"Achtung Baby 24-Bit Audiophile High Resolution" - U2

Digital Album

Track Listing: (Regular Version)

Background Information

When the deluxe version of “Achtung Baby” was released in 2011 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the initial release, it arrived in a myriad of formats, including a CD, a double CD, a super deluxe set containing six CDs and four DVDs, an Uber box set which contained the six CDs and four DVDs and added the album in vinyl, as well as five vinyl singles, a vinyl box set, and downloads. One surprise format for many audiophiles was a release through the website hdtracks.com – which released the songs in 44.1kHz, 24-bit sound. The quality of a CD is 44.1kHz and 16-bit sound. The files were made available for download at https://www.hdtracks.com/index.php?file=artistdetail&id=9808 – and there was a one disc or a two disc version available.

The download came in FLAC format, which could be uncompressed to WAV format. Also included with the download is a 19 page digital booklet in PDF format, which matches the booklet content in the two disc CD set that had been released. A review by Alan Taffel of “The Absolute Sound” stated “Both versions, and the LP, have crushing, fuzz-drenched bass, but the download has better low-end pitch definition than the CD. In addition, the CD tends to congeal these incredibly dense mixes, whereas the download allows each layer to come through more clearly. Finally, when an acoustic instrument makes a rare appearance, its sound is more natural on the download. Overall, the HDtracks release very closely resembles the LP. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to sound.”

It was this 24-bit recording which was used for the “Mastered for iTunes” download which could be purchased as a compressed file through iTunes. The version found here is from the same mix that was used for the 20th anniversary editions of the album. At the time of release one of the big questions was whether or not the 20th Anniversary Edition had been remastered as previous album re-releases had been. Reports on u2.com had even listed the album as being remastered, but Neil McCormick reported “In answer to queries about Achtung Baby, I went to the source. It hasn’t been remastered because it “didn’t need to be”, apparently … It’s been sonically tweaked & polished but not, technically, remastered. Hope that makes more sense to you than it does to me. I’m just telling you what I’ve been told. Not remastered. But tweaked & boosted. Its definitely louder.” The Edge would later clarify things further in an interview: “You know we looked at remastering of “Achtung Baby”, we realized how much artistry had gone into the original EQ’ing. So all we were able to do was optimize it, you know tweak the levels, give it a bit of a polish because the original was so right. We just couldn’t get too fancy with it.”

This was the first time to our knowledge that U2 had released commercially a 24-bit recording of their work. The one disc “Achtung Baby” and the two disc “Achtung Baby Deluxe Edition” were both released for purchase through hdtracks.com.

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