the CD’s for Dynamic Range[DR] and Loudness[RMS or Lufs] and for clarity and separation in mixes. Well, the good news is that all CD’s from Disc 19 on are [Dynamic Range] DR10 or higher which is spot on the mark for an Archive of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. All but one Disc in these discs had ‘Full Frequency’ sound, whilst some varied based on the source quality of the ‘Masters’. Good to excellent ‘Re-Mastering’ from the ‘variable’ source tapes as we had hoped and planned for.


Also we found excellent re-mastering in 99% of the ‘Bonus Tracks’ throughout the compilation that have come out really well given that most were from a wide range of sources including cassette tape and not ‘full frequency’ versions. But unfortunately poorer results were found on several of the early era discs. Back in 1988 Bill Inglot had to ‘Re-Construct’ the Sherry album from the Delivery Tapes supplied by Vee-Jay in 1966 when there were liquidated and the HQ Masters were returned to Bob Crewe[Genius Inc]. The original Safety Tape was below ‘full frequency’ for CD re-issue.


Re-Constructed Sherry1


The aim therefore has been to focus in on the 1960s tracks specifically Discs 1 to 18 and to try to understand any differences that have indicated a sub optimum sounding result.? This was because in several cases there are puzzling tracks with poor Dynamic Range and EQ results [i.e.DR7 to DR9].


Transfers from these ‘analogue’ age tapes were done in 2019 and 20 for re-mastering with modern software tools for the Snapper Box Set. Problems appear to be with ‘Safety Copies’ around 60 years old. They have only been issued previously in STEREO format on CD [apart from a handful of independent label issues of 3 albums and some hits in MONO – e.g. Real Gone Records and the Jersey Beat Box Set]. The STEREO tapes had been previously transferred in 1988 and later in the 1990s for both Curb and ACE Records album re-issues on CD, (so multiple transfers since the start of the CD era of 1988) and the original and oldest tapes may have suffered wear and deterioration. But in this box set we have for the first time transfers and inclusion of the MONO Masters from the original tapes. In some ways, it has provided a baseline digital set [like never before] of the original albums back in the 60s and we are able to hear them on CD for the first time providing a listening experience comparable with our original vinyl MONO albums. However, as a ‘first to digital’ MONO LP set of albums, it is not possible to compare the results in the Snapper Box Set of the MONO Masters with previous CD issues in a consistent or complete way. But we know that the MONO mixes from the original 4 track session tapes involved compression during mixing so whilst a DR10 is an optimum reading some mastering from the MONO tapes will inevitably only be able to achieve a DR9/8 reading on a proportion of the MONO album tracks.


As purchasers and listeners to the Box Set you may not notice this or perhaps just feel that the instrumentation is louder than you remember. [burying Frankie Valli’s lead somewhat?] This is a sign of compression.[i.e less distance between the loudest and quietest sound] which changes the relationship with the vinyl masters


In testing the Snapper Discs we used two reference digital sets:


  • ‘Golden Hits’ of The Four Seasons – MONO album 1963 – studio digital dub [DR10]

  • 25th Anniversary Box Set – 3 CD STEREO 1988 [DR12]


They represent the best levels of sound [with full frequency wav files of 18/20kHz max]


I outlined these standards in my last blog post and have since used ‘listening tests’ to focus on clarity and separation and the output of the DR meter readings on a range of past CD album releases in STEREO to measure differences and to grade the results. The Tests rated the original album content from….


  • ACE Records [1990s issues]

  • Curb [1990s issues]

  • Collector’s Choice [2000s issues]


….compared to the Snapper Box Set for these 18 albums. Results were graded as follows …..


  • Best to date

  • Good and Essential for Collectors

  • Some tracks only OK and with minor flaws

  • Problem Discs but still listenable

  • Plain Badly Mastered


And I reviewed Snapper Music Discs in comparison, noting those with missing or wrong tracks to the approved listing. This is of partly a subjective evaluation but based on a recognized and accurate evaluation software tool as well as the listening tests.


