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Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Have you ever wondered: What does it mean when a song is remixed?

What does it mean if a song is remastered? What do you do to the music itself during this process? What is the difference between remixed and remastered?


Remixed: In a remix, each instrument's tracks are remixed individually, so they can be turned up, down, or modified separately to create a new balance between all the parts. In this process, more drastic arrangements can be made, such as removing tracks that were perhaps disturbing, experimenting with the panning of certain instruments, adding or removing effects, volume modifications, phase cancellation, slight corrections can be made to each track, etc. In rare, cases there may be re-recording of some of the instruments or more drastic corrections such as placing a sampler sound instead of a sound recorded in the past. Therefore this treatment is applied to the tracks of each instrument individually in the mix. Here we seek to improve the mix made in the past and give it a more modern touch.

Remastered: Remastering is the name of several techniques, one of them is the change of format from acetate to digital. We can define it as the restoration of an audio eliminating or reducing defects, increasing the general volume of the audio, thus obtaining a new master that sounds cleaner and stronger. In remastering, you work with the old mastered track of a song. Over the years the volume of songs has increased and many classic songs are remastered to sound louder and cleaner, trying to match the volume of modern songs.

This has become what is called "the loudness war" (the volume war) to which I will dedicate an article soon. In remastering, you can also modify aspects of the sound such as: Audio compression, general equalization and even changing the number of tracks of an album adding new unreleased songs. Often remasters can improve a song, but sometimes they can make it worse and this of course is subjective. Old songs usually benefit as they gain in volume, new songs that already have a more current volume, in some cases, can lose their dynamic range and maybe get excessive volume and that may sound annoying and crispy when you listen with headphones. Dynamic range might be lost, this means there won't be much difference between soft and loud sounds, so it won't sound organic and natural.

When you listen to a remastered song, the volume of the instruments hasn't been modified and the instruments weren't re-recorded. Remastering means there was a restoration of the original audio. There was a slight increase in volume, you get more cleanliness in the brightness of the master and in some cases a change in format (from acetate to digital). In video remastering, color saturation, clarity, brightness, cleaning of black points, scratches in the image and other details in each frame are improved.

In short: When a song is remastered, it has been restored and optimized. An increase in volume, clarity and brightness is perceived. You work with a mixed track without having the possibility of being able to manipulate the tracks of each instrument, while in a remixed song, modifications have been made to each of the tracks of every instrument separately. So remastering is when we work on a previously mastered track, whereas the remix levels and enhances each track independently for a more contemporary sound. Now that we know these points, we make clear the differences between both remixing and remastering.

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