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Meeting No. 111:

the new quality of a musical recording, resulting from electronic processing.



he Polish word of English origin – ‘remiks’ – is not included in Słownik wyrazów obcych (Dictionary of Foreign Terms) published in 1980 by the Polish Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe (National Scientific Publisher). It appeared among the terms of the Polish language much later. Słownik wyrazów obcych (Dictionary of Foreign Terms) published in 2007 by Wydawnictwa Naukowe PWN (Polish Scientific Publishers PWN) as part of Biblioteka Gazety Wyborczej (the Library of Gazeta Wyborcza) defines it as “a new version of a musical recording, created as a result of electronic processing”. It is an “artistic” definition, i.e. one which refers to changes in the structure of a recording, leading to the creation of a new piece of music.

| The artistic aspect of remixing

The English version of Wikipedia mentions different aspects of remix, e.g. in the context of graphic design, music being only one of them. It distinguishes four types of musical remix:

  • remixing connected with DJ culture, when music recorded earlier is mixed live,
  • sampling, when a musician uses selected fragments, adding them to a new recording at a studio,
  • “music mash-ups”, i.e. combining existing music tracks,
  • arrangement, i.e. changing the concept of a recording with the use of its existing elements.

Each of these elements has had a great impact not only on music itself but also on the whole culture. It is enough to mention that vinyl survived thanks to DJs, so we owe a lot to them. As regards sampling, it changed people’s view of intellectual property. After some artists sued musicians who had used fragments of their musical recordings, a consensus was reached that any modification of the basic material is regarded as new material and shall not be penalized.

We are (or should be) mostly interested in the last of the abovementioned types of remix – i.e. arrangement. One can distinguish between two further types of remixes here: of a whole album, made on the occasion of releasing the given material, or of individual tracks – in this case, remixing takes place after an album is released, with singles in mind.

The former is represented by, for example, Eric Clapton’s debut album from 1970. It is known that the multi-channel session tape was made available to three producers – Delaney Bramlett, Tom Dowd and Clapton himself, with a request for mixing the material. Tom Dowd’s mix was chosen. Only in 2006, when a deluxe version of the album was released, Delaney Bramlett’s mix was also published. The Polish Wilki band did a similar experiment with their debut album (1992) – the basic material was mixed by Leszek Kamiński, while the mixes of four individual pieces were made at Abbey Road studios in London (unfortunately, I have found no information on their author). What is unusual, both sets were simultaneously released on the debut album – the Abbey Road mixes were treated as alternative ones.

The latter consists in re-mixing one recording with the thought of a 12” maxi-single. The technique was made popular in the early 1980s. The purpose of remixing a recording was to make a single with the basic recording more attractive. Most often, it was its longer dance version. Owing to the fact that it was longer, the time offered by the 7” 45 rpm single was not enough – this is how the maxi-single, i.e. the 12” 45 rpm single was created. For example, the Depeche Mode single See You from the year 1982 was released in such a maxi-single version entitled See You. Extended Version.

At the beginning, mixes were made by performers or album producers. However, with time, DJs’ and other musicians’ versions became more popular. Nowadays, the term ‘remix’ refers to the latter. The latest Depeche Mode CD maxi-single Going Backwards. [Remixes] includes: Going Backwards (Chris Liebing Mix), Going Backwards (Point Point Remix) and Poison Heart (Soulsavers Re-Work). The last of the titles perfectly introduces us to the main topic of the 111th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, i.e. remixing basically aimed at obtaining the best possible sound.

| The technical aspect of remixing

Looking at the types of remixes referred to in Wikipedia, one can clearly see that such a recording can be created using any material. A “re-work”, i.e. a new mix of already existing material, is, however, of special importance here. It is a return to the original concept, i.e. to “rebuilding” the recording by the artist or band themselves, or with their help. In order to make it possible, one needs the multi-channel recording that had been used to make the mix included in the original edition. The most famous versions of this type were probably those from The Beatles’ catalogue, made by George Martin – e.g. Help!, Rubber Soul, Love and Let it be… Naked, as well as Yellow Submarine Songtrack made by Peter Cobbin.

mixing (of sound) – obtaining a phonic signal resulting from a number of components obtained from independent sources, e.g. microphones, tape recorders; the mixing of sound.

