Want a Lacquer of A Love Supreme Cut From the Original Master Tape?

Not kidding. Supersense and Universal Music Group, Austria are making available a limited number of lacquers cut directly from the original master tapes of a few albums including A Love Supreme and Getz/Gilberto. That's what they are saying, I don't blame you for being incredulous.

The program is called "Supersense Mastercut Editions". It's similar to ERC's thing, except Supersense cuts lacquers and doesn't press records. The presentation uses traditional letterpress and hot foil printing techniques but more to the point, they have an all-analog cutting chain and six lathes so they can cut 6 lacquers simultaneously.

I know, some of this doesn't make much sense or even Supersense. Why would UMG allow master tapes to be repeatedly played? Why would the master be shipped to Austria? I do not know but the website says : "For this project, Universal Music Group, the world leader in music- based entertainment, provided access to its archives containing the greatest recordings from over a century of music history. These reproductions are mady by carefully selecting original sound recordings that are transferred to disc completely unedited from the original tape."

For the Coltrane lacquer the site says "Premier cut: 01-99, USA edition 01-500". I do not know what that means. However I have been told that the tape being used is the original tape Rudy Van Gelder rejected years after the first release because of flaws. Instead he chose the tape copy sent to the U.K. shortly after the recording. It's apparently in better condition and sounds better. Nonetheless, you can get the original tape cut to lacquer in this deluxe presentation and either play it or hang it on the wall.

I can understand doing this with the Coltrane tape but Getz/Gilberto played back hundreds of times? I don't get that. A copy used for these purposes I get. In any case, we'll stay on top of this and fill you in with more details as we get them.

For more information go to the Supersense website. Incidentally, I visited Supersense in Vienna a few years ago and you can "visit" yourself by clicking on the embedded video below. The same people, by the way, brought back Polaroid film.

GAAudioLVR's picture

I have never owned nor heard one but aren't these extremely fragile and wear out way before a vinyl pressing would? Please correct me if I'm wrong in my thinking.

PeterPani's picture

this one is only for collectors. And several pieces for the archive of Universal. I would buy a reel-to-reel copy for sure, but not a lacquer.

gbougard's picture

Instead of very fragile lacquers, they should lathe cut vinyl records: the sound would be as good if not better and the media would be very durable

I do this for the records I produce on my TABOU1 label. In order to maximize the space for each groove, and ensure a HUGE, top quality sound, I ask the genius (lathe cutting vinyl is an art) doing these for me to cut 2 tracks on each side, rather than a full side. So, a full 8 song LP becomes a double.

MrRom92's picture

This is stupid in every conceivable sense and at this point we’ve gone well beyond the realm of audiophilia and into the realm of manufactured collectibles. The lacquer won’t even sound the same after one week let alone 50 years. I thought we were all about making things that endured and could stand up proudly alongside the other, already decades-old records on our shelves? And UMG allows their tapes to get 50 passes on them for something like this but one or 2 passes by a well known engineer is just too much for their “precious” “fragile” master tapes to hold up to?

Dual's picture

How do you run six lathes at the same time?

WesHeadley's picture

Greed has no boundaries does it? So let's wear out precious master tapes to make a very very limited series of master lacquers for the well-to-do to stick in a closet or play a couple of times on their trophy systems and then file away in their asset lists. Doing this very likely means forgoing making future lacquers from what will now be very worn out/compromised tapes. Tapes that could be used to create vinyl editions that would be available to a far larger audience. What a lame scam to cash in on whatever life is left in those tapes by making them into very limited life collectibles that almost no one will ever get a chance to hear. Sick of this shit. Absolute sound, or absolute BS?

Michael Fremer's picture
They are using a copy.
Anton D's picture

Devialet did this a few years ago with lacquers of their Lost Recordings.

Part of the pitch was that these were 'play once' pieces, and the owner would plan when to play them and then expect to say sayonara.

Link: The lacquers are at the bottom...https://www.devialet.com/en-us/the-lost-recordings/

Over-all I would call this 'stunt Hi Fi,' so not in my area of interest.

I agree with some of the people above: I don't think this would be inherently superior to an LP pressed in the exact same fashion, but the LP would last better.

I think the Devialet lacquers were priced in the thousands, so the ~550-600 dollar price tags are a bit surprising.

WesHeadley's picture

Exactly. Also, and maybe worse, not really about the music.

Synaptic's picture

...includes "a Minolta EP 410Z copy of the original notes by John Coltrane" Oh geez, please don't tell me that zerox photocopies are now considered hipster / artesianal artifacts... ugh.

