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Krakow Sonic Society | Meeting No. #129


Columbia CS 9781

LP | CD | Gold CD | SACD



Images: Wojciech Pacuła

No 203

April 1, 2021

KRAKOW SONIC SOCIETY is an informal group of music lovers, audiophiles and friends who meet to learn something new about audio products, records, music, etc. The idea for KRAKOW SONIC SOCIETY was conceived in 2005 and this is already meeting No. 129.

IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, A FEW DOZEN (if not more) “anniversary” album issues containing fundamental contemporary rock and, more generally speaking, pop music have been released: from The Beatles, through Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, to Santana. This trend will still remain popular for some time. It is because the majority of the most valuable records of this type of music were made in the 1960s and 1970s, within a period of about 10 years.

⸜ JULEK and BARTEK with the first issue of the album Santana


It is the same as far as SANTANA’s music is concerned. While this text was being written, the most important information on the artist’s website referred to preparing the re-issue of the album Santana III from the year 1971:

Santana III was the last album recorded with the original Woodstock-line up and the last to hit #1 in the Billboard charts until 1999’s Supernatural. Coke Escovedo joins in for the first time on percussion, as does Neal Schon – who was a mere 17 of age when they recorded the album – on guitar.

Santana III is viewed by many as one of the band’s commercial and creative highpoints. The band sounds darker, more raw, and more eager with the doubling up on guitar of Schon’s Rock’n’Roll sensibilities and Santana’s ecstatic high notes and soulful fills. Escovedo’s and Chepito’s percussion is as fast as it is furious, and the minimal production adds greatly to the timeless appeal of this album. 

According to a common consensus, Santana III was the album that marked the end of a certain era – not only in the musician’s career, but also in the history of music overall. And it all started with the artist’s debut – the album Santana released in 1969.

SANTANA is the name of a band that was set up in 1966 in San Francisco by the Mexican American guitarist CARLOS SANTANA. Born in 1947, Carlos Humberto Santana Barragán is a Mexican and American guitarist, composer and music producer who was the pioneer of combining “white” rock and roll with Latino music. It is said that the characteristic feature of his music are melodious blues-based guitar lines accompanied by Latino and African rhythms played on percussion instruments, including timbales and congas that had not been used in rock before.

The band is still recording music and the musician is its only constant element. Even though before recording their debut album the band had been playing together for three years, their career really started with the memorable Woodstock festival performance. It began on August 15th 1969 and was billed as “An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music”, attracting over half a million participants over three days and becoming a formative event for the whole generation of Americans.

⸜ JULEK and the author of the article with the first issue of the album Santana

Santana, who performed on the second day of the festival before Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who and Jefferson Airplane, came as a revelation to the audience and entered the music market with a bang. The performance was not a coincidence, as the band had already recorded their debut album which went on sale on August 30th, i.e. just two weeks after the festival.

It was an ingenious move on the side of the record label, Columbia Records, which additionally increased people’s interest in the music of this special band. As Ben Fong-Torres noted in his liner notes to the 1998 reissue, “heated by the information on the sensational Woodstock episode, the first national music tour and the appearance on The Ed Sullivan show, the audience was ready.”


SANTANA’S DISCOGRAPHY INCLUDES SOME more well-known and popular albums, e.g. Abraxas released in 1970, or even the contemporary abovementioned Supernatural issued in 1999. Despite this, Santana remains the most important album of the musician, as it was the album that he changed rock music with, introducing Latino sensitivity to rhythm into its mainstream. One can probably say that it was the first album of such importance featuring recordings referred to as Latin-rock.

The single Evil Ways included on the album peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, while the album reached No. 4 on “Billboard 200” and No. 26 on the “UK Albums Chart”. “The Rolling Stone” magazine placed the album Santana as No. 149 on “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (2012).

Waiting 4:07 (instrumental)
Evil Ways 4:00
Shades Of Time 3:14
Savor 2:46 (instrumental)
Jingo 4:23
Persuasion 2:37
Treat 4:46 (instrumental)
You Just Don't Care 4:37
Soul Sacrifice 6:38 (instrumental)

In order to understand what that was all about, it is enough to look at the list of tracks – four out of the nine were instrumental. However, they did not simply bridge the remaining tracks, but constituted well-developed and rhythmically inspiring compositions that showed the collective genius of the band members to the fullest.

