- An amazing copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
- Big, present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music
- Take our word for it – you’ll have a devil of a time finding a copy that sounds as good as this one
- Relatively quiet vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
- 5 stars: “… where Springsteen remembered that he was a rock & roll star, which is how a vastly increased public was happy to treat him.”
We would be foolish to make claims for “audiophile quality” sound on Springsteen’s albums — they are what they are. The simple claim we make for our Hot Stampers is that the best of them sound as good as the album can sound, and we back that up with a 100% Money Back guarantee.
It’s tough to find great sounding copies of this album — or any Springsteen album for that matter — but this one is a HUGE step up, with the kind of clarity and fullness that most copies have in short supply.
If you’re bored by the first chorus of the title song, that’s a bad sign, and that was exactly our experience with most of the pressings that hit the table. When we threw this one on, things changed considerably. Bruce was really screaming, the drums were really pounding, and before we knew it we were really rockin’ out and enjoying the music.
Not many copies have this kind of full, solid lower midrange. When you hear the album this way, without the edgy, thin sound that plagues the most pressings, it really works wonders for the music. The vocals and instruments are more real, and the improved low end lets the whole thing rock.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality ’80s Rock record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording.
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of what we were listening for when evaluating Born in the U.S.A.
Clarity and Presence
Many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids. Dull, dead sounding pressings can’t begin to communicate the musical values in this problematical recording.
We used to say that Springsteen recordings from this era always suffered from some grit and grain. With the better cleaning technologies we employ now, and dramatically better playback as well, much of that gritty, grainy sound is simply no longer a problem. That change and the others like it come under the general heading of Revolutionary Changes in Audio. It’s what Progress in Audio is all about.
With a real Hot Stamper the sound is much more involving. There is breath in the voices, the picking of the strings on the guitars — these things allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it’s a recording we’re listening to and not living, breathing musicians.
Top End Extension
Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the drums and percussion can’t extend up and away from the other elements. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the mix.
Although this quality is related to the above two, it’s not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really “see” into the mix, it’s much easier to pick out each and every instrument in order to gain more insight into the way the songs were arranged and recorded.
Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies is to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the engineers.
This is an area where Heavy Vinyl fails more often than not. Modern remastered records are just so damn opaque. That sound drives us to distraction when it doesn’t bore us to tears.
No rock or pop record without good bass can qualify as a top quality Hot Stamper. How could it? It’s the rhythmic foundation of the music, and who wants a pop record that lacks rhythm?
Born in the U.S.A. marked the first time that Springsteen’s characters really seemed to relish the fight and to have something to fight for. They were not defeated (“No Surrender”), and they had friendship (“Bobby Jean”) and family (“My Hometown”) to defend. The restless hero of “Dancing in the Dark” even pledged himself in the face of futility, and for Springsteen, that was a step.
The “romantic young boys” of his first two albums, chastened by “the working life” encountered on his third, fourth, and fifth albums and having faced the despair of his sixth, were still alive on this, his seventh, with their sense of humor and their determination intact.
Born in the U.S.A. was their apotheosis, the place where they renewed their commitment and where Springsteen remembered that he was a rock & roll star, which is how a vastly increased public was happy to treat him.
Born in the U.S.A.
Working on the Highway
I’m on Fire
I’m Goin’ Down
Dancing in the Dark