Tour Bernie Grundman Mastering and Hear Bernie on the High Resolution Blue Note Transfers

While in Los Angeles recently I had visited Chris Bellman and Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman mastering. Take a video tour of the famed Gower Avenue, Hollywood mastering facility and then sit down with Bernie and me as he talks about the Blue Note tapes and transferring many of them to high resolution digital first for archival purposes, then for digital downloads and most recently for Blue Note's new $19.95 vinyl reissue series.

The tour:

The interview:

1957GoldTop's picture

These interviews and tours are great, but for the love of god take the camera off your head and put it on a desk or something when doing the interviews.  Upping production quality never hurt any site.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I don't blame Michael for the shaky video, if I was sat in front of Bernie Grundman and Chris Bellman I would shake uncontrollably! Great stuff Michael!

James, Dublin, Ireland

wgb113's picture

Hey Mike,

Thanks for this follow-up to the Don Was interview.  Have you been able to compare any of these to the Music Matters versions?

I'm one of the "younger" jazz fans at 37 and so far have been building my collection via vinyl though the reissues can vary quite a bit.  Sound quality's more important to me than the quality of the packaging.



recordhead's picture

Love the videos!

infohou's picture

OMG,  Grundman and Bellman!


So, it's not every day that this 58 yr old LP nut exclaims like a teenager. 

Thanks for this.

BTW,  Mr. Fremer, if you want to email me I will make you a cheap deal for making the audio and video better from the GoPro.  I will do the Was ones for free as a sample.  You will need to give me copies of the originals from the camera.

Take it EZ,

Robert A. Ober

vince's picture

Nice video.  Please keep 'em coming!

I found it interesting that the lathes are resting on compressed air isolation tables.  These tables are very effective attenuating higher frequency vibration usually down to a few hertz, where they start to resonate and actually amplify this very low frequency vibration.  

I have some experience with these tables and use them to improve photomicrographs and interferograms.  It is worth noting that both tables have a small console located on the near, right, corner.  This console appears to be resting both on and off the vibration isolation surface.  If this is true these consoles provide a path for noise to contaminate the isolated surface.  The best way to take care of this is to put the console on its own table.  Failing this (it looked tight in there), place it entirely on the frame (possibly by building up the frame) such that it can not touch the isolated surface.  Failing this, place it entirely on the table so that it can not form a conduction path between the frame and the table.  Doing these kinds of things helps my lab produce better images.  No doubt the same rules apply to a cutting lathe.


bkinthebk's picture

keep it coming. would you be able to do something like this once a week? even via skype i think these convos with the pros are just stellar. 

does the gopro get up to 720p? 

soundman45's picture

Mike: Bernie is right about the I/O sound of a  computer. It always sounds slightly different going in than coming out. It makes no sense but I guess guys like him would have the proprietory gear to deal with that.Thanks so much for these video uploads.They are awesome.

Ortofan's picture

Linn Sondek owners around the world suffer a stroke after learning that many of their favo(u)rite LPs were mastered on a lathe driven by a Technics SP-10.

planarhead's picture

I hate to contradict Bernie, but Music Matters released Newk's Time at 45 rpm in stereo. It's a wonky mix since Sonny is walking around RVG's studio and like Bernie says there were other issues with the tape. Still a cherished release for a self professed Rollins nut :-)

jtalaker1's picture

I just received and am listening to Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil and it is fantastic.  I know that Mike keeps saying that these are for the younger crowed, however I am 53 and loving every second of this album.  I also have the other four releases on order and can't wait to get those.  Thanks Mike for the information on this new reissue, I believe I am going to enjoy them all.

Michael T's picture

These interviews with Bernie are the best thing I have ever seen on analog planet (and I love this site!).

It's interesting to see that they are using Technics SP10 MK3's on both their cutting lathes.  Technics actually made a lathe motor (the SP-02), but I understand these are very hard to find.  Some mastering houses do have them.  I believe the SP-02 has the same super high torque specs as the SP10 MK3.

