O.k., it's been a long time coming, and it took me a while to track down the various CD versions I wanted to include in this comparison.
You won't find any recommendations for the remastered CD's by me, because I simply don't like them. I don't think the Hollywood or EMI remasters sound that great, and most of them have noise reduction applied.
1. Queen I My favorite digital version is the early EMI mastering without noise reduction. This mastering can be found on various CD versions. I currently own the CP32 first Japanese pressing and the CDP 7 46204 2 EMI CD which was manufactued by Sonopress in Germany (this is considered a WG CD by most, even though there is no country of manufacturing stated on my CD, and I have not yet seen the Sonopress CD of this album with "Manufactured in W. Germany" on it). I tried really hard, but I couldn't really make out a sonic difference between the CP32 and the Sonopress CDP version. It's possible that there is a minor difference (depending on the system), but I wouldn't worry about it, both sound great. I think the same mastering can also be found on some other versions, and supposedly even some of the Parlophone CD's have the same mastering.
2. Queen II Just like with the previous album, my favorite digital version is the early EMI mastering without noise reduction. This mastering can be found on various CD versions. I currently own the CP32 first Japanese pressing and the CDP 7 46205 2 EMI CD which was manufactued by Sonopress in Germany (this is considered a WG CD by most, even though there is no country of manufacturing stated on my CD, and I have not yet seen the Sonopress CD of this album with "Manufactured in W. Germany" on it). I tried really hard, but I couldn't really make out a sonic difference between the CP32 and the Sonopress CDP version. It's possible that there is a minor difference (depending on the system), but I wouldn't worry about it, both sound great. I think the same mastering can also be found on some other versions, but I once had a Parlophone CD and it clearly had noise reduction applied. So to be safe, I would only get the CD which has EMI on the CD itself and not Parlophone.
3. Sheer Heart Attack My favorite version is the first Japanese pressing (CP32). I once owned also a Made in Holland and a Made in W. Germany version, and at the time I thought that the Made in Holland version didn't sound quite as good as the others, and the CP32 sounded best. Maybe I just got tricked, but I am really happy with my CP32 version, and it is actually not all that hard to find. The EMI Sonopress version will also be fine.
4. A Night At The Opera This one is interesting, we also have the DCC to choose from, and also the early EMI pressings, especially the first Japanese pressing (CP32). While I think the DCC is really good (as expected), I also feel that the CP32 is really great. I am not 100% certain which version I prefer, but at the moment I am leaning slightly towards the CP32 for a very natural and laid back sound. I also once owned the MFSL, which is also quite good, but I sold it in the meantime since I slightly preferred the DCC and the CP32. I haven’t heard the latest remastering.
5. A Day At The Races This is a tough choice for me. I do have the CP32 first Japanese pressing, which is very good, and I also have the MFSL, which I also like a lot. I haven't really made up my mind completely which version I prefer (there are things I like better about the CP32 and there are things I like better about the MFSL). Either one will be a good choice in my opinion. I will have to do some more comparisons before I come to a final conclusion.
6. News Of The World This is another interesting album since we have several different versions to choose from. There is the MFSL, the early EMI mastering (found on the CP32 and other versions) and the Elektra target CD. Thanks to a very kind forum member, I was able to find the target CD just today (thanks Owais!). I first had the MFSL CD and was quite happy with it. During the 2006 soccer world championship tournament, after Germany had defeated Argentina, I just had to play "We Are The Champions" really loud, but I had to turn it down, since it really started to sound harsh at louder volumes. Some time later I found the CP32 pressing, and I liked it much better than the MFSL. To me personally, the difference is striking and the CP32 sounds much better in my opinion. I already had listened to some short clips of the target CD on Elektra, and these sounded quite promising, so I really wanted to get my hands on one of those. I wasn't disappointed when I received the real CD today. It really sounds great, and I prefer it a little over the CP32 (which is still very good). It's just that the target CD sounds a little more natural and laid back, and this is especially noticeable in songs with greater dynamics, such as "We Are The Champions" or "Spread Your Wings". The target CD just sounds more dynamic for some reason, and the EMI sounds a little more upfront and forward. My preference is the target CD, then the CP32. I wouldn't really recommend the MFSL anymore, after I heard these other versions. By the way, Owais told me that the 32XD pressing of this uses the same mastering also.
7. Jazz Not too many versions to choose from (if you don’t care for the no-noised remasters). The early EMI mastering sounds great in my opinion. I own the CP32 and also had the West Germany CD (just sold it), I couldn’t hear a substantial difference between them. I once also owned the Made in Holland EMI CD, and I noticed that the levels were slightly different (by 0.2 dB), so someone must have done something with the original mastering in the digital domain. When comparing the Holland CD with the West Germany CD, I slightly preferred the latter.
8. The Game Another album with several different choices (MFSL, EMI, Elektra target). I think the MFSL of this album sounds very good, and comparing it to the CP32, I can’t really say that I prefer the latter. I think the MFSL of this is fine. I recently got the target CD of this album, and this one sounds even a little better in my opinion, so it is my preferred version at the moment. I haven’t heard the DVD-A yet, but I am not sure if I need to.
9. Live Killers I have the EMI UK 2-CD set and think it sounds fine. There is a CP28 of this also, and I am 99% certain it uses the same mastering as the UK EMI CD. Maybe one day I’ll find the CP28 for a good price, but the EMI UK is just fine with me.
10. Flash Don’t really care about this album, I don’t even own it. I would expect the early EMI mastering to be the best version.
11. Hot Space This album is actually not as bad as many people think (in my opinion). I haven’t done any comparisons for this album, I just own the WG EMI CD. It sounds o.k., but I feel it could sound better.
12. The Works I have the Japan for Europe CD for this album. Catalog number is CDP 7 46016 2 (matrix is: CP35-3117). It sounds o.k., but nothing to write home about. Again, I fell it could sound better.
13. A Kind Of Magic I have the Japan for Europe CD for this album. Catalog number is CDP 7 46267 2 (matrix is: CP32-5152). It sounds fine to me, but it’s not my favourite album.
My interest in Queen pretty much ends here, I don’t own any of their later albums.
Of course, we also have the famous compilation:
Greatest Hits I own three different masterings of this compilation, the Japan for Europe redface and the West Germay redface EMI CD’s (these two have clearly a different mastering). The Japan for Europe redface CD has a unique mastering, the WG EMI CD has the same mastering as the CP32 Japan for Japan pressing which is also the same mastering as the more common EMI UK version. I also own the Japan for US Elektra CD (which has only 14 tracks compared to the 17 tracks of the EMI versions). The Elektra CD I have has the same mastering as the target CD. My preference for these CD’s is varying from track to track, but for most tracks, I prefer the EMI Greatest Hits over the Elektra Greatest Hits. Haven’t completely figured out which is my preferred version for some of the tracks where I have five or six different masterings (for “Another One Bites The Dust”, I have at least seven (!) different masterings, and that excludes any of the later remastered versions.
O.k., that’s it for my Queen preferences. Feel free to voice your opinions, whether you concur or disagree. Thanks.