A UHQM (Ultra High Quality Message) to Chad Kassem

Last Sunday while back on the east coast AnalogPlanet’s Malachi Lui paid a visit. We hadn’t seen each other since late July so it was great catching up in person. We spent much of the time together comparing multiple copies of Axis: Bold As Love including a preliminary pressing of the upcoming Analogue Productions UHQR 200 gram vinyl edition in both mono and stereo mixes housed in a not quite finalized version of the exquisite packaging. I shot an impromptu video of the opinionated Mr. Lui fully expressing his views directly towards AP’s Chad Kassem. When I suggested that we post the video on AnalogPlanet both Kassem and Lui said “OK” so please watch it below. Lui insisted on writing an intro to the Experience experience, which you’ll find directly below this.—Ed.

The penultimate sentence in my recent SACD review of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold As Love reads, “if this is any indication, Analogue Productions’ upcoming stereo UHQR edition of this title will be a sonic force to be reckoned with.” Despite previously moaning about these “cash grab” Hendrix reissues, after being stunned by the SACD, I immediately asked my mom to order AP’s stereo UHQR of the album as my one requested Christmas gift.

Now, I can truly attest that AP’s mono and stereo UHQR (Ultra High Quality Record) releases of Axis: Bold As Love are anything but a “cash grab.” AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer and I compared original stereo British Track and American Reprise (“ tri-color steamboat” label) pressings, George Marino’s 2010 all-analog cut (plated and pressed at RTI, not QRP), DSD and Redbook layers of the SACD’s stereo portion, and the new stereo UHQR 200 gram vinyl pressed using the same mastering as the SACD, but of course all-analog.

MF and I agree that the SACD’s Redbook layer and the Marino master are the worst, with their respective low resolution and extremely exaggerated highs. The original British pressing is too “polite” for its own good, but the DSD and original American “steamboat” pressing both offer outstanding transparency and EQ balance.

However, AP’s UHQR mastered by Bernie Grundman towers above the rest. During our listening session, I told MF, “if someone doesn’t like this record’s sound, their listening situation is crap.” It’s everything the SACD offers and more, minus the slight digital sheen, and shockingly quieter (Yes! The vinyl produced blacker backgrounds than did the SACD, hence the "shock"—Ed). In addition, the packaging (which was sent in an unfinalized version) is stunning; the album itself is housed in a Stoughton tip-on gatefold while the outer two-piece box is of excellent build and features a beautiful wooden spine.

Fremer and I also compared the 2013 mono LP mastered by Bernie Grundman to Grundman’s new mono UHQR cut. Both were excellent, but the UHQR edged the 2013 LP with more detail, less smoothness, and slightly quieter vinyl.

More UHQR titles are reportedly in the works, but for now, fewer than 1,000 stereo copies of Axis: Bold As Love remain while the mono release limited to 1,500 copies is sold out.

As you may notice, the video below is directly addressed to AP’s Chad Kassem. Kassem didn’t want any reviews leaking before release, but gave permission for this short personal message to be published.

(Full written review coming upon official release.)

To watch the video click on the hyperlink below!

Malachi Opines

AnalogJ's picture

Was the Classic Records mono one of the ones you compared when you were doing the listening?

MalachiLui's picture

We pulled out the Classic Records mono cut but didn't listen to it - we did listen to Grundman's 2013 mono cut for Experience Hendrix/Legacy. The 2013 mono isn't far behind the mono UHQR, though.

Hermanenmonja's picture

...can we expect it?

mraudioguru's picture

"More UHQR titles are reportedly in the works". Maybe they need to work out how to get the first ones released first?

I pre-ordered both of these titles, (stereo & mono), the very first day that were available to order. That was well over a year ago. What is taking so long?

I realize and totally understand wanting to get it right, but really, how long does it take?

DavidC's picture

releases it might be a good idea to get the first one sent to your customers. I hope it gets better QC than the Electric Ladyland. I'd prefer my copy to have no "nothingburgers".

High Rant District's picture

It's very cool that you hang out and share experiences with him now and then - you can tell he's having a great time! He's got the makings of a great reviewer. I ordered the mono version just over a year ago and look forward to listening to it when it eventually arrives. I rarely buy reissues but this one has me curious.

