AUDIO VIDEO SHOW 2016:
I. I AM A WALRUS. OR AT LEAST I WISH I WERE,
I. I AM A WALRUS. OR AT LEAST I WISH I WERE,
lready more than a year has passed since my first ever meeting with the first copy of the master tape. It was the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Beatles album (more HERE). It was one of the most important musical and audiophile events in my entire life. It turned out that this was the first time that I REALLY heard the album. Before that, listening numerous times to 24-bit files, then subsequent versions of the vinyl releases I only touched the surface, remaining completely unaware of how much I was loosing out. The sound of this tape played with a reel-to-reel Studer A807 was nothing short of phenomenal. Incredibly dynamic, with an overwhelming amount of details previously unknown to me, it turned it into an extremely deep and satisfying experience. To even further emphasize what kind of experience that was for me I will just say that I needed nearly 11 months before I decided to listen to the Sgt. Pepper's ... on the vinyl again. Earlier, despite some attempts, I just could not get to it.
This year, I had another opportunity to widen my knowledge of the Beatles and to start to hate at the same time listening to their next album of LP or music files. This time it happened with Magical Mystery Tour, a very special album for the Big Four from Liverpool. It's the one including one of the most recognizable songs in the history of mankind All You Need Is Love, and also the, originally released as a single, brilliant tandem Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane. It was also the first album of the band released after the tragic death of their manager, Brian Epstein (the special role of this fact is highlighted in, among others, Philip Norman's The craze! The True Story of the Beatles.
The listening sessions, one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday; the second was reserved for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, were organized – same as last year - by Voice during the Audio Video Show 2016. The presentation in a room on the beautiful PGE National Stadium was led by two people, from the point of view of the history of tape in question, essential ones, Mr Tomasz Zeliszewski (Budka Suflera) and Piotr Metz (Radio “3”/Radio Kraków). Why essential? Mr. Zeliszewski is the owner of said tape, and Piotr Metz is a person responsible for tracking it down.
Due to their combined efforts we could enjoy the sounds coming from the Yugoton's first copy of the master tape of the Magical Mystery Tour. It is worth noting, that it's as close copy of the original as it gets; as the latter is stored in a safe, hidden in a closely guarded archives. Let me add that we listened to the tape on a system including the Cabasse Le Sphère CTA loudspeakers with digital crossovers, driven by the Chord Electronics amplifiers. The wonderful Studer A807 was used to play the tape.
So how does the most direct meeting with the Beatles available for us (that is, music lovers and audiophiles) sound like? Lovely. Perfectly. Phenomenally. First of all I noticed an unlimited, effortless dynamics. Of everything. From instruments, the vocals to the various strange sounds (which the Beatles loved to put in their recordings). There were moments when I thought there were absolutely no limits in that regard for either the tape or the system.
Also, a level of timbre differentiation was referential. On discs, voices of Lennon and McCartney's sound, well, quite similar. Of course, the more The Beatles music one listens to the easier it gets to recognize them, but the truth is, though, that every popular and widely available medium makes them sound similar. Only listening to such a tape proves how different vocalists were John and Paul. Noteworthy is also an abundance of small details and subtleties available in the recording. Decay, different noises, sound treatments - it all exists on the tape and has its place as an integral part of the recording.
The biggest surprise for me were the differences between the ways individual tracks were recorded. Of course, I was made acutely aware of the fact that Magical Mystery Tour is (to some extent) a compilation including songs recorded at different times, in different ways, with different people. On vinyl record or CD it was not so obvious. But the whole truth was revealed to us by the tape; individual compositions actually sound different from each other. As a result, we could learn more about the intentions of the recording's creators working in the studio.
I attended the listening of the first copy of the master tape of Magical Mystery Tour twice. Originally, I was supposed to appear only once (on Friday), but the scale of the emotions associated with the event forced me to go and listen to it once more. I knew it was almost a once in a lifetime experience and that it would be almost impossible to ever top this particular experience. Mr Zeliszewski doesn't have any more this type of tapes (or at least he doesn't want to admit that he does :)). Actually it may be a good thing - I wish I could still listen to some Beatles' album without painful awareness that it is not even close to the (almost) original recording.
II. JACEK GAWŁOWSKI – Master (Re)Master,
I do not know if you agree with me, but I feel that the hot competition between Warsaw and Krakow from the past recently has cooled down a bit. I do not know whether this is a matter of different development directions these two cities took, or rather a large number of fast and relatively cheap transport means that allowed residents of the former and current capital of Poland to see "the enemy" with their own eyes and learn that it is not as terrible as it seemed to be.
