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CD Editions: 1988 Polar (POLCD 242); 1988 Rainbow (RCD 601)* 1992 Polydor (843 642-2), 1997 Polydor (533 984-2)**, 2001 Polar (549 950-2/958-2), 2005 Polar (part of the Complete Studio Recordings boxset)

* not reviewed
** 1999 US Polydor is a clone of this disc

There have been five distinct masterings of Ring Ring on CD. Whatever about its musical virtues, audiophiles should listen carefully to the album as it tends to reveal more about the remastering techniques used than any other Abba album.

This is probably due to its mostly sparse sound, which exposes any use of noise reduction. Ring Ring (the song) also tends to reveal any EQ changes very clearly due to its prominent percussion.

Another interesting thing to note is that one track on the English version of the album, She's My Kind of Girl, is always presented in fake stereo.

This stereo version can be clearly demonstrated to be electronically generated by putting the stereo out of phase (ie removing all the centre panned material on the recording). To date, no mono version of this track has appeared on CD.

Both the 1988 Polar and the 1992 Polydor editions are straight transfers of whatever tapes the labels had to hand. This reveals the faults in their source tapes. The 1988 Polar is quite muddy in places and lacks top-end while the 1992 Polydor, which is sourced from a tape sent to Polydor Germany in the 1970s, is harshly equalised and slightly noiser.

The album was first remastered in 1997 by Jon Astley and Michael B Tretow at Abbey Road Studios in London. Astley compressed the sound to reduce its dynamic range, hence allowing him to make it louder.

He also applied heavy noise reduction [probably using the CEDAR system] and altered the original equalisation to suit his tastes.

The effects, however, were less dramatic than on the other Abba albums due to its sparse production and Astley's equalisation choices in many cases were an improvement on the previous 1992 Polydor edition.

When the remasters were reissued in 2001, Astley added more noise reduction processing and altered the equalisation again, resulting in a marginal improvement in sound quality.

Both Astley remasters, however, are highly controversal amongst audiophiles due to the level of noise reduction and compression used. A few even claimed that he had remixed the albums as his remasters sounded so different to previous editions.

In 2005, the album was revisited again as part of the Complete Recordings Boxset. Henrik Jonsson of Masters of Audio, Stockholm, did the remastering this time, with excellent results.

Jonsson produced a remaster that was louder than the Astley remasters but didn't seem to compromise the dynamic range. He also didn't use any noise reduction.

Some sensible equalisation work also revealed previously unheard details in the music and many audiophiles, despite the sheer loudness of the remaster and dynamic range compromises, generally feel his work on Ring Ring was quite pleasing and, while not perfect, produced the best sounding version of the album on CD.

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A note on selected compilations:
The Ring Ring tracks featured on the boxset Thank You For The Music (1994) were remastered by Michael B Tretow. Although his work on the boxset tended to be too bright, the Ring Ring tracks didn't suffer from this problem and sound better than either the 1988 Polar or 1992 Polydor CDs.

Greatest Hits (Atlantic 1984) also features some Ring Ring tracks in unremastered form. Again, these tracks sound better than either the 1988 Polar or 1992 Polydor CDs and audiophiles also regard them as better than Astley and Jonsson remasters.

The verdict:
Best sounding: 2005 CSR version [not audiophile but better equalisation than any other version]
2nd: 1988 Polar [full dynamic range but consistently muddy]
3rd: 2001 Jon Astley [better than his other remasters]

Track by track:
Again Atlantic's Greatest Hits Vol 1 CD provides the best versions of many tracks. It is very expensive secondhand though so, if you are on a limited budget, the Ring Ring tracks on Thank You For The Music (Polydor 1994) is a good alternative for some of those tracks.

Ring Ring (Swedish) -- Abba Pa Svenska (Polar 1994)
Ring Ring -- Greatest Hits (Atlantic 1984)
Another Town, Another Train -- Greatest Hits (Atlantic 1984)
Disillusion -- CSR (Polar 2005)
People Need Love -- Greatest Hits (Atlantic 1984)
I Saw It In The Mirror -- CSR (Polar 2005)
Nina Pretty Ballerina -- Greatest Hits (Atlantic 1984)
Love Isn't Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough) -- CSR (Polar 2005)
Me and Bobby and Bobby's Brother -- CSR (Polar 2005)
He Is Your Brother -- Greatest Hits (Atlantic 1984)
She's My Kind of Girl -- CSR (Polar 2005)
I Am Just A Girl -- CSR (Polar 2005) Rock N' Roll Band -- CSR (Polar 2005)



This text was written by Ken Griffin from Dublin, Ireland as part of a series of audiophile posts to mailing list ABBAMAIL and is reprinted here with kind permission by Ken.

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