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Meeting No. 123:

DIRK RAEKE in Cracow | Transrotor Alto TMD
i.e. vinyl discs in digital times.

We compare original vinyl albums with digital reissues, digital reissues with analog reissues, and have discussions on what is most important about all this.



ape | It is a bit pushy and a little forceful, but I cannot help it, as I want to be honest – both with you and myself. The thing is that, for many years, I have been trying to present the world of vinyl to you from a different perspective than is normally assumed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I wrote that the word “analog” is not synonymous with “vinyl” already several years ago. I went even further and said something that brought about a small avalanche of emails – not even “hater” ones (I have received two, maybe three messages of this kind in my career), but ones that could be called “surprised”. They were full of concern and characterized by no aggression, but the message was clear and possible to summarize in one question: “Are you out of your mind?”

I received all those emails after writing a few articles where I claimed that a vinyl recording has got nothing to do with an analog “master” tape and talking about it as the ultimate signal source is a mistake. And what? Today it is probably already clear what I meant: vinyl is just one of the possible interpretations of a “master” recording. It is often excellent, but it is not the only one and surely not one that has a monopoly for the truth. I think that all participants in the workshops that I (and Adam Czerwiński) prepared on the occasion of the 15th “High Fidelity” anniversary, which took place during the Audio Video Show 2019 exhibition, are already convinced about it.

Vinyl | However, that is just the simple side of the whole story. What is much more difficult is the digital-analog relationship analyzed in the context of vinyl. The thing is that “vinyl” may mean anything today. The source of signal for vinyl may be reel-to-reel analog tape, tape, a CD, a hi-res file or even an mp3 file.

Record labels do not inform their clients about it, but they should, as the information that a vinyl recording has been “remastered from analog tapes” is only half true. It is a “significant” understatement, as it suggests that it is a fully analog remaster, even though we know that it is not so in 99% of cases. In such a case, the analog “master” tape is the source indeed, but the signal is digitized and the new master is made in the digital domain and the disc is cut from hi-res files.

And now – it does not bother me too much. If the master tape is in a good condition, the mastering system is of high quality, the person making the new master is excellent at what they do and the new matrices are cut directly from such tape, the effect is amazingly good. Such records are made by companies such as The Electric Recording Co., Analogue Productions, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab., Original Recording Group, Pure Pleasure Records Ltd. and Speakers Corner Records, to name the most famous few.

What these companies offer, however, accounts for a negligible fraction of released reissues. As a rule (but not always), the rest of them are worse. What is more, most analog recordings are simply ceasing to exist, as most tapes have not been stored under proper conditions, while some other ones have been faulty since the very beginning.

Another problem are contemporary recordings – almost all of them are digital and we cannot do anything about it. That is why it has seemed so important to me to show you how a good digital remaster can be made, what the effect of such an “operation” depends on and what the results of omissions might be. In this roundabout way, we are getting closer to what I want to say – it is important not to negate the digital domain, but to make friends with it. Whether we want it or not, we have to find solutions that will be satisfactory for us.


Wanting to show what is now possible and point out the differences between an original analog album and a digital reissue, as well as between an analog remaster and a digital remaster, I prepared a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society (KTS) devoted to the issue (you will find a report below). Later, during the time of the abovementioned Audio Video Show 2019 exhibition, I met you in order to make our observations more precise. Conclusions drawn during both meetings were surprisingly coherent. They were not identical (more about it at the end of the article), but coherent.

In order to give the comparison another dimension, I invited Dirk Räke, our friend and long-time member of the Krakow Sonic Society to it. He listened to the comparisons, but mostly told us about the Transrotor Alto TMD turntable, his father’s (JOHEN RÄKE’S) latest design. It is a new purchase of the host of the meeting, Tomek.

I divided the listening session into two parts, with short introductions and supplements. In the first part, we listened to original albums cut from analog master tapes and compared them to contemporary digital remasters. During the second part of the session, we listened to contemporary remasters of the same albums – analog and digital ones. Between them, I presented the best examples of digital recordings.