I myself, a man who's been living in Krakow since birth, really like to visit Warsaw; there are many places there where one can eat something special, one can also visit some nice places (eg. a phenomenal, highly recommended POLIN musem), and there are many opportunities for fans of different activities and sports, too. One can even see quite an impressive skyline, which every year gets bigger and bigger. Of course, I'll never admit it (because I do not think so), that Warsaw betters Krakow in any way, but it does not change the fact that with each visit I tend to appreciate our capital city ore and more.
I would like to think that “High Fidelity” magazine adds its small input into the warming of relations between Warsaw ad Krakow. Its representatives regularly visit the Audio Video Show, and bring to the City of the Polish Kings beautiful stories and photos from Warsaw. And for more than two years now we've been doing even more: we organize meetings of Krakow Sonic Society in Warsaw. First, two years ago, we repeated in front of people visiting Audio Show (this was before the name change) a program of KSS Meeting No. 94 (more HERE). Without going into details, it was based on a comparison of sound quality of four mediums: a reel tape, vinyl, CD-R and 24/192 PCM file. During this meeting - we should add – we were honored by the participation of special guests: Dirk Sommer and Birgit Hammer-Sommer from the Sommelier Du Son label, Gerhard Hirt, the head of the Ayon Audio and Mr. Jochen Räke, the owner of the Transrotor.
The 2014 Meeting was, however, just an exercise, barely an introduction to more serious projects. 12 months later, during the Audio Video Show, we organized a full-fledged KSS meeting. And not just any meeting, but the 100th (more HERE)! For visitors we prepared special passes with a special seal of our Society (and yes, we have something like that), and also - perhaps more importantly - a unique program.
We decided to take advantage of the presence of the dCS Rossini high-end CD Player and use it to play several different releases of albums by the Beatles. We used a regular CD, SHM-CD, Platinum SHM-CD etc. An atmosphere during these presentation got quite hot a few times (more often during the second one), as the chief editor of the "HF", Wojciech Pacuła, played several releases of the album based on exactly the same remaster, while stating that they sounded different, so not everyone did agree ...
Generally, however, it was a great opportunity to exchange views and it resulted in extremely interesting discussions. And it was also about simply having fun too, as participants were reminded with a playback of an audiophile release of the Modern Talking album. The only downside to this special meeting was the absence of some members of the Society; some of them just couldn't make to Warsaw, although they promised to come for next such occasion.
In his coverage of the 100th Meeting of KSS Wojciech Pacuła wrote: "Thank you all for the meeting, I was really happy to meet you all. Next year we will definitely prepare something again, perhaps in two different rooms – we already have some ideas." Eventually, these ideas turned into a concept of an event, which was to be even more spectacular and unique. For that to happened, we decided to organize for our readers a meeting with Mr Jacek Gawłowski, a winner of the Grammy Award and the man who is responsible (among other things) for the sound of remastered Polish Jazz series (more about Jacek HERE).
The event was titled: "Master (Re) Master" and the idea was to listen to tracks from Polish Jazz series using high-resolution files (24/88.2 and 24/174.4) – the originals and the ones after Jacek's remastering. At the same time our Grammy winner told us a little about his work, explained what mastering and remastering are, and what is a role of a full mix in the whole chain of creating an album.
We listened to music using an absolutely unique setup; the biggest stars were the latest Lumen White loudspeakers, Ayon Audio S-10 music server delivered signal and the system included also the top of the line preamplifier called Conquistador. The meeting took place in the room occupied by the Polish distributor of above mentioned brands, Nautilus from Krakow (well, we are local patriots after all).
Both meetings with Jacek Gawłowski took place on Saturday, the first at 5 p.m. and the second at 6 p.m.. In both cases turnout was huge and people filled completely a large room. After a brief introduction by Wojciech Pacuła, Mr Jacek Gawłowski started his show. The Master of Ceremony played for us some delicious and phenomenal sounding music (from the Polish Jazz series, but also a track from Aga Zaryan's Remembering Nina & Abbey) and between the tracks he shared interesting stories about his work.
A lot of excitement among our guests was raised when Jacek shared information about a truly audiophile setup he uses in the studio. Most likely he is the only man in Polish professional/studio industry benefiting from all audiophile inventions, including cables. Jacek is thus a person of unique knowledge, sort of a liaison between “our” (audiophile) and "their" (pro-audio) worlds. This resulted in many interesting and sometimes funny stories and anecdotes, Jacek also answered many question from the audience. Many of these questions concerned Jacek's own product, high-end speakers called Bauta. We couldn't see these impressive floorstanding speakers in Warsaw, but the scale of interest in them begs the question whether Jacek Gawłowski should present them to Polish audiophiles in the near future. Who knows, maybe he will.