Słownik wyrazów obcych (Dictionary of Foreign Terms), Państwowe Wydawnictwa Naukowe (the Polish National Scientific Publisher), Warsaw 1980

Important information: a remix entails making a new master. It is something more than a remaster, i.e. actions taken to revitalize and technically improve an existing monophonic, stereophonic or quadraphonic (1970s) recording. Remastering has been very popular in audio and it is a proven method of improving sound quality. However, it also has its limitations and consists of, as we know already, applying a new master onto an old one that already exists – a master tape is the final version of material.

I do not remember exactly, but it must have been in the 1990s, when sound engineers came to the conclusion that in order to progress, they need to, paradoxically, take one step back and start the renovation process from multi-channel recordings. It made much more precise and less invasive (!) work possible, but also necessitated making a new master. Additionally, which is probably obvious, it is only possible to apply with multi-track recordings; one cannot mix monophonic and stereophonic tapes again.

The most famous remixes are those of The Beatles, made first by George Martin and now also by his son, Giles. You can read about a fantastic version of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – Anniversary Edition album HERE. The number of The Beatles’ remixes is still small. However, there is a person who made such renovations the hallmark of his work – it is Steven Wilson who restores the former glory of albums from the golden era of prog-rock – mostly those of the King Crimson, Yes and Jethro Tull bands.

As far as he is concerned, a remix means rendering the original version as faithfully as possible, but with better sound. Robert Fripp wrote about it when a new edition of the In The Court Of The Crimson King album was released:

Our starting point was the original mix. The only significant change of the original edition is a different edition of the improvisation after Moonchild. Its shape was discussed at that time, has been discussed since then and will be discussed in the future.

Robert Fripp, It Was A Time And A Place And Something Else As Well…, a booklet from the King Crimson album In The Court of the Crimson King, Atlantic/WOWOW Entertainment [Japan] IEDG-01, 7” Platinum SHM-CD + DVD-Audio (1969/2016); more HERE

Roger Waters faced a similar task when he released a remixed version of his masterpiece – the Amused To Death album in 2015. Not only did he decide to restore sound, but also to change the composition a little (more HERE).

Yet another problem was faced by the Analogue Productions company in 2002, while it was remixing Nat ‘King’ Cole’s recordings. It is an interesting case in the sense that the remixes were made concurrently using monophonic and three-track tape recorders, with separate sets of microphones. The Love Is The Thing album (1957), which we will talk about in a moment, was originally released in a monophonic and stereophonic version. There was a lot of reverberation on the vocal on the latter, because of which the vocal was made more distant, while in the mono version the vocal was emphasised.

Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman, who were responsible for the remix, decided to use much less reverberation in the new edition – the session master tapes have no added reverberation at all; it is added at the production tape stage – and that appeared to be the biggest problem. Originally, it was an effect created in a reverberation chamber located under the Capitol company studios. Such a chamber is simply a long room with a loudspeaker at one end and a microphone at the other end. Each of them had their own unique character. Unfortunately, they are no longer situated there, so the two gentlemen decided to simulate such a chamber at the production hall of the RTI pressing plant owned by AcusTech. All machines were stopped, employees left and the whole album was played from a three-channel master tape. It was mixed live, with reverberation, to a new stereo master.

Everyone attempting to make a remix faces such and yet other problems. The effect of their work is always a new artistic creation – more or less similar to the original one. Sound quality, however, is almost always ‘a few steps better’ than what can be achieved through remastering only, as exemplified by the fantastic new mix of Santana’s Lotus album. It was made using original, 16-track session tapes, but with Acoustic Revive cables and accessories. And how it was released! Three SACDs, stereo and four-track ones, a mini LP 7” with a lot of extras – look at the gallery below to see what it looks like. And how about the artistic value?

The Krakow Sonic Society has already met to listen to remasters of Roger Waters’s and King Crimson’s albums. It was such an inspiring experience that we wanted to look at the problem from a broader perspective, listening to remixes of albums containing different kinds of music and made using different types of tapes – from 3-channel to 24-channel ones. For comparison, we selected older versions that were “only” remastered, without paying attention to formats. We wanted to see how much both sound and music change.

Recordings used during the listening session

  • Nat ‘King’ Cole, Love is the Thing, Capitol/Toshiba-EMI TOCJ-9415, CD (1957/2002) | REMASTER 2002
  • Nat ‘King’ Cole, Love is the Thing, Capitol/Analogue Productions CAPP 824 SA, SACD/CD (1957/2010) | REMIKS 2010
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, Columbia/Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment COL 480410 2, “Master Sound”, Collector's Edition, Super Bit Mapping, gold-CD (1959/2005) | REMIKS 1992
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition, Columbia/Legacy CL 33552 2, 2 x CD + DVD + LP, (1959/2008) | REMIKS 1997
  • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Universal Music Ltd. Hong Kong 5483572SX, SHM-XRCD2 (1985/2011) ; a comparison of different remastered versions
  • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms. 20th Anniversary Edition, Vertigo/Mercury 9871498, SACD/CD (1985/2005)
  • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Mobile Fidelity Labs UDSACD 2099, „Original Master Recording, Special Limited Edition | No. 1808”, SACD/CD (1985/2013) | REMASTER 2013
  • Dire Straits, Dire Straits, Vertigo/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-40008, Platinum SHM-CD (1978/2013) | REMASTER 2013
  • Roger Waters, Amused To Death, Columbia/Sony Music Direct (Japan) SRCS-5913, CD (1992/1992) | FIRST EDITION
  • Roger Waters, Amused To Death, Columbia/Sony Music Japan SICP-30785-6, Blu-Spec CD 2 + DVD (1992/2015) | REMIKS 2015
  • The Beatles, Yellow Submarine, Apple/Universal Music Japan UICY-76977, SHM-CD (1968/2014) | REMASTER 2009
  • The Beatles, Yellow Submarine Songtrack, Apple/Toshiba-EMI TOCP-6530, CD (1968/1999) | REMIKS 1999
  • Eric Clapton, Eric Clapton, Polydor/Universal Music K.K. UICY-93628/9, 2 x SHM-CD (2008) | REMASTER – ORIGINAL EDITION – mix Tom Dowd/ALTERNATYWNY MIKS – Delaney Bramlett
  • Wilki, Wilki, MJM MusicMJM5236D, 2 x CD (1992/2012) | REMASTER – ORIGINAL EDITION/ALTERNATIVE MIX – Abbey Mix

Japanese issues available at

| NAT ‘KING’ COLE, Love is the Thing

Wiciu: The first version, i.e. the Japanese edition with the original mix seems to be better made, i.e. the most commercial due to long reverberation on the vocal, because of which the vocal is more distant. The strings sound much better than with the other two versions, i.e. the monophonic remaster and the stereophonic remix from the Analogue Productions edition. I like the vocal in the American version – it is definitely much more tangible, as if Cole was singing here, close to us. It is still a warm, intriguing vocal, but it is more lively and brighter. The Japanese version shows it in a round nice way, while the American version is a “concert” version a little, without decoration. In my opinion, the monophonic version is the worst. It is made in a completely different way and there is a different entry, which simply changes the music. Generally speaking, it is the weakest version.

Rysiek B.: We listened to three good versions. For me, unlike for Wiciu, the last monophonic one was the best – musical, pleasant, without glaring sharpness, i.e. the elements that irritated me when we listened to the stereophonic version from the USA. Overall, the stereo version in a new remix seemed distorted, nervously made and the recording was too sharp because of that.

