The Best Ever Kind of Blue?

Is it possible to now write anything that hasn’t already been written or said about this record? I haven’t any fresh insights to offer that might advance what you probably already know. A good Kind of Blue pressing puts you in the 30th Street studio to hear the performance. Ashley Kahn’s “Kind of Blue” book sets the pre-recording stage, offering both musical and technical details and puts you as much in the control room as in front of the band.

According to Kahn, engineer Fred Plaut “…favored the new Telefunken U-49 microphones, a workhorse of the recording industry. Their warm, rounded response especially in the mid to lower range of the dynamic spectrum made them a favorite for jazz and other acoustic music sessions.” (I think Kahn meant of the frequency not the dynamic spectrum).

Each instrument was single-mic’d, except for Jimmy Cobb’s drum kit, which got two (one aimed at the snare, the other at the cymbals), for a total of 7.

In addition to the 30th Street studio’s natural reverberation, a low ceilinged concrete basement room about 12 feet by 15 feet fitted with a loudspeaker and omnidirectional microphone served as a reverb chamber. The session sound played through the speaker and picked up by the microphone was fed to the center channel, which was also bassist Paul Chambers’ placement in the mix. That might explain the odd bass decay after one of Chambers’ plucks at the beginning of “So What”. Of course, even without the reverb chamber, there’s major microphone leakage, which produces this recording’s remarkable three-dimensionality as well as image solidity.

Do you also know that record presses sound different much as do cutting systems, cartridges, turntables, phono preamps and everything else in the analog recording, cutting and playback chain?

SMT, Lened, Toolex Alpha, Finebilt hand presses and others have not too difficult to discern sonic characteristics. So I have to laugh when I read comments like “if you have a Classic Records pressing of Kind of Blue “you are all set”.

Trust me, you are not “all set”, unless to you this record is of minor importance or you don’t care to own what is clearly and easily the best sounding Kind of Blue.

I compared this Finebilt, UHQR “flat profile” pressing sourced from metal parts made from Bernie Grundman’s 1997 lacquer cut (this record features the speed corrected version of side 1), produced from the original 3 track tape mixed “live” to two tracks to: two original Columbia “6-Eye” pressings, to Classic’s 33 !/3 double LP 180 gram side one speed corrected set, to the 45rpm single sided set and to Mobile Fidelity’s double 45rpm set sourced not from a “live 3:2 mix” but from Mark Wilder’s 3:2 tape dub.

Why mince words or meat for the that matter, a “live 3:2 mix” cut directly from the 3 track master has to sound more immediate and transparent than one cut from at least a generation down 2 track mixdown tape and even though the Mo-Fi was cut at 45rpm, the UHQR is far more transparent. Just compare Wynton Kelly’s piano solo on “Freddie Freeloader”. The Classic Records reissue was the first and only time the lacquers were cut “live” using the 3-Track master tape—and that includes the original pressing, which also was cut from a mixdown tape.

The “flat profile” record is not a gimmick. If you’ve seen the cross section of a standard LP, the stylus goes slightly “downhill” over the first half of the record and then “uphill” to the end. The flat profile eliminates the valley”. That matters. Not in a profound way, but consider that this is all happening in a microscopic miniature world where every variation from ideal produces some negative and often sonic effect.

The original pressing is of course the “document of record” (pun intended). It has a romantic transient blur to it that’s ear-pleasing but clearly not what’s on the tape. Add the era’s relatively noisy vinyl (even when it’s “quiet” as you’ll hear, compared to the Clarity vinyl, which is really quiet).

The two Classic Records reissues sound closest to the new UHQR and to suggest that the UHQR is a “must have” if you have either of those or the Quiex 200g version would be hyperbolic so I’m not going to suggest that, but were you to buy the UHQR and your turntable is sufficiently resolving, precise and quiet, the difference between the Classic and QRP UHQR is significant, almost like putting on 3D glasses or focusing an out of focus pair of binoculars—never mind the focus difference between the UHQR and the original pressing.