PERSONNEL: Dirk |Transrotor|, Janusz |KTS|, Jarek Waszczyszyn |Ancient Audio|, Julian, Krzysiek, Marcin |KTS|, Robert, Robert Szklarz |Nautilus|, Rysiek B. |KTS|, Tomek |KTS|, Wiciu |KTS|, Wojciech Pacuła |HF|


|A| Clifford Jordan, Hello, Hank Jones, EastWorld EWLF-98003, „Soundphile Series”, Direct Cut LP (1978)

|A| Jean-Michel Jarre, OXYGENE, Les Disques Motors 2933207, LP (1976)
|D| Jean-Michel Jarre, OXYGENE, Les Disques Motors | Sony Music | BMG ‎88843024681, 180 g LP (1976/2015)
|A| Kraftwerk, AUTOBAHN, Philips 6305 231, LP (1974)
|D| Kraftwerk, AUTOBAHN, King Klang Produkt/EMI, STUMM 303, Digital Master, 180 g LP (1974/2009); |A| Extra Ball, Bitrthday, Polskie Nagrania „Muza” SX 1414, „Polish Jazz” | Vol. 48, LP (1976)
|D| Extra Ball, Bitrthday, Polskie Nagrania „Muza”/Warner Music Poland 08256 64885 3 7, „Polish Jazz” | Vol. 48, LP (1976/2016)
|A| Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Opus 9313 1914, LP (1985/1988)
|D| Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL-2-441, „Special Limited Edition | No. 3000”, 45 RPM, 2 x 180 g LP (1985/2014)
|D| Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo 3752907, „Back To Black”, 2 x 180 g LP (1985/2014)

|D|A|A | Zakir Hussain, Making Music, ECM Records ECM 1349, LP (1987)
|D|D|A | Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records UMVD-0001-0004, "Ultimate Master Vinyl", 4 x 45 rpm 180 g LP + CD-RIIα + 24/192 WAV (2010); |D|D|A (DSD)| The Bassface Swing Trio, Tribute to Cole Porter, Stockfisch SFR 357.8056.1, „Limited Edition | Promo”, 180 g LP + SACD/CD (2008),

|A| Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, Columbia | Sony Music Entertainment/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 2-45011, „Special Limited Edition | No. 05371”, 45 RPM, 2 x 180 g LP (1959/2015)
|D| Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, Columbia | Sony BMG Music Entertainment, „50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition”, 180 g Blue Wax LP (1959/2008)
|A| John Coltrane, Blue Train, Blue Note/Analogue Productions AP 81577, „The Blue Note Reissues | 45 RPM”, „Limited Edition | # 2365, 180 g LP (1957/2008)
|D| John Coltrane, Blue Train, Blue Note | Universal Music Group International 0602537714100, „Blue Note Records | 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative”, 180 g LP (1957/2014)
|A| Breakout, Blues, Polskie Nagrania „Muza”/Polskie Nagrania SXL 0721/2007, LP (1971/2007)
|D| Breakout, Blues, Polskie Nagrania „Muza”/Polskie Nagrania 5907783487217, 180 g LP (1971/2013)
|A| Kate Bush, Hounds of Love, EMI/ Audio Fidelity AFZLP 087, Grey Marbled,180 g LP (1985/2010)
|D| Kate Bush, Hounds of Love, EMI/Fish People 0190295593865, 180 g LP (1985/2018)

PART I | The original vs digital remaster

|1| Jean-Michel Jarre, OXYGENE

Janusz |KTS| It is all clear to me – the first one was a real RECORD, while the other one was some kind of a nightmare. It was subdued, stifled and dead sound. I have no words to describe it. I have not heard anything like this in my life before! Compared to the remaster, the original sounded simply beautiful, while this…

Robert Szklarz |Nautilus| It is exceptionally nice for me to agree with Janusz, which does not often happen to us. It was a difference of a whole class or even a few classes. The remaster was matt, flat and boring. I think that the owner of this version of Jarre’s album should sell it at once and forget about it.

Janusz |KTS| No, no – not sell, but burn, so that it does not hurt anyone.

Jarek Waszczyszyn |Ancient Audio| Somebody told me that I was sitting at a wrong place today and that I would not be able to hear anything there. However, it is not the first time I have been here and, frankly speaking, I do not mind. While sitting in the third, worst row and listening to the original Oxygene, I had the beauty and phenomenon of electronic music in front of me. These are artificially made sounds that create an imaginary world – at it was this world that filled the whole room with the original version. The digital version was unsuitable for listening – dead, boring, without sense.

Julian |KTS| In contrast, I will try to say something positive about the remaster. A positive thing that I can say about it is that the person who made it, tried to add some air, some space to the recording.

Dirk |Transrotor| What we heard is a classic feature of remasters. The new version was less dynamic, less varied when it comes to tone colors. On the other hand, bass was a little nicer and when you listen to music “occasionally”, it can be more pleasant. However, the separation of instruments was much worse, which was audible mostly in the case of the electronic percussion. So, a positive thing about the remaster would be a more ordered presentation. It may be something positive for many listeners, as it is easier to listen to, simply more pleasant.

