U2 Mastered, Remastered, Deluxe, Confused

Since I got interested in U2 again recently, I’ve started looking into their history of remastering and reissuing their older albums over the last decade. It looks like they remastered and reissued a few old albums in 2008. And they’ve continued to remaster and reissue a handful of other old albums over the years, generally including a “deluxe” format release, usually a 2 CD version with bonus tracks. The most recent reissue is this year’s Joshua Tree. There are four different versions of that: single disc, 2 CD, 4 CD, and 7 LP. (So they maybe overdid that one…) For the older reissues, the deluxe versions are sometimes still available on CD and sometimes not.

Looking at Amazon’s U2 page is a little frustrating. They’re clearly pushing the digital side of things. The deluxe two-disc versions of their first three albums (Boy, October, and War) are all available to stream, which is cool, but I don’t see them available on CD, though I may not be looking hard enough. (The single-disc versions are definitely still available on CD.)

In iTunes, they have a nicely organized U2 page. All (or most) of their studio albums are available in Mastered for iTunes versions. I looked into that a bit, and they seem to have been released earlier this year. And all of the deluxe versions are in there too, though those ones don’t have the “Mastered for iTunes” badge on them. So I’m wondering if those versions use the MFiT files for disc 1 and the older files for disc 2, or if they just didn’t update those at all.

I went down a bit of a hole this morning, reading up on the whole Mastered for iTunes thing. I’d read about it a bit when they first announced it, but haven’t paid much attention to it. Ars Technica has a couple of good articles on it, from 2012, one on the general concept, and one evaluating the end result. I’ve wondered if there’s any advantage to buying MFiT albums from iTunes vs buying the CDs from Amazon and ripping them myself, and I guess I’m still not sure. I probably don’t have fancy enough equipment (or good enough ears) to tell the difference, so I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

But I have noticed that I don’t like the sound quality on some of the older CDs that I’ve ripped recently, including U2’s October and War. I can’t quite figure out if I should buy new versions of those albums, re-rip my CDs with different settings, or just give up and live with it. I definitely don’t want to go too far down an audiophile rabbit hole that ends with me buying a bunch of new stereo equipment! I don’t currently own a working component CD player though, and that makes it a bit harder for me to narrow things down. I keep forgetting that I can play CDs through my PlayStation 3, though, and that’s routed through my main stereo system, so maybe I should give that a try, and compare the sound to MP3s played through my Volumio box.

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