Chrils Bellman has cut some great new releases lately (Broken Bells "After the Disco", Billie Joe Armstrong/Norah Jones "Foreverly").

I wish you would have had an opportunity to ask Bernie if he cut the ORG Elvis Golden Records Volume 3 45 rpm set from the original master tapes.  The tracks which are also featured on the Analogue Productions "24 Karat Hits" Elvis release mastered by the late George Marino at Sterling Sound sound much better.  It can't be Grundman's mastering that is causing the ORG edition to sound inferior.

I would absolutely love it if you could do similar interviews/tours at Sterling Sound, Masterdisk and the Mastering Lab.

Thanks again,


vince's picture

I would absolutely love it if you could do similar interviews/tours at Sterling Sound, Masterdisk and the Mastering Lab.

Couldn't agree more!

Michael Fremer's picture

I promise these will happen and more....

Lazer's picture

Nuff said....


Thank You

RobWynn's picture


I'm just as surprised as you are about you not knowing about this label.  I guess it needs to work both ways.  You hip us to some good stuff, but we also need to hip you to stuff as well.  I guess we figure you read the same mailings from MD, ED and AS.  The two of most note are both cut at 45RPM and have nice gatefold or boxes, a la AP and MM: Wes Montgomery 2LP and Bill Evans 3LP .  I've given my copies a spin once and prefer the former.  Both are definitely worth checking out.

But you are finding out about 'em just in time for their upcoming limited releases on Record Store Day, which apparently are teasers for two releases coming out laterthis year but I haven't read enough to see if all these RSD tracks will also be on the larger releases.  Interestingly, I can't find info about the RSD releases at their website but they do mention the first two of the three below on their Facebook site.:

Charles Lloyd: Live at Slug's in the Far East LP

Wes & The Montgomery-Johnson Quintet: s/t 10"

Wes & The Montgomery-Johson Quintet: Live at the Turf Club 10"

All mastered by Bernie too!

my new username's picture

Apparently they focus on new artists and unearthed gems (of various technical quality, no doubt)

They did Bill Evans' "Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of The Gate" which got a lot of press. (No pun intended.)

Michael Fremer's picture

I reviewed that Bill Evans issue on this very site but forgot the name of the label. Too much vinyl coming out (not)! 

RobWynn's picture

In the "Blue Note Reissue" video Bernie mentions that Don Was brought in various BN vinyl and requested that Bernie make the new transfers/pressings sound like the early vinyl as they represented the artists/producers original vision.  But in "The Tour" video Bernie mentions that he is fully aware that they hear through the monitors isn't exactly what the consumer hears.

If Bernie's latter comment is true, then does the request to make what is in the mastering room sound like a mass-produced product (the LP) that happens further down the line a misguided request?

Are we talking about such minor differences that it ultimately doesn't matter, or does someone like Bernie know how to "offset" the sound in the mastering room so that once it is mass produced it sounds like the original mass produced product?

I'm not trying to dump on this BN Reissue series as I'm very interested in it and will likely pick up some non-MM/AP titles if the reviews are good in general, but the two comments hit me and thought I'd ask.

BTW love both videos.  I have no problem with the lack of stability and the content is awesome.  I would love to see more interviews like this, maybe a series including more Bernie and others.

Thanks for doing what you do!


my new username's picture

Bernie's earlier comment was in the context of the tape being clean/clear and everything after necessarily a degredation of some kind, no matter the effort.

His later comment about Was handing him LPs to use as reference points was in the context of various things such as mix/EQ/tone etc. Yes, it always gets tricky here and interpretation will always produce a variable, but think back to what else Bernie said, where sometimes an original master or session tape won't be enough to know what to do, because those originals could lack EQ/mix choices present on the LP.

My interpretation here is that Bernie would retain as much possible sound quality the tapes offered but present them in a way consistent with the best of what the original BN LPs have. 

my new username's picture

The nugget about your conversation with Was, showing him the flaw in the URP test pressing, was interesting.

Surely URP is popular because they bid low. I mean, why else use them unless you're Jack White and live next door? OK--fair enough. The world needs competition and price points.