Part of this is no doubt the vinyl formulation but more of it I think is the Finebilt handpress, which has a longer press time and which has had the chassis shaking hydraulics removed and placed on its own isolated platform. Especially if this record is seared into your brain from decades of exposure, you’ll immediately hear the improved focus, which does not come at the expense of the recording’s famous lush, rich and full warm instrumental sound and it’s upper frequency transient precision and clarity in front of the somewhat wet space.

Add to that the deluxe UHQR box, the Stoughton laminated “tip-on” gatefold jacket and a nicely presented nearly full sized booklet that includes session photographs you won’t want to not look at and the original 1997 Robert Palmer (the music critic and one time “Insect Trust” band member) essay as well as a new one from Ashley Kahn. Enough said!

That’s the end of the review. Now here’s the capsulized “audiophile press” review:
"Quite clearly and obviously this new UHQR Kind of Blue sourced from Bernie Grundman’s 1995 “live” mix from the 3 track master, directly to lacquer sounds best compared to two early “6-Eyes”, Classic’s own double 180g set and that label's single-sided 45rpm set, and Mobile Fidelity’s double 45 boxed edition, to which I compared the UHQR.

“Even the quietest original pressing creates a pleasing romantic blur over a soft bed of noise but compared to this issue the overall picture is distant and hazy (though the romanticized version still pulls). The UHQR offers the blackest, quietest backgrounds and unparalleled transparency, but more critically, the modified Finebuilt hand press produces unprecedented transient precision and instrumental focus and resolves low level details that will deliver surprises to even the most blasé KOB veteran, one of whom visited and exclaimed “I’ve never heard that before”. This pressing allows you to see further into the mix and transports you back in time and into the 30th Street studios. I don’t care what version you now have you’ve never heard Kind of Blue quite like this. And that’s not hyperbole!" OK it is hyperbole but hey! The thing is and add your own tired cliché here:

Roy Martin's picture

It's like a veil has been lifted...

Michael Fremer's picture
Among Iranian audiophiles
Glotz's picture

Way to defuse that bs..

xtcfan80's picture

Don't forget the recent Columbia/Legacy Mono LP... $25 or less for a new LP....Fantastic! So...AP's New UHQR for a Stereo version and for around
$150 total you have the best of both!!

hockeyyo's picture

I don't see this listed on Discogs. Is this a 2021 release ? How is this different from the 2013 mono version ?

Mark Wilidng's picture

It was only released for pre-order a couple of weeks ago. 25,000 copies are being made, so you can probably order direct from Analogue Productions at Acoustic Sounds website.

Jack Gilvey's picture

heard it".

ChrisM's picture

I hope that the quality control'll be as high as the price. I experienced serious problems with the Out of The Cool Acoustic/Verve, on the first side a lot of clicks & pops, a bit less on the second. I'm about to buy this record for the third time, first time this has happened to me with a QRP pressing, and I hope the last one since I preorder the KOB UHQR...

azmoon's picture

...with music only on 1 side of each disc.

Michael Fremer's picture
Are "dished" LPs. That happened to many of the one sided Classic Records.
garyalex's picture

"It's like the difference between looking through a clean window and a dirty one". I did like reading that the warm, rich tone of this incredible album has been preserved. As to whether it betters my MoFi 45 - we'll see. If nothing else it should certainly be different. But please, please Chad, make sure it's quiet and warp-free.

Michael Fremer's picture
Curious to know your thoughts...
Grant M's picture

Bernie cut the lacquer for Classic in january 1997, not the 1995 date that keeps getting reported in your articles and on the Acoustic Sounds website.

Michael Fremer's picture
The date I used was on the Classic Records album jacket. I will fix.
DaK's picture

Is there any way to buy this release in Europe?

Wymax's picture

As mentioned in the other thread, I looked at importing it from the US. Where I live, in Denmark, it will cost me no less than perhaps 240 USD total.

