Supersense Mastercut Edition Lacquers

puroagave

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Mine arrived today. They are outstanding. No buts, ifs, or howevers. Just superb sounding. Insanely quiet. Clarity galore. Strong and textured bass. Balanced tone. All the boxes checked …
which titles?
 

JRW1971

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ban25

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Thought I'd share my experience after purchasing the mastercut of Bill Evans Trio 64. I ended up with No 73 out of 99. Total time from order to delivery was about 5 days, so quite snappy coming all the way from Austria! The album was carefully packaged: double-boxed, bubble wrapped, and secured in its sleeve via thumbscrew into thick cardstock. It arrived in immaculate condition and sounds fantastic -- this is by far the best record I own, even relative to UHQR releases (KoB, ALS, etc.).

Overall, I'm very impressed at the job Supersense has done here and can't wait to see what they release next. If only I had gotten my hands on Gilberto / Getz when it was available!


Trio64_1.jpg
Trio64_2.jpg
Trio64_3.jpg
 

Zeotrope

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Isn't it easier to just make tape copies as Chad and others are doing ? I doubt a lacquer would sound better than a 1:1 tape copy. And copying tape is a much more reliable process than cutting lacquer. I guess Universal is more likely to license their recordings for lacquer, since making tape copies risk piracy. On the other hand, if someone wants to make copies, they can already use the digital files that are easily available.
No, because the tape copy you buy is a copy of a copy of a copy. Each copy adds a few dB of noise, among other issues. The Supersense are directly off the master. I have several, they all sound great (but the live direct cut Guy Chambers did not).
The lacquers are fragile though.
The concern is not wear from playback its damage from handling. You have to be VERY careful - do not even brush them - just air blower to get the dust off. I nicked one side of Gilberto/Getz with the record weight and the last track now skips… but man does it sound great.
 
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mtemur

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The Supersense are directly off the master.
Unfortunately supersense is cut from a copy too. Probably a copy of a copy of a copy of the master tape but I’m glad to hear that it sounds great.
 
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Zeotrope

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Unfortunately supersense is a copy too. Probably a copy of a copy of a copy of the master tape but I’m glad to hear that it sounds great.
No, that’s not correct. Not sure what made you think so but it’s entirely incorrect:
“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. Our Mastercut Records are cut completely unedited directly from the original tapes of carefully selected sound recordings.
 
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adrianywu

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No, because the tape copy you buy is a copy of a copy of a copy. Each copy adds a few dB of noise, among other issues. The Supersense are directly off the master. I have several, they all sound great (but the live direct cut Guy Chambers did not).
The lacquers are fragile though.
The concern is not wear from playback its damage from handling. You have to be VERY careful - do not even brush them - just air blower to get the dust off. I nicked one side of Gilberto/Getz with the record weight and the last track now skips… but man does it sound great.
Which tape copies are you referring to ? For example, 2XHD and Audionautes both received the session tapes for Jazz at the Pawnshop for their tape releases. Opus 3 also uses their session tapes for their limited series of tape copies. For Analogue productions, a 1/2" production master is made from the original edited work parts and tapes are copied from this master. I very much doubt Mastersense would be allowed to cut each individual lacquer with the ancient original session masters. At best, it would be a production master, copied from the session masters or more likely a safety master. While tape copies are often made with 8 or more recorders in parallel, the lacquers are cut one at a time. The master tapes won't be able to survive playing back 50 times to cut 50 lacquers.
 

Zeotrope

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Which tape copies are you referring to ? For example, 2XHD and Audionautes both received the session tapes for Jazz at the Pawnshop for their tape releases. Opus 3 also uses their session tapes for their limited series of tape copies. For Analogue productions, a 1/2" production master is made from the original edited work parts and tapes are copied from this master. I very much doubt Mastersense would be allowed to cut each individual lacquer with the ancient original session masters. At best, it would be a production master, copied from the session masters or more likely a safety master. While tape copies are often made with 8 or more recorders in parallel, the lacquers are cut one at a time. The master tapes won't be able to survive playing back 50 times to cut 50 lacquers.
Supersense is cut directly off the first copy of the master tape. Deutsch Grammophon made an investment in Supersense, which is probably how they get access to the tapes.
The copy is played 100 times to make 100 lacquers.

The albums on R2R are not limited to 100 units, as far as I can tell, and 100 plays is - from what I have read - the limit before SQ degrades on a tape. So you are getting a copy that is multiple copies away from the master. Sonic Flare talked about this on his YouTube channel. Michael Fremer talked about this on Tracking Angle (John Coltrane UHQR review comments).

That said, it would be interesting to compare sound quality between a Supersense album on a really high-end TT, with a tape of the same album that is purchased (I.e., not a one-off tape that someone owns, but a store-bought album).
 

Zeotrope

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According to a highly regarded mastering engineer I spoke to about Supersense:
another potential drawback with the Supersense lacquers is that on a revealing system, the metallic disc does alter the sound.
 

adrianywu

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Supersense is cut directly off the first copy of the master tape. Deutsch Grammophon made an investment in Supersense, which is probably how they get access to the tapes.
The copy is played 100 times to make 100 lacquers.

The albums on R2R are not limited to 100 units, as far as I can tell, and 100 plays is - from what I have read - the limit before SQ degrades on a tape. So you are getting a copy that is multiple copies away from the master. Sonic Flare talked about this on his YouTube channel. Michael Fremer talked about this on Tracking Angle (John Coltrane UHQR review comments).

That said, it would be interesting to compare sound quality between a Supersense album on a really high-end TT, with a tape of the same album that is purchased (I.e., not a one-off tape that someone owns, but a store-bought album).
Analogue productions have, I think ,at least 8 ATR102 machines running in parallel, so they can make 8 copies in one go. I think they are allowed to make one production master with 1/2" tape from the master sent by the record label. Even if limited to 100 runs, they can make 800 copies, but I don't think any of the titles has sold that many copies. In any case, with the ATR102 being one of the machines with the best mechanics, they can probably do 200 runs without problem. I don't know what will happen when the quality of the production master starts to deteriorate. I suspect they will simply withdraw the title from sale. Foné and Opus 3 will only make 50 copies (one by one on demand) for each title, since these tapes are copied directly from the session masters. Audionautes was allowed to make one production master and one safety master from the Proprius session tapes, but Fabio has not indicated how many copies he will sell, since the tapes are also copied one by one. I believe in fact that the licensing deal with Proprius places a limit on how many copies he can do.
I have compared many of the commercially available R2R from Analogue Productions (I have all the titles from the first 2 series and part of the 3rd) and Tape Project (all the titles on the first series) as well as Audionautes. So far, I have not found any LP release of the same titles that can even come close, esp. for orchestral works. It is simply impossible to squeeze all the signal off the master tapes into an LP groove. For less dynamic, smaller scale music, the difference might be less obvious. For copies of production or safety masters (and a few directly from edited work parts), of which I have about 250 titles, the quality can be more variable, depending on the provenance of the source tape and their condition. The best ones are equally dramatic.
 

Zeotrope

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Interesting insights @adrianywu. I didn’t think any label was allowed to play the original masters 50x, but I assume your info is correct.
What record player are you using to compare?
I can tell you that my Nagra Reference TT/cartridge/HD Phono has no noticeable noise (and my horns will amplify the slightest noise), with most well pressed albums. And dynamics and frequency range, are incredible. Orchestral? I have grown up attending my father’s concerts (he is a professional violist) and I compare to that reference. Last year I was at John William’s 90th Birthday concert at Lincoln Center, seated in the 3rd row, center. Closing my eyes while playing the Raiders’ March from the DG Berlin concert took me right there - it was incredible.
Turntable innovation has come a lot further than tape machine innovation in the last 2-3 decades, so it would be interesting to compare a truly world class TT playback system with a R2R.
Tape is EQ’ed as well, for the same reasons that EQ is applied to vinyl.
And tape can only be played back ~50 times before degradation occurs (which is why these masters are not played more for the albums you mentioned).
I have not yet heard of a review between say a Nagra/SAT/TechDas AF0/1 with a world class phono stage and a top level R2R, with a tape that anyone can buy (I.e., not a one off master copy).
 