Of the first 18 Discs in the Snapper Music Box Set 8 have ‘less than optimum’ mastering with 8 of the Discs at DR9 and even some tracks as bad as DR7. Only one Disc is classified as ‘bad’ and that is ‘New Gold Hits’. But we noted the Tape Box Scan indicated the MONO tape should NOT be used for Mastering!!!


Front NGH 1


However, both the MONO and STEREO versions of ‘Genuine Imitation Life Gazette’ [GILG] proved to be the ‘Best To Date’ and set a top standard. Of the remainder only 2 surpassed the ACE albums issues. It was disappointing that there was such a lack of consistency and although all but Disc 12 are listenable in acceptable sound quality this is all a big contrast to the rest of the Box Set


The findings of other past masters can be summarised as follows:-


  • ACE Records - Of 16 original albums in STEREO covered during the 1990s transfers, ALL but 3 of their issues are Good and Essential Collectible [DR10] with 2 with minor flaws and 1 with problem tracks.

  • Curb – Criticised at the time for missing some tracks from original album titles we were only able to acquire 7 of the 18 Discs in the Snapper Set. Of these we found Discs 1 Sherry and Disc 4 Ain’t That A Shame to be ‘Best To Date’ and a very desirable Collectors Items.

  • Collectors Choice – We tested 8 in comparison with the Snapper Discs and found that CCM provided the ‘Best To Date’ version of ‘Live On Stage’ [Disc 9]. Of the rest 4 Discs were an acceptable DR10 with 2 below optimum with minor flaws.


So if you have any of these ‘Past Masters’ rated as good and collectible then hold onto them as the equivalent Snapper Discs are a not so good a match. I am personally replacing the album Masters in the UK Four Seasons Appreciation Society ARCHIVE LIBRARY [which I will cover in a future blog] and in my personal Discs and ‘playlist’ with NEW STEREO and MONO Mixes based on the BEST MIXES from the ‘past masters’ CD album releases for the following album Discs in the Snapper Music Box Set – 1/2/3/4/6/7/8/9/10/11/12/13/15/18. A total of 15 discs with adjusted sound to achieve the best balance of STEREO sound and new MONO mixes all in full frequency sound. This is what Bob Fisher and I set out to achieve.


Bob’s sad passing during the project meant that we had no dialogue with the Engineer regarding the tape quality issues nor of the final approach to ‘mastering’ quality. We did provide the list of Approved Masters after submission to Bob Gaudio locating the 830 plus tracks involved. If communication had been better with the Sound Engineer post the Covid period and we had known of how many tape quality issues existed we could have supplied ‘alternative’ masters from this library and corrected the somewhat disappointing results on some of the first 18 Discs in the Box Set. There are also 10 wrong Masters in the 44 CD Box Set and one ESSENTIAL track was missed by Snapper which cannot now be put right.


However most purchasers will be happy that 70% of the set is as good as we set out to achieve and were Bob still here he would agree that ‘we done good’. I am personally proud that we got the Motown Unreleased CD and created THE LOST DISCO ALBUM and were able to supply and include so many unreleased demos, acetates and LIVE tracks. It was a mammoth achievement and includes superb design work. As for more ‘unreleased tracks’…..well there are more alternative versions [The ‘Out-Takes’ Archive which we have] and of course the ‘still unreleased’ Motown tracks not included as ‘not approved’ by Bob Gaudio…….and the 200+ Unmarked Tapes in the FSP LA Storage.


The Comparator Chart of our findings is a download attachment to this post. If we get more past Masters of albums to compare we will update our chart but we believe this is the best anyone will ever find. CD re-issues are a small market now and do not justify the high cost of research as this project provided.


Download Snapper Disc Comparator Sound Tests Nov 2023


I will be discussing the process and all of the major positive achievements on the catalogue in our video podcasts 4 Seasons On Saturday with our team of collector experts over the next few months as we also consider the ‘out-takes’!!!


Ken Charmer – Four Seasons UK Appreciation Society – Snapper Music Box Set ‘Master Track Advisor’



















































Four Seasons UK Appreciation Society

Dr. George Ingram...Newsletter Editor: Ray Nichol—Record Researcher: Lynn Boleyn—Secretary; Ken Charmer—Webmaster/Researcher

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