If one has to use the word "legendary" to describe a musician or band, then when applied to the King Crimson it would be relatively painless from where I stand. Founded in London in January 1969 still the same year, in October they released the album that, let's not start to be modest now, forever changed the world of music. Recorded within just ten days In the Court of the Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson) created without any help from a producer, who didn't understand what this was all about. As Tony Clark said, the guy who was supposed to produce this album, "an organized anarchy is the basis for the King Crimson work: triggering powerful forces of chaos, and then looking for ways to return to equilibrium" (by Wieslaw Weiss, Rock Encyclopedia, Warsaw 1991). Apparently, it was too big a challenge for him.
Usually this music is referred to using the "progressive" term, understood as "progressive rock". One might as well describe it using terms such as: "eclectic", "artistic", "fusion", etc. Robert Fripp, who for all the years of group's existence was the driving force behind it and the only person who participated in the recording of all albums, was changing style, musicians, studios, producers, depending on the current direction of his explorations. So there are no two identical King Crimson albums, although one might claim that there are certain "series" based on a theme (eg. the "color" one).
This band had a great impact on the whole rock music, not just the progressive branch. They sourced from a variety of styles, assimilated to rock solutions known from jazz, classical and modern music. Its members were fantastic musicians, such as: Greg Lake, Gordon Haskel, Mel Collins, John Wetton, Bill Bruford, and Tony Levin who all had also successful solo careers as well as ones in other well-known bands.
One of the Robert Fripp's apprentices was Steven Wilson—musician, instrumentalist, record producer and master of the console. Known for a variety of projects including solo ones with experimental electronic music, avant-garde jazz and ambient, and for being member of famous bands such as: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and No-Man.
His technical skills and musical sensitivity have been appreciated not only by fans of his music, but also by his master—Robert Fripp, who on the band's 40th anniversary entrusted him with a very responsible task of remixing and remastering of the almost entire King Crimson catalog. The success of this project resulted in further orders—including ones from Jethro Tull and Yes, that entrusted Wilson with their master tapes.
The leader of Porcupine Tree is known for his almost obsessive care for even smallest details related to sound quality. It is not surprising than that his band's albums are issued in Japan as HiQualityCD and his solo albums in even more refined format of K2HD HQCD. Also his version of King Crimson albums was released as HiQualityCD (HQCD). The boxes released on the 40th anniversary of the band, apart from stereo CDs also included stereo versions in high definition, as well as multi-channel versions—Wilson is a fan of spatial/multi-channel music. No wonder that the Yes and Jethro Tull albums are also available in both, stereo and 5.1 versions.
At the end of April 2016 the first, and the beginning of May the second box were released in Japan, with the first eight albums of King Crimson. Nothing unusual about it, because boxes with their music have been released quite often. But this time there was more to it, because the discs were released as Platinum SHM-CD with 7'' covers. The Japanese recreated original covers with absolute perfection—every disc comes to us with two cover versions—Japanese and other one, often very different from the former (they used, for example, covers from first European releases).
These discs, as already mentioned, were released in Platinum SHM-CD format (in my opinion it is the best CD format up to now), but as a bonus buyers also received a DVD-A/V disc with a lot of material—hi-res stereo version (24/96) and multi-channel hi-res version based on the previous remaster, alternative mixes of the tracks and previously unreleased ones. Some discs contain also video footage of band's performances.
Exactly the same set of tracks was released in 2009 on the band's 40th anniversary. In Japan they were released as HiQualityCD. This version contained a completely different material than any previous King Crimson reissue. For the first time they resorted to the multi-track master tapes, and Steven Wilson, supervised by Robert Fripp, remixed this whole material, and prepared a new master (more HERE). The only exception is the album Red, which was not remixed for the stereo version, but only received a new mastering, using the same tapes as the version released for the band's thirtieth anniversary.
If we take a look at the Discogs list of King Crimson's releases, we will face a huge number of them. Each album was issued dozens of times, and the most popular of them, In the Court of the Crimson King, has nearly 200 editions listed there. Discogs is obviously not an oracle and some positions on the list repeat themselves, but on the other hand not all reissues are mentioned there. So one can assume that actually there are between 160 and 190 different editions of the album, which were released on various types of media.
