Queen: The Studio Collection’, to be released on 25 September 2015, brings together the complete collection of 15 studio albums, re-mastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig and mastered for half speed vinyl cutting by Miles Showell at Abbey Road, presenting these classic albums in the highest possible quality for die-hard fans and audiophiles alike. Complementing the release of the 18 disc coloured vinyl box set is the launch of a limited edition ‘Queen by Rega’ turntable, featuring custom printed Queen artwork.
The primary objective during the five years it took to produce ‘The Studio Collection’ was to obtain the optimum sound quality. Queen’s production team was closely involved in all stages of the re-mastering process, starting with the initial tape research to locate and confirm the correct versions and best sources for all the tracks. Five tracks from ‘Innuendo’ and the track Under Pressure were improved by the discovery of better sources and particular attention was paid to the original releases to ensure nothing was lost or degraded by reverting to earlier sources.
After a double blind testing of sample tracks mastered by leading engineers, Grammy Award winning Bob Ludwig was chosen to re-master the entire project. Probably the best-known mastering engineer in the world, Ludwig’s skills and state-of-the-art analogue and digital equipment at his Gateway Mastering facility, enabled him to produce new masters that are undoubtedly the finest ever. The initial plan was to re-master directly from the original mix tapes, but time has rendered them in need of some restoration. New 24bit/96kHz digital masters were made from the original tapes and any speed errors, missing audio, clicks and other unwanted noise were rectified in the digital domain, with the vinyl cut from these perfected files.
With vinyl pressings, the ultimate playback experience depends on the physical cut of the groove in the lacquers used at the manufacturing plant. Miles Showell from Abbey Road has perfected the technique of cutting at half speed, doubling the accuracy in cutting the groove, resulting in the best possible audio quality when played back at home. Using a beautifully maintained Neumann VMS80 lathe with cutter-head amplifiers featuring custom designed RIAA filters, Showell is able to produce the very cleanest sound possible. With his typical attention to detail, only after cutting acetate samples to check the progress of each track and then fixing any sibilance or other vinyl-specific problems, did he cut the final lacquers.
Queen’s dedication to making this release the best possible quality included choosing Germany-based Optimal as the pressing plant. Optimal is well known for its audiophile quality pressings and the company was closely involved in the development of the coloured vinyl using new materials technology so as not to compromise the audio. The 18 discs that make up The Studio Collection are pressed on heavyweight 180gm theme coloured vinyl, each representing the primary colour from the album’s artwork. Direct comparisons were made between test pressings on black vinyl and the coloured vinyl, which were compared with original pressings of the LPs on a very high quality turntable. In the words of Freddie Mercury, “Was it all worth it? Yes, it was a worthwhile experience.”
Queen is a band that has always offered its albums on vinyl at the time of release, even during the heyday of CDs. For the final two albums, ‘Innuendo’ and ‘Made in Heaven’, the running time was determined by the longer format of the CD, with edited versions released on vinyl at the time. With the box set spanning 18 discs for the 15 albums, the full contents of these two albums can be experienced for the first time on vinyl, split across the four sides of each of the double albums. As an added bonus for Queen fans and collectors, ‘Queen II’, originally released without a designated ‘A’ or ‘B’ side, but with ‘Side White’ and ‘Side Black’, two separate discs have been issued, one white and one black and each featuring a custom etching on the reverse side.
To complete the package for Queen fans, aligning with the worldwide renaissance of vinyl and turntables, Queen has teamed up with the hugely respected UK turntable manufacturer Rega. The resulting limited edition official turntable features reproductions of classic Queen logos, including the Freddie Mercury designed Queen crest silkscreen printed across the platter, and the exclusive ‘Queen by Rega’ logo on the gloss black plinth.
Featuring the hand-built RB101 tone arm, from the company’s popular RP1 record player, the ‘Queen by Rega’ turntable features a new low noise, low vibration, 24v synchronous high performance motor and a Rega Carbon moving magnet cartridge. An optional upgrade to the handmade Rega Bias 2 cartridge is available for those fans wishing to extract even more information from their new box set.
Accompanying the box set to make it into a real must-have for collectors will be a lavishly illustrated 108-page hardback book. Featuring introductions to each album, quotes from Queen, copies of hand-written lyrics, rare photographs, memorabilia and information on the band’s singles and videos, the book has been made possible by unlimited access to Queen’s archive plus the personal archives of Brian May and Roger Taylor.