Month: May 2017

Roy Halee – One of Our Favorite Engineers

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How many engineers get their picture on the artists’ 45 sleeve?  This is the only one I know of!

ROY HALEE is one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. Check out our supply of Roy Halee engineered or produced albums, along with some of our famous commentaries.

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).         

                                               
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Making Mistakes and Other Advice from Better Records

A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers

Wise men and women throughout the ages have commented on the value of making mistakes. Here is one of our favorite quotes on the subject.

“Making a different mistake every day is not only acceptable, it is the definition of progress.”
~Robert Brault

When I think of the 20 odd years (early ’70s to early ’90s) I wasted trying to figure out how audio works before I had learned to develop critical listening skills, it brings to mind that old Faces’ song, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and most cogently in this commentary from way back in 2005.

We believe that the only way to really learn about records is to gather a big pile of them together, clean them up and listen to them one by one as critically as you can.
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Romantic Russia on MoFi

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Borodin, Glinka & Mussorgsky / Romantic Russia / Solti

MoFi Debunked

Sonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magic. The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

More orchestral music conducted by Georg Solti

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? Whatever the reasons, the better and more accurate your equipment becomes, the most obvious this shortcoming will be. My tolerance for their phony EQ is at an all time low. But hey, that’s me. (more…)

Our Better Records Hall of Fame for Jazz – Now 280+ Strong

 The Better Records Hall of Fame for Jazz

We’ve been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? A pressing of that caliber had eluded us — until 2016.

More John Coltrane

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound. (more…)

The Trick with Katy Lied Is…

 

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… to find the right balance between richness, sweetness and clarity.

Take three or four Katy Lied pressings, clean them up and play just one or two of the tracks we discuss below. You won’t find any two copies that get those tracks to sound the same. We do our shootouts with dozens of copies at a time and no two sound the same to us.

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This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working at its best to even begin to get this complicated music to sound the way it should. But if you’ve done your homework and your system is really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life.

In-Depth Track Commentary (more…)

Our Favorite Wes Montgomery Album

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California Dreaming

  • For the first time in three years, an amazing Triple Triple (A+++) copy of this excellent Wes Montgomery title
  • Both sides here are OUT OF THIS WORLD; this is DEMO DISC Quality Big Production Guitar-led Jazz
  • It’s incredibly big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic like no copy we’ve ever played
  • Forget the critics, this is one of Wes’s Best Albums of All Time I tell you!

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is. Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this incredible White Hot copy was a THRILL for us and we’re sure it will be as big a thrill for you too.

Both Sides

As Good As It Gets Sound. So natural, transparent and clear. Listen to all the space around the guitar. (On the Cisco you might hear 20% of that space. That’s Heavy Vinyl for you. What a load of crap.)

It starts off a little blurry but quickly gets amazingly good, so good nothing could touch it. This was by far the most musically exciting and involving side we played in our shootout. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street

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Our Latest Shootout Winner

  • An honest to goodness Top Copy, with two Triple Plus (A+++) sides and two Double Plus sides – this is about as good as it gets, folks
  • If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this is the pressing that can do it
  • Bill Halverson did a great job but you have to work your tail off to find a copy that does his brilliant engineering justice. Sad, isn’t it?
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four!

And these shootout winning Triple Plus sides are going to blow your mind – you have never heard this album sound remotely as good as it does on these sides, guaranteed or your money back.

What to Listen for

Our best copies are big, clear, present, and dynamic. They show you what few copies can: how well-recorded the album is. Bill Halverson did a great job but you have to work your tail off to find a copy that does his brilliant engineering justice. Sad, isn’t it? (more…)

Moondance on Heavy Vinyl

If you want to hear this record right (and you have $650), you may be in luck, we just put THIS KILLER COPY on the site and it may still be up there.
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Rhino / Warners Heavy Vinyl Debunked – Again

Sonic Grade: F

The original grade I gave out in 2014 when last I played this remastered version as part of a shootout was “D.” I explained at the time:

Just listen to how strange Van’s voice sounds, so lean, hard and sour. That alone qualifies it for an “F”, but considering how bad most pressings of this album are, let’s be fair, if not downright generous, and call it a “D”.

I just revisited the record in a current shootout, and after giving it some thought I have decided that the right grade is in fact “F.” It cannot be any other, for reasons I discuss below.

In 2014 I had written:

Where is the Tubey Magic of the originals? The sweetness? The richness? And why is there so little ambience or transparency? You just can’t “see” into the studio on this pressing the way you can on the good originals, but that’s fairly consistently been the knock on these remastered Heavy Vinyl records. We noted as much when we debunked Blue all the way back in early 2007, so no surprise there.

Having just played a marvelous shootout-winning early pressing, this time around I found the reproduction of Van’s voice on the reissue to be so leaned-out, artificial and unpleasant that I could hardly stand to listen to it.

We had reset the VTA correctly; the overall tonal balance of the recording from top to bottom was correct. It was only the voice that sounded so off. All the other shortcomings I had mentioned before were still true of course, but none of that mattered. The singer on this record just sounded awful.

As you know, we are constantly making improvements to our playback system. The real Moondance we had just played sounded better than ever. The fake Moondance, however, was sounding worse than ever. That’s what higher quality playback can do for you: separate the true winners from the phony losers.

Do I have a bad copy? Maybe, can’t say I don’t. If any of you out there in the real world have a copy of this pressing and would be willing to send it to me to audition I would be more than happy to do so. Short of that I’m not sure what more I can do. I certainly do not feel the least bit inclined to waste a nickel of my hard earned money on another copy. (more…)

Marty Paich – One of Our Favorite Arrangers

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MARTY PAICH is one of our favorite arrangers. Some of the better albums arranged by Marty in our opinion are Spirit’s first, Art Pepper Plus Eleven, Ella Swings Lightly and Whisper Not, and the amazing The Hi-Lo’s And All That Jazz.  Copies or commentaries for all of them can be found on our site.

Because the Marty Paich Dek-tette usually appeared in support of other artists, its importance has been overlooked in jazz history. More than anyone else, Paich kept cool jazz alive long after his contemporaries (including Shorty Rogers and Gerry Mulligan) had abandoned the style. (Ironically, the final appearance of the classic Dek-tette appeared on Ella Fitzgerald’s 1966 album “Whisper Not”, where they backed her on a swinging version of “Time After Time”. In the late 1980s, Paich re-formed the Dek-tette for two reunion albums with Mel Tormé.) For Tormé, Jeri Southern, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Hi-Lo’s, their albums with Paich and the Dek-tette represented some of their finest recordings. “Ella Swings Lightly” doesn’t qualify as Fitzgerald’s all-time best album, but it is certainly a highlight from an extraordinary part of her career.

Thomas Cunniffe