The first release | If one narrows down the list to CD (and HDCD) releases, it turns out that there are only a few dozens that can be divided into several groups. The first digital releases (those from before the Red album period) come from the period between 1983 - 1986. The debut album was released in 1983 by the German branch of Polydor. The origin of the tapes from which the material was copied is unknown.
Analogue Remaster | we had to wait for the first remaster until 1989. It was released as the version of KC compact discs described as The Definitive Edition, marked AAD, which translates to using an analogue remaster. It was prepared by Robert Fripp and Tony Arnold.
1st digital remaster | Already a year later, however, the next version of the whole catalog was released, this time remastered in digital domain, in 24-bits, by Simon Heyword, Robert Fripp and, in the case of the debut album (In the court ...) also David Singleton. The whole catalog was released on HDCD and was called 30th Anniversary Edition.
HDCD – High Definition Compatible Disc is a format that allows to encode a 20-bit signal on a CD. One needs a CD player featuring a proper decoder to enjoy sound in full resolution, but such discs can be played in any CD Player in 16-bit.
As usual, if we talk about the King Crimson catalog, there is one exception: their debut album, released on November 15th, 2004 (also as HDCD) that was prepared using a completely new remaster. In 2003 in the archives of the Virgin label a stereo master-tape was discovered, even with the paste-ins, ie. the earliest possible version. This version of In The Court..., released in 2004, was named Original Master Edition. It is different than the 1999 remaster.
2nd digital remaster | The entire catalog was remastered again in 2009 (some titles in 2010). It is knows as the "40th Anniversary Edition", prepared by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson. In Japan, they were released as HQCD (HiQualityCD). Both previous remasters sourced material from production stereo master tapes (more about remastering HERE). For the first time Steven Wilson was handed the original multi-channel master tapes—from 8-track master in the case of the debut album, to 16- and 24-track ones for other titles. As he said, during the whole process he tried to make as little changes compared to the original version as possible, but sometimes he managed to fix some errors and shortcomings, adding an instrument, phrase and so on.
Between each of the remasters there are few or even several subsequent releases. One should mention eg. The 30th Anniversary Edition released in Japan on gold discs. Interestingly, these were regular Compact Discs and not the HDCDs. The latest version, Platinum SHM-CD, is only a re-edition of the 40th Anniversary Edition, not a new remaster.
Even this brief introduction proves how fascinating the world of King Crimson music releases is. When we received these new boxes there was no other option but to compare them to the previous releases. So that it made actual sense, ie. that we could perform a comparison within a reasonable period of time (it actually took us six hours), we chose to listen to four albums: In the Court of the Crimson King, Lizard, Larks' Tongues in Aspic and Red, and just a few tracks from each of them.
