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Krakow Sonic Society ⸜ meeting № 145

POLSKIE NAGRANIA (Polis Recordings label) on SACD,
with Damian Lipiński onboard

On September 29th Warner Music Poland released five Czesław Niemen albums on SACD hybrid discs. This was the first part of a series of "Polskie Nagrania catalogue selections - Limited Edition SACD Hybrid", extending to as many as 75 discs. We took a look at the selected titles, listening to them together with DAMIAN LIPIŃSKI, responsible for their sound.

February 24th 2024
KRAKOW ⸜ Poland


text and transcription from the tape WOJCIECH PACUŁA
translation Marek Dyba
Photos by "High Fidelity"

Sonic Society

April 2, 2024

SUPER AUDIO CD is a format created to replace Compact Disc. It offers high-resolution stereo and multi-channel sound (up to 6 channels). Conceived as an archival format, it has become a de facto audiophile format. Last year the first discs belonging to the Polish rock archive of all time were released.

DAY "ZERO" FOR THE SERIES in question happened on September 29th 2023. At the time, five Czesław Niemen albums (˻ SERIES 1 ˺) were released. They were: Dziwny jest ten świat (1967), Katharsis (1976), Idée Fixe (1978), Niemen Enigmatic (1970) oraz Niemen vol. 1 and Niemen vol. 2 (Marionetki) (1972 | 1973). On October 20th five more albums in the ˻ SERIES 2 ˺ hit Empik stores nationwide: Dżem Cegła, Perfect Perfect (so-called „biały album”), Breakout Blues, Marek Grechuta Marek Grechuta & Anawa and NOVI Singers Novi Sing Chopin.

⸜ DAMIAN LIPIŃSKI is the newest member of the Krakow Sonic Society.

On December 1st ˻ SERIES 3 ˺ hit the stores. This time we get six rather than five discs: Mental Cut by Maanam, Mrowisko by the Klan, Wołanie o słońce nad światem by Dżamble, Astigmatic by Komeda Quintet, Cień wielkiej góry by Budka Suflera, and Krywań, Krywań by Skaldowie. And finally, on January 27th the second five Czesław Niemen albums went on sale in SACD format (SERIES 4 ˺): Sukces, Czy mnie jeszcze pamiętasz, Niemen Enigmatic (so-called Czerwony album), and Niemen Aerolit.

Of Niemen's regular studio albums, the ones released by the CBS label were not released, as well as Terra Deflorata by Veriton (1989) and the last album the artist recorded, Spodchmurykapelusza released by Pomaton EMI in 2001.

" Series "Polskie Nagrania catalogue selections - Limited Edition SACD Hybrid" in HIGH FIDELITY:


Super Audio CD

SACD is a 1-bit format with a sampling rate of 2.8224 MHz. Such a signal is characterized by a high level of noise, so very aggressive noise-shaping techniques are used to shift it beyond the range heard by humans. A DSD signal prepared in this way has a dynamic range of 120 dB (20 Hz - 20 kHz) and a frequency response of up to 100 kHz.

In practice, it is slightly lower (70-90 kHz), and many players feature a high-pass filter at 50 kHz. This was because it was feared that the amplifiers produced up to that point were not prepared for such a wide frequency response (including noise) and that they could get into oscillations, which could damage both the amplifier and the speakers connected to it.

By 2003, the year that saw the best sales of SACD discs, 1.3 million were purchased. While this seems like a lot, one has to look at the big picture: in 2003 alone, 800 million discs (of all formats) were sold, with CD accounting for 93% and SACD and DVD-A together accounting for only 0.002%. In 2007, the format seemed to be dead.

Slowly but steadily, it was changed by labels from the US - Mobile Fidelity, Audio Fidelity and Analogue Productions, small labels with classical music, but especially publishers from Japan. Today it's a niche but visible audiophile format. .

⸜ Super Audio CD - such a beautiful disaster, read → HERE).
⸜ Praise of the Format Part 3: Super Audio CD, read → HERE.

AFTER SIXTEEN TITLES, we seem to have a pretty good idea of what the Empik and Polish Recordings series is and what to expect from it. Let me remind you that DAMIAN LIPIŃSKI is responsible for the material remastering. He divides the work on each title into what he refers to as the "reconstruction" part and the actual mastering. The former involves removing tape damage, noise, and often correcting errors recorded with the signal during recording sessions.

The source material (that is, before remastering) is in two forms - either they are master tapes or production tapes, or hi-res files, from different years. The remaster is done entirely in the digital domain on DXD files - 32 bits and 352.8 kHz (8x 44.1 kHz, characteristic of the Compact Disc format). Finally, DSD files are generated, and downsampling and dithering are performed for the CD layer. The discs are released in SACD format, they are hybrid discs, so with a SACD (hi-res) and CD layer.

To learn more, and to get to know the author of the remaster better, we invited Damian Lipinski to the 145th meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society.

