The best of this kind of mainstream radio-friendly pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is fun music that belongs in your collection.
IF you get hold of a good pressing, and in our experience this mass-produced stuff leaves a lot to be desired most of the time.
Actually that’s not really fair; the specialty audiophile limited edition pressings of most records are even worse sounding, so the production numbers really don’t have much to do with the final product, now do they?
Millions of copies of this album were made, and heavy vinyl pressings are only made in the thousands, but which would you rather play? I’ll take a slice of good old thin vinyl from the ’70s over that heavy audiophile stuff any day of the week.
But I digress. When it comes to What Once Were Vices are Now Habits, our experience from playing scores of copies is that most simply lack ENERGY. (In this regard we find them surprisingly similar to modern heavy vinyl pressings.) They’re flat and compressed and no matter how loud you turn them up the band never seems to be that into the songs they’re playing.
Ah, but the good pressings show you a band that’s on fire, playing and singing their hearts out. Such are the vagaries of record production. Who can explain it or even understand it? All we know is what the finished product sounds like. The rest is guesswork, entertaining for idle minds and forum posters but not of much value to those of us who play records for enjoyment and want to hear the music we love in the best sound possible.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Tipped up top end, plain and simple. When you hear a boost up top sure enough you will notice the guitars starting to sparkle and Johnston’s voice becoming more hi-fi-ish. On the more tipped-up copies you could easily mistake the sound for that of a MoFi half-speed mastered LP. That sparkle used to thrill us thirty years ago. Now it makes us roll our eyes and shake our heads — what they hell were they thinking, boosting the top end like that? It’s phony and it’s wrong.
Old School Audio
But the more important question is why are so many audiophiles still in the thrall of that sound? Why can’t they recognize how unnatural it is? Simple answer: Old School Audio. Old School systems, lacking the latest equipment, room treatments, tweaks and the like, need that extra kick. Let’s face it: Most audiophiles have not taken advantage of the Revolutions in Audio of the last ten or fifteen years. How many audiophiles own Hallographs, just to cite one game-changing example. The result is that they must find records that give them the boost their lackluster audio systems need.
Some of us (which includes many of you or you wouldn’t be spending all your money on Hot Stampers) have systems that find dramatically more information in the grooves of our records than we ever dreamed could possibly be there. That information then passes through our better electronics and comes out of our better speakers and into our better sounding rooms with far more energy and far less distortion than we would have thought possible not many years ago.
We Are So Down
This is why we are so down on CDs and modern-mastered LPs. When you clean and play this old stuff right, you get a sound that you can’t get any other way. You get a sound that’s right in a way that no modern records or CDs are. We’ve played all that modern stuff; we know what it sounds like. That’s why we stopped carrying it a few years back. We used to think it was passable. Now we can’t stand it.
If you can’t clean them and play them right, well, digital and heavy vinyl might work better for you. You might even want to write me a letter about it. You wouldn’t be the first.