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  • Final Destination: Supersense in Vienna, Austria


     

    After a great high end show in Munich, visits to the Ruf and FalkenOhr factories, we finally arrived in Vienna. Why Vienna? Yes, it's a great city with unsurpassed musical heritage, but the real reason we went to Vienna was to see one man, Florian "Doc" Kaps. 

     

    Doc is an analog maverick unlike anyone I've ever met. He doesn't just appreciate analog items for their nostalgic value or inherent qualities, he views analog as essential to the human experience. Why on Earth would I, The Computer Audiophile who has never owned a turntable, be interested in visiting with Doc? Because Doc is a brilliant guy with impeccable character, who views the world differently than most people, and when he speaks, there is much to be learned. In addition, Doc is responsible for the Supersense Mastercut Editions records. Nobody on the planet is doing what Doc is doing. 

     

    When I first met Doc, he asked what I did in the industry. It was interesting, to say the least, when I told him I founded the website Computer Audiophile and I'd never owned a turntable. In a witty manner that I came to graciously expect from Doc, he said, "Then we have nothing in common." I followed up by expressing my love for shooting medium format film using my Hasselblad 503CW. Doc perked up, with a big smile that made me feel like I'd finally delivered the secret code to enter the club. It was all in good fun though. Doc wouldn't have cared if I was all digital all the time. He's a great person with a passion for analog, who enjoys extolling the benefits of analog in our lives, without forcing people to accept his world view, as compelling as it may be. 

     

    To get a feel for who Doc is, watch this trailer for his documentary called An Impossible Project. In two minutes and thirteen seconds, viewers will get a great sense for his style, intellect, and humor. Note: He was previously a leading expert in the world on the topic of spider eyes.

     

    The entire documentary its available to buy or rent on YouTube here.

     

     

     


    IMG_3333.jpegThe first evening in Vienna, Doc and I had dinner at the restaurant that's also housed in the same space as his analog operation called Supersense. I call Supersense an analog operation because it has a lacquer cutter for records, letterpress, the worlds largest instant camera (20x24), and a performance space for musical guests. The dinner was fantastic, but the conversation was something I'll always cherish. I felt honored to be Doc's guest, and wish I would've recorded the entire evening. Doc drops so many nuggets of extraordinary information during a conversation, that it's impossible to remember everything. I guess this is a good reason to visit him again. 

     

    The following day I felt like a kid in a candy store. I visited Doc and his team as they put the finishing touches on a limited Mastercut Edition box set. One of the items to be finalized was the creation of a 45 RPM single for the box. I was in awe as Doc's team fired up the old analog recording console, tape machine, and lacquer cutter. This was analog from end to end.

     

    IMG_5016.jpegThe master tape was cued up, a test lacquer was put in place, and the magic began. Watching a lacquer being cut from a priceless master tape, and listening to it it realtime is truly a treat for the senses. The sight, sound, and smell all combine for a remarkable experience. The master tape being spun was Getz/Gilberto, and the track was Girl From Ipanema. We've all heard this one a million times, but we all haven't heard it like this. I could hear this magical recording and also feel the weight of being in the presence of such musical history. 

     

    The digital audiophile in me wanted to ask for a high resolution tape transfer to 24/192 PCM, but that would've been a clear signal that I just didn't get "it." The vibe at Supersense is analog and it's human. Everything is tangible, and effects as many of our senses as possible. Even though I don't spin vinyl, or lacquer in this case, I learned a lot from the experience. I walked a way not questioning my love of digital audio, or feeling like I'm missing out without a turntable, but rather with an appreciation for how people enjoy whatever it is that they enjoy. 

     

    Days after my visit to Supersense and talks with Doc, I still think quite a bit about the analog experience, and how to bring more of it into my digital audio life. I'm a firm believer that digital audio is more accurate than vinyl. However, digital doesn't involve our senses of touch and smell, like a vinyl record. To a certain extent I don't want my music to consume the space that a vinyl collection would consume in my listening room, but I still want the expansive album art, liner notes, and the smell of the whole package. Those of us in the digital world need something, other than big VU meters, to raise the bar a bit. Immersive audio definitely envelopes the listener in a way that nothing else can do, but there's still something else out there. I'm unsure what that is, but there's a market for it. 

     

    Click for video of the Getz/Gilberto master tape being loaded, in preparation for the lacquer to be cut.

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    Click for video of the lacquer being made from tape.

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    Click for video of the final lacquer inspection.

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    Doc and his team assembling a Mastercut Edition lacquer.

     

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    The pure analog recording console, lacquer cutter, and tape machine playing Getz/Gilberto.

     

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    Finished Mastercut Edition lacquers.

     

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    Original Heidelberg letterpress machine

     

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    Screen print poster of Gregory Porter.

     

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    Instant film area, with Gregory Porter images.

     

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    Doc and I outside Supersense in Vienna, Austria. Shot on instant film of course :~)

     

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    Take Fremmer with you next time.