⸜ Three vinyl versions of the album Santana: the American original issue (at the front), the first British issue (on the left) and the American Mobile Fidelity reissue

The abovementioned journalist, Fong-Torres, wrote:

[…] In Santana, rock fans heard something they had never heard before. Appearing in 1968 during the triumphant debut at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, Santana was the second wave after Airplane, Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Country Joe and the Fish. The band adapted their concept of free-form jam and the combination of different styles – from blues and jazz to folk and country based on rock and roll.

The album was released in August 1969 and the first issue was sold in two million copies.


AS FOR THE INCREDIBLE ENERGY FLOWING from each note of Santana’s debut album, what seems to be most important is the approach to its recording as another freely improvised jam. The band had played all the pieces during concerts in 1968 and frequently, during rehearsals, experimented using free improvisation. The ingenious album cover originated from a poster promoting the festival at the Fillmore West, which took place between August 27th and October 1st 1968.

Originally, the material was to be recorded in Los Angeles, but after a few rehearsals it did not work out and personal changes were necessary. Ultimately, the popular PACIFIC RECORDING studio was chosen, located in San Mateo south of San Francisco, closer to the musician’s house. To provide some assistance with the arrangements, the famous pianist, ALBERTO GIANQUINTO, and the giant of blues music, James Cotton, were invited to the studio. The only recommendation of the latter was to “shorten the solos”, which the band did.

⸜ RON MCKERNAN and JERRY GARICA, members of the band Grateful Dead, next to the Ampex MM1000 tape recorder at the Pacific Studios,1969

Santana’s debut album was produced by BRENT DANGERFIELD and recorded by BOB “DEPUTY DOG” BREAULT and ERIC “GENTLE BEN" PRESTIGE. The sessions took place in May 1969 and the mix was prepared at the same studio. It was suggested to the band by their concert manager, BILL GRAHAM, a former employee of the Columbia record label.

As Heather. R. Jonson writes in his monograph If These Walls Could Talk: A Historical Tour Through San Francisco Recording Studios, Dangerfield had neither ever produced, nor recorded music. However, Santana did not mind that at all. It was because he was recording the album with a group of then totally unknown musicians who are now regarded as stars and thus wanted to make use of the potential of a young band – an experienced producer would have imposed their own standards on the performers.

Pacific Recording was then one of few recording studios that used 16-track tape recorders – only three studios in the USA had them at the time. Obtaining such expensive and rarely found equipment was possible thanks to the fact that the head of the studio engineers, RON WICKERSHAM, had already cooperated with the manufacturer of the gear, with a seat in Redwood City located nearby.

These were completely new AMPEX CORPORATION tape recorders (the MM-1000 model). They recorded 16 tracks on 2’’ tape and used transports originally designed for video recorders. Such broad tape guaranteed a good signal-to-noise ratio and high dynamics. A significant decrease in the quality of multi-track recordings was observed when as many as 24 tracks were squeezed onto the same tape, but that was hardly imaginable future at the time. Let me add that the same tape recorders at the same studio were then being used to record Grateful Dead’s album Aoxomoxoa and that Abraxas was also recorded there a year later.

⸜ ELTON JOHN with his QUAD EIGHT 2082 console, early 1970s.

Pacific Recording studios were not too posh and some would call them “a hole in the wall”. There were two recording rooms, including the large Studio 1 for bigger bands, equipped with the QUAD EIGHT 2082 console with 20 inputs. Today, it is an almost legendary console that was used to record many excellent albums, e.g. The Band’s The Last Waltz (Village Recorders, Los Angeles). In the late 1960s, almost every Motown studio in LA had this model and it was also owned by Neil Young. Let me remind you that small 4-channel Quad Eight consoles were used by Mr. OKIHIKO SUGANO to record his best albums (more HERE).


THE PORTAL THAT I FREQUENTLY REFER TO lists as many as 265 versions of SANTANA’S debut album. Most of them are national versions of the same issues and issues on different media – from LPs, through cassettes and 8-track recordings, to CDs and SACDs. However, it is possible to distinguish a few “threshold” points among the multitude, i.e. the issues that help us define larger groups within.