The meeting was divided into two parts. In the first one (˻ I ˺), Damian talked about himself and the remastering process, shared insights and comments on the recordings themselves, and told us a few anecdotes introducing not only the remastering itself, but also the entire process of which it is the final stage. In the second part (˻ II ˺) we listened to the music. We compared selected albums from the "Polskie Nagrania catalogue selections - Limited Edition SACD Hybrid" series with the original LP releases, as well as earlier remasters, both on CD and LP. And a brief Post Scriptum at the end.


THE PART OF MY LIFE CONNECTED TO MUSIC is connected to my dad - this is probably a fairly common way of acquiring this type of sensitivity. Dad played the guitar, listened to a lot of music and collected records, sound postcards, etc. and music was a constant presence in our home. I became infected with it to the extent that already in elementary school I was interested not only in music itself, but also in ways of playing it.

On this note, I went to the Electronic Technical School in Dzierżoniów to be as close as possible to this equipment. I graduated with a degree in telecommunications, but I chose a specialty related to signal processing to learn more about acoustic signals. In addition, of course, I listened to music, collected records, etc. Well, and I had a group of friends 80s music, especially disco music aficionados. And even Eurodisco.

One of them founded his label and, not really knowing how to approach it from the sound side, he turned to me for help. That was about twenty years ago, and that's how I got into the business of sound recording. There was a bit of chaos and guessing in it, with no studio, no access to proper equipment, certainly not very professional. But over time I began to buy various equipment,and I made some myself. It wasn't that I went into a store and asked for this or that - it was all small steps.

⸜ DAMIAN LIPIŃSKI is the author of the transfer from the tapes of the archives of the Drawing Film Studio in Bielsko-Biala.

I also listened to what people on the forums have to say about my work, it was kind of my "feedback". When you read such things, as long as they are in meaningful places, it can be helpful. As long as you do something on your own, you don't really know where you are. You can laugh about it, but with the Savage’s Tonight album I even made it to such an audiophile publication as "High Fidelity", which was totally surprising to me; see the review → HERE {PL} - ed.).

It was unexpected, unprecedented and I didn't even know that such a thing had happened. To this day I don't know which of my friends let Wojtek know that such a thing had appeared. To be honest, when I found out that a review would appear in High Fidelity I was a little heartbroken, because I wasn't sure of the quality of my work. And it seemed to be, as it turns out, very good, even - great. The review was unexpectedly good, and thanks to it I caught the wind in my sails.

In the meantime, I contacted MTJ, a well-known Polish label, with nice people working there, etc. This company has a massive archive in its possession: the entire Pronit archive on tapes, literally single pieces missing, a large part of the Tonpress archive, etc. That's when I started working with tapes. A lot of reissues of Polish popular music came out at that time, and I learned how to deal with it all. It was the entire catalog of Lady Pank, through my hands passed all the tapes of Perfect, Obywatel GC, IRA, then Siekiera, etc.

That was about twelve years ago. This cooperation has not disappeared, has not ended, but the problem is no idea for further exploitation of the catalog on the one hand, and on the other hand problems with the so-called clearance of copyright. Because owning the tapes is one thing, but being able to release the music contained on them is another. After all, part of this archive was bought without publishing rights. The result is that no record from the back catalog has come out for two years. On the sound side, almost all of the albums in the archive, with few exceptions, have been prepared by me for release.

And sonically it came out, in my opinion, very cool. I had all these tapes in my hands and being able to work with them was a brilliant thing. There are, of course, great records with poor sound - IRA is just like that. It's a very bad sound. The album was recorded in a private studio, CCS Studio Warsaw , where strong compressors were fastened on the recording, on the mix, and then still on the master. In a similar style was recorded (also in a private System Studio), Bajm's LP Martwa woda. The result is that the original vinyl records with these recordings have a dynamic range of 7-8 dB, which is very poor. This was the time when few "private" initiatives appeared, usually inferior to their "state" counterparts.

In the meantime, the subject of GAD Records publishing also came up. There I do less mastering, but rather digitize a huge part of their tapes. Thanks to Michał Wilczyński, I had the opportunity to transfer from tape to files the entire archive of Wytwórnia Filmów Rysunkowych in Bielsko Biała, and that's 550 tapes. I ripped tapes from the Wytwórnia Filmów Fabularnych in Wroclaw. It was from 300-400 tapes. I would pack them in the trunk, give them back, pack them up, and so on and so forth. With that many of the tapes at some point when I saw another tape, it started to make me sick.

I remember, of course, the first tape I had in my hand, the already recalled Siekiera. I thought I had caught God by the feet. But when you pick up tape number two thousand and you know, you know for sure, that something is going to break, something is going to pop out, it's going to stain the head, that it's going to stretch, that there's just going to be problems with it, you genuinely feel sick of it all. You can lose all sentiment. But, as I say, it helps to grow. Having been in contact with - already - several thousand tapes, I know how to approach it, how the tape should sound and what to do with that sound afterwards.

