Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.
What to listen for you ask? Top end, plain and simple. It’s the RARE copy that really has the incredible extension of the side two we heard recently. The space, the clarity, the harmonic complexity — perhaps one out of ten copies will show you a side two like that.
The highs are so good on this record you can use it as a setup tool. Adjust your VTA, tracking weight and the like for the most natural and clear top end, then check for all the other qualities you want to hear and you may just find yourself operating on a higher plane than before.
We played an amazing Hot stamper copy that got the bottom end on this album as right as we’ve ever heard. The contribution of the bass player was clear and correctly balanced in the mix, which we soon learned to appreciate was fundamentally important to the rhythmic drive of the music.
The bass was so tight and note-like you could see right into the soundstage and practically picture Monte Budwig plucking and bowing away.
This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazillian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to Cast Your Fate to the Wind or Manha de Carnival.
Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan
The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?
Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience.
To pull off this kind of Mind Boggling sound from start to finish we combined an amazing side one on the Large Tulips label with an amazing side two on the Small Tulips label. And what a finish — side two earned a grade of A+++, being a full step above even our hottest other side two, and we played a lot of copies, more than a dozen in fact. (more…)
You might agree with some reviewers that EMI’s engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there’s a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Who wouldn’t be? We’re talkin’ The Beatles for Christ’s sake.
When I read the reviews by writers such as these I often get the sense that I must’ve fallen through some sort of Audio Time Warp and landed back in 1982. How is it that our so-called experts evince so little understanding of how records are made, how variable the pressings can be, and, more importantly, how absolutely crucial it is to understand and implement rigorous protocols when attempting to carry out comparisons among pressings.
Sage Advice from Calvin Coolidge
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”Calvin Coolidge
If you substitute “finding Hot Stamper pressings” for the words “the human race” you will surely appreciate the point of this commentary.
Our story today revolves around the first Hot Stamper listing we have ever done for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. It took us a long time to find the right pressing. Do you, or any of the other audiophiles you know, keep buying the same album over and over again year after year in hopes of finding a better sounding copy? We do — have been for more than twenty years as a matter of fact — and here’s why.
The RCA pressing of the Brahms Violin Concerto with Heifetz and Reiner you see pictured, LSC 1903, is yet another Hall of Shame pressing and yet another Classic Records LP debunked.
The Classic reissue of LSC 1903 is a disaster: shrill, smeary and unmusical.
The best Heifetz records on Classic were, if memory serves, LSC 2734 (Glazunov), LSC 2603 (Bruch) and LSC 2769 (Rozsa). They aren’t nearly as offensive as the others. If you can pick one up for ten or twenty bucks, you might get your money’s worth depending, I suppose, on how critically you listen to your classical records. The CDs are better for all I know. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s generally poor track record.
Here’s what we learned when doing our most recent shootout.
Many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered.
They had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had a somewhat diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the kind of audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFis and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is That Sound.
We went wild recently over a marvelous copy of the Ted Heath record you see pictured. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound was positively uncanny. This was vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve upon it.
This is our kind of sound. It’s also important to keep in mind that our stereo seemed to love the record. (Stereos do that.) Let’s talk about why that might be the case.
Master Tape? Yeah, Right
Let me ask you one question. If so many of the current labels making 180 gram reissues are using the real master tapes — the real two-track stereo masters, not dubs, not cutting masters, not high-resolution digital copies, but the real thing — then why do so many of their records sound so bad?
If you’re honest you’ll say “I Don’t Know…” because, and here I want you to trust me on this, you don’t know. I don’t know either. Nobody does.
Records are mysterious. Their mysteries are many and deep. If you don’t know that you clearly haven’t spent much time with them, or don’t have a very revealing stereo, or don’t listen critically, or something else, god knows what. They’re mysterious; that’s just a fact.
This is one of the most phenomenal sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Take the best sound you ever heard from the best authentic Mercury classical record (not that Heavy Vinyl BS) and translate it into pop arrangements for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes, bassoons, and what do you have? Sound that leaps out of the speakers with absolutely dead on tonality.
But what is most shocking of all is how vivid and accurate the timbre of every instrument is.
Yes, it’s multi-miked, and sometimes the engineers play with the channels a bit much (especially at the start of the first track).
That said, if you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real, as if you were standing right in the studio with them. It’s that crazy good.
As soon as this copy has sold it will become a member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame. We won’t be finding copies of this quality anytime soon, not clean and not in stereo; they’re just too rare.
Which bring up a question: Who but Better Records is finding incredible Demonstration Quality recordings like these nowadays?
Harry Pearson used to. Jim Mitchell did back in the ’80s.
Are the Audiophile Reviewers of today picking up the baton that the giants of the past have dropped at their feet.
I see little evidence of it. In fact I see none.