Janusz: For me, the best version was the third one, i.e. the new monophonic remaster – perhaps because I had never heard it before. The beginning of the track that we are talking about, i.e. When I Fall In Love , different than in stereophonic versions, is great indeed. Surprisingly, I would say that the older Japanese remaster is the second best.

When I once listened to it using my former equipment, i.e. with an Ancient Audio player, I never liked the album, as it sounded bad to me. Now, with the Ayon CD-35 HF Edition, it sounded very good and it is a really cool version. However, the mono one is better.

Bartosz Pacuła: Comparing the Japanese version (old mix) with the American one (new mix) does not make too much sense. All the differences that have already been mentioned could as well result from differences between editions – we have heard equally big differences between different editions of the same remaster many times – e.g. released in Europe and Japan, or on an ordinary CD and a Platinum SHM-CD, for example. Talking about artistic differences does not make too much sense in this context. So, I cannot tell what results from differences connected with the given edition and what from a different way of mixing sound. The differences are very big, but it is hard to say what they result from. However, in order not to refrain from judgement, I will say that the version I liked best was the first one, i.e. the old mix on the Japanese edition.

As regards the two Analogue Productions versions, I liked the monophonic one much more. It is closer to the spirit of the times when it was created. This is how the music was recorded and released in specific reality, at the times of mono and the radio. These boundary conditions determine “acceptable” sound. The vocal sounds beautiful here – it is big, dark and smooth.

Marcin: The differences are enormous, which is obvious – different mixes, remasters and media. If I were to point out the weakest version, that would be the new stereophonic Analogue Productions mix. I could hear some hissing and wheezing, and the vocal was unnaturally emphasised there – perhaps it was to sound stronger and clearer than in the old mix. Attempts might have been made to bring it close to the monophonic version, as it is naturally big and full there. I listened to this version, despite its many shortcomings, with great pleasure. That is why the mono version, i.e. the new AP remaster, seems to be the best for me.

The old remaster (Japanese edition) seems to be so smooth to me, without detail, simply bland. And I find the long reverberation to be exaggerated. It seems that effort was made here to make something similar, something that had earlier been done in the mono version, but with the use of two channels – and it did not work out.

| MILES DAVIS, Kind of Blue

Janusz: For me, the older mix, i.e. the gold CD version, seems much better. The sound is denser and I got the impression that it was real music. The second version, i.e. the one released on the 50th anniversary of the premiere, seems cleaner, but because of that one could hear empty slots between sounds. I had the impression that some things were cleaned to such an extent that some of the music was also removed. For me, the difference between these two versions was as big as between the SACD and CD – and, thanks to Ayon, I became a fan of the Super Audio CD!

Wiciu: I completely agree with Janusz. What matters here is probably noise reduction. Noise was less audible in the new version. It seems that some elements have been removed from the recording, because of which the new remix sounds sterile and not too lively. It also seems that the level of dynamics changes rapidly and in an artificial way here. Perhaps it sounded similar for the first time, I would need to listen to this again, but here and now I can say that the older gold version sounds better. It is undoubtedly a mix that is more pleasant to listen to.

Rysiek B.: I quite agree with my friends – the older gold version was pleasant to listen to. But I do not understand why no one has said that what it offers is a little dirty piano, badly controlled, blurred bass and lower resolution of the saxophone and trumpet duo. When it comes to audiophile standards, I think that the second, new version is much better, mostly thanks to the clear, crystal clear piano. More is happening here with the cymbals which are clearer, better exposed and resemble ‘live’ cymbals more. I agree that it is more pleasant to listen to the older mix, but if I were to analyse the sound with reference to instruments, stage organisation and clarity – they are better in the newer version.

Tomek: I think nobody is going to share Rysiek’s opinion, as I also undoubtedly liked the older version more. It was “very real”, dark, with a strong character. The other, newer one, released on the 50th anniversary, might be more “audiophile”, but that does not change the fact that it sounded artificial.

Marcin: I completely agree with Tomek. The only thing I can add is that the older version gave me the taste of a music club. I imagine the music being played in such conditions and its sterile, clean version does not match that vision. It is supposed to be club, a little dirty music performed in a smoky room, where musicians are practically impossible to see.