Skipping ahead, I will say that in the case of Polskie Nagrania, some of the material I get for mastering is ripped in their studio, not by me. And this is often a problem. A large part of the tapes in Poland were recorded with a Dolby processor used on the master. These were Dolby A processors, probably tuned one at a time for a particular studio, and often even one recording.

As long as the tape was played in the same studio, there was no problem. But when it was moved elsewhere, it turned out that Dolby usually was tuned differently - it was an extremely incompatible system. Early processors at Polskie Nagrania, belonging to the first generation, were tuned "by ear." You fed a test signal from the console to the processor and listened by switching whether what was coming out of the tape had an equally loud signal as what was fed to it (and vice versa from the tape deck to the console - depending on whether you were recording or playing back).

It just couldn't be perfectly tuned. The result is that a large portion of the tapes were ripped with the same Dolby setting, and in principle it should have been set individually for each tape. Only that with such a large volume of ripping, no one listens to it, it is - nomen omen - a tape job. Someone sat from morning to evening and flipped the signal, looking only to make sure that on the digital side it was not overdriven. Play-stop, play-stop, rewind... Later Dolby processors have "taken out" tuning and signal comparison is done by observing the state of two LEDs, which allow you to objectively set the processor's zero, and switching signal levels on a listening basis is now just an auxiliary part of the procedure.

The problem with the Dolby system, a comparative system, is that it doesn't quite recognize what is noise of the tape, microphone equipment, instruments, surrounds, and what is treble, especially if the noise is high. It's half bad if it leaves some of that noise, with that there's not much of a problem. Worse if it works "better". Like it will take away the entire treble with the noise. In the case of Maanam, it was set so aggressively that nothing can be done about it anymore. The tape was recorded in such a way that Dolby cleared everything - an irreversible, at least at this stage, effect of recording with exaggerated Dolby A.

Experience at work has given me freedom. Now all I have to do is rip a tape and glance at the spectrum in the computer I can see that the processor has malfunctioned. And this is something I owe to the exposure to those thousands of tapes - I gained a lot of experience in dealing with "analog". I also got to know Polish recording studios from "behind the scenes". It is often the case that I play a tape and after a while I know where it was recorded. For example, in Tonpress, because it sound bright, or that in Polskie Nagrania, because the studio's triac lighting rattles and hums all over. This was most often the case in studio 20.

Or Polish Radio Opole. I once had the opportunity to meet an extremely nice, elderly gentleman who helped me digitize material. He was copying the entire archive of the radio and I turned out to be a suitable listener for him. And, for my part, I asked about broadcasting - that’s what I studied after all - and other things that could not be learned about in any other way. It turned out that he was the technician in the studio and told me why the tapes from Radio Opole actually have no bass at all. As it turns out, they had such a big problem with power grid noise that, not knowing what to do about it, they added a permanent filter on the master that cut everything out. It can not be recovered, it's not there.

In contrast, older discs, the 60s and 70s and even the 80s, have a different type of problem. They are so nightmarishly noisy that they are often filtered after 15 kHz. On a chart, they look like an mp3 file - to the point of confusion. I had similar struggles with Tonpress tapes. As it seems, but not 100%, the crossover in the studio was active. I once talked to Slawomir Wesolowski about it and he didn't know exactly how it was, but that's how you can hear it. In any case, there was a lot of high-frequency noise in the recordings, and they dealt with it in such a way that after 15 kHz they fastened a filter that cut everything out. It was a better filter than the one in Polskie Nagrania, because it was more modern, but it didn't change the character of things.

Polish productions from that era are burdened with all sorts of strange things, and usually a combination of them: noises, crackles, buzzes, and noises. When the sound is loud, this is not a problem. But it is especially tiring in quiet passages. I have the impression that at once people paid less attention to this, because, let's be remember, in those days Polish turntables or speakers were not very good. I myself used to record music on a Kasprzak from a TV and it didn't bother me :)

I came to Polskie Nagrania thanks to Michał and Łukasz from GAD Records. The label was already working with PN at the time, and seeing that my potential was not fully exploited, they recommended me. In recruiting, I went through the typical portfolio route, with sample albums, description, etc. The idea was for me to show that I was not a man from nowhere. You can't come to them from the street, it doesn't work that way. Especially since they have their own collaborative engineers. But after going down that path, in the very first phone call I was asked if I saw anything that could be done with their catalog.

As it happens, I carried the answer to this question for twelve years with me to different companies. And no one was interested in it. So I told them about SACD discs and that it would be possible to try to release material in such a format, that no one in Poland was doing it on such a scale. And that it could be interesting and different from what was available on the market. Japan, the United States - it works there, why not try it in our country as well?