1969 | 1. wydanie USA: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia CS 9781, LP
1969 | 1. wydanie UK: SANTANA, Santana, CBS 40-63815, LP
2007 | 1. wydanie MoFi: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-303, „GAIN 2 Ultra Analog LP 180 g Series”, „Original Master Recording”, No. 04207, 180 g LP

The first such threshold is the original Columbia issue with the characteristic “360 Sound Stereo” red label (CS 9781). The album was sold with the promotional insert Here's How Records Give You More Of What You Want, while the authorship of two pieces was incorrectly attributed on the label (A2: Evil Ways and A5: Jingo), which was corrected in the subsequent editions. The original UK issue (40-63815) is equally interesting. Instead of the name “Columbia”, it features a logo with the acronym CBS and a note informing the user about the possibility of playing the recording on monophonic devices. Moreover, the back side of the cover is black and white, not colored.

⸜ The first American issue of Santana by Columbia Records

▬ Another important reissue on an LP was the one from the year 2007, prepared by the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL 1-303). The studio still had its seat in Sebastopol and also issued the material on a 24-karat gold CD. The recording was remastered using the firm’s proprietary technique “GAIN 2 Ultra Analog”, i.e. in a “half-speed” process. The person responsible for remastering this version was SHAWN R. BRITTON who also gave us a whole catalogue of Dead Can Dance on SACDs in 2008.

MoFi returned to the album once again, which is absolutely rare for this record label and reflects the album’s popularity and significance for the music genre. In 2017, a 2LP 45 rpm version was issued, alongside a SACD. What is interesting, after the label started pressing records in a “one-step” process, its first product was not Santana’s debut album, but Abraxas. During the listening session, we only had the first standard version on a single 33 1/3 rpm LP.

1992 | 1. wydanie, Europa: SANTANA, Santana, CBS CDCBS 32003, COMPACT DISC
1994 | 1. wydanie SBM, USA: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia | Legacy CK 64212, „MasterSound”, GOLD COMPACT DISC

1998 | Wydanie 30th Anniversary SBM, Europa: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia | Legacy COL 489542 2, COMPACT DISC
2013 | 30th Anniversary/BSCD2, Japonia: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia/Sony Records Int'l SICP 30050, „Legacy Recordings”, Blu-spec CD 2 (BSCD2)

2007 | 1. wydanie MoFi: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 773, „Original Master Recording”, GOLD COMPACT DISC

⸜ All the digital versions reviewed here

As you must have noticed, I have divided the list above into three groups, as we are dealing with three important stages as far as the CD versions are concerned: (1) the original Japanese (1969), European and American (1987) issues, (2) the “30th Anniversary” remaster from the year 1998 and (3) the latest remix/remaster from the year 2020. Apart from these, it is worth recalling two Mobile Fidelity reissues – one from the year 2007 on a gold CD and another issued in 2016.

▬ The first group consists of two COMPACT DISCS with material that was digitally mastered, taking into account the format, in 20 bits. The first COMPACT DISC issue was released, considering the standards for the format, quite quickly – i.e. in 1987, in Japan (CBS/Sony 28DP 1016). I ordered this recording but, unfortunately, it got lost somewhere in the galaxy of packages.

The CD from the year 1992 is the first European issue, while the one from the year 1994 contains the same material, but prepared using then a completely new technique called SUPER BIT MAPPING (SBM) which made it possible to precisely convert digital signal of 20-16 bit resolution, as required by the CD format.

That is a 24-karat CD which belongs to the prestigious “MasterSound” series. It is almost certain that the sampling frequency of the original signal was 44.1 or 48 kHz. The first CD give us no information on mastering, while the other one does: the person responsible for the “MasterSound” series was KEVIN BOUTOTE from Sony Music Studios in New York.

⸜ A curiosity – a promotional disc with the remaster from the year 1998, featuring tracks from the first three albums

Between 1977 and 1980, he was responsible for controlling the quality of vinyl records in Vanguard Records. From 1987 to 1995, Kevin worked for CBS Records (Masterworks)/Sony Classical/Sony Music, dealing with many most important classical projects and mastering CD reissues, including the golden “MasterSound” CD series, starting from the year 1993. He is now the head of audio engineers at the Manhattan School of Music.

▬ The second group also includes two discs, but with new digital material remastered in 24-bit resolution. It was a huge campaign on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the album Santana, so it was called the “30th Anniversary”. Alongside the debut album, two subsequent albums were also remastered then.

The first of the records that we listened to makes use of the SBM technique and was pressed using a classic aluminum base. The material that was recorded onto it had been remastered from original “master” (stereophonic) tapes by the duo: VIC ANESINI and, again, KEVIN BOUTOTE. Anesini is now a Senior Mastering Engineer at Battery Studios. He has been given a few Grammy awards, e.g. for Johnny Cash’s The Legend series.