Wojciech Pacuła |HF| I have an additional question – when we buy an original record, even in a good condition, there will be some crackling sound – at least when it comes to this type of music. Did it bother anyone? I am asking because, contrastively, the remaster almost did not crackle at all. Which would you choose: a crackling but much better sounding original record or a “quiet” remaster?

Janusz | Crackling noise bothers me a lot. The first record is a “frying pan”, but you can hear real music. And if I were to decide on something, I would choose it.

Wojciech Pacuła | Let us vote… I can see everyone is opting for the original record, anyway.

Robert Szklarz |Nautilus| Unfortunately, most records from the secondary market that are considered “Mint” or “Near Mint” in Poland are much lower quality. And that can be a problem. Most records from Japan are almost new.

|2| Kraftwerk, AUTOBAHN

Janusz | Now it is much better than with Oxygene. The difference was smaller here, but I must say again that the first version is much better and there is no need for discussion. The elements that were present apart from music, i.e. all the effects, were much brighter in the remaster and much “thinner” than in the original record. When it comes to music, the differences were not that distinct anymore, although the digital remaster, or rather remix, as it is a new mix – was brighter. Listening to the original record was definitely much nicer, but this remaster can already be described as something good.

Krzysztof | I kind of agree with Janusz, but you need to take into account that in this case we were dealing with a remix, which brings about greater possibilities of sound creation. So, the relationships between the sound of individual musical instruments were distributed differently than in the original recording. Even the engine at the beginning had a different sound… And perhaps this is why the new version of Autobahn sounded better than the remaster of Oxygene. In this case, it was possible to listen to the new version, while in the previous one it was necessary to throw the reissue out quickly.

Robert | I see it in a bit different way. If the musician accepted the new version, we should agree with his perspective on music here and now. His idea of music may be evolving and if we hear something differently, it is in accordance with the artist’s or creator’s will. Whether I like one or the other more, is an issue of secondary importance – I assume that new versions accepted by musicians enter the market on the same terms as the original ones.

Rysiek B. | I agree with Janusz, but I will say even more: I would not like to own the second version.

Jarek Waszczyszyn | I generally agree with you, guys, but I would like to add one more thing. Our discussions “the digital vs the analog” fit the domain of electronic music – an old Moog cost a fortune, while its new version can be bought for 4,000 dollars. It is similar with these records – while listening to the original album, you can hear why people pay so much for such a total wreck that has to be fixed and calibrated all the time.

Dirk | I can see that a German person simply has to take some stance – in the end, this is Kraftwerk :)

I did not understand what the other guys were talking about, but I liked the new version more, as everything is more clearly defined and purer there. Bass generated by synthesizers was clearer and simply better in the remastered version. If we think of Kraftwerk as one of the first techno bands, more modern sound, characteristic for the second (new) version, makes sense. If we see the band as something representative of the “old” times, the original will be better.

Tomek | Jarre’s remaster was terrible and hard to listen to, in my opinion, while Kraftwerk was “listenable” to me. In the end, I would prefer the original version, but the remaster had a lot of advantages. It was darker, bass was definitely better balanced and, in general, the sound was more balanced. I liked it. I am now buying many more reissues and remasters than original albums. I am glad we are heading in the right direction:)

|3| Extra Ball, BITRTHDAY, „Polish Jazz” | Vol. 48

Janusz | The same motif repeats again – I get the impression that the depth was cut in the remaster. Here, the remaster is worse than the original again, but not as bad as in the case of the first album with Jarre’s music. However, I can hear the same thing a third time: the remaster is brighter and its sound is less saturated. It is “slimmer” sound, because of which it is less natural. On the whole, I wonder how one can listen to something like these remasters.

Wiciu | I definitely prefer the sound of the original version, as it is more natural. The remaster shows more space, but at the same time the sound has been “gutted” – deprived of something that could be called authenticity. It does not sound that good anymore.

Dirk | I liked the first version, i.e. the original more. I think it does not surprise anyone… The remaster was, obviously, too compressed. It seems to me that balance which is usually obtained during a mix was a bit strange in the remaster. Bass was strong in the original version, while everything “went down” in the remaster, so bass is also a little hidden. The sound of the original was also much purer.

Rysiek B. | I do not see a difference between these records when it comes to holography, dynamics or stage organization. However, there is one fundamental difference which discredits the other version, i.e. the color spectrum. The second (i.e. the new) version is monochromatic. Not much happens there in terms of color. However, I have no reservations about the rest of its elements.

