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No. 206 July 2021


Images: press materials | Wojciech Pacuła

No 206

July 1, 2021


or a few words about the phenomenon of colored vinyls with the Komeda Quintet’s Astigmatic in the version released on the artists 90th birthday as an example

Colored LPs are flooding shops and the Internet. What's the point in that? Do consumers really get more or is it just a way to sell the same material over and over again? We will try to answer these questions in the text below.

ET’S START WITH A FEW FACTS. The first one relates to digital art, the second to artificial intelligence, and the third to the so-called "Vinyl bubble". Let me start with art because until recently the idea that you can sell art that has no physical representation and only exists in digital form seemed unreal. Meanwhile, the Everydays: The First 5000 Days digital collage by an author known as Beeple, or Mike Winkelmann recently sold for $ 69,346,250 (yes, that's almost $ 70 million!) .

This graphic designer from South Carolina, born in 1981, created and uploaded one digital image every day. On March 11, 2021, thirteen and a half years after the publication of his first work, he combined them into one huge collage with 5,000 individual prints, and in this form it was sold through the Christi's auction house. I assume that you think what I think and that the basic question we ask ourselves in this case is: how was it established that it was the original, one and only copy that could not be copied and reproduced .

⸜ Beeple’s digital graphics Everydays: The First 5000 Days

It turns out that mechanisms used to sell cryptocurrencies were used - the buyer of Beeple’s graphics actually bought a so-called NFT "token" (non-fungible token). NFT tokens can represent any file, such as video, music, and graphics. At the same time, they are unique and cannot be copied, thanks to which their owner can be 100% sure that this is exactly the "item" he purchased and that it is unique. Thanks to this solution, digital works of art - the so-called crypto-art - gained the status equal to works that physically exist.

In the article Miliony za zera i jedynki, published by Polityka magazine, its author mentions, next to Beeple, another digital artist - Paka (Ana Brzezińska, Polityka No. 18, April 27-4.05. 2021). As she writes, he is the second equally well-known artist, but no one knows him or her, and perhaps it is an algorithm, not a human being. The fact that sooner or later some of the tasks traditionally assigned to artists, journalists and - generally - creators will be taken over by algorithms, i.e. artificial intelligence, has been known for a long time. Only recently, however, "the word has become flesh", so to speak.

It is clearly stated in one of the titles of an article in the latest issue of the "Press" bimonthly: Algorithms will settle in in editorial offices. In the so-called lead it reads:

It not longer only writes texts, but also saves publishers from loosing subscribers. Foreign editorial offices boldly use tools provided by Artificial Intelligence. (…)

⸜ PIOTR DRABIK, Algorytmy zadomawiają się w redakcjach, „Press” 2021, no. 05-06, p. 118.

As we learn, the impact of an AI (an artificial intelligence) on our lives will continue to grow and this will not be changed by the warning of great minds of science and culture, for example Stephen Hawking, who considered AI a threat to the human species. Whether it is so, we do not know, but the truth is that AI makes decisions in a way that is incomprehensible to humans and it is impossible to reconstruct them even after completing the task.


AND NOW - ON ONE SIDE WE HAVE ultra-modern solutions bringing virtual reality closer to the real world, machine learning which is the basis for many decisions, and on the other hand, there is us, audiophiles and the admiration for vinyl records cultivated by our industry. This clash of hyper-modernity and the oldest, still used, music medium seemed interesting to me, the more so that music publishers on the one hand convince us that streaming is the future, i.e. an elimination of the physical medium, and on the other, they do everything to make us buy vinyls.

This schizophrenic situation was recently commented on by Paul Sinclair, editor-in-chief of, in an article entitled Format Wars. How the Compact Disc endures and the myth of vinyl revival (, accessed May 24th 2021). As we read in it, the news about the "explosion" of vinyl records sales is exaggerated, and the information about their domination - untrue. It is clear that most music is "consumed" through streaming, but CD format comes in second and there is no indication that it will change in the near future. In turn, vinyl is and will remain a niche.

It just so happens that it is vinyl records that the publishers - and thus also the artists - earn the most from. So they use various strategies to support the sale of LP records. Last month I wrote about one of them, i.e. selling signed records or art prints, in the article How much is an autograph worth (HF No. 205, May 1, 2021, accessed: May 24th 2021). Another way is related to the color of the records.

Reading the richly illustrated monograph of the Depeche Mode band, entitled: Depeche Mode - Monument, not only is the group's incredibly extensive discography striking, but most of all the fact that most of their albums are available on colored vinyl records. These versions were published in the 1980s by the group's German publisher, Interscope. The idea is not new in itself, as in the 1930s both colorful flexidiscs, i.e. soft, embossed plates, and colorful vinyls were sold. It seems that the Japanese have "transferred" this fashion to the present day.

The authors of the monograph, Dennis Burmeister and Sascha Lange, note at one point that what was supposed to be just an addition, a marketing tool, became the norm and that it is difficult to find a black Depeche Mode vinyl released in Germany at that time. I remembered it as soon as Warner Music Poland prepared a whole series of limited colored records - most of which were titles from the "Polish Jazz" series. A move that makes sense in itself, vinyl is ultimately part of the culture, and it is the responsibility of the publisher awake interest of as many people as possible with the music. They do it by reaching for various tools, whether - as we have already said - by offering limited versions with autographs or just colored versions.


HOWEVER, IT IS SO, THAT AT A CERTAIN TIME a similar situation arises as with the Depeche Mode albums, i.e. form takes precedent over content. Aa an example let me used the recently released re-edition of the Astigmatic by Komeda Quintet.