A FULFILLED PROMISE
KSS's 106th Meeting (and the second official one held in Warsaw) was important for one more reason: finally, fulfilling their promise, members of Krakow Sonic Society participated in it, and not just some of them but most. According to out tradition I asked them to share their impressions.
My own “explorer's” passion was supported by coincidental neighborhood of the Music Info – an importer of studio equipment, that I had an opportunity to listen to. This allowed me to get some idea about an influence of the equalizers, preamps and so on. The general manager - Mariusz Czarnecki – (also a professional musician who had a chance to play drums in Tomasz Stanko band) - helped me a lot. Now, my dream was to meet the Grand Studio Master - Mr. Jacek Gawłowski – during the next KSS meeting and to learn as much as possible about secrets of his magic.
Hence, a year ago, the editor and founder of the online "High Fidelity" magazine, Wojciech Pacuła, had a brilliant idea to organize an away session of the KSS Meeting during Audio Video Show in Warsaw where fans, as well as the critics of the Society would be able to attend it personally and see for themselves how our assessments are forged.
This year, even more members of the KSS, came to Warsaw to Golden Tulip hotel, where in one of the room the Krakow Distributor, Nautilus, prepared an impressive presentation. The meeting was particularly interesting because it hosted two special guests: Gerhard Hirt, the owner of Ayon Audio (music server, amplifiers, loudspeakers), and the main star of the meeting - Jacek Gawłowski – an audio chef capable of preparing a real sound feast for the most sophisticated audiophiles .
For me it was a great honor and pleasure to meet Mr. Jacek personally. I had a chance to familiarize myself with his work, his remastering of the iconic Polish Jazz series by Polish Recording during the “Big black” broadcast in Polish Radio II. Just by listening through the radio of the old versions and remastered ones I realized a large difference in favor of the new master. I had no idea back then, early summer 2016, that already few months later I would have a chance to meet the guy in person and to hear so many interesting stories told by the man responsible for truly great quality of many recordings.
Mr. Jacek shared his vision regarding shaping a final sound of an album, he told audience a lot about problems he faces when preparing a re-master and surprised us with the information that most sound engineers do not pay any attention to the quality of cables used in their studios. The presentation gathered a large audience, who managed to secure their sits long time before the meeting started. It was a really smart move because there were still a lot of people who came right before the presentation and simply couldn't get in anymore.
I look forward to the release of the newly remastered version of Polish Jazz, because I have in my collection some of the original analogue releases, as well as their digital re-editions, but the previous ones. The fragments presented during the meeting confirmed that the new masters highlighted some aspects of the sound, improved spaciousness without interfering with the very essence of the original sound.
I believe that the meeting was really interesting and unique (I think that it would be a big problem to get Mr. Jacek to come to a meeting in Krakow), and the way it was organized also allowed much more people to participate – I guess around 60, which is 6-8 times more than usually. I'd like to encourage Wojtek Pacuła to continue this path and keep organizing away meetings of KSS. Seeing how many people participated it is obvious that it makes sense.
This combination of unconstrained dynamics, momentum, control, large scale of sounds and tight, pulsating bass, with a natural tone, saturation of high frequencies, analytic defined as the ability to track every nuance or the lack of any aggressiveness combined into my personal such high rating for this system. It also forced me to delay my return to Krakow in order to spend some more time listening to several more tracks through the Lumen White loudspeakers. I did it just for fun and relaxation.
The meeting due to unique perspective of a person who moves between these two worlds also allowed me to understand more the conflict of "audiophiles vs. sound engineers”.
It also turned out that one hour for such a meeting is far too short time, because Jacek could not even get really started his story not to mention the fact that you could listen to more music if we had more time. We will do our best, when preparing a presentation for next year, so that this next event lasts longer. I talked about it with Gerhard Hirt and we already have some ideas for the future. We want to thank everyone who visited us and we'd like to invite you already for the next year. We will do everything in our power not to disappoint you! See you next year!
WARSAW KRAKOW SONIC SOCIETY
The 106th Meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society was a success. I believe everybody enjoyed it: Jacek Gawłowski, who after finishing second presentation shared with me his positive emotions, and our Readers, who “caught” Jacek outside the room after presentation and would not let go home, and the members of the KSS. And also the editors of "High Fidelity", who already try to figure something out for the next year to make sure it will be at least as interesting as this year's meeting. Don't worry we'll figure it out. Because we are pretty sure that there will be next “away” Meeting of KSS in.