However, it seems that even if there would be an EU dealer for it, it still wouldn't be much cheaper than that. still lists Patricia Barber Cafe Blue 1-step, although it is out of print, and their price compared to the US price is approx. the same difference as KoB is for direct buy from US. On eBay there are 2 UK dealers, for someone in the EU that would even mean that you pay the UK price of approx. 265 USD and then import taxes on top :-)

DaK's picture

Its getting more and more frustrating buying US releases in the EU. Theres a retailer from the Netherlands.
The shop is somehow reliable, but the owner is kind of special and I promised myself to not buy there again. But you normally receive your order .

Wymax's picture

I have been disappointed by a couple of times, where they say they can source a recording, they take the money, and then 4 weeks later cancel it. But they have always been reliable, no cheating, and they do the refund.

That Dutch dealer seems sketchy, trustpilot does not look good at all! And I would only be saving 30 EUR (37 USD) compared to just ordering from the US. Way too risky.

Still would like a European source though, but the price will probably still end up at more than double of the US price. Alone the postage is 60 USD!

Wymax's picture

2 Danish dealers have just entered the market... Prices are around, or even a little less, what my own import from the US would cost, so that would actually be okay, although again more than double the US price.

However, one dealer mentions delivery in June depending on delivery, while the other already has resignated and states that delivery will not happen until late August :-)

Again, from my point of view frustrating that a release has to be this elite, no matter which way of the pond is affected. Music should be for everybody, it really shouldn't be this exclusive, even though the ones getting their hands on one will regard themselves as feinschmeckers.

rich d's picture

Paul Hawkins over at Diverse Vinyl is selling them for £180; I have no idea whether that's more or less than importing or using a local source but I will say Paul is a good guy with whom to do business and/or drink beer.

As for the record itself, I wish Mikey had said "this is crap, don't buy it". Now I have to get one. Thanks a bunch. Oh well, Grandma doesn't really need that operation...

Wymax's picture

UK had their Brexit starting this year, without having free trade pass the negotiating table. This means that for me I will have to pay the same fees for importing from the UK as from the US. It would become insanely more expensive that way if DV is already charging 2,5 times the US price :-)

I must admit that I am warming up a bit to purchasing it... I have so many other ways to throw my money away, why not this as well.

rich d's picture

Thanks for setting me straight - I was unaware that Brexit had already affected the cost pf shipping LPs from the UK to the EU. This may be the worst aspect of Brexit for some folks! Anyway, it looks as if we're in the same boat, i.e., we will both part with our cash and buy our 19th copy of this record.

Torqueisfun's picture

I'm coming over in mid August, I might be able to bring you a copy.

Wymax's picture

I live in the southern part of Jutland, quite far from everything that would be considered a major city, let alone near an airport :-)

But thank you for the kind offer.

Torqueisfun's picture

My wife and I have a house in Hejlsminde just north of Haderslev and she works in Aabenraa. If you change your mind we can work something out.

Analogue+Fan's picture

That the transfer process continues to be fine-tuned, on this LP, is fantastic.
Maybe I can compare it to my original 1959 copy [].
It will be interesting, and also that with 25,000 copies, it may be that even I can get one.
Many thanks to Mr. Grundman.
For those who want a good copy for $25, the 2010 work by Kevin Gray is not bad at all []

vogelzang's picture

Chad is dropping easter eggs in his release video.

Just noticed that in the release video for KOB UHQR
at the 2:12 mark the camera pans over the new 45 rpm labels for Side 1 with All Blues and Side 2 w Freddie Freeloader and Blue in Green.

ChrisM's picture

Excellent point, I missed that !

jazz's picture

Was that said somewhere?

Leonthepro's picture

I have seen claims of 7500 and 25000, nothing with confirmation though.

isaacrivera's picture

It states right there (as well as on the promo banner on the homepage) 25,000 copies. They'd know, you'd think!

Leonthepro's picture

We are talking about the 45, I have not seen any number advertised by Chad. The 33 is 25K though yes.

