- An outstanding MONO copy of Bob Dylan’s self-titled debut (recorded in mono) with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- Both sides here have the immediacy, the warmth and the studio space the red label reissues fail to reproduce
- “… a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it…”
This is a true solo album — Dylan himself plays the guitar and harmonica — and it’s a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Bob playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village.
This is clearly a recording that sounds best in mono. The stereo copies put the vocal, guitar and harmonica — you know, the sounds that the one skinny kid in the middle of the room is making all by himself — in separate locations widely spaced in the soundfield. This sound may have been cool when playing on the old consoles of the day, but on a modern system it’s just plain ludicrous.
If you have a stereo copy we recommend you use your mono button when playing back the record. The same may be true for the second and third albums as well.
This vintage Columbia mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).
Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real BOB DYLAN singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For on an Early Bob Dylan Record
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Shootout Criteria (What To Listen For)
What are the sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record — any Pop or Rock record — should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.
When we can get many of the qualities above to come together on the side we’re playing we provisionally award it a Hot Stamper grade, which may or may not be revised over the course of the shootout as we hear what the various other copies sound like. Once we’ve been through all our side ones, we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner. Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sounded relative to the shootout winner. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.
That’s why the most common grade for a White Hot stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other. Finding the two best sounding sides from a shootout on the same LP certainly does happen, but is sure doesn’t happen as often as we would like (!) — there are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to insure consistent quality.
Record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can possibly make them.
The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.
You’re No Good
Talkin’ New York
In My Time of Dyin’
Man of Constant Sorrow
Fixin’ to Die
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
House of the Risin’ Sun
Freight Train Blues
Song to Woody
See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
Bob Dylan’s first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist’s own subsequent efforts.