Listening in Depth to Carly Simon’s Second Best Album – No Secrets

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For 

The immensely talented engineer ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE worked his audio magic on this album. You may recall that he recorded a number of the greatest sounding rock records of all time, Elton John’s self-titled second album and Tumbleweed Connection, both in 1970, as well as this album and Nilsson Schmilsson in 1972, with Richard Perry producing. 

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music.In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Right Thing to Do
The Carter Family
You’re So Vain

A wonderful song and a good test track to boot. On the best copies the bass will be deep and well-defined, and one can expect the vocals to have a lovely breathy quality.

His Friends Are More Than Fond of Robin
We Have No Secrets

The top end is key to finding great sound on this album. If it’s boosted you’ll have a bright copy that will be glaringly unpleasant. If it’s missing or attentuated you’ll have a dull copy that’s boring and uninvolving.

Ah, but when it’s extended and correct everything else seems to fall into place. That’s why this song is such a good test track. If the voices sound smooth but you still have extension up top you know your copy has been mastered and pressed properly.

Side Two

Embrace Me, You Child

Focus on the strings. On most copies they’re either aggressively shrill when loud or they are smeared and lack texture. When they sound rich and clear though they can really be lovely.

Waited So Long
It Was So Easy

The pedal steel guitar on the best copies is surrounded by ambience and should have plenty of warmth and Tubey Magic.

Night Owl 
When You Close Your Eyes


NOTES FROM A RECENT HOT STAMPER

Side one sounds excellent — it’s very transparent, natural and musical. The sound is rich and full-bodied with super low distortion and plenty of life and energy. The top end is wonderfully extended balancing a BIG bottom end with lots of deep, well-defined bass. The drums are punchy and dynamic and the cymbals sound amazing here — just listen to how extended the crashes are on You’re So Vain. We

Side two sounds even better. It’s open, spacious, and ALIVE. Many copies we played were too dull or too bright, but the tonal balance here is Right On The Money. The clarity and detail are superb; just listen to Embrace Me, You Child — you can really hear the texture of the strings as they are bowed. The overall sound is rich, smooth and natural and the vocals sound lovely with lots of breath.



Further Reading

We have a large number of entries in our new Listening in Depth series.

We have a section for Audio Advice of all kinds.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.