Pink Floyd 2011 remasters - Discovery Editions and Box Set
Written by Matt   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Pink Floyd Discovery Edition albums and Box Set 2011At the end of September, the first phase of the massive Why Pink Floyd remaster and collectors edition campaign launched, with the release of all fourteen of their studio albums, along with two special expanded editions of The Dark Side Of The Moon. Wish You Were Here and The Wall will be receiving their own expanded editions in November 2011 and February 2012 respectively.  

We've taken a good, long look and listen to each album, comparing them to previous releases using the same equipment to try and give valid comparisons. We've not gone into the technical depths of checking waveforms and seeing what sort of frequency levels the different editions run at (although we know one or two audio enthusiasts who have run full analysis like this) as for most people, listening on normal to good equipment, the overall sound is most important and some of these technical intricacies will be irrelevant for the average listener. There is also a subjective nature to all of this, and listening to the albums over the last few weeks has revealed different things to us at different times. Best thing to do is dig in and enjoy the music! Overall, a great job has been done with all the albums, with a number of them showing a marked improvement over previous editions.

So, here we go - album by album, here are our thoughts on the 2011 remasters, and the encompassing box set which gathers them all together with an exclusive book:

This has, of course, only recently had a new edition (the 40th Anniversary set), so we suspect little work was needed (and indeed done) on this album. However, the 2011 version sounds particularly good, especially in the vocal area for some reason. The package is nicely designed - the gatefold provides two typical group shots, and the centre of the lyric booklet has an interesting picture of the band on what appears to be a demolition or construction site.

The transition album, with the departure of Syd, and the arrival of David, and the packaging marks this with a shot of each line-up. The 2011 remaster manages to bring more clarity and cleanness to things - I've always felt that Let There Be More Light in particular has suffered in the past, but this is by far the best sounding version I've heard. There's only so much that can be done with their original recordings but a decent job has been done to tidy this up a bit.

The first of the movie soundtracks, the packaging (gatefold sleeve, and lyric book) now feature a number of stills from the film, featuring Estelle and Stefan on their downward path. From the opening vocal of Cirrus Minor, it's clear that this was an album long overdue a polish in the studio. With much improved range and clarify, definitely one to check out - and one of their lesser-known, more overlooked albums too.

As the first of the double albums, it features a duplex gatefold sleeve, which features an alternate shot from the back cover equipment spread shoot. Not sure I've noticed before on this that Richard is sat at the drums, sticks in hand! For those unfamiliar with Ummagumma, it is split in two - a live album, with four of their key tracks at the time, and a studio album which on vinyl gave half a side to each member of the band. The studio album is a bit of a "curate's egg" to be honest. The live album sounds pretty similar to the previous versions, albeit a little clearer in places (but hard to put the finger on exactly where improvements have been made). The audience still sound very odd and not part of the original recording! The studio album similarly sounds a little improved, and ranges from the Geesin-esque Sysyphus from Richard, Nick's Grand Vizier's Garden Party, Roger's Several Species and the standout Grantchester Meadows, and David's underrated Narrow Way. There is a greater sense of depth with some of these, which is welcomed.

This features similar packaging to previous iterations, albeit with the gatefold sleeve and the amusing group "eyes covered" shot in Broadhurst Gardens as the centrespread. The side-long title track still has a fairly flat sounding drum track and I'd hoped that this was going to sound a lot more polished. The other tracks show some improvement, such as Summer '68 and Fat Old Sun.

In a nice bit of continuity, the centrespread of Meddle features a rare outtake from the Broadhurst Gardens shoot, which is featured on the Atom Heart Mother cover as noted above. This picture though is a fun shot of them all, and a good start to proceedings. The opening track, One Of These Days, demonstrates how subtle tweaking can really help the overall sound, and this is sonically nicely cleaned up. A Pillow Of Winds sounds even lovelier, and San Tropez jauntier. Echoes isn't much changed, although the bass sounds a little more focused and precise, and the vocal has a touch more presence.

A criminally overlooked Floyd album, its the precursor to The Dark Side Of The Moon and there are clear signs on the album of the direction they are heading in. Another soundtrack album, the music is therefore partly bound by the movie's story and progression, and this also gives a different feel and approach to some tracks. The packaging features more stills from the movie and an atmospheric job has been done (yet again) by StormStudios. From the opening bass of the title track it's clear that the work this album has needed, has been done. Sounds so much better than before, with a power, clarity and depth that was missing previously, and if that doesn't encourage you to check out this album (possibly for the first time), I'm not sure what will.

Having had quite recent remastering work, this is an album which (a) doesn't need any introduction, and (b) doesn't sound much different to the previous iteration. Clearly it's a little more polished, but to be honest, most fans are likely to head for the Experience or Immersion editions, which both feature additional material. The album sounds great, as it should and a suitably subtle job has been done with the packaging of this Discovery edition.

