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Music/response: Radiohead OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017

Arriving at a music store near you today, once again, is Radiohead’s decade- and career-defining OK Computer. Retitled for its 20th anniversary, OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017 is loaded with extra material, all fully remastered.

OKNOTOK is available as a 3LP or 2CD edition, as well as a deluxe box set (shipping in July), with the extra disc containing eight album-era b-sides and three previously unreleased cuts.

For those wanting a soft format, a hi-res PCM 24bit/96kHz download of OKNOTOK is available from HDTracks (here). Price: US$19.98. Those with access to the Qobuz store can save a little coin and snag that very same hi-res PCM download for €11.99 (here) where, interestingly, it is also cheaper than Amazon.de’s €16.99 pricing for the 2CD (here).

The 3LP set is yours for US$35 from Amazon.com (here) or €28 over at Amazon.de (here). However, we might want to leave our “vinyl purity” arguments at the door as it’s highly likely that OKNOTOK was pressed using the 24bit/96kHz digital file.

As we know, it’s not the format that maketh the listening experience but the mastering job.

“Remastered from the original analogue tapes,” reads the blurb on the vinyl edition’s blue cover sticker — words that might cause even the average fan to hotfoot it to the checkout.

Hold up.

Those hoping that OKNOTOK might improve on the original CD’s dynamic range score of DR7 should prepare to feel (ahem) let down. According to the Dynamic Range database (here), the OKNOTOK remaster also clocks in at DR7.

These are crude measurements — but they provide an indication of what we might hear from a given release i.e. the perceived differences between quiet and loud.

Eagle-eyes will point to vinyl as one way of securing a better result. Both the 2008 and 2016 represses score the same as the original pressing: DR10.

I purchased the 3LP set and the hi-res download but my first listen to OKNOTOK came via Spotify; even there, with iPhone 6S Plus, AudioQuest DragonFly Black and Campfire Audio Andromeda IEMs, it’s easy to hear how this new version sounds more detailed and better separated. In other words, better.

Whatever.

To on-lookers, the above commentary is pure audiophile masturbation.

Interestingly, we almost never hear OK Computer at audio shows or at in-store demos; and despite being first released in 1997, it’d still look downright contemporary were it to feature amongst the traditional audiophile press’ vast oceans of jazz and classical coverage (TONEAudio excepted).

No – you buy OKNOTOK because it defies expectations to sound as good as it always did; because it’s a life-changing listening experience; because “Fitter Happier” fills you with dread; because “No Surprises” gives you goosebumps every time; because Stanley Donwood’s artwork seemed to transcend the format; because you cannot help but play air guitar to “Paranoid Android”‘s livelier sections; because “Palo Alto” is one heck of a b-side; because your mate reckons “Pearly” is even better; because you’ve been waiting twenty years to hear “Man of War” laid down beyond its bootleg form as “Big Boots”.

In other words, you are resigned to the fact that whatever takes place in the recording/mastering studio will always be beyond your control. Sound quality is important – yes – but never more so than the music.

You dig OKNOTOK because, like me, you’re a Music-First Audiophile.

Further information: OKNOTOK

#oknotok

A post shared by DarkoAudio (@darkoaudio) on

Correction: An earlier version of this article mislabelled the demo version of “Man O’ War” as “Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any)”.

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

21 Comments

  1. Ha! The MuFiA (Music-First Audiophile), I like that 🙂

    Anyway, I hope this remaster does sound better. I’ve always been disappointed that their releases have come slap bang in the loudness era of mastering. If anyone has deserved a bit more dynamic range with their music, it’s them.

    Although I guess you could say that for most music recently…

  2. What a lovely post!
    Although I feel like climbing up the walls when I read endorsements of pass-through electronics on async connections (µrendu!) this makes me forget all about that angst and just leave it be. This and when you write about Bowie.

    How annoying though that my preordered vinyl will arrive from the UK next week only…
    I’ll get on that Qobuz download in the meantime.

    In case you’ve missed it: Black Sabbath are putting out a box called the 10-year war; first 8 albums, vinyl and digital – hang on to your seat – on a cross-shaped USB stick… in MQA!
    It’ll be here in August, and I can’t wait to shake a spectrum analyser at them 🙂

    Since I saw some really nice electronica recommendations in your stories – I can only hope you’ve not heard Alessandro Cortini (the albums Forse 1/2/3, Sonno and Risveglio in particular). If you’ve heard any nine inch nails album between 2007 and 2013 (Ghosts, The Slip and Hesitation Marks), you’ve also heard his work on there though.
    Alessandro is a master of the (in)famous Buchal Easel, if that tells you anything. I really enjoyed reading his comments on the approach to music on these albums, in particular the Forse series, with respect to dynamic and spectral evolution versus chordal progression. Have a look here: http://importantrecords.com/imprec/imprec418

    All the best!
    Radu.

  3. ‘In other words, you dig OKNOTOK because, like me, you’re a Music-First Audiophile™’…Man, you nail it every time! Listening to No Surprises as I write, and guess what….goosebumps!

  4. That audiophile masturbation counts for something though. Like a fair few fans, I’d sort of disconnected with OK Computer over the years, finding myself drawn more to the albums directly either side of it plus the ever-wonderful In Rainbows.

    “It’s overrated”
    “It’s too poppy”
    “It’s no The Bends/Kid A”
    etc

    But this morning, while slaving over a hot spreadsheet in a crummy office on the edge of town, I found myself repeatedly having to stop my work and simply marvel at how amazing the songs on this album are, individually and collectively. Sure, the music itself is the main reason. But an added twinkle here, an extra vocal nuance there…those were the catalysts dragging me back in, stirring up warm and fuzzy memories of buying it on CD in Belfast having convinced the shopkeeper to sell it to me 2 days before he was officially supposed to (this being a Saturday, release date the following Monday), and going with my mate back to his place to listen to it on repeat for the rest of the afternoon.