The second issue from this group that we listened to was pressed using the Blu-spec CD 2 (BSCD2) technique in which a glass master is made with a precise blue laser used for cutting Blu-ray masters. In the given case, however, conversion from 24 to 16 bits was conducted in a different way, without using SBM.

▬ There is also, as I have already mentioned, the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab version from the year 2007. It was issued as part of the “24kt Gold Collectors Edition” and it is numbered, while the person responsible for the remaster is SHAWN R. BRITTON, like in the case of the LP issue.

2016 | 2. wydanie MoFi: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2151, „Original Master Recording | Ultradisc UHR”, SUPER AUDIO CD
2020 | REMIKS, Japonia: SANTANA, Santana, Columbia/Sony Records Int'l SICP-10134, „7-inch papersleeve”, SUPER AUDIO CD Stereo + Quadraphonic

Finally, there are two issues on SUPER AUDIO CDs. The first one was produced by Shawn R. Britton and released as part of the Mobile Fidelity “Ultradisc UHR” series (2016). However, on August 23rd 2020, an issue was released that changed the perspective from which we look at all digital re-issues of Santana today – the 7-inch papersleeve Sony Records Int'l hybrid SACD, with a stereo mix AND the original 4-channel quadraphonic mix.

⸜ The latest DSD remaster – 7-inch papersleeve”, SUPER AUDIO CD

Its cover faithfully replicates the cover of the “Quadraphonic” issue. Inside there is a huge poster promoting the original version, while the disc has been put into an envelope similar to the one in which the original LP was placed. The disc itself follows a similar design, as it replicates the colors and the label arrangement of the quadraphonic pressing. As part of the set, we are also offered 7” reproductions of two Japanese singles that were cut from the album.

The material for this issue was mastered in Tokyo, in Sony Music studios, by MITSUYASU ABE and produced by YUICHI NAKANISHI. If I understand this correctly, both the stereo and quadraphonic version constitute DSD transfer from original “master” tapes.


THE MEETING OF THE KRAKOW SONIC SOCIETY (KTS) devoted to this album had been put off a few times – originally, it was to take place in 2020. Just like a few subsequent ones, it was cancelled due to COVID-related restrictions, as well as our common sense. Ultimately, it took place with the fewest participants in the 17-year history of the Krakow Sonic Society, i.e. three people: JULEK SOJA (Soyaton), BARTOSZ PACUŁA (KTS) and the author of the article.

The meeting took place at my home, so we listened to the music using the HIGH FIDELITY reference system:

⸜ CARTRIDGE Shelter HARMONY (custom-made for HF)


⸜ The audio system

»1969 | The first USA LP issue «

1969 | The first USA issue: Columbia CS 9781, LP

JULEK SOJA I needed a moment to get used to the system – it is good that we listened to a selection of different pieces before the listening session started, as it allowed me to get to know the gear. As I have already said, it offers incredible resolution and is selective at the same time, surprising the listener with the number of things that are made audible.

As for Santana’s music itself, it is incredible! I like the artist a lot and often return to his music – I do have three different versions of his debut album, don’t I? Here I was surprised with the parts where the first issue sounds a little overdriven where the guitar becomes a bit harsh and aggressive. So, I wonder if that was the intention, or it just came out like that during recording, mastering, or perhaps cutting the acetate. Or, perhaps, it was just supposed to sound like that. Let us remember that these were the times of greater freedom as far as recording methods were concerned and not only :) Changing dynamics is clearly audible with this recording – it varies with regard to the degree of its compression.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA I agree, Julek has a very good sense of hearing, indeed :) I just heard this the same way – musically, it is a great recording, excellent indeed. Modern Santana is something that is hard to understand from this perspective.

JS Sorry to be interrupting, but that’s what it is – the impression is even stronger because it was the first such recording with such music. It was Santana who came up with this way of playing music.

BP It is known that Santana is a guitarist, but it surprised me now, when I was listening to the recording in this system, how outstanding the recording is when it comes to the sound of the percussion. If I didn’t know, I would have thought that the leader is a percussionist. When I once listened to Moanin’ by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers (Blue note, 1958 – Editor’s note), I instantly knew that it was a percussionist’s recording. I heard the same thing here, even though Santana is a guitarist.