Mark Wilidng's picture

That's weird. In the youtube video discussion, Chad said the 45 release was not yet planned.

Analog Scott's picture

I'm calling bullshit on the "hand pressing" making any audible difference whatsoever. I think the issue of vinyl formulation is over stated but at least vinyl forumlation makes *some* difference in so far as it affects surface noise. But the pressing machine? No ****ing way. This is mold making/hydrolics 101. No doubt, if the record is removed before th disc is cooled enough it can cause audible damage but that has nothing to do with the pressing machine. That is just a matter of waiting long enough for the disc to cool. This business about vibrational isolation is just out of touch with basic physics. A record is a static object. It doesn't retain stored vibrational energy while being molded. It doesn't! The plates are either centered or not and the vinyl either fills the plates or there is air between the vinyl and the plates. If anything vibration would help act to break surface tention and better fill the mold. Given the viscosity of the melted vinyl I doubt that would happen but there is no way any vibration will prevent the vinyl from filling the surface of the plates. None. And that is ALL that matters when it comes to pressing. 1. Are the plates centered. 2. Did they fill 3.did the disc cool enough so as to not get damaged during demolding. That's it. Some of this is getting really close to Peter Belt fantasy.

Michael Fremer's picture
Is compare the same stamper on a Toolex Alpha and on an SMT and call us in the morning. What you are saying is that if the press is shaking and vibrating as the stamper slams down on the warm biscuit, it can have no sonic effect compared to the same action on a totally rigid stamper. And is your degree in "mold making/hydrolics (sic) 101"? I suggest you listen to this reissue compared to the RTI pressing on a very good SMT and explain the sonic differences...
Analog Scott's picture

However your suggestion to do a comparison is not possible unless there are actual records out there where the *only* variable is just the pressing machine. The comparison you are suggesting involves several other variables. Years ago Michael Hobson sent out comparison packages to several of his "top customers" that were comparing the new clarity vinyl to the old black vinyl formula. I was one of the customers who recieved that comparison package. a few friends of mine and I did a number of blind comparisons. Other than specific tics and pops (the clarity version actually had more) the two records were indistinguishable. When I reported this directly to Michael he proceded to argue with me about my results. And I think that pretty much brings to light the issue here. If we are looking for accurate results we have to be willing to accept unfavorable ones. Otherwise it's just an exercise in expectation bias. What do you think Michael Hobson did with my findings? Do you think he took them seriously and considered the possibility that the clarity vinyl really didn't make an audible difference or do you think he disregarded my results as they did not fit his expectations, made up some sort of rationalization for them and only paid attention to the customers that told him what he expected to hear? Now about my degree in mold making. It is a part of my profession. I have actually studied the physics of mold making and casting and have almost 40 years experience in the field. Which of course makes me an expert on the subject but does not offer any proof since argument from authority is a logical fallacy. OTOH argument from established laws of physics is NOT a logical fallacy. So if you can offer an actual physics based explination as to how any vibration present during the casting of a vinyl record can actually affect the sound of that record I'd love to hear it. Again, it is simple hyrdolics and surface tension in play. If a mold has a solid fill there is nothing that vibrations can do to affect the shape of the cast. And the sound is almost stritly a function of the physical shape of the record.

Leonthepro's picture

Too bad the clarity vinyl results didnt yield anything positive, I have found the same to be true regarding clicks and noise, my 200Gram Quiex Classics were almost always noisier than my older 180Gram normal pressings. I appreciate your understanding of logical fallacies too, do you post in other places or just here, if I may ask?

Analog Scott's picture

But for audio asylum I mostly post and read the classical music page.

Leonthepro's picture

thats too bad, theres too few persons of reason in this hobby to converse with ;^)

Neward Thelman's picture

Analog Scott:
I'll have a look at Audio Asylum to see what you've been posting. If you actually know what you're talking about with classical music, I'll be interested in following you on Facebook.