The first reaction was moderate. But it's been almost a year, I pick up the phone and hear the question if I'm still interested in this. And a proposal was immediately made: if I was interested, Warner Music Poland, as a large company, would take a chance on such a project. Ladies Ania Zając and Alicja Szymanska from Polskie Nagrania conceived the whole thing in a very cool way - as an extremely coherent product, undoubtedly premium, but adapted to Polish conditions. In truth, the fact that everything came to fruition and that it "happens" is mainly due to them. And, of course, Empik.

What's also important in all of this is that the people working at Polskie Nagrania still have a passion for music, that still another and another reissue is not a job at the tape, but something that can be done well again, better... We talk a lot, discuss, consult with each other. That's why it's fun for me to work with them. And I mention this because this is not the usual approach, whether the label is small or large

However, let's get back to the subject. Going into Polskie Nagrania, I had to confront previous remasters. Not everyone liked them, but there is no such thing as a "perfect master". You can do something better or worse, but even two masters at the same level can differ strongly from each other. The important thing is to follow the rules of art and that it just "plays well": that it doesn't scream, doesn't cause fatigue.

Before the vacations I got the first five albums ready - and they were all Niemen’s. Initially, I tried to achieve something similar to what Jacek Gawłowski did, but it came to a standstill I had to do it my own way after all, because I thought to myself "why would anyone need another Gawłowski master"? So I had to reinvent it for myself. And, it seems, it worked out well, and the series was surprisingly well received.

How it will develop - I do not know. I hope the series will be finished, and for now there is still the will. I get titles from month to month - five titles and I make them. I have a month to make them, the material is given to the pressing plant and in another month the discs are available in the stores. The latest group is female voices, and the SACDs will be in available Empik stores on March 29th. Of course, there were problems with some of them, but this is, as I say, the affliction of Polish recordings. For my part, I tried to do it as well as possible, but without demolishing what is actually on the tape.

I am remember Dżem’s Cegła, on which Riedel's voice is hidden deep in the mix. I tried to pull it out with advanced tools and succeeded. But everything else now sounded "flat". The band mixed this album by itself, having no idea about it, and it came out as it did. Niemen was mixed for a long time to mono, even though he was recorded on a four-track tape recorder, as if someone didn't like him. And I just did an Ewa Demarczyk album from 1963 and it's a stereo recording and it's perfect. It sounded like I was right there with her. Breakouts were assigned inferior studios, for example. In a word - each of these recordings has a set of its own unique problems to deal with.

Let's be aware, at the same time, that the masters at Polskie Nagrania are mono or stereo. There are no multi-track tapes. Such a tape cost $300, or as much as a plot of land in Zakopane. It looked like one band would finish mixing, and there was already another band standing outside the door - the tape was erased and another session was immediately recorded on it. And so on as long as anything at all could be recorded on it. The only multi-track tapes that remain are from the very end of the PN recording studios activity, because there were simply no more recordings. There are exceptions, but these are usually tapes in the possession of musicians and kept at their home.

It is interesting to note that situation is not much better in the West at all. Except for the biggest studios and the biggest bands or performers, multi-tracks don't exist either. Only that for a different reason, and it wasn't about availability. If someone was going to spend $300 on a tape, he would cash in the old one, and write on the billing printout that he bought a new one. He usually never gave it back. If the band wanted to get a tape, the tape was given to them. And if not, it was erased and entered in the requisition as new.

I would add that the selection of titles for the series is not random. Let me remind you that this is, after all, an Empik series, which has a huge database of sales and knows exactly which titles are "salable" and which are not. Historically, you can see what has sold and when. So the sales success of the series has several sources, it's not just the sound and format.


» NOVI Singers, Novi Sing Chopin ⸜ 1971
• Polskie Nagrania MUZA SXL 0755, LP (1971)
• Polskie Nagrania | Warner Music Poland 50541 9 78085 0 0 ⸜ SACD/CD (2023)

» BREAKOUT, Blues ⸜ 1971
• Polskie Nagrania MUZA/Polskie Nagrania SXL 0721/2007, seria „Czarne perły, cz. 3”, LP (2007)
• Polskie Nagrania | Warner Music Poland 50541 9 78085 3 1 ⸜ SACD/CD (2023)

» CZESŁAW NIEMEN, Niemen Enigatic
• Polskie Nagrania MUZA XL 0710-XL 0711 ⸜ 2 x mono LP (1971)
• Polskie Nagrania MUZA SXL 0710-XL 0711 ⸜ 2 x stereo LP (1971)
• Polskie Nagrania PNCD 1574 A/B ⸜ 2 x Compact Disc (2014)
• Polskie Nagrania | Warner Music Poland 50541 9 79359 1 6 ⸜ SACD/CD (2024)

DAMIAN ⸜ KTS • I've been sitting about a meter from the speaker, so I can't say anything about the space. We are after listening to Novi Singers, Breakout and Niemen, and I will say briefly - each time I liked the SACD version better. The SACD version of Niemen was especially memorable to me.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA ⸜ KTS • For the Breakout album, I definitely liked the SACD version best. Novi Singers - also SACD, especially for the energy of this version. The biggest problem I have with Niemen is that the CD version is by far the weakest, while the vinyl - in mono version - I really liked. It was very soft and very pleasant. Against its background, all subsequent versions sounded sharper, more aggressive. If I had to choose a digital version, it would definitely be SACD, but overall - it's mono vinyl.

