Below you will see our old Hot Stamper commentary from 2004 as part of the discussion of EKTIN in an older shootout (9-08), comments which we now renounce, disown, reject, repudiate and disavow with extreme prejudice. Huh? Here’s part of our mea culpa.
Our latest shootout this time around left us with a fairly large serving of egg on our face concerning the commentary we had written for our previous shootout, a textbook example of We Was Wrong. We rarely try to make excuses for our mistakes, but give us a break, that last shootout was more than four years ago (September 2004)!
Allow me make two obvious points about that fact: Tempus fugit for one, and things sure have changed for another. Here are the relevant excerpts from what we oh-so-mistakenly had to say back then about the Two Tone Reprise original pressings:
Every other version of this record, except for the right originals, is painfully bright, harsh and distorted. This is one of those cases where the master tape that was used to make this early pressing has definitely been lost, stolen or gone missing for some reason, because the amount of just plain old distortion on later pressings is pretty serious, and it seems like the later the pressing the worse the sound. And the worst part about it is, no matter how bad the tape is that they are using, they keep brightening it up, making a bad situation worse.
I found all this out the hard way. I bought copy after copy hoping that one of them would sound good. But none of them did.
There’s more of course, most of it as embarrassing as the bits I quoted. (The old listing will be on the site for all to see, an act of self-flagellation or a cautionary tale, you be the judge.)
The point? There have been some Revolutionary Changes in Audio in the last few years man! If you’ve got old analog I’m pretty sure you will never be able to get this album to sound right.
It takes some seriously high-quality playback equipment to play this record, and that means optimizing every component from the needle to the speaker, tweaked like crazy of course, then moving to the listening room itself, and finally to keeping the electricity that powers the whole damn thing free from contamination.
I had one helluva system in 2000 — Aries, Triplanar, Benz Ruby, Aurios, Whispers — but I sure didn’t have one remotely as good as the one I have now. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is all the proof I or anybody else needs.
Hot Stampers with Brown Labels
One of the surprising discoveries made during this shootout was that some brown label pressings actually had not only very good sound, but sound that was in some ways better than the original Two Tone pressings. The later ones sound, as would be expected, somewhat cleaner; they were probably cut using better mastering equipment. Or the vinyl was better. Or both.
Make no mistake, most brown label pressings were junk, made from dubs, but some had the real Everybody Knows Magic. The best copy we have to sell at this time is Two Tone, but now that we know the better stampers, we might not have to wait four years to find enough copies to do the next shootout.
Our Difficulty of Reproduction (DOR) Scale
This recording is quite difficult to reproduce, which means it ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS). Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.
Here is what I had to say about a Brewer and Shipley album that ranks high on the DOR scale:
I can also tell you that if you have a modest system this record is just going to sound like crap. It sounded like crap for years in my system, even when I thought I had a good one. Vinyl playback has come a long way in the last five or ten years and if you’ve participated in some of the revolutionary changes that I talk about elsewhere on the site, you should hear some pretty respectable sound. Otherwise, I would pass. On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of Tubey Magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems, the kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for twenty years. If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you.
It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively. It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.
As we’ve said before about these kinds of recordings — Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II — they are designed to bring any audio system that tries to reproduce them to its knees.
If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, you are going to hear some amazing sound when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings.