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Wham! / The Final K2HD Mastering

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K2HD remastering is a new technique that the Japanese have pioneered to try and improve the quality of that stalwart of music delivery, the ‘redbook’ CD.

Developed by JVC and described (perhaps optimistically) as an ‘epoch making’  mastering technology, K2HD is supposed to deliver the ‘ambience of analogue sound’, ‘higher resolution’, ‘lower distortion’ and a ‘richer sound field’.

The idea is that a creative mastering engineer trained in how to get the best from this K2HD process works in a specially prepared “FLAIR” (Victor Studio) and extracts more detail from the master tapes, storing the information at up to 100 kHz and 24 bit.

Obviously getting this onto a CD involves converting down to 44.1kHz / 16-bit but the idea is that the good work done before this happens is still detectable when you play the CD and the listener will enjoy a mastering that is preferable to a non K2HD version.

Like SHM-CDs and Blu-spec CDs, K2HD mastered discs are playable on all CD players. This writer has never noticed any difference with the former two formats so until I hear a K2HD mastered disc judgement will be reserved.

One thing is for sure, just like normally mastered CDs, the skills of the mastering engineer and the condition, format (and availability) of the original master tape are just two variables that will surely have a big impact on how these new remasters sound.

A fair number of titles have now been issued in Japan including this edition of the classic Wham! compilation The Final. I have no idea (yet) how it sounds, but this numbered limited edition of 1000 certainly packaged quite nicely. It’s presented in an oversized casebound book with a transparent outer sleeve. It certainly looks like the standard track listings so don’t go expecting anything extra.

Have you heard this Wham! disc, or any other K2HD remastering? Let us know what you think!


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Other K2HD titles…

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Thanks to Marko Rost for the photos.

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38 responses to Wham! / The Final K2HD Mastering

  1. Darren says:

    They will spin any old nonsense to try and get you to keep buying the same music you already own.

    For 99% of the music listening population CD quality is more than adequate and this along with other products on the market is a con aimed at uninformed people.

    Get better headphones, a headphone amp, a DAC, better speakers, a decent AVR or whatever you think will suit you best and it will improve your entire music collection much more than these attempts at reselling you individual discs you already have.

  2. Bob says:

    Invest in good gear and you will be surprised at how good CDs can sound. I am a remaster hunter, checking out reissues of my favorite discs, hoping for better quality audio. It is a crap shoot, and lately, it has been very disappointing. I have felt for a long time that the physical disc has no bearing on the sound difference (gold, platinum, etc.) , and I have found no difference in SHM either. The real key is finding an engineer that knows what he is doing in the remaster process, and can listen back with home audio in mind. That is the real key for me. It is inconsistent across all labels, studios, and even pressing plants.

  3. JL says:

    Ever since upgrading my system, I am shocked at how amazing my older CD’s sound and how atrocious a high number of my CD’s released in the past 10 years sound (to the point I’m not buying anything new until I know the Dynamic Range levels). CD’s can sound amazing and as good as SACD’s, DVD, even Blu-Ray. It all depends on how it was mastered or remastered.

  4. Joshua says:

    Stop with these ‘niche’ offshoots of the redbook format. Ship has sailed on that. Physical media would survive in 2014 and beyond with: semi-deluxe packaging, high-resolution and/or surround sound. But then again, without care in the master, medium doesn’t matter.

  5. ben says:

    I have both the Hall and Oats and Cat Stevens greatest hits on K2HD cd’s and they sound AMAZING. I absolutely believe there is a huge difference from a typical redbook disc. I have a lot of SHM, SACD, Blu Ray Audio etc and not every release is a winner but the two K2HD cd’s i own are must-haves for me. Hopefully this release is another well done disc!

  6. C Feeney says:

    I always rub snake oil on my CDs before playing them. It works wonders, they sound fantastic, and only £50 for 5ml.
    Available from iamagulliblefoolpleasetakemymoney.com

  7. Lazlo Nibble says:

    Whatever they may be doing behind the scenes to prep the audio masters, these are all standard Red Book CDs. If they weren’t, your CD player wouldn’t be able to play them. As with “Blu-spec” and its cousins, anything in the marketing materials that implies changes in the physical manufacturing process have ANYTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the sound is a sure sign of snake oil.