DAMIAN LIPIŃSKI • The reason for this reception of the stereo versions may be the problem of locating the instruments, which are so spread out in the panorama that they are difficult to grasp. Even the bass is in the panorama here. When mono is done, everything plays from the center, and maybe that's why everything worked out better in the mix.

In the stereo, there is a Hammond playing somewhere, in other spot a guitar, and in general it is not clear where the bass is. The sound doesn't blend together in the middle of the stage, and it should. It seems that monophonization of this material has brought order to it, so one perceives this version as more pleasant. Finally, everything is in the middle. This, generally, is the trouble of Polish productions, consisting in the fact that instruments with completely different sounds are spaced on stage, often to extremes. And it doesn't sound well...

ARTUR REICH ⸜ Audio Video Summit • I'll start with the Breakout. For me, the SACD version sounded the best. The drums, vocals, bass guitar, etc. - it all sounded clearer, better to me. Already on the CD it sounded better than on the vinyl, but at times it seemed a kind of spatially unbalanced. The SACD disc, on the other hand, sounded simply super.

I also liked the Novi Singers from the SACD. But I got the impression that the vinyl version had a bit more resonance, it was brighter, but it was quite good. It added a little bit of space looseness, fuzziness. The SACD sounded in a slightly more rounded way. However, the character of the overall sound was very well preserved.

RAFAŁ ⸜ KTS • Let me talk only about the Breakout album. I have perceived it differently - I liked the SACD, but I would rather listen to the previous versions, CD and LP. And that's because on the SACD the bass was too pronounced for me and didn't match the rest of the instruments, which bothered me. That's why, sitting here, I'd rather listen to CD and vinyl. But, let's be honest - SACD sounds great. It's just that in this track that bass line made me cringe :)

JULIAN SOJA ⸜ KTS, Soyaton • I am familiar with Tomek's system, but I am hearing the Accuphase player for the first time. When it comes to listening, I have mixed feelings. As for the Novi Singers, the vinyl was - for me - unbeatable. On SACD there wasn't the same vibe for me. With Niemen it was even worse, because I didn't like it in any version. If I had to choose something, I would probably choose stereo vinyl. It sounded too bright for me in the digital versions. But when it came to Blues by the Breakout I liked the SACD version the best. It's a fantastic job. The vocals sounded like they came from analog - great.

RYSIEK B. ⸜ KTS • I warned you that we would disagree. When it comes to the Novi Singers, I'd bet on a tie. I liked both versions very much. The vinyl played as if we were at a concert sitting close to the stage. The SACD showed the same thing, but from further back. The vinyl was dominated by the direct sound, while the SACD showed everything with more reverb, with many reflected sounds. But I liked both versions.

With the Breakout, I have a different attitude - I liked the CD version best, then vinyl and finally SACD. And Niemen - it was the SACD version I was disappointed with. The sound was as if filtered through the sepia filters in photography. I heard less color differentiation, as if the sound was dull.

JANUSZ TUCHOWSKI ⸜ Audio Video Summit • In my opinion, the best Niemen is the mono version from vinyl. I thought when I would hear the stereo version it would be better, and it was worse, so it didn't matter which version I listened to afterwards. Novi Singers - like Julian I think that the midrange, timbre - this was something that was better on vinyl. The Breakout album, on the other hand, was had a clear advantage on SACD, but the bottom end was also heard more strongly. But I'm sitting in an unfavorable spot, so that could have been the problem. I also got the impression that the Accuphase sounded a little too bright in this system.

TOMASZ KURSA ⸜ Audioform • I agree with Julek. The first comparison, when we listened to his prepared disc of recordings before and after processing, was clear - his versions sounded much better. The timbre, temperament, etc. had changed. I am closer to vinyl, and tape is the best possible medium for me. That's why the digital version seemed more muddled to me. Accuphase adds different things from itself. That's why I'm on the side of vinyl, and Niemen - mono.

TOMASZ FOLTA ⸜ KTS • In general I would say that here we are measuring two formats against each other, analog and digital. I like the vinyls that Wojtek brought, because you can hear the spirit of the era in them, it's a piece of Polish music history. On the other hand, digital seems outstanding to me. Unlike Tomek Kursa, I think it is an excellent source.

Respect at the same time to Damian and his SACD reissues. I knew they were there, walked by them in the Empik, picked them up, read the group posts, etc. But it's not my music and not my world. On the other hand, what I heard today is simply fantastic. The way these recordings sound from digital is amazing. I liked it so much that for a moment I dreamed that I have a silver disc player again and I listen to these albums for pleasure. I think that says a lot about Damian's versions.