We narrowed the comparison even further down by selecting only some releases listed below; the list should hopefully prove that the comparison was quite comprehensive. Arabic numbers indicate subsequent remaster and Roman one subsequent comparison (see below):
In the Court of the Crimson King (an observation by King Crimson) (1969)
- The Definitive Edition (AAD), Virgin EG Records EGCD 1, CD | 1989 (UK). Re-Mastered by Robert Fripp and Tony Arnold
- 30th Anniversary Edition, Virgin CDVKCX I, 7243 8 48099 2 8, HDCD | 1999 (Europe). 24-bit remaster by Simon Heyword, Robert Fripp and David Singleton
- 21st Century Complete Edition, Series 1, #1, Universal International, Discipline Global Mobile UICE-9051, HDCD | 2004 (Japan). 24-bit remaster by Simon Heyword, Robert Fripp and David Singleton
- 40th Anniversary Edition, Wowow Entertainment, Inc., Discipline Global Mobile IEDG-01, Platinum SHM-CD + DVD-A/V | 2016 (Japan). Remixed by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson
- The Definitive Edition (AAD) EG, Virgin Japan VJCP-2303, CD | 1990 (Japan). Re-Mastered by Robert Fripp and Tony Arnold
- 30th Anniversary Edition, Virgin CDVKC3, 7243 8 44068 2 0, CD | 2000 (Europe). 24-bit remaster by Simon Heyword and Robert Fripp
- 30th Anniversary Edition | 3, Discipline Global Mobile PCCY-01423, gold-CD | 2000 (Japan). 24-bit remaster by Simon Heyword and Robert Fripp
- 40th Anniversary Edition, Wowow Entertainment, Inc., Discipline Global Mobile IEDG-03, Platinum SHM-CD + DVD-A/V | 2016 (Japan). Remixed by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson
Lark's Tongue in Aspic (1973)
- The Definitive Edition (AAD), Virgin EG Records EGCD 7, CD | 1989 (UK). Re-Mastered by Robert Fripp and Tony Arnold
- 2+3. 40th Anniversary Edition + 30th Anniversary Edition, WHD Entertainment, Inc., Discipline Global Mobile, Panegyric IECP-20220/20221 2 x HQCD | 2012 (Japan)
- 40th Anniversary Edition, Wowow Entertainment, Inc., Discipline Global Mobile IEDG-05, Platinum SHM-CD + DVD-A/V | 2016 (Japan). Remixed by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson
- 30th Anniversary Edition, Discipline Global Mobile/Pony Canyon PCCY-01427, HDCD | 2000 (Japan). 24-bit remaster by Simon Heyword and Robert Fripp
- 40th Anniversary Edition, Wowow Entertainment, Inc., Discipline Global Mobile IEDG-07, Platinum SHM-CD + DVD-A/V | 2016 (Japan). Remixed by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson
In the Court of the Crimson King (an observation by King Crimson) (1969)
The Definitive Edition (AAD) | CD | 1990 (Japan) vs 30th Anniversary Edition | CD | 2000 (Europe)
The 30th Anniversary Edition in terms of air volume, proper stereo image, and "spectacularity" seemed to be much better. Except for one thing: The Definitive Edition delivered much better vocals, that harmonized better with the rest of the music. It was less hissing, it wasn't so artificially "tuned-up"—there was something wrong with it on this second recording, sibilants were too strong, it was somewhat dirty. It added volume to the voice but it still sounded worse. The 30th Anniversary Edition every time served a nice space, depth and it already made an impression during short listening. But the voice, no doubts about, was much better on the first version we listened to.
What I want to say will be mostly consistent Janusz opinion, but with one significant difference between us - I liked vocal much more with the second version, the 30th Anniversary Edition. I'd say that this version sounded more truly to me—cymbals were nicely balanced, their sound clear, and the vocal was also very pure and transparent. In terms of stereo, stage depth, or generally—holography, for me, these two releases are almost identical. However, I would choose—if I had to—the second version.
For me, this comparison is a casus of a "late listener": the first part sounded like listened from behind closed doors, because I was late, and the second part sounded like I already got into the concert hall. That's how these two discs sounded like to me. The second version delivered proper sound depth, width and clear articulation. The big difference was made by percussion instruments, cymbals, decay—was a completely different story. The second version we listened to, the 30th Anniversary Edition, was much better, the difference was enormous.
I agree completely with Janusz—I liked the second version much more, except for the vocals. I can confirm that on the 30th Anniversary Edition they were somewhat blurred and very "tweaked".
I liked the second version more, too. The first was "muddy" like a 5 year old pond. The version based on digital remaster prepared for the 30th anniversary of the band presented more open, brighter sound, cymbals finally sounded right. I would even complain much about vocal - simply everything sounded better with the second version.
In general, I agree with you. But I have a comment to what he Janusz said—Janusz said that this cleared up vocal didn't match the rest the album. And now—was the problem in remastering, in doing a poor job while "cleaning" the vocal, or it actually sounded like that? Therefore, I inquired about the version made using remix—I expect that this latest version will have everything cleaned up.
30th Anniversary Edition | CD | 2000 (Europe) vs 21st Century Complete Edition | HDCD | 2004 (Japan)
I liked this remaster—21st Century Complete Edition | HDCD—is a step in the direction that I mentioned before—I could finally hear this wonderful, splendid bell. The percussion was nicely differentiated. While when listening to the previous remaster we focused on the cymbals, now we could finally hear a good differentiation of drums, that, by the way, are not particularly well recorded for this album. The same goes for the guitar, which was now better.
In my opinion the HDCD's remastering is more interesting. It's not "muddy" anymore plus I noticed a nice refinement of the sound. I have only one "but"—the 30th Anniversary Edition version had more depth. But is this truly a shortcoming? Everyone must answer that for himself. Anyway, I like the 21st Century HDCD Complete Edition more. The sound on the 30th Anniversary Edition was a big, deep, wide. But the colors were better now.
I enjoyed the 21st Century Complete Edition HDCD by far the most. It was perfectly "dark". It reminded me of reasons why some years ago I had to have every HDCD discs available. This sound, this presentation sat with me perfectly. Everything here was so beautiful and dark. Maybe vocal was a compromise between the first and second presentation (The Definitive Edition and 30th Anniversary Edition), but it was a good compromise. Now, finally, everything was where it was supposed to be. It was hard to find anything I wouldn't like about this realization—for me and thus far, it's definitely the best version.
This time I turned my attention to the vocal, because previously I focused on something else. It seemed to me that this time it was very good. It sounded natural. As far as the decay and depth of percussion instruments goes it sounded similar to the previous version, it might have been softer.
For me, these last two versions (30th Anniversary Edition and the 21st Century Complete Edition HDCD) were very similar. Yet, I prefer the latter - vocal was warmer, softer, richer. The second aspect that I noticed was larger reverb on percussion instruments, which increased "fulfillment" of the space. Other aspects of the two CDs were indistinguishable for me.
For me, this recording (21st Century Complete Edition HDCD) was the best, for two reasons: it was more akin to "analog tape sound", it was darker and not wildly contrasting. While the 30th Anniversary Edition could seem more attractive due to this incredible depth but it was achieved by "disturbing" proper balance. Now everything was more aligned. Vocal fit the rest better—it was perhaps still not very good, just to be clear, but in this series was by far the best. The fact remains that this was still not it.
21st Century Complete Edition | HDCD | 2004 (Japan) vs 40th Anniversary Edition | Platinum SHM-CD | 2016 (Japan)
This latter version (Platinum SHM-CD) is a bit like a Polish film—I look to the left, I look to the right action is nowhere to be found; I was simply not "taken" by it. Knowing that they had such a huge advantage having separate tracks at their disposal, I expected fireworks, and none happened. It was probably just about taking some more of my money, but I'm simply not convinced it's worth it.
For me, the advantage of the Platinum SHM-CD version was a guitar that finally began to sound alive. Finally it attracted attention. As for the rest—there was nothing I didn't hear already before. The album sounded better, but should you buy it if you have the previous version (21st Century Complete Edition for HDCD)? Well, I wouldn't.
It was, in my opinion, a very similar version to the Japanese HDCD one, ie. the previous one. It's the same, dark side of power, nicely mixed. It would be a tough choice for me. It confirmed, however, that the first two versions (The Definitive Edition and 30th Anniversary Edition) were the worst one, especially the latter. I do not think that this music was about delivering some huge space, it's not this kind of music. It is rock embedded in history. That is why I value both, Japanese HDCD and Platinum SHM-CD, equally. They are equally good.
Also in my opinion, there is not much difference between Platinum SHM-CD and Japanese HDCD version. Surely Greg Lake's voice on Platinum version is different—it is much wider and positioned more in the center. Spacing is similar, percussion instruments too. But the voice here is quite different. If I had to choose, I would choose Platinum SHM-CD, but not because it is significantly better.