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    2 hours ago, bobflood said:

    Take Fremmer with you next time.

     

    Take me with you next time

     

    Chris, I see you are slowly being drawn to the dark side.. we will have you soon enough 😈

     

     

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    1 hour ago, bbosler said:

     

    Take me with you next time

     

    Chris, I see you are slowly being drawn to the dark side.. we will have you soon enough 😈

     

     

    May the (stylus) force be with you.

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    Quote

    The master tape was cued up, a test lacquer was put in place, and the magic began.

     

     

    sorry to go all lawyer on you 

     

    from https://blog.discogs.com/en/what-is-a-master-tape-chad-kassem-acoustic-sounds/

     

    “A master tape is a tape used to record the band originally. It’s the tape,” he explains. (The exception, he adds, is when one bounces a multitrack tape down to two-track. In those cases, that tape is the master.) “

     

     

    "Master Tape" is a term that gets tossed about but I'm thinking he does not have the master tape for at least some of these. By definition, there is only one master tape for any given recording. It is highly doubtful that he has the master tape for "Getz/Gilberto" or "A Love Supreme"

     

    from the Mastercut website "Our Mastercut Records are cut directly from completely unedited 1:1 copies of carefully selected original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings."

     

    copies of original tapes are not master tapes


     

     

     

     

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    42 minutes ago, bbosler said:

     

     

     

    sorry to go all lawyer on you 

     

    from https://blog.discogs.com/en/what-is-a-master-tape-chad-kassem-acoustic-sounds/

     

    “A master tape is a tape used to record the band originally. It’s the tape,” he explains. (The exception, he adds, is when one bounces a multitrack tape down to two-track. In those cases, that tape is the master.) “

     

     

    "Master Tape" is a term that gets tossed about but I'm thinking he does not have the master tape for at least some of these. By definition, there is only one master tape for any given recording. It is highly doubtful that he has the master tape for "Getz/Gilberto" or "A Love Supreme"

     

    from the Mastercut website "Our Mastercut Records are cut directly from completely unedited 1:1 copies of carefully selected original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings."

     

    copies of original tapes are not master tapes


     

     

     

     

    Thanks for the post. Absolutely correct. 

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    just to add a little fuel to the fire... It is usually  interesting when you start to dig into the provenance of these recordings. Those producing these recordings are very clever about how they phrase their ad copy so you have to be very discerning as it is easy to make assumptions. 

     

    I stopped dealing with HDtracks many years ago when it came to light that some of their high resolution files ( > 16/44.1 ) were actually up sampled 16/44.1.  When called on it they  didn't deny it, they  just  claimed they didn't have the resources to check each file so relied on whoever supplied the file to be honest about it. I called BS on that and never went back.

     

    I have no idea if they cleaned up their act. but hard to believe that they, like Amazon and others,  actually have original files at 24/192 for a lot of these recordings. This seems especially true  when you click on the info button for some and there is nothing about where they got the file. nothing

     

    For the  "A Love Supreme" the Mastercut site  says Cut directly from a completely unedited 1:1 copy of the original tape provided by Universal Music, one has never been closer to the artist, the original sound waves and music history.

     

    Sounds good, (pun intended) but  what is the provenance of the tape they were provided? At a minimum this is cut from a copy of a tape Mastercuts has  that is copy of a tape from Universal that is a copied from who knows where? 

     

    According to Acoustic Sounds the mater tape for "A Love Supreme" does exist but is in poor shape. https://store.acousticsounds.com/d/167060/John_Coltrane-A_Love_Supreme-14_Inch_-_15_IPS_Tape so how many generations removed is the copy that Matercuts was provided, is it  an unedited copy of a copy of a copy of a copy .... who did the transfer, what was the quality of the decks and the expertise of those who did the copying. etc. ??

     

    Even Acoustic Sounds gets in on the BS train when they claim their $500 R2R offering of "A Love Supreme" is Sourced from original master tapes. Again, sounds good until you realize It's not necessarily a copy of the master tape, just sourced from it, which is total BS because every copy every released has to be "sourced" from the original even if it is an MP3 copy. Where else would it come from?

     

    also like to point out that lacquers are very fragile and unlike vinyl , absolutely do not stand up to repeated plays. 

     

    The point of this is not to denigrate Mastercuts since I know little about them. This may be the best sounding copy of this title that has ever existed for all I know. Just a heads up to do your due diligence before shelling out the kind of money these outfits want for their products.  

     

    another take from a crowd not as kind as I am . and BTW Bob... Fremer has already been there 😜

     

    https://www.analogplanet.com/content/want-lacquer-love-supreme-cut-original-master-tape

     

     

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    4 hours ago, bbosler said:

    just to add a little fuel to the fire... It is usually  interesting when you start to dig into the provenance of these recordings. Those producing these recordings are very clever about how they phrase their ad copy so you have to be very discerning as it is easy to make assumptions. 

