Acoustic Sounds

John Coltrane

A Love Supreme

Music

Sound

Label: Analogue Productions/Impulse

Produced By: Bob Thiele

Engineered By: Rudy Van Gelder

Mixed By: Rudy Van Gelder

Mastered By: Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, Nashville

Lacquers Cut By: Ryan Smith

By: Michael Fremer

August 22nd, 2023

Genre:

Jazz

Format:

Vinyl

"A Love Supreme" Gets A Supreme Analogue Productions UHQR Release

is this the best sounding "A Love Supreme" and even if it is, is it worth $150?

"Don't throw your love away, No, no, no, no, Don't throw your love away, For you might need it someday". Lyrics from a song first recorded by The Orlons but later made popular by The Searchers. Good advice then and now.

I'm not exactly "late to the fair" on this classic Coltrane album. I bought it new when it was first released January, 1965. A kid in my Cornell University, University Halls 3 dorm said "just get it" and so I did. And of course, I still have it.

A Love Supreme

He was a huge Coltrane fan and had an orange spine section I can still see in my head, with the full lineup at that time of Coltrane's Impulse! output. He had Africa/Brass, Coltrane, Ballads and Impressions. The sound emanating from his room was unlike any other on the floor, though mine spewed, among others, Monk's Criss-Cross and Somethin' Else labeled for contractual reasons as a Cannonball album. My jazz tastes were more mainstream. His more exotic.

A Love Supreme's ferocity scared me first play. The opening part's chanting and insistent religiosity—even if it was presented in the abstract— reminded me of Hebrew school (especially "Psalm"), which I didn't like. I was happier listening to Monk mischievously bang out "Hackensack".

It was more spiritual than "religious" but the distinction wasn't clear to me in '65 and as a declared agnostic it was off-putting. These guys standing around a microphone chanting "A Love Supreme" struck me as hokey—who knew then that it was all Coltrane overdubbed? Not I.

All these years and a few acid trips later (none in 50 years) Coltrane's communication rings clear and true, its ecstatic message resonates, though religious fervor for me remains a spectator sport. I'm happy to watch and in the case of A Love Supreme just listen.

If you think an original pressing of A Love Supreme is "the one", you probably haven't heard it. My copy begins with a 60Hz hum before the music begins and it continues throughout, though in the background. The original is not the "holy grail" of A Love Supreme pressings. Is this new UHQR?

After listening to the UHQR once I first listened to the version Kevin Gray cut for Speakers Corner at AcousTech Mastering and released in 2001. It sounds sweet, soft and distant compared to the UHQR. The piano and bass are muffled and distant. The overall perspective is flat and two dimensional. Imaging is indistinct. The tom-tom hits lack transient detail. Cymbals lack sizzle. I used to think this one was real great because it's so well pressed but....

Next up was the 2010 double 45 also mastered by Kevin Gray at AcousTech. It sounds somewhat more open than the SC pressing but not by much. The piano is muffled, the toms are soft and distant, the cymbals lack shimmer and Coltrane's sax, while fairly present is "soft in the reed".

Last up was Ryan Smith's cut for the 33 1/3 Verve Acoustic Sounds series reissue. You can be sure Ryan cut from the same tape and probably at the same time as he cut the 45rpm UHQR version. Ryan's 33 1/3 cut is vastly superior in every way compared to all that came before it. It is not even a close call or a matter of opinion this time! Garrison's bass is cleaner, better focused in three dimensional space, and musically fully defined. His fingers can finally be heard plucking the strings whereas in previous versions there's "bass". Tyner's piano is better defined and spatially more coherent. The transient attack is better. Jones's drums also have the same "more live" qualities, especially the cymbals and toms. Everything beats what came before.

I've gotten the emails: "Did you get the UHQR? is it really better than the Verve/Acoustic Sounds version Ryan Smith cut? Is if worth $150?

So let's start with the packaging. You either appreciate these dowel boxes or you don't. I do. If you don't, take the record out of the box, put the box in the attic and just stop complaining about it. Comparing the laminated gatefold jacket of the Verve Acoustic Sounds series reissue with the UHQR cover, well, why should they be so different? Why should the UHQR jacket look so much better? Actually, the 2010 Analogue Productions double 45 jacket appears indentical to the UHQR and both are better. You can see below: on the left, the UHQR. On the right the Verve Acoustic Sounds version.