In previous versions, the cymbals were in the foreground, vocal was placed behind them and the rest percussion and melotron even behind them. On the Platinum SHM-CD vocal was placed in the same plane as cymbals. The advantage of Platinum SHM-CD is a much better presentation of the acoustic environment, that is, reverb around the drums and melotron, which I previously did not even noticed. But it is not a truly significant advantage, I'd even say that I am disappointed. Why? Because usually the Platinum SHM-CD versions simply outclass all the others and here there were only some minimal differences. It is just a little better than others and that's all.
When I listened earlier the Platinum SHM-CD version I was a little disappointed to be honest. It's a good release but without any particular advantages over other ones. The Platinum SHM-CD sounded "physiologically" or naturally. I forgot that I was listening to the CD, and started to listen to the music - in this sense a superiority of Platinum SHM-CD is ambiguous. But not because this or that is actually better. It's about a general perception of the presentation, about listening for pleasure, and this release offers most of it.
The Definitive Edition (AAD) | CD | 1990 (Japan) vs 30th Anniversary Edition | CD | 2000 (Europe)
The differences between these versions were enormous. The first thing that surprised me was the fact that the second version, that is the 30th Anniversary Edition, offered much less reverb on instruments. That is why suddenly all the instruments started to sound more "lively". And in the case of this recording it is so important because harmony is a key here. It consists of different groups of instruments, so the more of these instruments can be heard, the fuller, richer this harmony is. It is very important that the vocal was intended to sound "crazy". And in this second version it is, crazy sounding I mean. The 30th Anniversary Edition is much better.
In my opinion, the greatest differences can be heard comparing reverb. In the Definitive Edition someone really went for it, while in the 30th Anniversary Edition reverb was rather tamed. That's why I like the second version so much more, because it was smoother, cooler. It started to make sense—individual instruments began to fit into the song. The first version, which was an analog master, sounded terribly chaotic.
The 30th Anniversary Edition offered significantly better spacing, a better sound balance, tonal balance, articulation.
I did not like neither of these versions, although the 30th Anniversary Edition I could listen to, while The Definitive Edition I simply couldn't bear. To tell you the truth I would rather listen to John Cage 4.33 than any of these CDs—none of them spoke to me.
I think that there is nothing to compare here - the first version, ie. Definitive Edition, was unacceptable, unlistenable because of the emphasis in the upper midrange. It was so tiring that at higher volume levels I could not stand it at all. This is a unique track, because it is a pastiche, the piece reflects an essence of madness, of complete lunacy, and so it should be "perceived". The 30th Anniversary Edition was better, because it sounded more mellow and darker. They cleaned sibilants, but it still wasn't quite it. Generally speaking the "anniversary" remaster is much better.
30th Anniversary Edition | CD | 2000 (Europe) vs 30th Anniversary Edition | gold-CD | 2000 (Japan)
Maybe you can remember that once we had a meeting with John Tu and we listened to the same recordings, but on aluminum and gold releases. The differences between them were unbelievable. Here we do not have exactly the same releases, because we use pressings from Europe and Japan, but the master is the same for both. And I remember that when we released with Jarek Śmietana his album Suite—it was his first album released on gold—I asked about the difference in price between the aluminum and gold version of discs and I couldn't believe that it was just 6 Polish groszy per unit. With such minimal differences releasing CD on aluminum seems so crazy—after all, the gold disc might be still played after a hundred years, maybe more, and it offers a much better sound. This is my entire comment.
The gold version sounded better than aluminum, European one, but that was to be expected. In my opinion, the differences are not really great, though surely they are audible. As if the whole music sounded more "noble". Would I buy the gold version having already European, aluminum one? - I do not know, it sounded better, but the difference was that significant.
The gold version of the 30th Anniversary Edition was the most acceptable of them all. Yet, I still do not feel the excitement about this music, nor the quality of the recording itself, nor is it particularly interesting to encourage someone who does not feel the chemistry with this music. This is still a poor version, but the "least poor" among the ones we listened too thus far...
I liked the Gold 30th Anniversary Edition, because it was soft, physiological, pleasant to listen to.
It was OK but I agree with Tom—I couldn't feel any finesse, nor artistry and this fascination of my friends with release is beyond my comprehension. But anyone can love for one's own money ...