DAMIAN LIPIŃSKI • I have this general feeling about Polish LPs, and it is extremely different from what Tomasz or Julian have said here. The fact that they play smoothly, warmly, pleasantly, this for me means that play without panache and fantasy. I always find the sound lacking in verve. The intention of my reissues was to put into the hands of people music that is alive, that has been brought back to life. And here you could hear that all the vinyl we listened to today was sort of behind the curtain. This may appeal, but it doesn't suit me. In my opinion, Polish vinyl is, in every way, bad, and it is an absolute evil :)

It's an interesting experience for me, because it's a very different system from the one I work with at home. At my place it is tuned differently. When I listen in my place the sound is even more vivid - colleagues even said that it is "sharpened". In Tomek's case it sounds in a very cultured way, absolutely not too bright.

BARTOSZ • Do you remember, Julek, when we were in a three-person lineup listening to Santana's debut? We listened to different versions - vinyl, and CD, and SACD. When we listened to the first CDs we came to the interesting conclusion that the first digital reissues, still from the 1980s, sound surprisingly similar to vinyl, as if they were trying to reproduce the sound of a black record. I'm curious, then, what you, Damian, are trying to achieve since you consider vinyl to be a inferior format. What do you want to "get" out of these recordings as a fellow sound designer?

DAMIAN L. • I think the first CD transfers were created without a separate master. It was mostly a "flat transfer" of analog tape, matched in level to the capabilities of the digital format. There was not much interference there. As far as Polish albums are concerned, this was 100% the case - until "24-bit" remasters appeared. It was, the way I see it, one of the biggest misfortunes that happened to Polish popular music. It sounds very bad, these transfers became for many years the only source of signal for other releases, and besides, these copies have wholesale swapped stereophony compared to tape. Someone copying them to digital didn't listen to it and had the cables wired wrong.

And to answer your question Bartek, my goal was to exile this "historical" spirit and present these recordings in a fresher, more contemporary way. But also not so as to turn everything upside down and burn everything down. Rather - using today's techniques to fit it into the capabilities of the medium with optimal use of all ranges. In a sense, modernizing by removing the "analog curtain", which is not present in live playing, it is instead an artifact of the old tape. I wanted it to sound like someone recorded it yesterday.


» PERFECT, Perfect ⸜ 1981
• Polskie Nagrania MUZA/Polskie Radio PRCD 1596, Compact Disc (2013)
• Polskie Nagrania | Warner Music Poland 50541 9 78085 1 7 ⸜ SACD/CD (2023)

» BUDKA SUFLERA, Cień wielkiej góry ⸜ 1975
• Box, Cień Wielkiej Góry Live 2011 + Studio 1975, Budka Suflera Production BSP 05-2011, 2 x LP + 2 x CD (2011)
• Polskie Nagrania | Warner Music Poland 50541 9 78873 8 3 ⸜ SACD/CD (2023)

DAMIAN • We are after listening to Perfect and Budka Suflera and, in my opinion, in both cases the vinyl sounded worst. I simply liked it the least. As for Perfect, the difference between CD and SACD was not great, although I expected more. The SACD sounded a bit sharper and for this music it suited me better. Budka Suflera, on the other hand, showed a bigger difference between SACD and vinyl, in favor of the digital version. It was more resolving, had more dynamics and life than from the LP.

BARTOSZ • I agree with Damian that Budka Suflera on SACD played clearly better. I have a problem with Perfect, because so far I have preferred SACD to CD or vinyl every time (except Niemen). This is probably my favorite Polish album and I have it in the SACD version at home. It is a fantastic album and if it had been released in the United States at the time, it would have sold 10-20 million copies. But I was surprised by what Damian said, that is, that Perfect with SACD sounded sharper - to me it sounded flatter. The CD version played more energetic. This is probably the only version where I would choose the CD version. Perfect's vinyl was not bad, but the CD sounded better.

ARTUR • I changed my position again, and by 180 degrees, With Budka Suflera's on the LP I got was confused, because the echo, instead of being deep in the stage was in front, and I had the impression that the singer's mouth was as wide as the whole stage.

DAMIAN L. • It's a Hass effect, except that it's pushed too far away. Instead of merging in the middle of the stage it goes behind the stage, making it seem like there are two independent vocals - one as a "quasi echo". The echo idea was wrong. When recording vocals, it's done in such a way that there's a basic one in one channel, and the other channel is shifted by 30 ms. So we have two sound sources that merge in the middle of the stage. And it's beautiful, insanely wide, deep. When making this album, they probably didn't have an echo effect, and as a result they shifted the vocals manually but they shifted it too much, making the two vocals separate.