Jarek Waszczyszyn | I have an interesting observation – I liked the first track from the album better on the remaster. I was about to say: “Finally!”, but then Tomek played the second track, a very dense one – and it was a failure on the remaster.

Krzysiek | I have already tested this on many albums from the “Polish Jazz” series and I have noticed a strange regularity – CD versions sound very good, while vinyl ones are bad. I have the impression that the master had been prepared for digital issues, while vinyl is something additional. However, it requires completely different actions and a different approach. Vinyl remasters from the series sound dull and uninteresting.

|4| Dire Straits, BROTHERS IN ARMS

Tomek | I would like to say that the Mobile Fidelity remaster is better than anything we might play here. It does not surprise me, however – I have listened to many issues of this album and only the DSD file was a bit like the Mobile Fidelity remaster. It sounds fantastic to me, as bass is so balanced and so well controlled - zero digitalism. In terms of sound, it is one of the best vinyl issues that I have. To my surprise, when it comes to the previous versions, I liked the “Back on Black” series version more than the pressing from the Czech Republic.

Julian | I do not want to sound controversial, but I have a different opinion. I liked the “Back to Black” version the most, even though I do not appreciate the series. The Mobile Fidelity version does make a big impression, but it seems to me that the bass is exaggerated in it. It was not like this in the original recording and it also sounds different on the copy of the analog master tape that I have. There is no such bass on the tape. That is why it seems to me that the Mobile Fidelity remaster is a bit colored, it is “too good”.

Rysiek B. | For me, the Mobile Fidelity version is not “too good”, as the amount of bass is a little exaggerated. What is strange, the first two versions were close to each other and the smallest difference was between the analog version from the Czech Republic and the digital remaster from the “Back to Black” series. I liked the latter the most.

Robert | For the first time tonight, we have listened to a 45 rpm version. Such issues, generally speaking, offer more weighed down bass and slightly tuned-up dynamics, so it is not a typical situation. However, I still like the Mobile Fidelity version best.

Krzysiek | I also like the Mobile issue the most, but although I like bass, there is a little too much of it in this version. However, generally speaking, space was much better. The Opus issue was quite decent. There was a little less bass, but it was fairly nice to listen to it. Anyway – all the three versions sounded good and we needn’t throw them into a bin. From my perspective, this is the first time one can listen to all the versions.

Dirk | It is a difficult case. If I am not wrong, it was one of the first pop music albums that was fully digitally recorded. So, it is important what converters were used for the mix, etc. That is why each of these versions has its advantages and disadvantages. The Opus version was quite pleasant, although the vocal was not clearly audible on it. There was a little too much of everything in the second version, e.g. the treble was a little too much emphasized. In the Mobile version there was a little too much bass.

Marcin |KTS| I must admit that, in contrast to what we heard before, the differences were the smallest in this case. Anyway – the Mobile Fidelity version was unbeatable for me. When it comes to “Back to Black” pressings, they may significantly differ from one another. One of my adventures was that when I bought this record, I had to return it, as one of the tracks had been scratched. They replaced it for me without problems, but it was not a smooth purchase.

PART II | analogremaster vs digital remaster

|1/2| Miles Davis, KIND OF BLUE • John Coltrane, BLUE TRAIN

Dirk | It won’t be surprising, but in both cases I liked the second version, i.e. the analog remaster more. It does not sound exactly like the original records from the 1950s, as remasters of this type are a little “tuned up”, have a little more treble and are a bit more dynamic, but I liked these a lot – in both cases. They were more “live” than the digital remasters. When you played them, I did not know which of the versions was “analog” and which was “digital”. However, in both cases I instantly knew that I liked the second version more and they were both, as it appears, the “analog” ones.

Wiciu | It seems to me that the percussion was better and more emphasis was put on its rhythm in the digital reissue of the Blue Train album. I did not like the percussion too much in the analog version. When it comes to brass instruments playing in unison, they sounded much better in the “analog” version.

Rysiek B. | In a blind test, I would not be able to differentiate between these two versions, i.e. I would not be able to tell which is which.

Janusz | Oh, come on…

Wojciech Pacuła | You finally disagree.

Janusz | How can you say anything like that?

Rysiek B. | However, there is one thing that I find extraordinary here, in the Mobile Fidelity version of Kind of Blue, i.e. the percussion plates and their space – with this version, everything took on three-dimensionality. The rest was equally good… Space, breath, the impression of being a participant in the event – it was all better in the analog version. So, fifty-fifty. However, I will also say a word about Garbarek and ECM: simply wonderful sound! Extremely beautiful sound, even though it is a digital recording… I was equally surprised with the Kankawa album, which sounded outstanding.