Bartosz: I also liked the first gold version better and I have nothing to add.

| DIRE STRAITS, Brothers in Arms

Tomek: I liked the SACD version released on the 20th anniversary and the Mobile Fidelity version best. The first version, i.e. the SHM-XRCD2 sounds like a DDD recording. I understand the album as the first one recorded digitally by Dire Straits, with the thought of releasing a CD. The way I hear it is that everything is very strong, not completely accurate and a little blurred. When it comes to both SACD versions, this time I agree with our Host and the motto of the meeting, i.e. “the only thing that matters is SACD”, as these recordings were really very good. Apart from the fact that it was simply wonderfully presented music, some audiophile flavours were also added to it, as the recordings simply sounded better.

As regards the Mobile Fidelity version, I paid attention to very well-controlled strong bass that struck in the right way and at the right time. It was low and cool. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Platinum SHM-CD version did not have – the bass had been removed from it. When it comes to the artistic value, both SACD versions sounded very similar, while the Platinum SHM-CD version was completely different from the rest for me. It is also cool and I listen to it for pleasure – however, I think it is a completely different creation. The first SHM-XRCD2 version seems to match the original artistic idea, but I still prefer to listen to the 20th anniversary SACD.

Bartosz: We are listening to very good music, but let me repeat what I have already said: we are talking more about formats and remasters than about remixes. 99% of what Tomek has said refers to the differences that we usually deal with while comparing different editions of the same remaster. I think that the aspect connected with a new mix is not considered at all because of that – as if it was impossible to separate it. And only Nat ‘King’ Cole’s album was a new mix. I still cannot tell what changed when it comes to the artistic value.

Wojciech Pacuła: This is still some kind of information – that would mean the new mixes, apart from Cole, were very carefully made and the original was treated as the model. So, it was not about giving a new opinion on the material, but about technology – making the best remaster possible by returning to multi-channel recordings and re-mixing material.

Bartosz: OK, I agree. Going back to the albums – I am surprised by how wonderful the Mobile Fidelity version sounded. I had known it from a CD and I had not been its fan. Here it finally sounded fantastic. The Platinum SHM-CD version also sounded nice, but the Mobile Fidelity version was the best. The two first versions, i.e. the SHM-XRCD24 and the 20th anniversary one sounded the worst, in my opinion. The worst one was the SACD that Tomek liked so much :)

Wojciech Pacuła: The Platinum version sounded completely different, as if it was a new remix. It was the closest to the 20th anniversary SACD version, but still sounded in its own way. And I think it is no use reminding you that we are listening to different formats here. Let us look at it from the perspective of ordinary purchasers – they want to buy the best version of music and do not want to deal with formats. We do it the same way.

Bartosz: This is the last thing I wanted to talk about– what I miss the most is information on the material included on an album, i.e. how it was prepared. Paradoxically, the least information is given by record labels releasing the most expensive editions, i.e. by Universal with its XRCD2 and Mobile Fidelity with the SACD. I would prefer to know what I am buying. It is especially important, as the type of edition is part of the expression of given music, it forms a whole with it.

Marcin: I hear it in a slightly different way – in my opinion, the Platinum SHM-CD is the closest to the original edition. Even though it was slightly sharper, there was less bass. However, I liked such presentation with this type of music and the edgy way electric guitars were shown. The Mobile Fidelity version sounded completely different, but it was an equally intriguing message and, to tell you the truth, I do not know what I would choose. Both represented an equally high level – they were completely different, but, for me, the most interesting.

Wiciu: After listening for the first time, I knew that the first edition, i.e. the SHM-XRCD2 was the weakest. The three remaining ones represented a similar level and I would not be able to choose between them. I was surprised with the SACD Mobile Fidelity version, as it sounded very good. I looked at the first version in a completely different way when we returned to it at the very end. I liked it a lot, probably even the most.