Overdriving – yeah, I did hear that, too, mainly in the left channel. Both the vocals and guitar were sometimes too rash. However, it was also clearly audible that the recording was pulsating and alive – I was not prepared for that, even though I had listened to it a few times before from Tidal, using my headphones.

JS Exactly – I thought I would hear some samba in a moment, the pulse was so vibrant here.

BP It is not an “audiophile recording” – one takes the first issue as a template, but not in this case. Let me add that I adore the cover of the album – it’s ingenious!

WOJCIECH PACUŁA Considering the standards of that time, it is a fairly well made recording, but it is not outstanding or surprising in any way. And, of course, it is not an “audiophile recording” in the sense that it did not aim to replicate sound faithfully, but to represent the energy and the spirit of the times. It maintains a good average quality level without anything exceptional. However, when we listen to Eric Clapton’s recordings from that time (and those are quite flat) and then return to Santana, we discover that everything is alive here.

The percussion seems to be the most important instrument here, indeed, and the whole musical sub-genre is based on its pulse. The musicians excellently follow the percussion instruments, a little like in jazz. I liked how they used the vocals here. These are not vocalists, but another instrument that adds one more layer. And, which is interesting, the vocals also follow the percussion, so they kind of constitute another percussion “instrument” on this issue.

BP The vocals merged with the background here and that was the artistic choice, as I understand it…

»1969 | The first UK LP issue«

1969 | The first UK issue: CBS 40-63815, LP

BARTOSZ PACUŁA I have two questions: did you not get the impression that the vocals are much more “present” here?

JULEK SOJA Yes, exactly, I immediately paid my attention to that. It was all 3D at an instant and the room was filled with sounds. An incredible difference!

WOJCIECH PACUŁA I was sitting at the side, so I did not hear any stereophony, but I heard a change in tone color – it became really nice. The American issue was brighter and sometimes harsh. However, I also do get the impression that it was more lively, crude and energetic. And now I could hear that the overdriving of sound present in the American issue is the effect of cutting, as it cannot be found in the British version, or at least I did not hear it.

JS If you listen carefully, the overdriving effects are also present here, but they are negligible. If I hadn’t paid my attention to them earlier, perhaps I would not have even noticed their presence.

WP The American version put more emphasis on the midrange, while here we have both the treble and bass. However, as I am saying, the issue from the USA was more credible.

BP From the point of view of audiophile art, the UK issue was better, but from the perspective of where I had more fun, I would opt for the American version. And, well, this kind of music is all about rhythm and frenzy.

JS I have a dilemma, as I do not know myself what I would choose. The USA issue is rather raw, a little crude, but it also seems that the mastering specialist interfered with the sound less and let everything be as it was on the tape. You get the impression that you are listening to a recording straight from the mixing console from a concert. As for the UK edition, it is really charming, as it is much more holographic and, thanks to that, really pleasant to listen to. This is what is closer to contemporary standards.

»2007 | The first MoFi LP issue«

2007 | The first MoFi issue: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-303, 180 g LP

WOJCIECH PACUŁA And, well, this sounds yet different…

JULEK SOJA Now I have a dilemma again… As for the sound of this issue, you can definitely hear the hard work done by the mastering specialist. The bass is clearly lower, stereophony is better, everything is tangible and vivid. However, to be honest, if I were to choose something to listen to, then – even though I own the MoFi issue – I would choose the other ones, as I like this one the least. It has lost the wild nature of the American issue, but for some reason it also lacks the holographic character and air that I heard in the British issue.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA Nobody will believe us that we really listened to these recordings, as we agree with one another all the time – but I hear it exactly the same way as Julek. I also noticed a lot of flavors in the MoFi issue that had not been found elsewhere, but these were “audiophile” and not musical flavors, so it does not make sense a little. However, I can imagine that someone has the first two issues and then buys the MoFi issue to have an audiophile version. It is closer to the British issue, but it does everything worse. I used to be charmed by MoFi records, but now I see their weaknesses more and more often.

WP I have just recalled that you asked about the vocals before – here they are in the foreground, it is musically simply a different record, due to the mastering specialist’s intervention. And this is an artistic change. I understand what he wanted to do, but this is about interfering with the musical matter. Apart from that, nothing is happening here…

BP Let us state clearly that it can be noticed here that a lot of work was done with the recording and this is not about conning money out of people. However, after the two original issues, this is work that kind of does not make sense.