Robert | I know these records and I will say the same thing: 45 rpm pressings have a handicap which makes them more dynamic and precise. Their noise level is also lower and I get the impression that this clearly sounds better. And this is probably the contemporary way to go for remasters. However, this has got to be an analog remaster, as it is probably the future, at least when we talk about old jazz and high end. One word about the ECM – it is one of the most beautiful pages in the history of jazz. It is a record label that also made good vinyl pressings.

Krzysiek | I would pay attention to one thing – we treat digital versions as worse ones, although if they are well prepared, they sound very good. Unfortunately, however, when albums are digitally remastered, the main element of the whole message – music – disappears from them. However, if we have digital recordings, such as Garbarek and Kankawa, they are very nice to listen to. So, the old should remain analog (most favorably 45 rpm), while the new can be digital, but only on the condition that it is well made.

Jarek | One more time, the Mobile Fidelity remaster stands out, even though they interfered with the original material to quite a large degree.

Janusz | I would like to focus on Kind of Blue. The Mobile Fidelity version is unrivalled. The 50th anniversary version was darkened and subdued – a kind of misunderstanding.

|3| Kate Bush, HOUNDS OF LOVE

Janusz | I have heard such a giant difference between the two versions for the first time. The analog version moved the stage far into the depth – it was definitely lower and darker. It kind of hit me between the eyes – everything was, let me repeat myself, lower, darker and deeper. The digital version had been very good and it had not lacked anything until I heard the “analog” version.

Wiciu | I liked the “digital” version more. Everything is clearer and more precise with it. What Janusz said is true, the analog remaster is “deeper”, but the digital remaster was more convincing to me. The vocal was clearer and more precise with it.

Dirk | Neither version is my favorite. The analog remaster was more detached, further away from us, but I cannot tell which was better. The differences were not as big as in the case of jazz remasters.

Julian | To be frank, neither of the versions has brought me to my knees. They both probably lacked dynamics a little. However, it would be difficult for me to decide. I would probably choose the digital remaster to listen to, as I liked the vocal more with it.

Rysiek B. | I definitely liked the first version, i.e. the digital remaster more. In the analog remaster, sound was horizontally flat. The stage was deep, but the space of this room was not completely filled for the first time tonight. I am surprised that a record label as renowned as Audio Fidelity has released something like this.

Krzysztof | I will only add that I did not like either of the versions, although I am very attached to this album. I liked it more on my CD. The analog remaster was calmer, but I would not like to listen to either of the versions.

Jarek | The album is a good example of how tragic the sound of a vinyl record may be. If I had not heard any other vinyl records and listened to either of the versions, I would say: goodbye, vinyl! I don’t have the words to express how I feel.


How to summarize such different opinions? It would seem impossible, but… I can see a certain pattern which can be noticed by those who both attended the evening meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society and the workshops during the Audio Video Show 2019 exhibition. Elements of the pattern were directly expressed from time to time.

When it comes to old jazz and classical music recordings, let us say until mid 1960s, original versions are better in most cases. However, there are also a lot of reissues that are not only equally good, but sometimes even better. In such a case, albums should be remastered in the analog domain from master tapes and pressed on 200 g vinyl. I think they should ideally be one-sided and contain no coloring. The question which still remains unanswered is whether these should be 45 rpm records. A clear conclusion that can be drawn from the discussion presented above is that these are versions with a bit “tuned up” sound. It is often more effective than the original, but also moves further away from the master tape.

It is completely different in the case of more recent recordings. If the digital remaster is made both with the mind and with the heart, we get a very good version which is often better than the original. However, it must be especially made for a vinyl issue, not simply “copied” from a version created for the needs of CD. In this case, 180 g should be enough and the speed of 45 rpm does not usually matter that much.

We also need to remember about digital recordings. Apparently, the 1970s and early 1980s sound great on vinyl discs, despite quite primitive parameters described using word length and sampling frequency. However, also contemporary recordings of this type, e.g. those made by the ECM company, are perfect. Let me add that Mitsubishi digital tape recorders are beginning to be seen as the studio star of that period. I will need to look into the problem more closely.

So, it is not bad at all, but there is a road in front of us that can lead us forward in digital times, without the need of getting divided into fractions – “analog” and “digital” lovers. However, in order for this to happen, remastering studios must closely collaborate with the people who have knowledge of this world – i.e. us, audiophiles. Semper fidelis!