     

    I stopped dealing with HDtracks many years ago when it came to light that some of their high resolution files ( > 16/44.1 ) were actually up sampled 16/44.1.  When called on it they  didn't deny it, they  just  claimed they didn't have the resources to check each file so relied on whoever supplied the file to be honest about it. I called BS on that and never went back.

     

    I have no idea if they cleaned up their act. but hard to believe that they, like Amazon and others,  actually have original files at 24/192 for a lot of these recordings. This seems especially true  when you click on the info button for some and there is nothing about where they got the file. nothing

     

    For the  "A Love Supreme" the Mastercut site  says Cut directly from a completely unedited 1:1 copy of the original tape provided by Universal Music, one has never been closer to the artist, the original sound waves and music history.

     

    Sounds good, (pun intended) but  what is the provenance of the tape they were provided? At a minimum this is cut from a copy of a tape Mastercuts has  that is copy of a tape from Universal that is a copied from who knows where? 

     

    According to Acoustic Sounds the mater tape for "A Love Supreme" does exist but is in poor shape. https://store.acousticsounds.com/d/167060/John_Coltrane-A_Love_Supreme-14_Inch_-_15_IPS_Tape so how many generations removed is the copy that Matercuts was provided, is it  an unedited copy of a copy of a copy of a copy .... who did the transfer, what was the quality of the decks and the expertise of those who did the copying. etc. ??

     

    Even Acoustic Sounds gets in on the BS train when they claim their $500 R2R offering of "A Love Supreme" is Sourced from original master tapes. Again, sounds good until you realize It's not necessarily a copy of the master tape, just sourced from it, which is total BS because every copy every released has to be "sourced" from the original even if it is an MP3 copy. Where else would it come from?

     

    also like to point out that lacquers are very fragile and unlike vinyl , absolutely do not stand up to repeated plays. 

     

    The point of this is not to denigrate Mastercuts since I know little about them. This may be the best sounding copy of this title that has ever existed for all I know. Just a heads up to do your due diligence before shelling out the kind of money these outfits want for their products.  

     

    another take from a crowd not as kind as I am . and BTW Bob... Fremer has already been there 😜

     

    https://www.analogplanet.com/content/want-lacquer-love-supreme-cut-original-master-tape

     

     

    I should have guessed that Fremmer would have already been there. On a more somber note, many of the original master tapes were lost in the tragic fire several years ago at a storage facility in California if memory serves. And, as you allude to, many more masters have not been properly maintained and are nearly unusable. All of this is of course not new. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans all struggled with the preservation of their cultural heritage with limited success. 

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    My review of Supersense A Love Supreme

     

     

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    Very nice experience....I'm envious.  Thanks for sharing.

     

    I agree with the comments about provenance.   A lot of abuse in the industry that one must navigate.  

     

    I have an old turntable and records from the 70's.   I don't know if it was the vinyl mastering that makes it sound so good or my memories from my youth dictating how the song should sound.  I get around this dilemma by recording the vinyl to 24/192.   You need an exceptionally high end system to make this work.   When recorded I never seem to play the record again.

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    1 hour ago, Rcanoe said:

     I get around this dilemma by recording the vinyl to 24/192.   You need an exceptionally high end system to make this work.  

     

    I have tried this multiple times with various configurations including ChannelD Pure Vinyl Seta preamps, what many would consider to be some of the best phono preamps, some of the best Pro Audio interfaces from Lynx, Apogee, and Antelope to do the analog to digital using Mutec reclockers and 10 MHZ reference clocks...etc.. ... and in every case, something is lost compared to feeding the phono preamp direct (no A to D). Yes, you can improve some aspects once you have it digitized buy applying DSP, room correction, and such... but something about the vinyl magic is lost. 

     

    In my experience.... digitized vinyl can sound very, very good.. it just can't sound as good

     

     

     

     

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    I walked a way not questioning my love of digital audio, or feeling like I'm missing out without a turntable, but rather with an appreciation for how people enjoy whatever it is that they enjoy. 

     

    Perfectly stated! At the end of the day, there’s really no rules per se.  
     

    Digital is better, vinyl is better, this or that etc…. Really never understood how one can impose what they hear, feel, experience as the de facto, THE bar being set.  Happens constantly day in, day out.  
     

    Sure there are some commonalities, but the medium, a component, are all but just part of the total system + experience.  What genuinely moves you is what matters IMHO.

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    I have a friend who has a highly tweaked vinyl rig,and has put much work in upping his digital replay. When either of these two setups are working at a high enough level, then you get a match. That is, the character of some recording, which he has  on LP, or he or I have it on CD, is delivered to be the same - yes, there will be some surface noise, on vinyl, the bass won't be as well defined - those who are obsessed with FR aspects will doubtlessly disagree :); but the essence of what was captured at the time will be identical ...

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