Ambrosia / Life Beyond L.A. – WW, LW, JW? Which Stampers Sound the Best?

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There’s a unique story behind this title, which goes something like this. I recount it because it’s a classic and hopefully instructive case of Live and Learn.

In 2005 we acquired more than a dozen sealed copies. Knowing that no two of them would sound the same we decided to crack them open, clean them up and play them.

All three of the major stamper prefixes for Warners were represented in the various matrix numbers: WW, JW and LW. As we started to play them it quickly became clear that most copies of this record just do not sound good. The typical copy is hard, midrangy, opaque, dull and sour.

Only one of those prefixes — WW, JW, LW — actually has any hope of sounding good, and surprisingly it’s not the one I would normally expect it to be. Live and learn.

Live and learn indeed. This time those stampers did not sound nearly as good as others, another good reason why there will never be a Book of Hot Stampers, not one written by us anyway.

Like we’ve said in the past, if you think the world is in need of such a book, please do us all a favor and write one. We’ll sit back and take potshots at it. There is no chance in the world it won’t be full of misinformation. Hell, if we wrote it would be full of mistakes too, and we think we know as much about stampers as anybody in the world, and probably more. I ask you, under what circumstances would anyone be in a position to know more than we do?

More from our old commentary:

Old News

This is not news at Better Records — we’ve known how bad most domestic pressings sound for twenty years, which is why we used to recommend the Nautilus Half-Speed as the only tolerable pressing around. It’s actually transparent and fairly sweet, with extension on the top that’s key to opening up the sound. Like almost all Half-Speeds it has no real weight or power to its sound, but this is a fair tradeoff when the alternative is so hard and unpleasant. Here is what we wrote in 2005 about the various pressings:

The original domestic pressings are mastered at The Mastering Lab. It’s rare to find them producing a record as midrangy and constricted and hard sounding as most of those originals are. I’ve tried a dozen of them. They are practically unlistenable. (I recently [Summer 2005] discovered some that can sound good though. Watch the site for listings down the road.)

Even though the Nautilus has its problems, at least someone tried to make this record listenable, even enjoyable. Their version won’t win any awards for sound, but it sure beats the competition.

Here at Better Records we love a challenge, so if there is an audiophile version of a record we are keen to find the Hot Stamper that will kill it. Especially when it’s an album we love.

2008

And so in 2008 we took up that challenge and beat the pants off the Nautilus Half-Speed Mastered pressing of Ambrosia, the pressing we used to think was the best. And it was the best until we made the changes we needed to make.

And now we’ve beaten the pants off the standard non-audiophile pressing that we used to like. That’s what we call PROGRESS and it only comes about by hard work in conjunction with the application of new technologies (read tweaks and better cleaning).

More on Progress in Audio.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Life Beyond L.A. 
Art Beware 
Apothecary 
If Heaven Could Find Me 
How Much I Feel

Side Two

Dancin’ by Myself 
Angola 
Heart to Heaven 
Not as You Were 
Ready for Camarillo