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