With ragard to Classical Court on AA, except for the moderator "Chris From Lafayette" - who really knows what he's talking about, and with whom I've agreed 98% of the time when I was still active on AA - most [and possibly all] of those posting there are wrong to a small degree or all the way to a very wide degree about they think, believe, and thus post about classical music.

Arguing with them about classical music led to their profound hatred for me, and contributed to being permanently banned. Incidentally, they do know a lot about classical recordings. I didn't challenge them on that topic. Just about knowledge of music itself.

The final straw that banned me permanently was when I posted 2 threads: one in which I stated my unequivocal antipathy toward the use of illicit drugs, and then an friendly question inquiring about how many of the guys were married, and if married, then married to biological female wives.

Those 2 posts banned me. Forever.

So, to be popular on AA, you must be:

1. Kind of dumb about classical music
2. A degenerate drug user
3. Some kind of LGBQ-RXTUVWXYZ

Analog Scott's picture

I make no claim of expertise in classical music. I am merely a fanboy. I know a lot of experts ;-) And Chris is a friend of mine. We actually went to a concert together up in the bay area. Yeah, he knows his shit.

Leonthepro's picture

Why would you discuss drugs and personal marriages on an Audio forum?

Glotz's picture

I mean the audio community discovered a ton about the applied science in the last decade, if not two. I think the same would apply here.

If your claims are right, great. How much work did you perform providing microscopic operations for vinyl/LP's? And then logically from that, working with high vibration environments with precision parts/molds?

Anything over microscopic scale engineering would simply mean another type and set of work on a larger scale, of which you perhaps have spent no time working with, and especially with vinyl. You did not give any examples of your work other than saying you are an expert in mold making. On what level and what materials?

There are myriad different material types out there... and clearly you know as an analog guy that vibration control is huge on every parameter of turntables and playback.

Glotz's picture

Under what system?? Are we talking $100,000 in playback or $100?

Analog Scott's picture

I think not. The question has the foul smell of audio snobbery. My system was not masking audible differences.

Glotz's picture

It shows whether or not you are transparent and truthful. You're not.

A lot of deflection, subterfuge and a lack of information.

My guess is you're not hearing a difference much at all.

Analog Scott's picture

tells you whether or not I am truthful? It tells you whether or not I lack information? So let's just break this down. If my system retailed for $100,000 how truthful would that make me? How much would I know about casting vinyl in molds based on a system that costs $100,000? Is that the threshold of absolute honesty and knowledge? Anyone with a system costing $100,000 or more has achieved absolute truthfulness and all knowingness? Likewise same questions only suppose my stereo system only cost $100. Would that make me a liar with no understaning of mold making and casting of semi rigid materials?

Glotz's picture

Once again you use non-sequiturs in your rhetorical bullshit question: "Would that make me a liar with no understanding of mold making and casting of semi rigid materials?" Again, you did no work for vinyl production. None. You lie by implication that you have knowledge about this. You don't. You have theory based on your knowledge of materials sciences and mechanical engineering.

Nice, but no cigar. Price tags almost always have an effect of transfer function of an audio signal. ANY audiophile that has been doing this for 40 years would immediately say YES! It does have a huge difference., and thats why they spend more.

"If my system retailed for $100,000 how truthful would that make me?" It would directly affect your ability or inability to tell the truth. Because you wouldn't know the truth without understanding the best components that are the most technically accurate and tell the most truth.

More expensive parts cost more and also tell us more of the musical truth. Period.

"Spend thousands more, and parts quality goes up, and the 'unmeasurables' become more audible, as it should be."

The experience of listening to a variety of price points in equipment tells us everything about one's ability to listen critically and understand their journey to the land of musical truth. (and engineering truth too, tbh.)

For example, Michael knows and is more truthful about his findings on ANYTHING as he has the experience and knowledge from listening to the best and worst gear on the planet. THIS allows us to tell the truth, because one actually understands what truth is in any audio parameter from system matching experience, not bullshit theory.

