Focus re-mastered in glorious K2 20 bit digital sound

The key Focus albums from the 1970s have been reprocessed using the latest JVC devised K2 20 bit re-mastering techniques and the results are stunning. These releases are a must for all audiophiles who love the music of Focus as the overall sound picture is greatly improved for each album, but more of that later.

What has been released?

Are they any good?

To start with these albums are beautifully presented as mini albums with the original artwork, including the pink spotted 'In & out of Focus' cover. I have included the 'hamburger concerto' gatefold cover as an example. The CDs themselves are colour-coded and have individual sleeves with a neat Focus logo. In addition there are copious notes, mostly in Japanese, with pictures and signatures from Jan and Thijs, which I guess gives some kind of endorsement. 

The CDs have been produced under licence from Red Bullet but as the original artwork is used the covers do not reflect the actual tracks (the liner notes have the correct listing). For example, 'early birth' is included on the 'hamburger concerto' CD and the US single version of 'hocus pocus' appears on the 'Ship of memories' CD but the covers stick to the original track listings.

The K2 processing involves "JVC's algorithmic Extended K2 Processing to scientifically 'fill in' the absence of higher musical frequencies, which are lost during the compression process of condensing music to the CD digital format. Higher frequencies, which are eliminated from the narrow bandwidth due to constraints on upper limits of recordable frequencies, are precisely re-generated using high-bit/high-sampling processing. The result is the most natural sound and a quality close to that of the original master." Phew!!

The difference in sound quality between these new releases and the original EMI and subsequent Red Bullet productions is marked. To start with the K2 processing has increased the bandwidth of each recording. The CDs are 'louder' and the sound more vibrant with a wider dynamic range, which translates into a better bass and high end frequency response, but does result in some background noise (due to the higher frequency range).

For example on 'Focus 3' the definition between the individual instruments is so much clearer. You can hear the piano on 'Sylvia' much better and Jan's rhythm playing on 'Anonymous II' really stands out. The 'hamburger concerto' CD is also greatly improved with better dynamics and a removal of the slightly muddy sound on the original CD release of the title track. 

The question which is always raised is "will I notice any difference" between these and the standard CDs? The answer to that is a definite 'yes', especially if you have a decent separates-based hi-fi system. These CDs are not cheap but the core 'Moving waves', 'Focus 3' and 'Hamburger concerto' are sufficiently improved to make the purchase worthwhile. 

Tim Baugh, December 2001

All images and text kindly sent by Tim Baugh.

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