    Outcome: a reissue that I was lukewarm about got purchased on Qobuz and Amazon (vinyl) as soon as I got home this evening.

    [side note: their Glastonbury set as shown on BBC2 was truly epic]

    • Yes, the audiophile issues always counts for something – they are the raison d’etre of this site – but whilst sound quality is very important to me, it never rides ahead of the music. I never refuse to listen to something because of its poor mastering.

  5. Yeah, this is awesome, sounds great. A legendary album is better than any tweak to your system. Good call bringing this to everyone’s attention. Thanks, John.

    • Yeah – as I explained to another reader via email, this piece is NOT about DR scores per se.

  6. Hi John,

    For Your Information, like “more than 90% of the Qobuz Hi-Res catalogue of over 70 000 albums” ( https://try.qobuz.com/sublimeplus_en ), OKNOTOK is available for streaming as well as download in 24-bit/96kHz ‘Hi-Res AUDIO’ fidelity as part of the £350/year ‘Sublime+’ tier that launched last month, May 2017 – so long as a subscriber uses the iOS, Windows desktop or macOS apps, as the hi-res Android app is still in beta and there is no hi-res support (yet?) in the Web Player or Windows 10 / UWP app.

    Even within the iOS, Windows desktop or macOS apps, the Sublime+ subscriber will have to manually activate hi-res support in the Settings and, in the case of the iOS (and presumably publicly-updated Android) apps, also accept the dialog box warning of heavy data usage on mobile 4G / LTE connections.

    OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017
    Album by Radiohead released by XL Recordings on the June 22, 2017
    Available in 24 bits 96.0 kHz – Stereo

    http://open.qobuz.com/album/0634904086831

    Following the manual adjustment of settings, Qobuz subscribers to tiers below Sublime+ can still access a complimentary playlist at ‘Hi-Res AUDIO’ fidelity, though strangely the included tracks only go up to 24-bit/96kHz and not 24-bit/192kHz:

    Special HI-RES SUBLIME+ Playlist
    Playlist By qobuz.en
    11 tracks – 49m 38 s – Public

    http://open.qobuz.com/playlist/1452463

    Thanks, Nick

  7. i would not reduce it to ‘listening’ experience alone, important as it may be. I own box-set editions of In Rainbows and Moon Shaped Pool, and if the OKNOTOK is as brilliant as those – which I am sure it is – I’d be an even happier person in July. (In fact, I am bit fitter-happier already now, since yesterday the 24/96 WAV download-link that comes with the deluxe box-set has already arrived in my inbox.) These deluxe ‘boxes’ from Radiohead are works of art that fully deserve to be appreciated as such.

  8. THAT’s the point exactly. Incidentally, Radiohead’s Glastonbury performance last night was magical. The unique performance of individuals / musicians; that’s what stirs our souls and that’s why we love music in the first place. Many moons ago I went into a record store on Division Street in Sheffield where they had a Rega Planar turntable & an original Nait amp with some decent bookshelf speakers (AE i think). It was the first time I had ever realised it was possible to buy some (comparatively) inexpensive kit which was sufficiently well engineered to do the job properly & which made the music I liked sound so startlingly clear & enjoyable. those 3 items became something I wanted for myself. 30 years later the kit has changed a few times but I’m still the more than delighted owner of a P3 and a Nait5 with some capable enough floor standing loudspeakers. Could have spent much more over the years but I am delighted that I have just spent it on more music over the years. It never really occurred to me to do anything else. A quick recommendation for you; I recent heard “Binker & Moses” who comprise a sax and a drum kit and nothing else but it’s mesmerising. Check out “Intoxication” – sounds as if this shouldn’t be possible with those 2 instruments but it’s intensely funky.

    • ha! I bought a P3, Nait 3 and Mission Freedom floor standers when this album came out in 1997. the same kit is still going strong and still sounds magic!

  9. Listening on iOS TIDAL right now…Peachtree Nova 150 / LS50. It’s more liquid and dimensional

  10. In a similar vein, a massively expanded version of Purple Rain has been released and even gets the MQA treatment. I was really excited until I played it and found the remaster had suffered from the loudness wars, lopping about 6DR points off it. I need to give it a proper try but I don’t think MQA has managed to save it compared to an original CD version.

  11. Good Morning John
    I will give Radiohead a chance after your emotional report 🙂
    You may not wonder, that I will make life easy and go with the vinyl….

  12. I can’t wait for the vinyl (Uh, but I must), and WILL be using it in my reviews back at the old rag and bone audiophile press! Thank you DARKO

  13. FACT CHECK: According to the Dynamic Range database, this “remaster” does NOT have the same DR as the original release. It only reaches the DR score of 7 from the addition of extra tracks.
    The “hi-res” copy of every track on this “remaster” is lower in dynamic range, with the exception of ‘Fitter Happier’ and ‘No Surprises’ (which are the same).
    According to the Dynamic Range database, London Grammar’s first album in “hi-res” had a DR of 8, latest release; 5. Lorde’s first, 7, latest; 5. What will the next ones be, 2 and 3, then 0 and 1?
    Where does this end if even people who say they love music hand over money for something more smashed than a smashed original? Why expect them to do anything differently?

    • Indeed – that was kind of my point: people will buy this reissue irrespective of its DR score. And why shouldn’t they if they enjoy the songs.

PS Audio DirectStream w/ Huron: a follow-up

What is a Music-First Audiophile?