Analog Scott's picture

words like non sequitor and even words like lie. But let's break down your nonsense for what it is.

"Again, you did no work for vinyl production. None. You lie by implication that you have knowledge about this."

So by this logic one has to actually work specifically in pressing records to have "knowledge about this." And if not they are a liar when expressing any assertions of fact regarding vinyl. So by that logic even a leading R&D scientist in advanced plastics would have "no knowledge" on the subject pressing vinyl records because he or she has not been directly making actual vinyl records. OTOH you give Fremer a free pass on the subject. How much hands on experience does Fremer have in making records? More to the point how much hands on experience does he have in pressing records with and without the vibration controls in place? How is his assertion of it's effectiveness any less a "lie?"

"You have theory based on your knowledge of materials sciences and mechanical engineering."

Again...My working knowledge of molding and casting is not theoretical. And one would have to really know little or nothing on the subject to actually believe there is zero transferability of experience and knowledge on the subject from one application to another. The laws of physics and the engineering principles in the field are very very transferable. But if you think not please feel free to explain on a technical level why you think not.

"Price tags almost always have an effect of transfer function of an audio signal."

NO "price tags" never have an effect on the transfer function and an audio signal.

"ANY audiophile that has been doing this for 40 years would immediately say YES! It does have a huge difference., and thats why they spend more."

Bullshit. I have been an audiophile for 38 years and I know for a fact that a price tag in and of itself has no effect on the transfer function of an audio signal. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. despite my mere 38 years in the hobby I am confident that 2 years from now I will still know that price tags do not affect transfer functions of audio signals.

>>If my system retailed for $100,000 how truthful would that make me?>> "It would directly affect your ability or inability to tell the truth. Because you wouldn't know the truth without understanding the best components that are the most technically accurate and tell the most truth."

"More expensive parts cost more and also tell us more of the musical truth. Period."

What can I say, You rally don't know what words mean. In this case "truth." But it is a word that is largely adored and equally misunderstood by those with intense religious beliefs.

""Spend thousands more, and parts quality goes up, and the 'unmeasurables' become more audible, as it should be.""

So much bullshit I don't know where to begin. Let's get one thing straight, yes, in many cases better quality does cost more money. But more money does NOT insure better quality which is what you are claiming. Measuring the price tag of a stereo system does NOT tell us the merits of it's performance. When you talk about "musical truth" you really play your hand. If you are talking about audio recording and playback and you bring up musical truth you are obviously living under th influence of the proverbial koolaid. And as for "unmeasurables becoming more That is some strong koolaid if you think ther is anything that can actually be heard by the human auditory system that is actually unmeasurable.

"The experience of listening to a variety of price points in equipment tells us everything about one's ability to listen critically and understand their journey to the land of musical truth. (and engineering truth too, tbh.)"

No, this simply tells me once again you have been drinking the koolaid, that you have no idea how actual listening skills are developed. It also speaks of the toxic audiophile fandom that permeates the hobby.

"For example, Michael knows and is more truthful about his findings on ANYTHING as he has the experience and knowledge from listening to the best and worst gear on the planet. THIS allows us to tell the truth, because one actually understands what truth is in any audio parameter from system matching experience, not bullshit theory."

And that pretty much puts a fork in it. This is toxic audiophile fandom, tribalism and koolaid all mixed together. Fremer is IMO very skilled writer and has done a lot to promote vinyl playback for audiophiles. he does a great job of making people aware of new product and for that I will always pay attention. But frankly it is becoming more and more obvious that he is a proverbial Jim Jones to your koolaid and to others .

Glotz's picture

You are not expert here.

You continue to pretend you work elsewhere has a bearing on this. It doesn't. It's obvious this has become political for you.

You are so butt-hurt to pretend to prove that point, you spent well over 10,000 words in this post.

Again, you have only theory, as you would be able to provide some actual proof to backup the bullshit you are pushing. You haven't done any of that.

What I am most impressed by is you are learning to respect others by using proper grammar and paragraph usage! Thank me later...