The more you can help continue to educate execs like Was (who are willing to take the time to listen) the better chance I think that ONE of them will eventually say to URP, "Hey, it's great you offer this affordable service but your product could be better. And it may not cost you a lot of money necessarily. Can we look at where the opportunities are for improvement--because it's our name on this, too, and we care."

What's truly odd is that URP wouldn't even bother to take extra care for the test pressing! I mean, if you knew you weren't consistently making the best, but could make them good on occaison, wouldn't you at least take the time to press the test LP right, in order to secure the contract?

akovo's picture

When are you going to get your hands on a few and let us know what you think of the sound?

I ordered a copy of the Art Blakey release to hear for myself, but am interested in what you have to say as well.

samman's picture

CB and BG do fantastic work. However, once in a while, a reissue pales in comparison to the original. It would be great to hear Bernie's thoughts as to what happened. For example, why do most feel, including Mr. Fremer, that Classic Records reissue of Also sprach Zarathustra, even at 45 rpm, pales in comparison to the original. Is it the age of the tape? What happened? And yet other reissues blow the doors off of the originals, like The Doors LA Woman, for example.

Michael Fremer's picture

That was one of the first "Living Stereo" reissues Classic and Grundman attempted. I think that was a mistake....start with something less "legendary" would have been my advice, untll you get the feedback and see how it's accepted... there are many reasons why that one didn't fly but I can't get into it now....

cement_head's picture

I definitely echo the $20 philosphy - I've just finished getting about four or five of the Mile Davis Columbia RSD reissues (all about $20) in MONO and they sound absolutely spectacular.  $50 is a bit heavy for my wallet, so I'm really looking forward to thes Bluenotes for $19 a piece.

With regards to URP, I have two recent pressings - Wrecking Ball (Bruce Springsteen) and Unvarnished (Joan Jett) - both are dead flat, dead quiet surfaces - in fact, they are some of the better pressings I have - must of gotten a bad test pressing.


ViciAudio's picture

Michael, you're saying that MoFi Kind of Blue will be sourced from the digital transfer? That's bad news... but I was convinced that the "last" transfer was made simultaneously to analog tape and to digital... was it not the case? Thanks for the interview with Mr. Grundman, really great stuff! :D

MicallefK's picture

I bought the new Speak No Evil last night and compared it to my '70s Blue Note UA reissue -- the black note against the blue background label. The new reissue didn't fare well. It lacks the dynamics and punch of the 70s LP. That old record has a lot of trumpet splat and the instruments are in your face and super dynamic, it's actually a louder mix. The new LP sounded recessed, especially on Hancock's piano. The new LP sounds a little smoother, but I'd rather have the dynamics and the rough-around-the edges quality. Oddly enough, the new LP is far away from what I would call a digital presentation. It just sounds a little weak. But they didn't mess with the basic sound, it just sounds soft.


I would love to read other's takes on the new Blue Note reissues.   

Superfuzz's picture

Great interviews and tour of his studio. I don't care about the rough camera quality. You do interject a bit much when interviewing though...

amudhen's picture

VERY educational and timely, thanks

Spin Lps's picture

Thanks for the great video. I am with the others, it would be nice if you could post something like this once a week.

AnalogJ's picture

Michael, of course you know Resonance Records. You and I have chatted about their Bill Evans "Live At The Top Hat" release. The producer was excited about how great it was to use noise reduction to get rid of the tape hiss. I forwarded you my conversation with him, you may recall.




Go onto their site, They certainly have an interesting set of jazz releases, put out either on multi-12" 45rpm sets, CDs, or download.

Paul Boudreau's picture

Fascinating stuff, thanks.

labjr's picture

I heard him say from 192's. I guess that means they cut the masters from digital transfers? I don't see the point in making records from digital files.  

iyke's picture

What exactly is a digital master? The more I hear folks throw this word around the more I tear my hair out. Isn't the very nature of digital format is that it just is. Anyone who says digital master is simply trying to confere a special status on the digital format that it never has and never will.

