In an old commentary for a shootout we did for Carole King’s Tapestry album we took shots at both the CBS Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile pressing and the Classic Heavy Vinyl Audiophile pressing, noting that both fell far short of the standard set by the Hot Stamper copies we’d discovered. This finding (and scores of others just like it) prompted us to promulgate the following axiom of audiophile record collecting, which we are calling…
Better Records Record Collecting Axiom Number Two
The better your stereo gets, the fewer Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings you will want to play, or own for that matter.
(This assumes a fact not in evidence: that audiophiles get rid of their bad sounding records. It has been my experience that the reverse is actually more often the case. Most audiophiles seem to like to hang on to their bad sounding audiophile pressings, Why they do so I cannot for the life of me understand. To me a bad sounding audiophile record is a record that has no business being played and should either be tossed or sold, with any proceeds from the sale applied to the purchase of good records — you know, like the ones on our site.)
What’s axiom number one? Ah, so glad you asked.
Better Records Record Collecting Axiom Number One
No two records sound the same.
If that weren’t true we’d be out of business. It is in fact the very foundation of our business. We wrote a commentary with that idea firmly in mind under the heading The Dirty Little Secret of the Record Biz which goes into that subject in much more detail.
And it’s equally true for Half-Speeds — they’re records, right? — so we have a few entries in our We Was Wrong section about those rare copies that actually have sounded good to us over the years.
For example, the chances of there being Hot Stamper CBS Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Tapestry may be vanishingly small, but we can’t say the number is zero. There could be some, but considering how bad the idea of Half-Speed Mastering is, would they have much chance of beating our Hot Stampers? As a practical matter I would have to say the chances are zero.
One of our good customers, Dan, found much to agree with in our commentary and offered up his own two cents worth in the letter below.
Tom and Todd,
Just wanted to affirm the new Better Records axiom of “the better your stereo gets, the fewer modern reissues you will own.” My collection has dozens of these Heavy Vinyl reissues, and none of them are holding up after a year and half’s worth of significant improvements to my stereo. It was only at the beginning of last year that I found myself pleased with roughly 50% of my heavy vinyl purchases. Now, that number has plummeted to less than 10%. Almost everything that’s being put out today is an utter disappointment. Of course, part of the explanation may be that my listening skills have improved. But it’s hard to imagine that I would have liked dull, dreary, lifeless vinyl a year or two ago. I like to think not. More probable is that my stereo upgrades have widened the sonic chasm between good, old-fashioned records and their nouveau imposters.
I’d also like to second the avoidance of new vinyl purchases until major stereo improvements are made. I’m trudging through the laborious task of replacing these records with older, better sounding copies. It’s excellent advice to those new to the game or young (or both). Amazingly, hearing the difference doesn’t even require a Hot Stamper, almost any original or early reissue will beat the Sundazed, Classic, etc. That’s how inferior they are. To borrow from The Who, the sound must change.
I agree with this bit at the end of your letter with one caveat: “Amazingly, hearing the difference doesn’t even require a Hot Stamper, almost any original or early reissue will beat the Sundazed, Classic, etc. That’s how inferior they are.”
The caveat would be if you know how to clean your records right, right in this case being the way we recommend you clean them, using Walker fluids and a machine. Old uncleaned records can sound pretty bad; an audiophile pressing may beat your old original — until you clean it. It’s one of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we talk about all the time, and it can make all the difference in the world on some records, especially old ones.
Thanks for your letter,