The Japanese gold version of the 30th Anniversary Edition is by far the best of the three, but without any special emotions, nothing much is happening on it. But I also wanted to remind you that the analog release of this album sounded really bad, was unbearable—and I had first releases of all King Crimson albums, up to the Beat. It was so gruesomely sharp, poorly balanced, that I simply could not listen to it. And here's it is listenable.
30th Anniversary Edition | gold-CD | 2000 (Japan) vs 40th Anniversary Edition | Platinum SHM-CD | 2016 (Japan)
There is no comparison—all previous issues, before Platinum SHM-CD, are simply no good. This one resembles something one can listen to. In terms of richness, tempo, instrumentation. As for the drama of this recording, Platinum SHM-CD sounds great, so much better than the other ones.
It is the only version that I could listen to with some pleasure. In my opinion buying other than Platinum SHM-CD version does not make any sense, it is wasted money. Better not to buy it at all.
I have a personal fondness for this recording, because I recorded it with from the radio Three in the summer of 1974 on cassette using Grundig tape recorder. And I must say that it was only this Platinum SHM-CD version that brought to mind pleasant memories of that summer. It is vibrant, rich, it is great.
I'll put everything I have on this version—Platinum SHM-CD offered the best performance. It was good enough to make me consider buying it. I noticed the great percussion, a nicely rhythmic bass drum—it was sooooo cool. It's by far the best release.
In my opinion, to version released on gold, which until now was the best, this one adds some more "drive" to it. It sounded cooler, I listened to it with pleasure, it was aggressive but in the right way.
This one almost put me to sleep. Aggression, somewhat present in the gold version, now had disappeared. For me the Platinum SHM-CD is too smooth. The problem lays in the poor technical quality of the recording. So the question is—what one can actually "squeeze out" of it? Vocal on Platinum SHM-CD did not reflect the thread—which is my preference.
Lark's Tongue in Aspic (1973)
The Definitive Edition (AAD) | CD | 1989 (UK) vs 30th Anniversary Edition | HQCD | 2012 (Japan)
The first impression was that it is louder, someone else asked if this was a remix, but it wasn't. The second version, ie. the 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD was definitely better, more fresh. The guitar was not louder, but clearer, I could hear much more details of what was happening there. As if the recording was a few years younger.
I can not hear big differences, but still can indicate a few details. On the 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD bass line was played softly, nicely. At The Definitive Edition it blended with the background somewhere. The second version was more detailed. But the difference was not huge.
I do not know what Martin meant, but to me the difference between these recordings was huge, as if it was a different mix. I clearly favored the first version, ie. The Definitive Edition, which charmed me musically and it was the first time this evening. The second release seemed to me as if someone recorded old music, but twenty years later—it was too modern.
The Definitive Edition version sounded to me exactly as I heard it the first time, played of my cassette deck with a recording made from the radio. The difference between The Definitive Edition and HQCD is like the difference between mono and stereo. They convey a completely different message. With The 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD the depth and width of the stage were clearly defined. It is much more than just a remaster, it sounds more like a remix—for me the 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD is brilliant.
To me this sounds like a remix. Differences were clear in bass range—in The Definitive Edition AAD it sounded boomy, poorly controlled. The second difference was in vocal—in the first version it was focused on a narrow frequency range and was not properly extended. I choose the 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD.
For me the difference was huge, in favor of the 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD; calm, saturation, richness—these are elements that I value above all else. When guitars entered, Fripp's guitar played from behind, on HQCD they were properly rich, beautiful. In the The Definitive Edition AAD they sounded poorly.
30th Anniversary Edition | HQCD | 2012 (Japan) vs 40th Anniversary Edition | Platinum SHM-CD | 2016 (Japan) with 40th Anniversary Edition | HQCD | 2012 (Japan) in the background)
The Platinum SHM-CD had much more emotional vocals. And it had a vibrato, and richness. One can better understand the lyrics on this release. I think that these are the biggest differences—lyrics are easier to understand and recording contains more emotions.