JS It seems to me that the person responsible for the mastering of the British issue did it the way HE liked, while the MoFi mastering specialist did it in such a way that it seemed to be what AUDIOPHILES would like to hear.

» 1992 | The first European CD issue«

1992| The first European issue: CBS CDCBS 32003, COMPACT DISC

JULEK SOJA As a hardcore fan of the analog, I am very sorry to say that I liked this digital issue a lot. It was closest to the British LP issue and its sound was surprisingly smooth and analog. I could also hear no overdriving effects that we talked about earlier. I do not even know if they are present there. This is really spacious and energetic wild sound. I am surprised indeed.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA The sound of the keyboard is great here – full and large, while it was a little shallow before.

JS Yes, it is – I liked it more than in the case of the vinyl issues.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA At the end of the listening session I was kind of “set on fire” a little, as the guitar sounded like on the American LP, but better. But then, in a track that included vocals, it was worse, as it sounded like in the British version. When architects designed skyscrapers in the 19th century, they did everything to make them seem lower – people were not used to such a scale. Here I can hear the same thing – it is quite an early CD issue and I think that the people responsible for sound were trying to “copy” the sound of an LP onto a new digital medium. The “individual” features of CDs were not acknowledged, so attempts were made to transfer vinyl sound onto them. This is why it sounds so “analog”.

WP The energy was lost a little when the vocals entered, wasn’t it? As if it had disappeared somewhere. One thing that surprised me was the incredibly smooth sound, even though this is still the “childhood” phase in the CD format development. A lot of listeners have got used to the thought that the sound of early CD issues is sharp and bright. The truth is that it is absolutely not – this is the way that players sounded – while the sound of CDs, as you can hear, was completely different. So, the sound is warm and dense.

JS Today we are probably returning to this type of mastering.

BP And thus we are exploring the field of psychology rather than technology. We ask about expectations and assumptions – that the digital has to be like this or like that. We assume that the digital domain is ordered and clean, so we expect the same order and cleanliness from the medium itself. And this is not true – if the sound is to be good, it has got to retain some features of the analog original.

» 1994 | SBM, USA «

⸜ 1994 | The first SBM issue, USA: Columbia | Legacy CK 64212, “MasterSound”, GOLD COMPACT DISC

BARTOSZ PACUŁA In this case, the recording came across to me as different from the digital issue – here the guitars were too smooth and “nice”, while pulse and life returned again with the vocals. From an artistic perspective, it was the same thing as what can be heard on the first vinyl issue. However, which came as a surprise to me, I preferred the sound of the previous CD issue. The difference between them is clear, but the vinyl issues differed from one another much more.

JULEK SOJA For a moment I wondered if these are surely two different masters, as these issues sound similar.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA To tell you the truth, the masters can be the same, but 20-bit signal on the issue from the year 1994 was converted to 16-bit using Super Bit Mapping.

JS It can be so, as they sound really similar. Just like Bartek said, the guitar is very smooth and warm. However, you also need to remember that a golden base makes sound smoother. I have quite a lot of gold CDs and their aluminum equivalents, and the gold versions are ALWAYS warmer and smoother. And perhaps this is why the piece with vocals was really cool and nicer. However, it is also true that there were bigger differences between the vinyl versions.

WP I liked the previous CD version, i.e. the first European issue, more. The gold version is more “audiophile” and warmer. However, just like you, I thought the second piece with vocals was more dynamic and lively with it, and thus more interesting. As for dynamics, the first issue was a little flatter. The SBM version was similar to the British LP issue. The bass was low, like in the MoFi issue. However, as a whole, I liked the first CD edition from the year 1992 more.

» 1998 | 30th Anniversary SBM «

⸜ 1998 | The 30th Anniversary SBM issue, Europe: Columbia | Legacy COL 489542 2, COMPACT DISC

BARTOSZ PACUŁA To be honest, I don’t know what to say… This is yet different sound. The more we are entering the CD domain, the more I miss vinyl. I did not like some things at all, e.g. the vocals – they were dynamically completely flat. However, the keyboard and some flavors, etc. were excellent. The guitar sometimes sounded cool and sometimes really bad. I did not get the impression of a coherent musical message.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA But they did have an idea for it, didn’t they?

BP Well, I don’t know – I can’t understand it

JULEK SOJA I am here close to what Bartek is talking about and I am not sure if the sound engineer had any idea for it all. As for its tone color, the version is cooler and the vocals are weaker, but I’m not sure if this is bad – on the other hand, they are back to the place that we know from the original LP issues. They are not brought to the foreground, but have become one of the instruments, which is good. The percussion, keyboard and bass all sound good. However, the idea for the whole recording was better on the “gold” SBM issue from the year 1994.