ARTUR • Well it doesn't sound good. But when I heard this track from the CD it was gone. When the vocals came in, I had shivers down my spine. The rendering of the effect of the man falling off the wall was amazing. Therefore, of the three, the CD version seems the best to me. As for Perfect, the bass sounded amazing in the SACD version. It was springy, spot-on, etc. But, yes in general, the SACD version was sharp, glassy, very clear. What bothered me about this realization was that the vocalist was set back behind the line of instruments.

RAFAŁ • I liked the SACD versions in both cases. I found the vinyl and CD to be flat, sad and expressionless. True, the Perfect on SACD sounded quite bright, but that's just fine with this kind of music. The strong treble did a super job.

JULIAN • A very cool point was brought up by Bartek: what is the sound engineer's motive when he proposes a new remaster? Does he want to approximate the original version, does he want to convey his vision for the album, or is he trying something that he thinks will appeal to a modern audience? These will be three, completely different variations.

It's a matter of taste, but in Damian's realizations I don't like adding the top. There is too much of it, in my opinion. For me it's too harsh sounding, that's why with these two recordings, for me, only vinyl is the only choice. Treated this way, the bass sounds great, but the treble does not. I like this old, "muffled" version better. I thought about buying an SACD player before, but I guess it's not for me. Having a good turntable, it doesn't make any sense to me.

RYSIEK • Budka Suflera's vinyl dominated this sound. I was delighted with it. It was something I hadn't heard in Tomek’s system in a long time. Similarly - Perfect's vinyl. As for the comparison of CD and SACD, in both cases I liked the SACD version better, but it was the better one of the two rather than one "without any buts". And that's because of the space - there was a third dimension on the SACD, which was not present on the CD. Also the sense of the studio, reverberations, etc., was better here. Color-wise, both of these media represented the same value.

JANUSZ • As for Budka Suflera, both vinyl and SACD sounded similar. SACD was cleaner, clearer, etc. And CD - not at all. I don't know where Arthur got the shivers from... Perfect is the album of my childhood and vinyl is the best sounding medium for me. For me they are completely different worlds. I have the impression that SACD made this album something less real. But this is a comparison with the sound "engraved" in my head, not an objective opinion.

TOMEK K. • I think the clou of what I wanted to say is about timbral differentiation, What allows us to distinguish one instrument from another is timbre, i.e., aliquots, harmonics and so on. What makes the difference is not resolution, but differentiation. The Accuphase, in my opinion, offers resolution, but has no differentiation. That is, it doesn't quite distinguish color, while vinyl does. Because, for me, the key to listening to music is timbre, so in this case I liked both titles better in the LP version.

TOMEK F. • I'll start with Budka Suflera, an album I dislike very much. The mannerism of the vocals on the CD was unbearable to me. It was done much better on the SACD version, it was more of an echo. As for Perfect, I liked the vinyl incredibly. It had a period vibe, but also a tranquility. This realization was so good that both digital versions were like faded next to it.

DANIEL L. • Perfect's master sounds very similar to how it is heard from the LP. My idea for this title was to do something like this that would be less noisy than on the CD, which blend together on this version. The idea was also to slightly isolate the material in the treble, but not to put it out. I believe that if there are overheads (microphones over the drums, "picking up" the brass - ed.) on the CD then they should not be hidden - this is a very noisy element of the drums.

BARTOSZ • I think this is a very important point, and that it probably applies to all of Damian's albums. Note that these are albums that are somehow "innate" in our subconscious, and thus we compare all new versions to the „our” one. And it is insanely difficult to compete with emotions. That's why it's not an objective comparison.

What cannot be denied to Damian is that the entire series is consistently implemented according to some idea he had for it. We've heard many different opinions here, we've judged one title or another differently, but in the case of SACD, all decisions seemed to have been made consciously. With vinyl and CD, it varied. I couldn't understand why I liked Perfect less with SACD, while all the previous ones just played best for me on SACD.

Now I understand that this decision was not "mine". It may like it or not, but it all makes sense and is coherent, it's not doing all the titles the same as from a preset, but it's not wandering in the fog either - you can hear that there is a lot of work behind it. My impression is that the other realizations we listened to this evening, mostly on CD, were random. The Niemen from CD was terrible.

DANIEL L. • Well, yes, it's made up that way, that's how I hear it. It's not a coincidence that something sounds one way or another. I hear it that way, just like that.

Post Scriptum

TOMEK LECHOWSKI • Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the meeting with Damian, as I was enjoying the wildlife of the Portuguese Azores at the time. However, the next day after returning I went to Tomek to catch up.

First, without any comparisons, we listened to a few tracks from several SACDs in the series. Of course, we started with Perfect, which sounds great at any volume level conveying a large dose of positive energy. How beautifully analog it sounded on the SACD. Tomek, despite getting rid of his CD player and cutting back on buying CDs, focusing on streaming, said he would buy this version for himself. Grzegorz Markowski sings that he would like to be himself. And so he is. In the songs Niewiele mogę Ci dać and Nie płacz Ewka, he gives us everything. It's like I've been transported back in time listening from vinyl or reel-to-reel. Despite the lack of funds for equipment in the studio, they managed to record this brilliantly. The SACD brilliantly transferred the sound from the tape, without those analog inconveniences like tape noise or crackling from the record.