I can see certain propriety here: the first version, that is, The Definitive Edition AAD, sounds like a concert, as if it had been recorded during that era, on that hardware from that time, it is a documentary. Later they tried to correct it—on 30th Anniversary Edition HQCD they added some space, a bit like in a disco. The 40th Anniversary Edition HQCD was better, but only the latest, Platinum SHM-CD, smoothed everything, violin sounded much better. Due to this it all sounded complete. The Platinum version is the true diamond.
Among the first three versions I like the first of them most (The Definitive Edition AAD) and penultimate (40th Anniversary Edition | HQCD). These clearly stand out from the rest, they are interesting. But this Platinum SHM-CD seems to me to be the best, everything on it is refined, polished, on the good side of darkness. The winner is the Platinum SHM-CD.
I liked the Platinum SHM-CD version, I liked it a lot. To me presentation seemed narrowed in space, just as in mono recordings, which is good. Vocal sounded very nice, although the bass had more decay in the 40th Anniversary Edition HQCD.
We begin to repeat ourselves: the Platinum SHM-CD version tops all others. First of all it delivers clean vocals and instruments. They added some reverb to instruments. It is also tonally rich, which drew my attention especially when listening to melotron. It became much more colorful. Even though these are not some spectacular changes, the Platinum SHM-CD is still worth buying, unlike all other versions.
I agree with Rysiek and Wiciu, and I'd like to add one thing—the Platinum SHM-CD proves how much information this album actually contains. As if on previous versions, ie. the 30th Anniversary Edition and the 40th Anniversary Edition there were some "holes", some information simply lacking. There is more music on the Platinum, as if it delivered more of presentation than the others - it is amazing.
30th Anniversary Edition | HDCD | 2000 (Japan) vs 40th Anniversary Edition | Platinum SHM-CD | 2016 (Japan)
I have to say that this is the worst recorded album, especially the Red track. I love such a "sharp" playing, but here it was distorted. When someone sells me the album as a remix, he either doesn't respect me, or did a quick and poor job preparing it. If this material had been actually re-mixed it would not have been so distorted. And here everything is distorted. With the remix it should be quieter, so that the whole material was not distorted, you can do it on guitars, but not on every single instrument. I'm disappointed because it seemed to me that this should be quite different and it should be a remix.
I can see that I completely don't understand what's going on. The sound on Red is distorted by definition, and that's how it should sound like. If Jarek had grown up listening to King Crimson, he would have known what was going on. So I'm not even going to refer to his opinion. But I would say one thing, one aspect should be emphasized—listening pleasure. We're talking about space, tone, richness, etc., and this is all important. But it's the listening pleasure that is paramount.
Therefore it's easy for me to say that the qualitative difference between the 30th Anniversary Edition, and HDCD 40th Anniversary Edition, and Platinum SHM-CD is insignificant, but the listening pleasure between them is incomparable—Platinum SHM-CD wins always and everywhere. I bought once all versions of this album, but at some point I stopped because I did not want to pay for the same things over and over again. This time I listened to all the Platinum SHM-CD discs and I was thrilled. I didn't even think about hi-fi, because the listening pleasure with these versions was unbelievable.
Since the beginning of the meeting, not really knowing King Crimson, I tried to understand the feelings of my colleagues, who are a generation older than me, or even a generation and a half, I tied to understand what they feel, what they could be driven by. I followed it listening to consequent albums and while listening to the Larks' ... I thought that finally I got what it was all about. And now we listened to the newest album of them all and it totally didn't speak to me, for me it sounded as if a bunch of guy went into the garage and recorded a demo tape. For me these differences are simply pointless—this Red track makes no musical sense to me.
I belong to the generation that listened to this record as soon as it was released, so it's "my music". Red heralds future trends in music, dirty, sharp sound. It's a completely new direction, it like opening the door. Overdrive and distortions are intended by the makers. According to there is only a small difference between these releases. Platinum SHM-CD was more coherent, more consistent, but I can not say what would actually be better.
