Month: February 2015

Now This Is an Audiophile Record

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The Concert Sinatra

This Reprise Tri-Color stereo pressing has SUPER HOT stamper sound on both sides, which means it was one of the best copies in our recent shootout, the first we’ve done since 2006 (!). Folks, when we say that clean, good sounding Sinatra records are hard to come by, we are not kidding. It took us five years to find enough copies of this title to do a proper shootout. In that time an awful lot of bad LPs passed passed through our hands: the monos (never heard a good one), the reissues (ditto), imports, and, most commonly, original stereo pressings in beat-to-death condition. People loved Sinatra and played his records until the grooves were gone. Have you seen many prime period Sinatra going up on the site recently? This is why.
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Today’s MoFi Mess Is Pictures at an Exhibition

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi mastering here is a joke. All that phony boosted top end makes the strings sound funny and causes mischief in virtually every other part of the orchestra as well. Not surprisingly, those boosted highs are missing from the real EMIs.

MoFi had a bad habit of making bright classical records. I suppose you could say they had a bad habit of making bright records in general. A few are dull, some are just right, but most of them are bright in one way or another. Dull playback equipment? An attempt to confuse detail with resolution?
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Comparing Witches’ Brew on RCA with Danse Macabre on Decca

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The Decca reissue above just happens to have the material found on one of the most famous and sought-after Shaded Dog pressings in the world, Witches’ Brew (shown below), along with another track added, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice conducted by Ansermet. (As a budget reissue they felt they needed to give you more music in order to get you to buy performances that were no longer current.)

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The Decca pressing is tonally much more natural from top to bottom. I used to think that it was the best way to hear the music on Witches’ Brew. Like so much of what happens in the world of records, it is and it isn’t.

Huh?, you say. Okay, here is what I mean. We played a handful of Witches’ Brews over the last year or two, and most of them left a lot to be desired. More than that — most of them were just plain awful. One, and only one, lived up to the hype that surrounds the record. It was so big and so powerful that I would have had no trouble ranking it with the five best sounding classical recordings I’ve ever heard. It was a real WOW moment when the needle hit the groove on that one.
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Unquestionably the Best Sammy Davis Jr. Album We’ve Ever Played

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One of the most emotionally rich and sublimely enjoyable collections of romantic ballads ever recorded.

Our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to demolish the DCC CD (should you have one laying around, an admittedly unlikely proposition to be sure).

The sound is rich, warm and natural beyond expectation — assuming you’ve suffered through other of Sammy’s recordings from the ’60s, as we have, finding little of merit in the sound. On most of them, at some point in the first track the phony vocal EQ and heavy reverb dashed whatever hopes we might have had for the sound. Soon enough the record would be consigned to the trade-in pile, perhaps to find a home where bad sound is not a deal-breaker (which means pretty much everywhere). For us audiophiles, at least most of the time, it has to be.
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Reverse Your Polarity, My Wayward Son

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

About eight years ago (time flies!) we discovered that the first track on side one is in the wrong polarity, or out of absolute phase, whichever terminology you prefer (we ourselves use both). The full story can be found below.

Here’s what we wrote:

But last night (07/13/06) we made an AMAZING discovery. I was listening to another Sterling original, and the slightly aggressive, hi-fi-ish quality of the opening vocals made me think that maybe I had been putting up with a problem that I should have investigated further. What really sold me on the idea was listening to the vocals and noticing that the ambience was “disconnected” from the voices. It’s hard to explain exactly what that sound is, but it’s almost as if the ambience is added in on top of the voice instead of surrounding and resulting from the voice. I suspected reversed absolute phase.
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Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

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The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys I respect, but the results of their latest collaboration leave much to be desired. The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
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Cat Stevens Teaser Testimonial

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… So Much More Alive and Dynamic …

Our good customer Roger here likes doing his own shootouts, having acquired many of the so-called audiophile recommended pressings over the years. Like us, he knows firsthand that those recommended records have little hope of standing up to the real thing, the real thing of course being an old record we charged him a lot of money for, or, to put it another way, a Super Hot Stamper. Can it possibly be worth the three hundred clams it cost him? Let’s hear from Roger on that subject.

Hi Tom:
Just the usual note to let you know of my latest LP shootout: Cat Stevens Teaser and the Firecat. Since you recommend this recording so highly, I was looking forward to comparing your Super Hot Stamper (SHS) to a British Sunray pressing I had and my Mobile Fidelity Anadisq. Since I had previously found, as you have, that the MFSLversion was thin and bright, I bought a UK pressing, finding it much more full, warm, and dynamic, and my recent comparison confirmed that. The MoFi is hideously bright and edgy, making guitars sound like zithers and Cat’s voice thin and reedy, like he had a head cold. Yep, that about sums it up, Cat Stevens and His Zither Band. It makes me wonder whether the ear-damaged MFSL engineers ever heard a good pressing of this record–even the UK was leagues better.
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