I have an Acuuphase SACD player in my system, but the higher two-box "1000" model I listened to showed its superiority over my model, even though the price difference is sizable. In addition to the fact that silver discs played without any digital artifacts, as if we were listening to vinyl or even tape from a tape recorder, the player controlled bass very well, which the host sometimes has a problem with and which in his case is sometimes out of control.

I have repeatedly heard the opinion that CDs in new players that use upsampling, conversion to DSD or other tricks, such as MDS++ in Accuphase, play almost like SACD and little is lost, so it's a shame to mess around with SACD. Oh, how wrong they are! Switching to CD layer flattened the dynamics and reduced the stage, although it played nicely, you can hear the limitations of the format and you could hear that it was a "digital" release.

Another SACD we listened to was Dżem, in which the vocals are withdrawn. While with the guitar it still plays quite nice, once the bass and drums enter - it dies. On this Accuphase model it played much better than with mine. Rysio was no longer placed so far behind the musicians.

I learned that there was even a statement during the meeting that SACD played at the same level as vinyl. This doesn't surprise me, because DSD was invented as a format for archiving master tapes, so SACDs can show a faithful copy of the original. Analog record, of course, has its pleasant noise, timbre, great space, builds atmosphere, but a DSD copy from tape is closer to the original.

Finally, the icing on the cake, a CD-R with a comparison of the sound before and after sound restoration, which was prepared by Damian Lipinski. Admittedly, only in CD-R version, but the opportunity to listen to the ripped 1:1 tape and what Damian managed to do was an amazing experience for me. Great respect for his work. What he was able to achieve and give us deserves great applause. He managed to add space to the recordings, better arrange the musicians, and pull out - as much as possible - the vocals, which are often at the back of the mix or muffled by the instruments.

BREAKOUT, Ona poszła inną drogą The original played without energy, with a dim sound, as if it were behind a curtain. After switching to SACD, it sounded as if we switched from mono to stereo, there was space, air, and the vocals were cleaner and more separated.

BUDKA SUFLERA, Jest taki samotny dom So overall - the original recording is not bad in terms of quality. It has space, the bells and cymbals sound nice. It was a good material to work with. After Damian's processing it plays even more spacious, it was possible to emphasize the vocals better. And the bells sound even more beautifully. Krzysztof's vocals sound more pleasant, now without irritating sounds at times. Various dirt in the background that can be heard on the original has been cleaned up.

MAANAM, Simple story It sounds so flat! The drums sound like they were cut out of paper and cast in plastic. Kora sounds flat and is glued together with the instruments. There are moments when the space for Kora tries to make a reverb, but it's still - weak. After the restoration, the recording gains energy and you can hear that crank up the vocals and unglueing them from the rest was successful, although it still doesn’t sound very good - but that was the source material.

DŻEM, Ballada o dziwnym malarzu Very dim vocals, as if Riedel was singing hidden in a corner and they placed a microphone there. There is very little treble in the recording - only the cymbals suddenly ring out in the upper register, as if someone temporarily turned them up, remembering that there is the whole band to cover. Damian's new version of each recording plays as if it received a second life. He managed to bring Rysiek closer and build the atmosphere of the rest of the band. There appeared a place for everyone. It was pleasant to listen to it.

MAREK GRECHUTA, Serce The original has well-recorded vocals, capturing the mood of the song. The new version is cleaner, smoother, Marek charms even more. It's as if this recording was made later with better equipment.

PERFECT, Lokomotywa z ogłoszenia In the uncorrected version there is a dose of energy, but the bass when going lower is boomy and shallow, and the vocals sound a bit flat and muffled. In the new version, the recording gets an extra dose of energy, and Marek sounds better, even when he has many other sounds in the background.

» Czesław Niemen, Nie wiem czy warto With this song, due to the fact that the original was in mono, switching to stereo gave an immediate kick. Dynamics, space appeared, and Czesław doesn't sing as if played from a cassette recorder, but we are with him during the recording. Great job.

Damian Lipinski's version is a piece of work. I'm looking forward to more titles and I'm glad they were able to release it all on SACD rather than the standard CD. We would have lost a lot on that.

Post Scriptum II

A FEW DAYS AFTER our meeting, Polskie Nagrania made public the lineup for the next group of remasters - it will be ˻ SERIES 5 ˺: • HALINA FRĄCKOWIAK i Geira, debut albums by KRYSTYNA PROŃKO, MARYLA RODOWICZ z Sing-sing and MIRA KUBASIŃSKA Mira. The albums will be released on March 29th.