Anton D's picture

Includes an NFT image of the Minolta EP 410Z image of the original notes.

That could go for thousands these days.

mcrushing's picture

This piece is FAR too kind, Mikey.

It's no secret that "rareness" is the drug we collectors can't quit, and with a finite number of private press grails out there, labels have been MORE than happy to condition an entire generation to get that kick from standing in line for limited edition "ooh sparkly vinyl" pressings of mid-to-major releases that are otherwise not even remotely hard to come by.

This would seem to be the zenith of that rotten trend, given the products on offer have seen literally hundreds of reissues already, and the process results in (a) pressings with near-zero musical utility and (b) masters placed in totally unnecessary peril.

I doubt anyone reading this would consider those tapes anything less than national treasures, and here goes UMG - AGAIN - proving itself utterly unworthy of their care.

ab_ba's picture

We’re always saying we want to know about the provenance of the records we buy. Here it seems they are telling us. Except for the issue of which tape this is. Michael, do you know which recent re-presses of ALS come from the tape RVG preferred? And, do we know where this “original” but not favored tape has been for the past 60 years?

AZ's picture

"Our Mastercut Records are cut directly from completely unedited 1:1 copies of carefully selected original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings." - https://supersense.com/mastercut/

ab_ba's picture

That's a reassuring tidbit, AZ. I'd hope it assuages a lot of the concerns other comments here have expressed. It seems to me the 1000th (or better, the first) run of that tape could be used to make a proper lacquer, that gets made into a stamper for another round of 999 "one-step" copies. If Supersense sells those for reasonable rates ($50 or so), then there should be literally no reason for anybody to complain about their (or UMe's) business model. We can all have a slice of the pie, and those who want to can have fun comparing a lacquer to a one-step pressing.

mcrushing's picture

Good eye, AZ. But unfortunately this not only fails to assuage my concerns, it provides me with yet another bone to pick.

This is copy from the page Mikey linked to:
"Our Mastercut Records are cut completely unedited directly from the original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings."

This is from the "learn more" page:
"Our Mastercut Records are cut directly from completely unedited 1:1 copies of carefully selected original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings."

One of these statements is untrue, Supersense.

Care to tell us which?

AZ's picture

Of course, contradictory statements are even worse than the already mentioned lack of transparency regarding sources and cutting process. I've no doubt that no one at UMG (or WMG, or Sony) would ever let them play with the vault tapes like they want to... So using "directly from the original tapes" was a bit reckless... but understandable, as tape "copies" could be nearly as bad as "digital" PR wise ^_^

AZ's picture

Their listed price is €377 per copy. Of course, $50 doesn't even come close to covering the expenses. You wouldn't even be able to purchase two 12" MDC blanks for $50...

MrRom92's picture

This does change things a bit, in which case, they can knock themselves out - it’s still a stupid product however not an inherently harmful one. At least not to anything other than their own tape copy. I also noticed other changes to their page since this was posted. More concerning is that it seems the “original” UMG tapes they are working from in the first place are not exactly original anyway. Meaning any lacquers cut from these tapes, plated/pressed or not, or sold individually like they are currently doing, will be at least a generation down from the original masters… and you know us audiophiles just loooove LPs cut from tape dubs!

I say at least, because by looking at the “original” tape they showed for Getz/Gilberto, it was clearly a vintage (70’s?) Dolby A safety. They’ve since removed the photo. I have to wonder if other people picked up on this and said something?

AZ's picture

Another thing is that they're not very transparent about their cutting process. We don't know who cuts the acetates and what their system is. Any EQ or limiting involved? No details whatsoever. One could have a perfect tape copy from the right master and lose everything it offers with subpar equipment and mastering techniques. This leads me to the conclusion that we may not be dealing with an audiophile product here...

Analog Scott's picture

you caught that too. HUGE red flags

rl1856's picture

Interesting information. Questions of ethics and business model aside, this release does raise questions. "...the tape being used is the original tape Rudy Van Gelder rejected years after the first release because of flaws. Instead, he chose the tape copy sent to the U.K. shortly after the recording. It's apparently in better condition and sounds better." Does this mean that a true US 1st Pressing is the only pressing derived from the original master ? Are we to believe that subsequent reissues were derived from the tape sent to the UK, and this tape became the "working" master ? Does a record exist of which tape (original or UK copy) was used for various pressings ? I am not a customer of the new release, but I do have interest in knowing which is the best pressing to listen to.

AZ's picture

The original RVG cut was definitely from the master, but it wasn't perfect sonically. Other vintage cuts may or may not be from the same tape. The best currently affordable pressing is the Acoustic Sounds Series reissue cut from a copy tape that was sent to the UK back in the 60's.

Analog Scott's picture

suffers from a major 60hz hum. It's bad

Michael Fremer's picture
I have one of those and the hum starts as soon as you lower the stylus into the groove.
javabarn's picture

They show 99/99 for the Getz edition then on checkout, it now shows an explanation of due to overwhelming global demand, it will take up to four weeks. I am wondering if the "limited 99 editions still stick since "global" great demand sounds alot more than a mere 99 copies.. AND Chad has the Getz on 45 rpm.. i am wondering how that edition would sound again this 33 rpm cut....

Analog Scott's picture

What exactly is going into the cuts? Are there any EQ choices being made? Any compression? Who is doing the cutting? A lot of important issues seem to be unaddressed. Did I miss something at the website?

Analog Scott's picture

"Our Mastercut Records are cut directly from completely unedited 1:1 copies of carefully selected original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings." COPIES. These are at least one generation down from the master tapes. At least!!! What does "carefully selected sound recordings" actually mean? One can arguably "carefully select" a 3rd generation safety copy. IMO these are serious red flags

javabarn's picture

well i just got an email from the founder/president who said that i must understand that he cannot answer 23 emails from every customer?? i may have emailed EIGHT times with unanswered questions other than he gets goosebumps after a 100 plays....this goes against what EVERYBODY who knows about lacquers says.. so i was left with unanswered questions and was just told to "FOLLOW MY HEART" lol so i passed... i really wanted it to work to own one, but i just couldnt do it...

javabarn's picture

i just have to believe i will be more than satisfied with Chads 45 rpm version for 60 bucks anyway, so i will order that one... Supersense did tell me that coltrane is sold out already and only a few getz are left. So you all better hurry... :)

sckott's picture

This tests how people can be stupid with their money. Once you play the laquer a few times, it's going to start to show and sound bad. So this tape might end up in the Universal vault or Iron Mountain. Still, the transfers made already can't be beat.

Static's picture

Hmm...is it crazy to buy one of these...some people say I'm crazy for buying vinyl in the first place and can find no reason to own it. I also get that same reaction to hi res files. I will say that ..if you REALLY love the artist and the album it may be worth buying...anyway most tapes used out there are copies ...in the past and def nowadays...right?
Plus...those who are willing to purchase these obviously beautiful pressings...should be able to. I use the same philosophy when I get the question from my spouse..."why do you need another copy of that?!" Well ..because I love the album and I want the best possible reproduction of it...do I do this for every album that comes out..nope...just the ones I really cant live without...to each his or her own.

ab_ba's picture

I just listened my Mastercut of A Love Supreme for the first time. What an exquisite sound. It’s clear as a bell. It shimmers. It’s warm. It’s riveting. John’s sax was clear, warm, and never strident. What stood out for me were the clarity of the bass and the drums, especially the hi-hat. I have five other pressings of ALS, including an original in decent shape. This was the most rewarding listening experience of them all. I’ll cherish it.

I must have been one of the first to pounce when Michael posted this article, since mine was cut six days later, and it’s numbered in the 40s. I can tell that the tape that was used indeed has issues - there’s some distinctive tape artifact audible occasionally, most prominently in the drum solo that kicks off side 2. (I’ve got an old reel to reel deck, so I’m familiar with the particular sound of tape artifact. This sounds like that, so I doubt it's a cutting artifact.) Also, there are times, especially on side 1 during the bass solo when it’s evident you are listening to a record. Would this particular lacquer I own serve as a good starting point for a run of 10,000 pressings? Probably not. Nevertheless, it sounds better than almost any other record in my collection. The mastering is extremely well done - if any EQ was applied at all, it was done tastefully so that no aspect of the sound is out of balance. The sound is no different from what I’m familiar with - just better. Now I have one of my favorite albums as one of my best-sounding records, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Will I be pleased with how it’s sounding in 20 years? Who can say. I learned a little bit about the company’s philosophy, and I really like it. They are trying to provide a whole multisensory experience, not just a collectible record. The accompanying materials feel handmade with great skill and care. The paper even smells great. About 15 years ago, for a while I was obsessed with William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. One stark, beautiful, simple piece of electronic/ambient music, played on tape over and over again until it completely wore out. You just listened to the sound of that gradual destruction and felt … peaceful. If this lacquer does change its sound with repeated listens, I think I’ll just see that as part of the experience.

cpreal's picture

Is Chad at Acoustic Sounds putting out a tape of this? Looks like it in his recent video.....