A Love Supreme Jacket Comparison

Granted this is a "snapshot" comparison and there's a bit of added glare on the right photo in addition to a color shift not seen "live" but it serves to accentuate the grain that's in the photo on the right that's not in the UHQR cover photo or in the 2010 double 45. You can see how much more of Coltrane's right shoulder appears in the photo on the left because obviously the left side photo appears to be taken from the original and the one on the right from a copy or even a photo of the copy. I'm not sure why the same photo couldn't be or was not used for the Verve Acoustic Sounds edition but it clearly wasn't.

If you appreciate the big visual difference between those two photos you will surely appreciate the sonic differences between the Verve Acoustic Sounds 33 1/3 edition, which is really good with this UHQR, which is, to say it in technical terms "insanely better" and the proverbial "window into the studio" when the session was recorded.

In what ways? Every way, actually. You'll hear it from the opening tam-tam hit—especially if you've been playing this album for fifty years! The background quiet is noticeably better than even the quietest regular QRP pressing. Tyner's piano appears in three dimensional space, Jones's stick work on cymbals and woody rim shots startle. The difference between this version and every other one including Smith's cut from the same tape at the same time is not subtle and if your system has the resolution you'll immediately hear it and be glad you made the $150 investment. I know I am!

One more thing: as well all now know, there's a story about "the original tape" not sounding so great so in 2002 Rudy Van Gelder procured a one off the master that had been sent to the U.K. when the tape was new and stored at Abbey Road Studios.

A picture of the tape is in the UHQR's full sized booklet. More important though is what's included in Ashley Kahn's annotation. While UMG is still catching flack for an accidental fire started by construction worker's grievously sloppy mistake that destroyed many masters, the problem here, according to Kahn, goes back to a decision made in the early 1970s by ABC-Paramount executives as a "cost saving" move, to discard many master tapes in order to save on storage costs.

To quote Kahn: "This meant that in the case of many Impulse recordings—such as A Love Supreme, only one copy of the album remained in the vaults, often a Dolby-ized, multi-generational copy of the master—losing some of the sonic details and depth of the original master."

Clearly sometimes, insisting on "master tape purity" as a cutting source makes little sense. This is one of those times. So, is this one worth $150 even if you have the previous Smith cut? I can't answer that question for you or tell you what to buy or know how your financial value system works but if this album is meaningful to you and you want by far the best sounding version ever released, this is it.

I hope the Orlons/Searchers song quote at the head of this review makes sense to you. If not, ponder it for a minute. You don't have to call nobody else.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: UHQR 0007-45

Pressing Plant: QRP

SPARS Code: AAA

Speed/RPM: 45

Weight: 200 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: First generation master tape copy

Presentation: Box Set

Comments

  • 2023-08-22 04:38:23 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Ok, I neeed this now. Dang it! My wallet is sputtering its last breaths... "Stopppppp!" lol... Only 2 box sets and 9 more LP's for September and October to buy. F- me and my sad wallet.

    Thank you for such an incisive assessment of the sound and the package overall. Michael. Kudos to Chad Kassem for bringing me to the poor house, err for making the best in vinyl extant.

  • 2023-08-22 08:02:44 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Ok, you made everything perfectly clear, couldn’t be written better. Have all the others and didn’t plan to buy this one, but now I’ll listen again and think again if I need it for the sound and music and frequency I’ll play this one.

  • 2023-08-22 10:52:14 PM

    It’s a trap wrote:

    Arrived last weekend. Maybe played 3 times…It’s glorious. For a little bit I forgot about the kit and just enjoyed the work for what it is. That doesn’t happen often unfortunately. buy it. Buy now or cry later. If you don’t like it I’ll buy it from you, all my friends and family deserve a copy in their Xmas stocking this year, for those who deserve anything ;-)

    • 2023-08-22 10:58:03 PM

      It’s a trap wrote:

      And for the record I do buy all the UHQR issues well the moment I get the ‘subscriber only preorder’ email. I think most of them are large enough improvements to justify yet another copy, and my head swiveled a few times round when I got my Marley ones, but this one is next level. It’s why I pull my hair out over this chase. every now and again moments like this make it all worth while. now I gotta find another bottle of Pappy….

  • 2023-08-22 11:57:38 PM

    bwb wrote:

    so what's really crazy is the prices on Discogs go from $200 to $2200 when you can get it from AS for $150. ...... wonder how it compares to the Supersense?

  • 2023-08-23 02:07:10 AM

    Come on wrote:

    I mean, finally we all who have a 33 and 45 RPM KOB UHQR should roughly know how small or big the difference between the 33 and now 45 RPM RKS cut of Love Supreme is. As the 33 Love Supreme is a normal black pressing, the difference there should be a bit bigger though. Just like between a black 33 RPM Classic Records KOB cut and the 45 RPM UHQR.