BP The vocal was more similar to the vinyl version, as it was located closer to the background, but on the vinyl issue it was both at the back and dynamic – one could hear that the musicians were nearly shouting from off the recording, while here they were only moved to the back and nobody was shouting.

JS You are right – it is as if somebody had first emphasized the vocal and then hid it.

WP As for the CDs, I still like the first issue from the year 1992 the most. If I had not heard the original LP, I would probably like the new 30th anniversary SBM version more. However, since I know what it sounds like on an LP, I can hear that the first CD issue from the year 1992 is more faithful and less “made up”. There is less interference with sound.

This is a bizarre version – smooth and warm. Anyway, I do not know if you hear it the same way, but all the CDs sound smooth and warm – the vinyl original is simply different. It sounded ok here until the vocals entered, as the overall dynamics decreased sharply at that moment. It was a flat wall of sound. The sound of the keyboard was nice, perhaps not as vibrant as on the gold CD issue, but probably closer to the British issue.

I thought that the idea for it was different – we want to hear more, so we extend the upper midrange, etc. That is why the guitars sounded nice, but the vocals did not.

» 2013 | BSCD2 «

2013 | 30th Anniversary/BSCD2, Japan: Columbia/Sony Records Int'l SICP 30050, “Legacy Recordings”, Blu-spec CD 2 (BSCD2)

WOJCIECH PACUŁA I will put it this way: I liked this version the least of all, although it was not bad… Finally, the sound was lively and outstanding here. However, at the same time, it all seemed to me to be a little chaotic and lacking order. I wasn’t able to focus on individual instruments. The vocals sounded better than earlier, they were not subdued, but it was generally the same thing. I was a little surprised that the sound seemed louder, even though it is the same master as in the SBM issue from the year 1998. So, they must have changed something about it.

I like this type of sound and Blu-spec discs, as it is a valuable technology, but this time I was unable to focus on anything.

JULEK SOJA I really liked the ending of the first track, the part with guitars. That was nice and dynamic, and the guitar was what it should be. However, the beginning of the next track was too smooth, too mild and it lacked character, as if the center of gravity has been shifted from the guitar to the Hammond organ. The BSCD2 is, I agree with you, kind of bland, without any special idea incorporated into the entire thing. Individual elements are nice, brought into focus, but the whole thing is incoherent.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA Finally, there is a different opinion – mine :) I liked this version the most. I like Blu-spec and I hear its advantages each time. The thing was alive, with the incredible guitar at the end of the first track! Finally, it was not a copy of the vinyl version. So, I would choose this issue from among all the digital versions – it did not pretend to do anything and it did not want to be similar to anything.

JS So, if you took the first 1992 issue and recorded it onto Blu-spec, it would be something special.

» 2007 GOLD CD & 2016 SACD | MoFi «

2007 | MoFi CD: Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 773, „Original Master Recording”, GOLD COMPACT DISC
2016 | MoFi SACD: Columbia/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2151, „Original Master Recording | Ultradisc UHR”, SUPER AUDIO CD

BARTOSZ PACUŁA In my opinion, the way the CD sounded did not make any sense at all and I totally cannot understand what it was about. The sound was flat and much worse than on the MoFi vinyl version. I did not like that, either, but I understood the intention, while here nothing has been left of it. However, I really liked the SACD a lot, indeed – perhaps the most out of all the non-vinyl issues. Everything was great: the vocals, guitars, dynamics, bass, etc.

However, whatever you say – vinyl sounded best, anyway. As for me, the hierarchy of the digital issues is the following: either the first issue from the year 1992, the BSCD2, or the SACD MoFi.

JULEK SOJA For me, both masters on MoFi discs seem similar and I cannot hear any big difference between them. I like both of the recordings less than the 1992 and BSCD2 issues. The SACD Mobile Fidelity issue offers better resolution – it is simply a better format. However, when it comes to the idea, it may not be bad, but there is nothing nice here. While the vinyl MoFi issue seemed to be overdone to me, I do not get this impression here anymore.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA I also liked the SACD issue which resembled the BSCD2 version, in my opinion – in the sense that it reflected the liveliness of the music and sounded decent. It somewhat sounded similar to the British vinyl issue.