To make a long story short: there is no such thing as a "digital master" this is is an oxymoron.

There can be an analog master tape; never a digital master. Call it a digital disk, call it anything you like but please refraining from putting the word digital and master together where audio is concerned.

Michael Fremer's picture

Compare one to any of the CDs and you'll get the point! Yes, you can download a digital file but that is not the same experience as a record....

iyke's picture

If there is one thing that comes from this interview I hope that Mofi and Sony are shamed into shelving that digital Kind Of Blue project or get the 3 track tapes out for proper reissue. Unlike the Mofi Billy Joel which are hit and miss. No One will forgive these guys if they botch up Kind of Blue

Superfuzz's picture

Surely you jest. Have you heard that recent digital Kind of Blue? It sounds fantastic, although I still prefer my original 6-eye mono LP. But why hate on digital so much? You must hot have a great DAC or something... oh, the horror.

As for getting out the 3-track tapes for proper reissue... that's exactly what they did. They got out the three track tape and very carefully transferred it to 24/192.  Mark Wilder has gone on the record (no pun intended) explaining why they had to transfer it to digital... things like, certain sections of the tape needed to be carefully, manually guided along the tape heads during playback... making an all analog mixdown or lacquer cut impossible.

Michael Fremer's picture

Was well covered on in the review of the mono KOB RSD reissue. However, while an analog mixdown would have been difficult it would not have been impossible.

When Analogue Productions bought Classic Records the deal included metal parts from various projects. It probably means AP has the AAA metal parts for KOB. Would they license them out to Mobile Fidelity? I don't know. 

But I don't think Mobile Fidelity would use them because do it "their way".

iyke's picture

Is Grundman talking about the mono or stereo of Newk's Time?

Music Matters put it out on stereo 45 rpm. Does he not consider that audiophile?

It is well known that Rollins movements during play is the reasons for those drop outs? Why splice CDs into the session? Why not put out the stereo.

By Blue Blue Note selling Grundman's editorial fabrication are they not selling a lie? He's denying people access to the real session with it's imperfections.  I always get jitters when people think that perfection equals audiophile. For me  it's the other way round. Authenticity equals audiophile.

guess he's talking about mono

Michael Fremer's picture

Bernie was talking about problems with the TAPE not with the recording. I can tell you that problems with other tapes mastered by other people required similar "fixes" including splicing in sections from CDs that were either mastered before the tape deterioration, or were 'fixed' using other methods.

You need to pull back a bit before posting with hot fingers.

iyke's picture

Which tape, Mikey?

Stereo or Mono?

labjr's picture

Don't get me wrong, records are cool. Totally different experience to put on a record than playing a CD or download. But mastering for vinyl should be an all analog process. Bernie Grundman seems like a burned out postal worker doing the same routine every day. Where's the enthusiasm?

I'd also prefer a digital disc complete with artwork over a download. It's a tangible item with more value because you can collect them I hope they'll finally figure that out. Record companies want to sell more Hi-rez stuff? Get me a disc with liner notes, artwork and provenance information. I'll buy it! I want to fill my shelves and look at it. I can't see downloads.

iyke's picture

I agree with you. I can't buy music without a physical medium.

Michael Fremer's picture

Bernie was hired to do a job not produce the records. If a client says "digitize" he digitizes. If a client says cut from analog tape he does that. In this case the job was the participate in digitizing the Blue Note catalog. Bernie didn't cut lacquers or have any say as to how the records were produced.

Your "burned out postal worker" comment was really uncalled for. 

iyke's picture

Agreed, Mikey.

Grundman was kind enough to speak candidly about his involvement with a reissue project that is of much interest now. I for one have nothing but respect for him and his willingness to talk openly about a part of the music biz that is often shrouded in cloak. It's hard to make a case for other Mastering engineers to come forward if we resort to name calling when we don't agree with some of what they say.

labjr's picture

I apologize. I got a bit carried away with my sarcasm.

detroitvinylrob's picture

Truly an honor and privilege to be invited inside... thanks Mikey.