Who Can’t Hear Differences in Sound from Side to Side?

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Audiophile Reissues of the Reiner/CSO Recording

Both the Chesky and Classic reissue pressings of LSC 2446 are just plain terrible. Embarrassingly the latter is found on the TAS List.

There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album garnering rave reviews in the audiophile press. We will report our findings soon enough.

Please note that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original used for comparison is a Shaded Dog. In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the later White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have mentioned previously on the site. The “original is better” premise of most reviewers renders the work they do practically worthless, especially to those of us who take the time to play a wide variety of pressings, judging them on the merits of their sound, not the color of their labels.

Missing the Obvious

The RCA White Dog with the best side two in our shootout had a very unmusical side one. Since reviewers virtually never discuss the sonic differences between the two (or more) sides of the albums they audition, how critically can they be listening? Under the circumstances how can we take anything they have to say about the sound of the record seriously?

The sound is obviously different from side to side on most of the records we play, often dramatically so (as in the case of Scheherazade), yet audiophile reviewers practically never seem to notice these obvious, common, unmistakable differences in sound, the kind that we discuss in every listing on the site. If they can’t hear the clear differences in sound from side to side, doesn’t that call into question their abilities at the most basic level?

Heavy Vinyl

For us it is this glaring obtuseness that best explains the modern reviewer’s infatuation with Heavy Vinyl. Poor reproduction or poor listening skills, it could be one or the other; most likely it’s some combination of the two (they clearly do go hand in hand, no surprise there). We can never be sure exactly where the fault lies. But do we really need to concern ourselves with the reasons for their striking lack of competence?

One final note of honesty. Even as recently as the early 2000s we were still somewhat enamored with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings (not the Living Stereo reissues I hasten to point out). If we had never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last ten or fifteen years perhaps we would find more merit in the reissues these reviewers praise so lavishly.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate or worse. Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. We know that many of our customers feel the same way.