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adrianywu

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Interesting insights @adrianywu. I didn’t think any label was allowed to play the original masters 50x, but I assume your info is correct.
What record player are you using to compare?
I can tell you that my Nagra Reference TT/cartridge/HD Phono has no noticeable noise (and my horns will amplify the slightest noise), with most well pressed albums. And dynamics and frequency range, are incredible. Orchestral? I have grown up attending my father’s concerts (he is a professional violist) and I compare to that reference. Last year I was at John William’s 90th Birthday concert at Lincoln Center, seated in the 3rd row, center. Closing my eyes while playing the Raiders’ March from the DG Berlin concert took me right there - it was incredible.
Turntable innovation has come a lot further than tape machine innovation in the last 2-3 decades, so it would be interesting to compare a truly world class TT playback system with a R2R.
Tape is EQ’ed as well, for the same reasons that EQ is applied to vinyl.
And tape can only be played back ~50 times before degradation occurs (which is why these masters are not played more for the albums you mentioned).
I have not yet heard of a review between say a Nagra/SAT/TechDas AF0/1 with a world class phono stage and a top level R2R, with a tape that anyone can buy (I.e., not a one off master copy).
I am only using a CTC Garrard 301 with an Alfred Bokrand 12" tonearm and Ikeda TT9 cartridge. That vs. a Nagra T Audio tape machine might not seem fair, but the Nagra did cost less when I bought it :)
I don't think the major differences come from the playback, but mostly from how the two media are made. Cutting a record involves electrical to mechanical conversion, and playback goes the other way. My experience with audio systems is that any time there is an electrical/mechanical interface (phono cartridge, loudspeaker driver, microphone), signal loss and distortion are orders of magnitude higher. You only need to compare the distortion figures of a speaker driver or a phono cartridge with that of an amplifier. And cutting lacquer is even more complicated, requiring hundreds of watts of power, as compared to just tracing the record groove or creating sound waves in air. As for Eq, the RIAA curve is more complicated than IEC with just one time constant, or NAB with two time constants. Bass frequencies under 100Hz also need to be summed to mono when cutting lacquer.
On professional machines, tapes can probably be played back 100 times or more before there is noticeable degradation. On the other hand, high frequencies start to diminish the first time an LP is played and the diamond shaves the groove. In fact, high frequencies start to diminish right after a lacquer is cut, since the groove changes shape as the lacquer cools down after the cutting stylus has passed. Therefore, mastering engineers try to get lacquers plated ASAP after cutting. This is one of the reasons why DMM was invented, but it has its own set of problems.
 

Zeotrope

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I can certainly appreciate cost as an important criterion ;), but for this topic I’m just interested in what sounds best. I’m not bashing the Gerrard 301 and Ikeda TT9, but you may be shocked if you hear a good album on a more exotic TT.
Tape has its own set of drawbacks, which I think you gloss over.

A record will not degrade, on a well setup TT. Fremer, and others have discussed this in the past. You can play a record back thousands of times with no deterioration. It will also last 100+ years with no degradation. Not so for a tape. Supersense lacquers will degrade of course, but there was a review where they were played back 100 times with no measurable degradation (that’s probably the limit, though).

If you are trying to copy and distribute a master tape, I believe vinyl is the best way to do it. Each copy of a tape degrades the sound (see Sonic Flare‘s YouTube discussion on this). No album on tape is copied from the master, simply because they cannot run the master tape dozens of times.I checked out Opus 3 and they certainly do not say they use the Master tape to make copies for the tapes they sell! They say “From the original albums” - that’s what they all say. Of course it’s from the original, but they don’t tell you how many copies are between the original and the tape you can buy.
With vinyl, the lacquer is often cut right from the master, or just 1 copy from the master.
It’s actually a simple mechanical process that - if you think about it - more closely matches the movement of the microphone diaphragm that actually created the recorded signal.
Not to say the plating and molding processes are perfect - far from it — but I think they preserve the original recording better than a tape (that you can buy). If you have a tape that’s a direct copy off the master, different story; but those are not purchasable by the public.

Fremer, in his Tracking Angle review of Coltrane’s Love Supreme (45 rpm UHRQ) recently made the same argument: that on his OMA K3, he bets it will sound better than the Analog Productions Tape. But it would be interestIng if he actually tried it.
 

mtemur

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Bass frequencies under 100Hz also need to be summed to mono when cutting lacquer.
As @Solypsa noted summing bass to mono is not a necessity. On some occasions summing under 120Hz or 90Hz can be beneficial for cutting but I have many records with bass panned to one channel.

BTW I got your point on tape vs lacquer. Thanks for the info.
 

Zeotrope

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It’s been well documented that bass direction under 100Hz cannot be determined by the ear/brain.
This is why subwoofers are placed anywhere in a room, where EQ is best, not where they produce a ‘stereo’ sound/imaging.
 
