The rationale was three-fold:
1. play the tape as little as possible because it's not in good shape
2. try to match the sound to what people are used to. This album has a huge "sonic memory" out there
with the buying public and critics. If the reissue team didn't reference the original LPs for the
mix and the general sonic ambience, they'd get slammed by critics and careful-listening fans. Those
who don't "get" or accept this rationale are thinking too much as a scientist or engineer and not
enough as a music business person. One has to understand the market, plain and simple. Deviating too
far from what I call a "sonic memory" is toxic to sales. I can cite numerous examples.
3. given that Mark Wilder has a long track record of excellent remasters that sell well, I tend to
trust his judgement to mix outside the box. In my own experiments with using, for instance Izotope's
"mastering EQ" plug-in in Sony Soundforge vs. going back out to analog and using my Great River
mastering equalizer, I always prefer the Great River. I do not believe that DSP has gotten as
good-sounding as the best analog gear for "sweetening" something to an individual's taste. I'd trust
the Great River or my trusty Pultec equalizers anyday over any DSP I've heard. I would also trust
Mark's analog mixer over, for instance, the ubiquitous Protools mixing interface. Again, this is not
worth arguing if someone is a hardcore believer in doing these things in the box. Tomato, tomahto.
Wilder and Sony have a proven track record of sales to back up their work methods.
I also think they cut new LPs out of the mixdown process. Like the LP niche-renaissance or not,
cutting an LP that will retail for $30 with a $10 profit for the issuer is a good business move for
a popular title like this.
Regarding why the mono -- purely a marketing choice. There are many fans out there, myself included,
who prefer the mono version of this album and are thrilled to have it in a high-resolution new
version (I'm probably not alone having worn out my original mono Columbia LP). Like the mono Beatles
albums, at least up to Sgt. Pepper -- and we can debate whether this is true all the way through
their last mono offering, the White Album -- with the Miles Davis small-group albums of the late 50s
and early 60s, the music hangs together better in the mono mixes. I immediately notice that I hear
complete ensemble songs instead of compositions of well-played sounds coming from three different
directions. I feel the same way about the Blue Note small-group records up to the mid-60s.
Small-group jazz does lend itself to close-in mic'ing in order to get all the details of playing.
But, then taking those close-mic'd signals and building them into a non-distracting stereo image
took some learning and practice. It still wasn't right in the 70s, when you'd have close-in
wide-spread stereo mic'ing of the piano (inside the lid, invariably) and drums, but have
single-mic'd horns then spread across the soundstage (think of Pablo small-group records made at A&R
or Group IV studios). It was unrealistic, like one's head was simultaneously inside the piano, drum
set and yet out in the room to hear the horns spread across a plain. One can get used to it, but an
excellent mono mix keeps just the music and the ensemble front and center.
Given how terrible the original CD reissues of Sony's jazz library sounded (including "Kind of
Blue"), I am thrilled that lessons were learned and budgets are being used to get us modern
remasters that are faithful to the "sonic memory" but also crisp and clear and dynamic as is
expected in a modern setting. To my ears, the "Kind of Blue" remasters keep the balance and vitality
of the original issues but remove several layers of fuzz and gauze, so you get the same instrument
tonality and mix approved by the original team, but it's now like you're hearing it out of the
original signal chain instead of behind a layer of cutting-master tape smear and LP fuzz. Oh, and
this stereo version is speed-corrected, unlike the original LP.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Haley" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 9:30 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] The new "Kind of Blue" remasters explained
> Of course they should have used the session tapes, not later mixdowns.
> That's a given. The part I don't get here is doing DA and AD conversion
> just to use the analog mixer, if I understood that right. The resulting
> 192/24 signal has thus been unnecessarily converted twice already and
> subjected to a bunch of old analog electronics. Also, I don't get the need
> for a mono version derived from the same tapes, and personally, instead of
> that I would much rather have had a three-track SACD version, which they
> have precluded, but that's me.
> John Haley
> On Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 6:44 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" archival transfer made by Mark Wilder on an
>> This text (below) copied from the Kind of Blue description at HDTracks.com
>> (HIGHLY recommend the new 192/24 downloads of BOTH stereo and mono, they
>> sound fantastic): The new mono mix is also in the new Miles Davis Mono CD
>> box set. As I understand the description below and in other interviews with
>> Wilder and Berkowitz, the 192/24 transfer from the 3-track was a straight,
>> high-quality NAB playback. Then all remixing and remastering was done by
>> bringing the 3-track high-resolution digital back out to analog, mixing and
>> processing using analog equipment, and then back to a 192/24 stereo (and
>> mono) master.
>> Kind of Blue Becomes Digital, by Engineer Mark Wilder
>> "Since the Kind of Blue mixed masters are multiple generations from the
>> original (due to excessive play/wear), we decided to go directly to the
>> original session reels. Not only does this put us at the original session
>> as a starting point, but it also allows us to deal with the pitch issue as
>> The three, 3-track half-inch tapes are in good condition, but age has
>> force them to "scallop" a little, meaning that the edges curl away from the
>> tape head. This changed the initial focus from mixing from the originals to
>> archiving them before mixing and working from the archive files. This
>> allowed us to gently guide the tape against the playback head to get
>> optimal contact and fidelity.
>> The archiving was done at 192kHz/24 bits, played from a modified Ampex ATR
>> 104, and hard-wired to HDCD Model 2's directly patched to a Lynx 2 sound
>> An upside to working from the archive files was the ability to chase the
>> original fader moves done during the mix in 1959. We constantly compared to
>> an early pressing - mono and stereo - and worked bar by bar to duplicate
>> the level moves on the three tracks to match as well as possible.
>> Each channel was converted to analog and passed through a GML mixer,
>> bussed to stereo or mono - depending on the release format - and converted
>> once again to 192Kc/24 bits. At the GML, we inserted processing where
>> - Mark Wilder, Battery Studios
>> -- Tom Fine