  • 2023-08-23 02:54:09 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    I bought the AP Ultratape of it several months ago. I guess, that sound will not be bettered by the UHQR. Looking at the resell prices of the UHQR‘s the selling price of $500 for the beautiful tape reels should be an option for fans of Coltrane. The same with the KOB on Hemiolia-tape, btw.

    • 2023-08-23 10:22:07 AM

      bwb wrote:

      it doesn't matter what resellers are asking as long as you can buy a new copy for $150 plus shipping, which is certainly much cheaper than buying a $500 tape and the multi thousand machine so you can play it.... your suggestion is not a practical option for the vast majority of us who do not have and never will have a tape machine.... it does make you wonder who bought the 3 copies on Discogs for $250 when they are $100 cheaper from the source. Maybe outside the US prices are higher?

      • 2023-08-23 10:24:05 AM

        bwb wrote:

        sorry to reply to myself but I do see the Discog prices are actually 229 euros = $250 USD

      • 2023-08-23 11:50:00 AM

        PeterPani wrote:

        A fine used Revox A700 goes for $2000, and a fine tubed tapehead preamp for another $2000. But, you will never have to buy a MC cartridge for $2500. A new tape tonehead cost $180. And that will last for years. And nothing to improve on the playback tonehead. So the hardware is not that expensive compared to the many MC-cartridges we buy in trying to improve the sound of records.

        • 2023-08-23 12:03:35 PM

          bwb wrote:

          thanks, I will look into it. The press these things get typically discuss $50-100K tape machines.

        • 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....

          • 2023-08-23 01:29:30 PM

            PeterPani wrote:

            Dave Denyer compared the KOB by Hemolia with the UHQR and concludes that the Hemolia-tape ist superior. I will not buy the UHQR of the Coltrane since I own the AP Ultratape. But on every journey I did for finding the best media, the journey always stopped after getting a proper 15 ips tape of a title. The effortlessness of a rollint tape is impossible to beat. The bass goes deep, the sound is open, the rhythm is relaxed, the highs with no fear of distortion. The A700 is a great machine mechanically. But the tonehead-prepreamp cannot beat a dedicated MC-phono-pre. To get the highest level of musicality you wil need something like an extern DeHavilland 222. But from that level there is no need to go further in improving sound.

            • 2023-08-23 01:37:18 PM

              PeterPani wrote:

              little correction: my journey for best sound not always ended with 15 ips tape. Since a lot of live records found their way on Laserdisc, sometimes the journey ended at the analog track of a Laserdisc (that I am sure would beat 15 ips tape, by fully exploring the possibilities of pure analog Laserdiscs over the last 20 years...).

        • 2023-12-15 07:33:41 PM

          Zeotrope wrote:

          A world class turntable and phono preamp (eg, Nagra, SAT, TechDas, OMA) will beat a tape - Unless the tape is a true copy of the Master (but none of the albums you can buy on reel are direct copies of the Master, as Fremer says)

    • 2023-08-23 12:20:57 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      Again, the UHQR KOB is cut directly from the 3 track master tape mixed "live" to two channels by BG. The Hemiolia is (at best) sourced from a 3:2 mix down tape that's copied and sent to Europe where it's again mastered so down another generation and then copied and sold. That means you've got a 4th generation tape versus a record cut from the 3 track master decades earlier. I'd have to hear the Hemiolia to believe it can sound better than state of the art vinyl playback of the UHQR cut directly from the 3 track master tape!

      • 2023-08-23 04:05:19 PM

        Come on wrote:

        I talked about this with some more or less biased people (for the one or other camp) owning big rigs, which was less helpful.

        On the whatsbestforum then I found a few reports of people who seemed very open and neutral, have very expensive and good tape and record player sources.

        The result was, in many cases the tape is better, but not in a big majority. It depends on the tapes, as their origin can be very differing. Your KOB example is probably an extreme pro vinyl, a good Living Stereo Tape may be a different case (although some say, their ultimate magic comes only from the vinyl cutting process on the originals).

        I think if you speak of 4 tape generations in case of the tapes, what you have to add on vinyl side is all the mechanical pressing steps unless you compare a lacquer.