Obviously another of their "big" titles. As with the comments above for DSOTM, subtlety and sensitivity have ensured the packaging of this Discovery edition has been pitched just right. The booklet includes a nice selection of shots of each band member in the studios during the recording sessions. With Experience and Immersion editions coming in November 2011, many fans may hold off on this version (although it comes with the Discovery box set so purchasers of that will get this by default). For those who do get this, they'll discover a remaster which has done nothing to spoil the original, but which has given it a new (and subtle) verve and depth. Nicely done.

Of all the remasters, if truth be told this is the one I've personally been most eager to hear. Disappointed for so many years with the rather flat sound and lack of detail, would this album ever get the treatment it so deserved? Despite sitting between DSOTM, WYWH and The Wall, the album doesn't get the attention or accolades it deserves - the biting, lyrical satire coupled with a band playing with passion. Long one of my favourites, Animals has finally had the dust blown off it, revealing a more detailed and powerful recording, with a sense of depth it has been crying out for. The album was never a hifi demo disc (DSOTM cornered that particular market) and indeed, the nature of the music suited the overall production, but many of the issues with previous iterations of this album have now, thankfully, been resolved.

As with Ummagumma, this double album includes a double gatefold sleeve. Unlike the earlier album, the pocket configuration is different, to keep us on our toes! The plain font track list on the rear is easy to read, but rather drab when compared to Gerald Scarfe's handwritten version on the original. Unfold though and there's a range of Wall artwork (even carrying on the brick motif within the hidden shadows of the disc sleeves), which gives some satisfaction over the design. The judge protects the lyric booklet which features the original credits spread - however, some of the detail on this is very hard to make out due to its shrunken size. In terms of audio, I wasn't sure what to expect. With existing versions already excellent, I wondered how different this would sound. To my ears, the answer is not much. It IS a little cleaner and crisper, but it is hard to picture how it could be dramatically improved. Having said that, I'm sure no-one would want excessive, obvious tinkering on a classic like this. As with Wish You Were Here, The Wall is due for Experience and Immersion editions, which are coming in February 2012.

Despite being a 1983 recording, The Final Cut has always sounded stunning, due to the care taken by James Guthrie originally, and to ensure the holophonics work done on it sounded as good as possible. Listening to the album again today, one is reminded what a great album it is, with many highlights. Yes, many consider it more a Waters solo album than anything else, with varying degrees of outside musical assistance (indeed, Richard Wright is absent from the album completely), but there are still a number of classic later period Floyd sequences. The 2011 remaster has given a slight improvement over an already great recording. Oh, and it's the version with When The Tigers Broke Free included.

The first post-Waters album, and a nice job has been done on the packaging. The gatefold image is a nice portrait of the band, washed in blue. The lyric book brings back familiar imagery from 1987, including shots from the promo videos and single sleeve designs. Musically, it is apparent to me that there's a new layer of detail subtly lurking well back in the mix, which the master has revealed. As a fairly recent album, I wasn't expecting a major upgrade in sound, and thankfully no excessive tweaking has taken place to try and show a difference to previous editions.

The band's final album, and back in 1994 it met expectations of a top quality recording, using state of the art equipment and personnel. The 2011 edition has some fine tuning here and there, but no dramatic changes anywhere to be found which is no bad thing. Again, as part of this, there's some new little bits of detail emerging from the shadows of the recording. The packaging is nicely done with various iterations of the heads, at various angles, and the booklet includes familiar Division Bell imagery throughout. A favourite of many, the 2011 edition won't disappoint. 

As befits a collection like this, the box has been nicely designed. This doesn't always happen, of course, so it was a relief to see how they've constructed it. From the outside, the well-printed graphics and text provide a fairly subtle detail on a dark burgundy box, which is surprisingly compact. Lifting the front flap of the heavy, stiff card, you realise it is held in place with a pair of magnets. Once open, you see the spines of all 14 albums, which are exactly as sold individually - even down to each being shrinkwrapped.

Draped over the CDs is a strip of silk - pull it, and the 60 page book, unique to this boxset, gracefully slides up. "Graphic Tales" is an interesting wander through "various images and graphics designed for Pink Floyd over the years". These are largely unpublished or obscure images, and run right up to a suggested poster design for the Discovery/Experience/Immersion releases.

In conclusion then, a great job has been done with some sensible and sensitive remastering, all packaged well and in the case of the all-encompassing Discovery Box, keeping Floyd's albums safe in one place. For those who bought the (incomplete) Shine On box, and the more recent Oh By The Way box, you may think hard about indulging in the 2011 titles (and in particular, the Discovery Box) but ultimately, this set holds the lot, in the best quality we are likely to hear.

To help you, we've gathered together ordering links for the Discovery Editions and box set, from a number of major retailers. Purchasing through the links on our site will give much appreciated assistance towards things like hosting fees, without costing you any extra on your order, and we really appreciate it.

DISCOVERY 14 album box set: Amazon UK (US) Amazon Canada Amazon Germany
  Amazon France 
Amazon Spain (ES) 
Amazon Italy
DISCOVERY  individual albums: 
Amazon UK (US)
Amazon Canada Amazon Germany
  Amazon France Amazon Spain (ES) Amazon Italy