JS However, none of the CD versions sounded as holographic and airy as the British LP.

WP Indeed. However, none of them is as dynamic as the American LP. That is why, for me, the Mobile Fidelity SACD is a very decent issue. I liked the first CD issue from the year 1992 the most and I find the SACD to be the second best version. There may be no frenzy here, but everything is really skillfully made. We do not get as much depth as with the gold “MasterSound” issue, but you cannot have everything.

BP With time, I appreciate the European version more and more – we might have been mislead a little, as we listened to it right after the vinyl issues. Only now it is clear how good it was and that after so many years, and despite all the new technologies, we still cannot show it in an equally good way. We are all returning to that, while so many jobs have been created and so much money has been invested to develop new technologies, the results of which are doubtful.

WP Let us not forget that analog tapes undergo aging with time and, by definition, new remasters are based on worse-quality input material. That is why the first digital issues are so valuable, despite the imperfections of the gear, as the material on tape was then much younger than today. What was also helpful was the fact that people did not tinker with it too much at that time, as they did not know how to do it – engineers were very careful and perhaps this is why the first CD issues sound so good.

» 2020 | SACD Japan «

2020 | SACD Japan Columbia/Sony Records Int'l SICP-10134, “7-inch papersleeve”, SUPER AUDIO CD Stereo + Quadraphonic

WOJCIECH PACUŁA I will go first – I liked this version a lot. It is really the best presentation of Santana’s debut this evening, without excluding the vinyl versions. What do you say to that?

This version has all the best elements of the remaining issues that we have listened to tonight. So, it was dynamic and very clear, as I could finally hear everything, thanks to which it was somewhere in the middle between the American and British vinyl issues. The vocals sounded really nice and almost as good as on the vinyl issues. There is also beautiful tone color here, but, above all, everything was alive. It only seems to me that I could not hear the changes in tempo as clearly as on the vinyl versions.

JULEK SOJA I have no doubt that this is the best of the digital issues. It is the first of Santana’s recordings that we have listened to that features decent holography and deeper sound planes. To be honest, it is completely different from the remaining digital versions. Before, if the guitars sounded good, the vocals were weaker – and the other way round, but not here. This is impressive!

Would I prefer it to a vinyl version? To be honest, I don’t know – I would have to listen to both for a longer time. Probably not…

WP However, there was no drama, as the sole fact that you are considering such a choice already means something – and we know how much you “like” digital recordings.

JS Yeah, it’s true – it is a really cool version.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA What can I add – it is a really nice issue, the best digital one. I lacked what the vinyl versions offered a little, but the difference is negligible. In fact, there are three issues left for us to consider – the two first vinyl ones and the new SACD version, even though the really nice 1992 issue is still to be remembered. That means this is the first digital issue that can actually be compared to the vinyl original.

All the three issues feature lively pulsating sound with a lot of space provided, as well as they do not interfere with the artistic layer (i.e. the balance between individual elements – mainly guitars and vocals – is maintained). The sound is warm, which is important, and the recordings are not too pure in the sense that they are not smooth. All the remaining digital versions, as well as the MoFi vinyl issue are exaggerated in this respect, as they are too smooth and “polite”.

JS However, I would add that the first CD version from the year 1992 seemed to have been smoothened the least from among all the previous issues.

WP However, let us repeat that all the previous CD issues are quite similar to one another, while this one is clearly different.

BP So, there is some hope, as up until this moment all the subsequent reissues have seemed to be wasted opportunities that someone invested in just to lose the money. Here you can see that if everything is done properly from the beginning to the end, by someone who feels how to do it well, the outcomes are excellent, as this is an outstanding version of an outstanding album!



⸜ DISCOGS, entry: “Santana – Santana”,, date of access: 15.02.2021
⸜ WIKIPEDIA, entry: “Santana”,, date of access: 15.02.2021
⸜ BEN FONG-TORRES, liner notes to the SANTANA album, Santana, Columbia | Legacy COL 489542 2, CD
[Review] Santana – “Santana" (1969), “Pablo’s Reviews” Novemeber 8th 2016,, date of access: 15.02.2021
⸜ NICK HASTED, Carlos Santana, “Record Collector” August 5th 2019,, date of access: 15.02.2021
⸜ HEATHER. R. JONSON, If These Walls Could Talk: A Historical Tour Through San Francisco Recording Studios, date of access: 15.02.2021