We narrowed a number of releases, discs and tracks down and it is still one of the longest reports of the Krakow Sonic Society Meetings. This is because there is a lot to talk about. Even if we disagree, we disagree about something important. As you can see, not all participants enjoy this type of music, but there were some for whom it offered one of the most important aesthetic experiences.
I think that the above statements are offering clear messages, which I will try to summarize in a few sentences, based also on other listening sessions. The Platinum SHM-CD versions were better each time. The second best came the HDCD ones, that were topped only by gold versions—both benefited from mastering prepared for the band's 30th anniversary (30th Anniversary Edition). Remixed versions of the 40th Anniversary Edition HQCD bring a different perspective on music material, but generally do not make significant differences.
The worst impression made the older versions of The Definitive Edition AAD. Only starting from HDCD and digital 24-bit remaster better quality start culminating in Platinum SHM-CD. Not all version benefited from it equally—Red benefited least and Larks' ... most. Since they did not prepare new remix for the former it was not possible to gain as much as with other albums.
Should you buy Platinum SHM-CD 7'' version?—Janusz says that it is beyond discussion, and so says Wiciu, and I happen to agree with them—each of us already has all three boxes and look forward to next releases. However, if you already have the Japanese HDCD version, or the one released on gold CD you may want to stick to them, or just buy selected titles on Platinum SHM-CD. Quality of HQCD versions is not very consistent—some items are better than others and it is up to you which one will you choose for yourself. If you do not have new remasters, and you want to get to know King Crimson from the best side, then there is no choice: Platinum SHM-CD Version 7" is the best and you should have it.
SYSTEM USED DURING LISTENING SESSION
- CD Player/preamplifier: Ancient Audio LEKTOR GRAND SE
- Power amplifier: Ancient Audio SILVER GRAND MONO
- Power conditioner: Ancient Audio Re-GENERATOR
- Loudspeakers: Sonus faber ELECTA AMATOR
- Interconnects: Siltech DOUBLE CROWN (1 m)
- Speaker cable: Siltech DOUBLE CROWN (bi-wire, 2 x 2,5 m)
- Power cables (for all components): Acrolink MEXCEL 7N-PC9500
- Rack: Base
- Anti-vibration accessories: Acoustic Revive
- Wine: delivered by LocusVini.pl + participants
I spoke with Janusz yesterday to sum up the KTS 104 meeting... What stuck in Janusz mind most was that for the first time in a long time we listened to so much music and that our discussions finally hit the point. For most of the 103 meetings we tested products, techniques, or in other words a different approach to the physis leading to better performance—psyche. And sometimes we loose from our sight what is most important. Or perhaps our approach highlights the fact that art is perceived differently by different people? And the fact that such an atmosphere accompanied this meeting dedicated to the music of his favorite King Crimson, seemed to give him enormous pleasure ...
I, on the other hand, was left feeling unsatisfied. Because our task (as technical engineers), record producers', our Society is doing our best so that all that equipment in the studio and at home provided the listener with accurately conveyed emotions that rattled in musician's hearts. When I do my job poorly it is met with deserved criticism. And so it has to be! So I never answered any criticism publicly. It's as if a pool vault jumper patiently explained that it was the pole was not the right one, the wind unfavorable and therefore he did not reach the 6.15 height. The fact is that he didn't and that's it .
During my electronics faculty I spent a lot of time on different discussions with Tomek Rogula. We never build anything together but these discussions surely helped us become better at what we did. One day let let me have a service manual of a 3M 34-track tape recorder. At the time 3M offered high quality studio tapes. It came to my mind during the discussion with Janusz. This manual was at least 200 pages long! How complex device it was, how difficult to adjust! And it was a manual of the tape recorder itself! What about noise cancellation circuits? Mixing console? Cables? All these devices worked in analog domain, so using our experience gained during Sonic Society meetings we realize how great impact have the small detail on sound quality. And when it comes to a studio it is not about just details, but rather tones and kilometers...
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Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Images: Wojciech Pacuła | Discipline Global Mobile
Translation: Marek Dyba