EMI 1999s are heavily processed and are not recommended at all. Rykos are a bit shrill, but they can be pretty good if you EQ them a bit (plus, it's a consistent series, and good tapes were used). Ryko Au20s prices are way too high, but sometimes they're a bit better than the regular Rykos (e.g. TMWSTW). Post 2002 remasters are hit and miss. The old RCA CDs used tape copies and have flaws, but at least nobody tried to make them sound modern, so the general consensus is that they win “by default”. RCA WGs are warm, but sometimes quite veiled. RCA JPNs tend to be more open, but some of them have tape issues. RCA R32Ps are rare, a good amount of them have ripping issues and no particular EQ improvement in my opinion.
Undecided; they all have some faults, and it's never going to sound great, anyway.
You really don't want the EMI 1999 or the horrible 2015 Parlophone with its gigantic tape issues, though.
WG calms down that prog sound, but it's really muddy, and some would even say that it's a poor tape.
JPN is clear, but if you find this album fatiguing, the EQ could be excessive. You might prefer the Parlophone 2015, then, which is a very good remaster.
If you don't like Visconti's heavy bass mix, then you might prefer the Ryko Au20.
The Parlophone 2015 remaster is probably the most reasonable option.
The RCA WG beats it in that it keeps some intented studio noise, but that's probably a minor thing, considering its excessive usual price.
They're all so-so, in my opinion. Needs more investigation.
The RCA JPN is my current version, but I think I would just suggest the earliest UK LP with the loud mix of Starman.
RCA JPN for US CSR. A bit bright/excessive for some, but it just suits the music and Bowie's personna at the time, I think.
RCA JPN for EUR is a bit smoother and may sound a bit more musical. Very good as well.
I like the RCAs so much for that one, that I didn't really compare the more modern versions properly, yet.
The differences between the two RCAs and the Parlophone are pretty small; no clear winner, they all sound good.
My personal preference goes to the RCA JPN for EUR, because I find it a bit less fatiguing, and it has better track indexing than the JPN for US. But I could really live with any of these.
The 2015 Parlophone is the cheapest and will satisfy most people.
RCA JPN is probably the best, but the 2016 Parlophone is very close, and again it's much more cost effective. So, I'd recommend the latter.
The Ryko is quite OK, too.
RCA WG has the exclusivity of the real complete intro to Future Legend, but in general the sound is really poor (similar to the WG TMWSTW).
RCA JPN for US has the best drum sound, in my opinion. But it's a bit hissy between tracks, and the title track intro is cut. The RCA WG has a similar sound, and doesn't have these problems. So, either of them.
2007 remaster is almost a remix and its treatments sound too modern for a 1975 record.
Unfortunately, the Parlophone 2016 is veiled.
Rykos don't use the proper mixes (as for the Ryko Au20s, this is still debated, and I don't have them).
RCA WG is EQ'd a lot, but it shines, in my opinion.
2010 remaster is really good as well, and can be recommended. It's a bit more neutral. It can be found at pretty good prices. This article does a really interesting comparison between them.
I don't think that the Parlophone is an improvement over the 2010 remaster; it adds a lot of unnecessary compression.
Again, RCA WG works really nicely on the Alomar/Murray/Davis rhythm section.
Unfortunately, the WG misses the intro of some tracks, and the JPN for US has unbalanced channels.
Visconti's recent remaster is… err… not very subtle. Sounds like an attempt at modernizing that album. EMI 1999 is bad, as usual.
RCA WG sounds too muddy for me, so RCA JPN for US by default (missing intro noise to Beauty and the Beast, though.). Some people do prefer the WG though; so that's a matter of taste.
2017 remaster not that bad, but not extremely good either (it's a bit boomy).
RCA WG, for the same reason as Station to Station and Low.
The JPN for US deserves its own test, if you can ignore its audio glitches on two tracks.
The Parlophone remaster adds a bit of oomph. I need to do more comparisons, but I'm really happy with my WG.
RCA JPN, although RCA WG is OK. The RCA JPN has a bit of pre-echo between some tracks, but it's a bit less fatiguing than the WG. Nothing major, though.
A re-EQ'd Ryko could be pretty good, too.
The DSD layer from the SACD is almost a remix, and more of a in-your-face one. I think it's horrible.
The Parlophone remaster is quite boomy, and it seems that Tony Visconti wanted it to sound a little bit different, now. For this album, I think it can work for some, if you like that.
Original CD without any barcode is really, really nice, sexy smooth & round sound. A bit of pre-echo, though.
I don't really like the sound of the original, or 1995 remaster. Need to investigate the 2018 remaster?
Original 1987 CD is acceptable.
Probably just the original CDs, out of habit.
Maybe one case of a remaster being better than the original? Need to compare the 1993/2003 editions more.
There's just a single digital master; it clips but it's still pretty good, especially in the general use of dynamics on this album. I don't think the LP version could sound much better, especially when you consider the length of the record.
Pro Tools abuse intensifies. Tolerable CD; need to investigate the two (three?) LP versions.
MOV LP version doesn't sound like a huge improvement over the CD. It breathes a bit more, but I'm not sure it uses a better master.Some Omikron versions of the tracks sound a bit less bloated, but it looks like there is a frequency cut?
Some promos are also said to be less brickwalled.
Downmixing the 5.1 DSD layer of the SACD gives air, but doesn't sound really good (A Better Future loses its bass). Maybe an LP?
Yet another 2000s mastering from Emily Lazar, yay. It's horrible. This time, downmixing the 5.1 DSD layer of the SACD gives air, and I like the resulting mix.
LP is probably good as well.
A bit less digital abuse, but people deserve better. Some think that the LP version is way better, but I just hear a really similar digital master being put to vinyl. I think it's not just the master being too hot, but that the mix was already quite hot, to begin with.
I think that modern compression is getting smarter. Better dynamics that the two previous albums. It still lacks air and it's still too fatiguing, but given the subject matter, the oppressive mix can “work”.
Again, I don't hear much difference between the digital and the LP version.
The Mastered for iTunes version sounds a bit different, don't know if it's better. Needs a proper comparison.
I just tend to prefer the latest versions, because they have more tracks, and livelier mixes.
For Live Santa Monica '72, grab the promo version and drop the 2 second pause between tracks, you'll avoid some unnecessary and excessive compression from the official release. For Live Nassau Coliseum '76, just grab the LP, because the CD is brickwalled to death (better digital version must exist for this one; as hinted in the Ryko bonuses, RarestOneBowie compilation and Strangers When We Meet 2007 Target exclusive).