        • 2023-08-23 06:33:13 PM

          PeterPani wrote:

          I own the 45rpm Classic Records of KOB, the original 7,5 ips R2R on RCA, another made for demonstration of RCA and now the 15 ips Hemiolia. Vinyl is played on a TD124 with all improvements possible on electronics and hardware via Ortofon Anna or a modified Jubilee (which I prefer) into tubed two box Croft Phono Pre into 6 Pye power amps from the mid50‘s. The Classic Records is fantastic, but the RCA demonstration tape is better (comparing the same speeds). The Hemiolia is another mix. It is difficult to compare directly. But it is really pure magic. Owning nearly all fantastic Ultratapes and Tapeprojecttapes, and several Chase-the-Dragon and Horch, I must say, Hemiolia is in a league of its own regarding their two Miles tapes… Surely, I would love to listen to Fremers vinyl rig for comparison. Maybe he brings the machinery to Vienna for comparison:))

      • 2023-08-24 05:21:26 AM

        Avi Ulus wrote:

        Dear Michael, I've seen your video with Dave Denyer. Your skepticism on Dave's observation regarding the comparison between KOB UHQR & the Hemiolia's of which the Hemiolia sounded better. I'd be very happy if you try and loan/get both Hemiola's copies of KOB & Love Supreme for comparison to the respected uhqr's. Avi

  • 2023-08-23 06:07:48 AM

    Jake wrote:

    Love Supreme - music 11? facepalm

    • 2023-08-24 05:27:27 AM

      Avi Ulus wrote:

      Well, there is no 12 on the scale LOL

  • 2023-08-23 12:04:13 PM

    Anton wrote:

    Sometimes, I feel like Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes.

    They did it, they got me to tap out!

    Basta.

    I'll just have to be content with my other few dozen pressings. Maybe I'll never know the secret inner sonic details, but as a fella starts getting close to the 10,000 times hearing a record mark the brain doesn't even need the record to hear the recording any more.

  • 2023-08-23 01:31:48 PM

    AnalogJ wrote:

    Here's my potential issue - the breaking up of the suite. The juxtaposition of each movement from the first to the second on each side creates a mood, which would get interrupted by turning over the record. I have the same issue with the OneStep of What's Going On, itself essentially a suite of uninterrupted music.

    I have no such qualms about albums that are merely a collection of songs/cuts that are assembled and rarely played in that order in concert.

    But A Love Supreme was always played as a suite with an overall arc, and morphing of one cut to the next has meeting.

    I have the SC one, which is actually pretty good and effective, although it may have been bettered sonically in an absolute way, but I didn't buy the AP45 RPM then because I feared it would interrupt the music too much, undermining it a bit.

    Thoughts?

    • 2023-08-23 10:45:48 PM

      Roscoe wrote:

      Totally agree.

  • 2023-08-23 03:49:57 PM

    Jim Shue wrote:

    Clearly worthy of 11/11. I have a super clean OG and the current Chad 33 1/3 reissue. This smokes them both - not even close. Kudos to Chad and the team at QRP!

    Yo Chad - I'd give anything for these three Art Pepper Contemporary UHQRs - Meets The Rhythm Section - + 11 - Gettin Together!

  • 2023-08-23 10:34:32 PM

    Jazz fan wrote:

    Since they were cut at the same time, by the same engineer, why is the UHQR vastly supperior?

    Is it 45 RPM vs 33 RPM?

    Or is it Clarity vinyl vs regular QRP black vinyl.

    There must be some reason for such a huge difference in sound.

    • 2023-08-24 05:31:13 AM

      Avi Ulus wrote:

      It might be that RKS let himself cut it hotter for higher dynamics because of the speed.

  • 2023-08-26 03:23:30 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Ok I made the check again today since quite some time.

    The AP SACD sounds boring and flat against the AP 45.

    The AP 45 sounds much less organic, lively and authentic and a bit thin on top end, a bit shy and clearly less defined in bass, less natural and 3D compared to the AP 33. As you said.

    And Love Supreme needs every bit of that better quality to arrive at the listener. If it’s again so much better I think I have to buy the UHQR, damn.

    I then just compared the KOB Classic Records black 33 against the UHQR 45. And yes certainly the essential difference is obvious everywhere!

  • 2023-08-30 04:12:39 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Now I have and played the UHQR.

    Didn’t expect how important this improvement is. Love Supreme is a recording with a lot of cymbal work, this is so much more refined, extended and clean on the UHQR, that it’s alone worth the investment. Then there’s the improved dynamics, then there’s the improved focus and palpability of instruments.

    If this recording is important to you and you have a good rig, buy the UHQR, it’s essential for Love Supreme!

  • 2023-09-05 11:14:31 PM

    Danny Lin wrote:

    I have a question about the info provided.

    The source posted here says it's a first-generation master tape copy, but on Acoustic Sound's product page, it doesn't appear so.

    This is from the Acoustic Sound product page:

    Mastered by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound from a second-generation tape copy created by Rudy Van Gelder