Wojciech Pacuła: I got the impression that the three remaining versions are too perfect, kind of “gone too far”. For me, the oldest version sounded smooth and nice.

Wiciu: Yes, yes – even the noise, which was the highest on the SHM-XRCD2 version, ceased to bother me then.

Rysiek B.: I am beginning to worry, as I agree with Wojtek and Wiciu: I liked the first version, i.e. the SHM-XRCD2 the most. There was a huge difference. The second version, i.e. the 20th anniversary SACD sounded matt, unclean and boring. The Mobile version was clean, sterile but not too musical, while I have no special comments on the Platinum SHM-CD. If I can advise you, buy the SHM-XRCD2.

Janusz: My favourite since the beginning had been No. 1: the SHM-XRCD2. However, I also liked the Mobile Fidelity version a lot. To say more, I would choose this version after listening for the second time.

| ROGER WATERS, Amused To Death

Marcin: In my opinion, there is no big difference. The new version may sound cleaner and the stage is yet deeper, etc. It is typical technical work.

Rysiek B.: For me, the second version, i.e. the BSCD2 was definitely nicer – engaging, swinging and cleaner. It included a more balanced vocal – it was not so artificial. Not only can one hear more, but there is more music, so I recommend it with all my heart.

Janusz: I definitely prefer the BSCD2 – it is one of those CD technologies that always work out. The sound is smoother and lower, and I am sensitive, or perhaps even oversensitive to that. There is better tone and resolution. Above all, it sounds clearer – I understand words better, so there is nothing to talk about. This is music…

Wiciu: I paid attention to shifts between “radio” channels – that sounded more natural and softer with the BSCD2 version. Words were also clearer. I sat in the centre and the stage was much broader. This is definitely a better version.

Tomek: I remember our meeting with this album and I will tell you that I still like the first mix anyway. To me, the new version sounds flatter, i.e. all the elements are more similar to one another, more homogenous. The shifts are quieter and smoother in the new version, indeed – it is a completely different vision. However, as a whole, I like the original version more. I am not sure whether the vocals are really clearer…

Bartosz: I agree with Tomek – I understood the material included in the first version better. The barking of dogs was more “electrifying”. Generally speaking, however, the BSCD2 is at least two degrees better than an ordinary edition. So, for me, the things you talked about were better in the first version, but the whole thing was much better in the new version. The first version is sharper, but I listened to it more attentively and perhaps that is why I heard more.

Wojciech Pacuła: Let us be honest – the differences were not too big.

Janusz, Wiciu, Rysiek B.: No, no – it was here where the differences were big – bigger than with Dire Straits!

| WILKI, Wilki

Janusz: I will be honest: I have not heard anything so bad for a long time. There are huge differences between the mixes, but the added dramatic master is devastating. Even giant differences do not make sense because of it, because it simply sounds very, very bad… I have not heard such badly made music for a long time…

Tomek: Having listened to yet another track, I can say that the Abbey Road mixes are much better. The Polish ones are noisy and kind of digital. I think it is no use criticising the music – the Abbey Road mixes are really cool.


Subsequent albums were assessed in a similar way, i.e. we did not reach a consensus. The differences between different mixes are usually big, but not bigger than differences between different remasters. The only obvious differences are those between different types of mixes, like in the case of Clapton and Wilki. Here, artistic differences add new quality, indeed, unlike in the remaining cases. It seems that slightly altered mixes of such classic pieces as Yellow Submarine, Brothers in Arms or Amused To Death, etc., will matter mostly to the fans of the given albums, while they are not important for the general audience. And only a substantial change, like in the 40th anniversary version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a step forward, both artistically and technically.

Nat ‘King’ Cole’s album was an exception, as the new mix was so different from the old one and also, generally speaking, so unacceptable, that we can really talk about new (unfortunately, worse) quality here. Based on the listening session, it appears that it is better to invest in the best possible edition of the basic (possibly monophonic) version than to choose a new one. However, there are exceptions – e.g. the already discussed Brothers in Arms or Amused To Death. Here everything depends on our taste and system.