  8. Mike Cox says:

    Well since it is Wham I hoping someone will read this, get wise and release some of the stuff that’s not on cd!!

  9. Andrew Smith says:

    Only true 24bit playback will give you true high resolution. HDtracks sells them and the Pono Music store (which goes live in October 2014) will be selling them as well. They can bring in these improved CD formats such as K2HD mastering, but at the end of the day it still has to be dithered down to 16bit/44.1kHz for CD, which is limited in how much detail from the original master tapes it reproduces.

    • John says:

      Using decent equipment I have also found no audible difference between 16 bit and 24 bit audio of the exact same mastering.

      It’s another ruse and there is plenty of information out there as to why it is not offering you any perceptible improvements.

  10. Fred Smith says:

    I wish i was a teenager again then i might appreciate the ‘Superior’ sound but as it is hearing deteriorates from early 20s onwards.Damn!!

  11. Matthias says:

    I recently bought Toto’s “Past to Present 1977-1990″ and it should be in the mail soon. Still waiting. I read through what little real-life info I could find out there and general consensus seems to be, these masters generally sound very good. So somebody probably did go to some lengths to make them.

  12. Mike says:

    Agree with Fred, i cant see/ hear how anyone would be able to know the difference in old age!

  13. Griffin says:

    Last picture with the explaining of K2HD Mastering CD is in Chinese (picture is unclear, but I don’t recognize any Japanese in it)!

  14. Daran says:

    Comes across very much like HDCD’s or Superbit DVD’s – neither of which survived or had any real interest shown in them. This won’t get off the ground either.

    Music industry – If you want people to actually buy media rather than steal it, then do good packaging, master versions separately for hi-fi listening and crappy Apple ( now read Beats) headphones, and stop compressing the living daylights out of dynamics!

  15. Brian says:

    Why not just release it DVD-Audio or vinyl and be done with it?

  16. André says:

    As a Wham/George Michael collector, I’ll be getting it anyway as it’s a nice and unique package. Whether or not the sound IS better is debatable, but it makes a nice addition to any collector’s family. I wish they would release a proper deluxe edition instead of rehashing the original album every five years…

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Hi André – Yes agree with you wholeheartedly – very annoying the way this hasn’t been expanded. Hopefully one day… Paul

  17. Bert says:

    Essentially it is a feeble marketing tool aimed at ill-informed audiophiles who will buy anything new on the market that purports to make a specific album sound better than the already adequate disc they already own.

    It’s like the film Memento. They prefer to forget what they know so they can keep the hobby alive.

  18. Francis says:

    Why even bother with these K2HD releases? The human ear can only hear a certain range of sound and quality with regard music, of which the standard CD does a perfectly good job if listened too using a decent hi-fi system and speakers. If anything, the human ear will not even notice any difference between K2HD and standard CD. Also, as people age their hearing gets less, so some of the quality sound is lost anyway. These k2HD may suit dogs and bats as they have much more superior hearing than humans. LOL

  19. Rob says:

    Audiophiles will only be happy when they get a copy of an album that makes them involuntarily ejaculate.

  20. SimonP says:

    Of all the discs pictured above I desire to own none. I didn’t buy them then and I won’t be buying them no they’ve had invisible (and most likely inaudible) fairy dust sprinkled on them.

  21. My Jelly says:

    I own a number of Focus K2HD titles which were pressed in 2008 which are a significant improvement on the standard pressing Cds. The sound is far superior and the packaging of a similar standard cardboard sleeves inner sleeves etc. It’s down to the individual and what suits them and there ears and financial pockets. You do need a high standard Hi -Fi system to appreciate this format and not a steam driven one to get the full benefit of these cds including such established manufacturers as Mobile Fidelity. I would suggest getting your ears syringed for those who can’t tell the difference, It’s your choice whether you purchase these formats. If you look in the right places excellent titles can be purchased at discounted prices.

