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Bowie General > Starman In Session + taped sessions (+ Noise Reduction quandry)

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Stranger09Posted at 2023-01-20 21:23:58(2 wks ago) (Bowie General / Starman In Session + taped sessions (+ Noise Reduction quandry))


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OK here's a topic that may divide a little.

My latest bugbear, that I'm finding as irksome as brickwalling, is NR'ing / over-cleaning up.

Removes atmoshpere / 'feel'. Neil Youngs rants about CDs - while not for exactly the same reason spring to mind - spring to mind. Just as he felt music lacked life / vitality on CD, I find the same with a lot of NR-ing and over-cleaning up of recordings. Sacrilege perhaps to say it already, but much as love much about the Divine Symmetry set - beautiful books, and a lot of lovely recordings that are new to me, there is a problem with this on there.

Anyway, moving on ... currently I am finally listening to Bowie radio sessions again, largely spurred by the above box set.

I once had Starman In Session on CD - a beautiful cover it had, a bit like Crash Course For The Ravers - and I'm now wondering of it lacked Noise Reduction. If it did, that would be a good thing in my book.

Whether or not it did - and whether or not other radio session releases from the mid to late 90s onwards (official and unofficial) were NR'd or from NR'd tape (I suspect they were, but I could be wrong) - I am wondering what are the best early sources of radio sessions still in existence.

I am aware that a lot of radio sessions back in the tape trading days circulated in incomplete / compiled / nth generation form - which hardly completes with the off-master sources that started to turn up from Bowie At The Beeb onwards.

Any tech heads / big collectors out there though might be able to advise on good off master tape sources or early cd versions with a nice but acceptable layer of hiss (there's music to be found in there, before it gets removed :)), I'm getting curious about this. Might make enjoy some of the more 'business as usual' (imo) sessions / session tracks a little more ...

Thanks for any pointers re early 90's collections of radio sessions (or standalone ones) if anyone can help :)

Last edited by Stranger09 on 2023-01-20 21:26:06


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Stranger09Posted at 2023-01-21 12:16:55(2 wks ago) (Bowie General / Starman In Session + taped sessions (+ Noise Reduction quandry))


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Life is never simple.

Following my little rant / thinking aloud on hiss levels / noise reduction, this might interest some - (and be of little interest to others)

Comparison - with surprise result to me - on radio sessions -

Oh You Pretty Things hiss level on Sep 71 stereo radio session

Divine Symmetry - the most hiss (a good thing in my book)
Oh You Pretty Thing boot cd - the least
Essential David Bowie cd3 boot - some hiss

This was a quick comparison - loaded the song Oh You Pretty Things from each into Audacity, raised the gain as far as it can go for the first 10 seconds of each.

What complicates matters is - the bass and 'warmth' of each recording varies (not unusual in different releases of any music, to be fair), as well as the generation / quality of the source tape used, at least between the Oh You Pretty cd and the other two releases.


None of this makes choosing a 'best' version of anything easy. :)

Anyway, if anyone has the 'Starman In Session' cd or a copy of it / the files, please give a shout!

Also still interested in high quality taped versions of radio sessions if any exist in remotely comparable quality to the CD versions. It's not as daft as it might sound ... I remember on another forum someone putting a poll up on radio sessions and one of the options was 'I prefer the old tapes'. There is something about the sound of the compression applied (mild compression, nothing like the brickwall bollocks inflicted on modern cds) by the Beeb on radio session broadcasts and that being captured on tape that can make many radio sessions - not necessarily Bowie ones, but it can happen - sound so good that way. The producers and tech people know a lot about how something will sound over the radio so a lot of thought, work and experience has gone into getting that radio session to sound good that way, all of which often gets forgotten when eq'ing / mastering sessions for later release on CD.

Last edited by Stranger09 on 2023-01-21 12:25:01


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professormouseDonatedPosted at 2023-01-21 15:16:05(2 wks ago) (Bowie General / Starman In Session + taped sessions (+ Noise Reduction quandry))


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you have to leave the bathroom door open

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imperialPosted at 2023-01-21 15:23:01(2 wks ago) (Bowie General / Starman In Session + taped sessions (+ Noise Reduction quandry))


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not sure what you mean about compression here? The original radio broadcasts were heavily compressed, and what you heard on your radio was low-resolution AM. When recorded onto a cassette, if became even lower resolution.

Maybe you preferred that aesthetic,  but no way is it objectively technically better than a copy from a BBC reel onto a CD.

I guess if you grew up listening to AM radio recorded to tape, that is then what you prefer because you heard it first and that's how it's "supposed" to sound to you?


I'm also not convinced the audio engineers at the BBC were that bothered about trying to get the sound good nor did they give it a lot of thought (as you suggest). I think they were more interested in getting the stuff onto the airwaves with as little hassle as possible (deadlines). Radio 1 was/is disposable pop music; it was broadcasting to kids with rubbish radios in their bedrooms or cars; as we know, much if it was wiped because it really was disposable. In Bowies case, he was a no-hit then one-hit wonder for most of these sessions. The kitchen sink was not thrown at his sessions! Nothing from that era sounds "good" - compared to say the effort that went into recording BBC classical concerts.

Last edited by imperial on 2023-01-21 15:29:30


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Stranger09Posted at 2023-01-22 14:29:24(2 wks ago) (Bowie General / Starman In Session + taped sessions (+ Noise Reduction quandry))


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Some good points there, Imperial, thanks.

"Maybe you preferred that aesthetic,  but no way is it objectively technically better than a copy from a BBC reel onto a CD."

This sums up my pov - I am not saying that a tape of the radio is technically better, but the sound of some old radio sessions in that medium, not necessarily Bowie ones as I noted, can be much more involving and exciting. Certainly certain punk era broadcasts such as The Jam, The Fall etc that could be the case.

I am at the point that, like many, I have an abundance of music, including not just multiple versions of songs by favourite artists, but in some cases multiple different presentations of those sonngs. :)

Incidentally, with the stereo Sep / Oct 1971 radio broadcast (recorded 21st Sept, broadcast 4th October), I have now found the Essential David Bowie vol 3 version to be preferable. Non-brickwalled, not heavily compressed. I added a little reverb as that what had made the Oh You Pretty Thing cd version so attractive, however the latter CD versions are from a bit of a worn tape.

I still have a nagging feeling that the Starman In Session CD *might* have had less noise reduction - possibly the orignal Bowie at the Beeb CD. I got rid of both after A-B comparisons years ago, and the annoying thing is what suits one at one time, can change later :).

The good thing is I am enjoying compiling my own version of Hunky Dory era demos, radio sessions and outtakes ...

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