The key album for Polish music, released again and again, has just received another version - a colored vinyl release, prepared on the occasion of the Krzysztof Komeda's 90th birthday; Let me remind you that we wrote about all editions of this title several times, most recently in the series "Here's an album" (see HERE). A very good intention, an excellent opportunity, but the result, it seems to me, is at least debatable.

⸜ RELEASE The album in question was pressed on pink vinyl with black spots, which looks very cool. What's more, new matrices were prepared for it, despite the fact that two years earlier, on the occasion of Record Store Day, a numbered edition of this album was released on pink vinyl. However, it was not a good release in terms of sound quality and perhaps that is why it was decided to do it again.

The fact that this is not a simple task is evidenced by the numbers of the matrices that were finally used - A-5 for the A side and B-6 for the B side. In the case of high-volume release, this would be not the best information for the buyer, as these would be subsequent matrices made of the same varnish after the previous ones had been used up. Here they are, as I assume (this is a limited edition after all), the only matrices that were used, and their high numbers suggest multiple attempts to obtain a satisfactory sound. The problematic in the latest edition of the Astigmatic is not that, but the fact that it made all the mistakes that I pointed out in previous reissues of this title.

Let's start with the visible ones, i.e. graphics. In this edition, the vertical line separating the cover has been corrected, the outline of Komeda's head is white, and in the original it was gray, the typography of the title was modified, and the logotype of Polskie Nagrania "Muza" was used, which was used for monophonic editions. Completely bizarre is the choice of the logo used on the label informing that it is a MONOPHONIC album, while the re-edition was released in stereo.

The second thing has to do with the source material from which the record was pressed. Starting from 2015, all subsequent LP releases are based on a new digital remaster prepared by Jacek Gawłowski, a Grammy Award winner. He delivered it to the record label on master CD-R discs in WAV 24/88.2 files. This is a great master, but it was prepared with the Compact Disc release in mind, Jacek is not an analog specialist. Each subsequent master LP is thus prepared in the pressing plant - and these are changing - by different people.

It is no different in the case of the release we are talking about. Its only distinguishing feature is ... a new color. And this is what seems debatable to me, as if showiness outweighs the merits. The artists 90th birthday should be an occasion for a critical release of the Astigmatic album. So cut directly from analog master tapes, maybe even in Abbey Road studios, or in the DMM technique in the Pauler Acoustic studio. Or cut on two 45 rpm discs. Or in the "half speed" technique - there are plenty of options. After all, you could prepare two 200 g discs with music on one side and a drawing on the other.

Or yet in another way - it could have been a release with an additional record, which would include the 1965 concert originally released under the title Astigmatic In Concert. So it would be a two-disc album, with an elaborate booklet with the new text (this time the insert from the previous edition was duplicated), photos and a description of the session during which the album was created. Perhaps it could feature a nice box. Nothing like that happened, and the publisher only selected the color and added a commemorative sticker, which was not present in the copy I bought via So we got no added value.

⸜ SOUND Nevertheless, I was curious to see what this album sounds like. So I listened to it, comparing it to the original stereo release, as well as to two previous releases made of digital files and Jacek Gawłowski's remaster: from 2015 and 2019.

⸜ The original and three LP releases based on Jacek Gawłowski's digital remaster: original stereo release (top left corner), 2015 release, Record Store Day 2019 (bottom left corner) and the latest releaseThe original and three LP releases based on Jacek Gawłowski's digital remaster: original stereo release (top left corner), 2015 release, Record Store Day 2019 (bottom left corner) and the latest release

The sound of the record remastered in 2015 is darker and has a lower center of gravity than the original release. The cymbals are closer to us, just like the whole presentation. You can hear that the compressor has been gently placed on it. The sound is richer and has lower bass. However, it is not as resolving as in the original, nor as dynamic. The instruments are clearer, but because they are closer and have elements at the turn of the midrange and bass presented better than in the original. However, the whole thing is close to us and there is no good depth.

The version released on the occasion of the Record Store Day in 2019 features more noise and there are some cracks. Its sound is presented a bit further away than on the 2015 version, although you can hear that both were cut from the same digital file. Despite the similarities, the sound of the pink disc is less detailed, less resolving, and therefore less interesting. The instruments seem a bit foggy. Interestingly, the stereo base is a bit narrower than on the 2015 version.

The latest release brings some surprises. First of all, it does not sound like the previous colored vinyl release. Secondly, its sound has a very similar timbre, but it is clearly more resolving and dynamic. I listened to it with curiosity, because it offered a richer timbre than the original, and was not as intrusive in the closeness of instruments as the first re-edition from 2015.

When I listened to the original, first edition right after it, I was a bit irritated by travel noise and crackling, but I also got a much more open, carrying sound, in which there was simply more information about instruments, space and, as a result, emotions. Nevertheless, I consider the latest edition of Astigmatic to be the best cut from digital files so far. Even so, the disgust remains as these are not "decisive" differences.


COLORED VINYLS SEEM TO BE one of the basic sales strategies. Searching for information about the latest Billie Eilish Happier Than Ever album, I found seven different color versions of it: brown, tan, green, yellow, light blue, gold and silver, and the classic black version, seemed to me as only an addition to the rest of them. So let's be clear: this is evidence of color inflation. It seems to me that they have taken over the role of the main decoy for enthusiasts and collectors, which, I think, is not entirely fair to them.

So maybe it's a swan song of the format, at least in the masses dimension, and just as flowers smell most beautiful just before they wither, so are vinyls most colorful just before their sales decline? - We'll probably find out soon enough.

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"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

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