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Zeotrope

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Links for previous points:
2023-08-23 12:17:16 PM
Michael Fremer wrote:
I just had my A700 restored. It sounds great. However, consider that the UHQR record was cut directly from the second gen tape that sounds fantastic. The tape you buy is sourced from a copy of that tape, so you are listening to a copy of a copy of a copy of the original master tape. That's a considerable number of generations down compared to the source used to make the record. I have yet to hear any of these for sale tapes but hope to soon. My analog vinyl front end is state of the art, so it will be interesting to compare a UHQR to a tape....


Since we are here talking about “what’s best”, until I read, or hear, the same album on a top-tier TT and top-tier R2R, the evidence supports that vinyl sounds better. (I am not considering one-off tapes that are direct copies of the master, I am only considering commercially available albums.)
 
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adrianywu

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I can certainly appreciate cost as an important criterion ;), but for this topic I’m just interested in what sounds best. I’m not bashing the Gerrard 301 and Ikeda TT9, but you may be shocked if you hear a good album on a more exotic TT.
Tape has its own set of drawbacks, which I think you gloss over.

A record will not degrade, on a well setup TT. Fremer, and others have discussed this in the past. You can play a record back thousands of times with no deterioration. It will also last 100+ years with no degradation. Not so for a tape. Supersense lacquers will degrade of course, but there was a review where they were played back 100 times with no measurable degradation (that’s probably the limit, though).

If you are trying to copy and distribute a master tape, I believe vinyl is the best way to do it. Each copy of a tape degrades the sound (see Sonic Flare‘s YouTube discussion on this). No album on tape is copied from the master, simply because they cannot run the master tape dozens of times.I checked out Opus 3 and they certainly do not say they use the Master tape to make copies for the tapes they sell! They say “From the original albums” - that’s what they all say. Of course it’s from the original, but they don’t tell you how many copies are between the original and the tape you can buy.
With vinyl, the lacquer is often cut right from the master, or just 1 copy from the master.
It’s actually a simple mechanical process that - if you think about it - more closely matches the movement of the microphone diaphragm that actually created the recorded signal.
Not to say the plating and molding processes are perfect - far from it — but I think they preserve the original recording better than a tape (that you can buy). If you have a tape that’s a direct copy off the master, different story; but those are not purchasable by the public.

Fremer, in his Tracking Angle review of Coltrane’s Love Supreme (45 rpm UHRQ) recently made the same argument: that on his OMA K3, he bets it will sound better than the Analog Productions Tape. But it would be interestIng if he actually tried it.
What is your experience comparing master tapes to the Mastersense lacquers ? Which tape machines do you use and which tapes do you have ? I will be interested in getting one of the lacquers if they can equal or even be better than a tape copy.
 

mtemur

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It’s been well documented that bass direction under 100Hz cannot be determined by the ear/brain.
This is why subwoofers are placed anywhere in a room, where EQ is best, not where they produce a ‘stereo’ sound/imaging.
It’s under 120Hz. Yes, subwoofers are located away from the speakers in the room cause ear can not detect the direction under 120Hz but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any problem. Unlike direction, ear can easily detect phase differences under 120Hz. That’s the problem with subwoofer placement and using single subwoofer. As a result you can not place subwoofer anywhere in the room. IMHO subwoofers should never be used in a hi-end system.
 

mtemur

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Links for previous points:
2023-08-23 12:17:16 PM
Michael Fremer wrote:
I just had my A700 restored. It sounds great. However, consider that the UHQR record was cut directly from the second gen tape that sounds fantastic. The tape you buy is sourced from a copy of that tape, so you are listening to a copy of a copy of a copy of the original master tape. That's a considerable number of generations down compared to the source used to make the record. I have yet to hear any of these for sale tapes but hope to soon. My analog vinyl front end is state of the art, so it will be interesting to compare a UHQR to a tape....


Since we are here talking about “what’s best”, until I read, or hear, the same album on a top-tier TT and top-tier R2R, the evidence supports that vinyl sounds better. (I am not considering one-off tapes that are direct copies of the master, I am only considering commercially available albums.)
Are you comparing Supersense Mastercuts or vinyl to tape? The above article you referred to was about vinyl vs R2R tape. Things look like a little bit mixed here. Which is it that you’re comparing here, vinyl vs tape or supersense vs tape?

There are many vinyl reissues cut from “The” master tape but it’s highly unlikely for those precious master tapes travel to Austria and be used for every Supersense Mastercut. In one of the videos the owner of the Supersense facility clearly admits that they’re cut from a copy. IMHO it’s best a copy of a copy of a copy for American jazz titles.
 

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