  22. Laurie H says:

    The K2HD CDs I have (I have several including Eagles (Hell Freezes Over), Eva Cassidy and Elton John (Love Songs) amongst others) are much better presented than the standard versions so pride of ownership is up there (if that is important). As to the quality of the CD – the EJ stuff I am very familiar with and have his albums on nearly every available format (except Blu Spec). Back to back listening with versions of Candle in the Wind on SACD, 30th Anniversay SACD, SHM-SACD, SMH-CD, DVD-A, CD, remastered CD, Mobile Fidelity CD and 2014 remastered CD – I would say K2HD is on par with Mobile Fidelity – although the MF version has slightly better dynamics and sounds more ‘analogue’. The K2HD sounds similar to the original CDs and ‘bettert’ to my ears than the later remasters (although the 2014 one adds a bit of Bass Oomph!!). SACD and DVD-A are so far ahead of the game it is not funny. With any of the CDs itsimply sounds like a good facsimile of a pianist singing on my set up (medium hi end Hi Fi) – with SACD (and to a marginally greater extent DVD-A) it sounds like the piano is in my lounge room.

  23. Alfredo says:

    Please, won´t keep buyin´ on and over again. Just live!

  24. kleinerPrinz says:

    listen to SACD, Blu Ray Pure Audio, DVD-Audio and 24 bit flac. Nobody needs another high end 16 bit CD. But yes, snake oil on my usb stick let my mp3s sound like 32 bit 192 khz.
    i can listen to make it big on sacd

  25. Bertielego says:

    So many topics to react upon on this post!…

    1. K2HD is not that new. I don’t know when it exactly started, but I can recall seeing ‘K2HD Coding’ CDs from 2005 already. My oldest ‘K2HD Mastering’ CDs date from 2008 (‘Emerson, Lake & Palmer’).

    2. K2HD is not an alternative format to e.g. SHM-CD. It can be combined with other formats. I own several ‘HQCD’ discs with ‘K2HD mastering’ (‘King Crimson’, ‘Asia’, ‘Fripp & Eno’). And since recently ‘K2HD Mastering’ gets applied to ‘Platinum SHM-CD’ discs (e.g. ‘Emerson, Lake & Palmer’).

    3. The discs pictured above don’t look like for the Japanese market. I don’t see the point in investing in such discs. If you are interested in Japanese CDs, I would advise to get the real thing, i.e. with at least a nice Obi strip, and preferably a ‘Mini LP’ sleeve. These truly look beautiful (not with that ridiculous gold frame)… and become collectable!

    4. Obviously High Res formats (DVD-A, SACD, Blu-ray Audio…) are better than any variations of ‘Red Book’ CDs. But I guess that’s not the point here. K2HD mastered CDs are simply about getting the best possible mastering on a regular CD. In Japan, the 40th anniversary two-discs reissues of the King Crimson catalogue consist of a DVD-A + a K2HD mastering HQCD packaged together; so next to your DVD-A, you get a great quality CD.

    5. To me, more than anything, if I buy a K2HD mastered disc, it is because it carries a reassuring quality tag. I can’t imagine K2HD Mastering discs poorly mastered. I have never been disappointed with a Japanese release on either Blu-Spec CD, Blu-Spec CD2, SHM-CD, Platinum SHM-CD, HDCD, HQCD, K2HD Mastering…

    6. As others mentioned, George Michael deserves a serious curation of his back catalogue. Unfortunately the ‘Wham!’ and solo work is in the hands of a rather boring label; it’s gonna take a while…

    7. Last but not least, I don’t really understand the choice of titles pictured above. These are not really the kind of artists/releases one would look for an audiophile format of sorts… (Footlose ?!?)

    • Rick says:

      Quote:
      4. Obviously High Res formats (DVD-A, SACD, Blu-ray Audio…) are better than any variations of ‘Red Book’ CDs.

      Completely inaccurate I am afraid.

  26. Wax Monster X says:

    Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. It has become a crapshoot. I am a remaster junkie and can attest to being highly disappointed by some “remastered” discs. The worst culprits in my opinion have been the Talking Heads Rhino, New Order Rhino, U2. Still waiting for good sounding discs by these artists.

