Carlos Santana Knows: Louder Is Better

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.



Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you TURN UP YOUR VOLUME.

This album needs to be played LOUD. I used to demonstrate that specific effect a few years ago when I found my first shockingly good Hot Stamper copy back in the late ’90s. I would play the first minute or so of track one at a pretty good level. There’s lots of ambience, there’s a couple of guys who shout things out, there’s a substantial amount of deep bass, and the whole recording has a natural smooth quality to it (which is precisely what allows you to play it at loud volumes).

Then I would turn it up a notch, say about 2-3 DB. I would announce to my friends that this is probably louder than you will ever play this record, but listen to what happens when you do. The soundstage gets wider and deeper, all those guys that shout can be heard more clearly, you start to really feel that deep bass, and when the song gets going, it REALLY gets going.

The energy would be fantastic.

Then I would turn it up ANOTHER 3 DB or so. At this point I would say that “this is how loud it SHOULD be played”. All the effects I mentioned earlier become even more pronounced — wider, deeper, more clear, more powerful. The record was actually starting to sound like live music!

Steve Hoffman pointed out to me one day that the reason this record can be played loud is that, unlike most popular recordings, this album has a natural, unboosted top end, which means that the louder you play it, the more real it sounds. You can’t do that with most records. The top end is tweaked to sound good at lower volumes. Not so with the first album by Santana.

One of the reasons I [used to] have speakers with eight 15 inch woofers/ midrange drivers is that you need to be able to move a lot of air without distortion in order to play music at realistic listening levels. If you’ve got one or two 12 inch woofers and you try to play a record like this at loud listening levels, the distortion becomes unbearable as the drivers try to move all the air in your listening room and simply compress and distort in the attempt. As Bill Dudleston, the designer of the Whisper speaker, is famous for saying, it’s like trying to fan yourself on a hot day with a guitar pick. No matter how fast you wave the pick, it simply can’t move enough air to cool you off. The exact same principle applies to the reproduction of music at live listening levels. The drivers are not capable of the kind of motion that is required.

What this record has going for it is a huge depth and soundstage; an octave of bass below what would normally be considered bass (a 20 cycle note that sticks its head up from under the more common 40 cycle bass that drives the music); wonderful transparency and sweetness in the midrange; dynamics; and lastly, the kind of low-distortion, naturally un-hyped sound that this record shares with the Nirvana Nevermind LP that’s on the site.

When you turn up the volume on records like these, assuming you CAN turn up the volume to the levels we are talking about here, you will hear something that approaches the sound of live music. Not many records allow you to do that, but this one does, if your stamper is hot enough.

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