Mile High Music's picture

Thank you for your charming and insightful shared review. I've been on the fence for a long, long time on this one but your views on the different versions persuaded me to order a copy. Yes, ultimately we must each decide for ourselves but the odds are good this UHQR will be a keeper. I look forward to hearing it and hopefully soon. Happy holidays to you both! Cheers!

Jim Tavegia's picture

I take it both are made from the same masters and who did the SACD mastering? Just curious.

jlstrat's picture

I seem to remember that Mr. F liked George Marino's mastering of Axis
when it came out.

M1chael's picture

Mikey, why don’t you make a digital copy of APs UHQR vinyl at 24/96 or 24/192 and compare it with the SACD version. If your copy betters the SACD like the vinyl does then we have to ask why the official hi-rez issues don’t sound like the master tape or whatever is being used. Where is the loss happening? You would think their equipment would be better than what you’re using.

Johnnyjajohnny's picture

"It's everything the SACD offers and more, minus the slight digital sheen"
In other words, the playback equipment most likely has the typical light dip (1-2 dB) in frequency response around 3-5 kHz or so, which makes it sound a bit more relaxed (less harshness, which people, mistakenly, attribute to digital), followed by the typical light peak around 10-12 kHz which will add a bit of air.
All characteristics of vinyl playback equipment that is usually, mistakenly, attributed by vinyl lovers to "magical" qualities in the vinyl medium itself.

xtcfan80's picture

Yes johnny ....we vinyl lovers loves us some analog distortion....

Jim Tavegia's picture

My worst sounding SACD is Billy Joel's The Stranger, by far. Little energy below 80hz. Reduced energy declining at 6khz continuing to over 20khz at -84db, but filled with random noise, but low in volume that no one would notice it. There is a rise in noise at 33khz to 47khz, but still visible at -91db. Most likely an SACD artifact due to extended frequency response. All this is seen in my FFT program. This is from Scenes From The Italian Restaurant...a great song. Much the same in Vienna. The audio Freq drops at 1khz and continues down to 7khz dropping gradually to -60db.

The sound of Joel's pianos were always bad, but I think this was an artistic choice. In his Classical Piano CD his piano sounds great, as it should. When the piano is the only sound it has to be right.

My original LP has been played so many times I would never use it for a comparison, but I was hoping that this SACD made from the master tape would be much better than it is. It hardly gets played as the rest of my SACD's are the best sound I've ever heard I have have 3 turntables and have loved vinyl over the years. I will take a great 2496 copy over an LP every time. I look forward to when I buy a Tascam DA-3000 in 2019 and start making my own DSD recordings, but everything thing I have done over the last 5 years in 2496 and 24912 has been great, or at least as good as I can do.

If an SACD sounds bad it had to be bad mastering or a bad master tape. I will never believe that an new mastered LP from the same source will beat a properly mastered SACD. You don't have the same cutting restrictions in the bass with SACD you have with cutting an LP.

JC1957's picture

You said that Billy Joel's The Stranger SACD sounds awful, but which one? There's the original Sony from 1999 and the later Mo-Fi. I have the 1999 Sony and have no problem with it.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I took a chance and lost.

SLS's picture

what you're trying to do.

Having said that, there's little chance that your young partner has the experience necessary to judge this type of music from all perspectives. That, my friend is crucial.

warpig's picture

Haha I agree I ordered these well over a year ago. By the time they ship I may need ZVOX's VB20 to listen to them.
Happy Listening.

rosiemax's picture

I would think it would be impossible to appreciate Hendrix,without getting smoky. This kid is sensational but if he is also,out of sight,is he of this planet?

karl sartori's picture

must we all wait till the last 1000 stereo copies of this lp are sold?as the world turns my turntable isn't for this spinner.age will not weary them but it sure does me.kick some ass and get it done as i would like to burst an eardrum or two and go deaf happy while i am stillable to aggravate my missus with extremely loud music she dosen't particularly appreciate.(some sarcsam and hubris intended)

tzh21y's picture

I have an original 2nd press of Bold as Love and it sounds great.