    I agree with the above posting on the choice of K2 titles. I wouldn’t mind a good sounding Wham The Final, but Footloose, Rick Astley and a fairly weak Annie Lennox album. At least go with Diva. Oh well. Not getting my $$ on this one.

  27. Daran says:

    @ Bertielego

    Unfortunately you can’t take for granted that a K2HD release disc will be well (re)mastered. It is no secret that some SACD releases have simply been the original master with more top end added to give illusion of higher definition through brightness. Hopefully not the case in Japan, but shows how people can be fooled.

  28. John Moore says:

    These CDs are NOT from Japan but from Taiwan and even mainland China. If they are from Taiwan they are proper releases but be careful from China as pirate copies have been around for quite while. The technology is still around here in Japan but has been super-seeded by SHM-CDs which is from Universal Music Japan. As stated above go for the mini lp cds – which are simply beautiful and highly collectible too.

    • Soundboy says:

      The “Wham! – The Final” K2HD CD was released by Hong Kong Sony Music and is intended to be sold in Hong Kong only. Both the remastering and the pressing of the CD was done in Japan by JVC. The choice of the titles reflect the music preferences of the local demographics. Do some research first….HK Sony has been releasing K2HD CDs for years, and the same can be said for HK Universal Music as well (i.e. Elton John, Carpenters, Lionel Richie, Platters, etc.)

  29. Uten Frame says:

    I find it curious that this is an album that is picked for remastering. “The Final” was remastered in late 2011 (less than three years ago). Find more info here:

    http://www.superdeluxeedition.com/feature/wham-the-final-25th-anniversary-special-edition/

    Although that release didn’t make me jump out of my seat, I still thought it a worthy upgrade from my original disc. Do we really need a new remaster so soon? How much better can it be?

  30. Matthias says:

    Just to add another impression: I received the Toto “Past to Present 1977-1990″ disc and it sounds spectacular. Leaves the original dead in the water. It’s still my Toto compilation of choice because, to my mind, it has the perfect track list. All the good Toto stuff I want plus the 4 exclusive tracks, which never appeared anywhere else and are very good, esp. “Love has the Power”. Very happy to have this remastered, and so well. Plus, the packaging is luxurious. Highly recommended.

  31. Michael says:

    Wanted some extra info on K2HD CD, and frankly I’m shocked at some of the answers here. Thankfully most that have bought these generally have positive reviews. I’m as dumb as they come. Bought Secret Garden online from HK. It is the original, manufactured in Japan. Played on my generic car, home CD and laptop CD players, and seriously I can tell the difference. Why? Because I have the same CD in the normal format. For lack of audiophile jargon, I’d say the sound quality had better depth and clarity, and you can hear the rich harmonics of the violin much clearer. Only bad thing is you can also clearly hear those irritating sounds that goes into the original recording which is unintended for us. Dumb as I am to the jargons of audiophile, best I can say is that it sounds better than the normal CD.

    It doesn’t mean just because we can say anything at all, we should. Those commenting on something they have never even tried just to rubbish it really shows their personality.

  32. Joseph says:

    The packaging & presentation of these Asian-based CD products is typically very nice, no doubt. And the sound quality as well. But there is nothing about them from a technical standpoint which equates to inherently better sound quality, or a higher ceiling therein. It is not to say such releases do not represent improvements over pre-existing counterparts (and they often do), but it has nothing to do with any technical merits specific to the medium (SHM, blu-spec) or the remastering process (K2HD etc) although something deserves to be said for their generally excellent & consistent nature. The truth is, these are all 16-bit masters irrespective of their branding – each capable of sounding as good or better than the next. It’s all down to the quality of the source material and the skills & judgment/preferences of the professionals involved in the mastering process. The fact that labels take advantage of the situation to tout “K2HD Mastering” or what-not is simply a happy byproduct of the superior mastering which (hopefully) has been carried out.

    I would be interested to hear of any such releases where the results have not lived up to the billing. Certainly there must be an example here or there which has fallen short of the mark.

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