- An outstanding pression of Point of No Return, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Big and solid guitars and keyboards, with great bass, full vocals, and tons of Tubey Magic – this the way to hear the band
- Our Hot Stamper here manages to combine this kind of high-rez, extended top with natural, balanced tonality – this one really gets it right
- 4 Stars: “This is the definitive Kansas recording … their interplay and superior musicianship make this both an essential classic rock and progressive rock recording.”
Drop the needle on Dust in the Wind — here the guitars and vocals are full-bodied and natural, qualities unfortunately in short supply on the typical pressing.
This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Point of No Return 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 1977
- 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.
Watch Yer Guitars
The better copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain squawky, pinched sound to the guitars. Bad copies of the album have that sound through and through, along with excessive amounts of grain and grunge. The guitars are prominent in the mix on practically every song here, so when the guitars sound sour, the track as a whole does too.
The mastering and pressing problems of the average copy make the overall sound unmusical. The way we found that out was simple enough — we cleaned and played lots of copies, and once in a while we heard one that allowed the music to breathe, open up, sound balanced, actually make sense even. Those copies showed us a Point of Know Return we didn’t know existed and gave us a goal to shoot for with all the other copies we played.
Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, usually up top, which results in harshness and shrillness — not the sound you want on a Kansas record!
Another tough test: the vocals often strain when loud. Hot Stampers are all about finding the copies that don’t have that problem, along with many others. The higher the grade, the fewer the sonic problems.
What We’re Listening For on Point of Know Return
- 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.
One More Thing
The CBS Half-Speeds suck. Way too bright and thin. What were they thinking?
It’s the sound that audiophiles are often fooled by to this day Brighter and more detailed is rarely better. Most of the time it’s just brighter. Not many half-speed mastered audiophile records are dull. They’re bright because the audiophiles who bought them preferred that sound. I did, a long, long time ago.
Hopefully, we’ve all learned our lesson by now, expensive and embarrassing as such lessons usually turn out to be.
Point of Know Return
Portrait (He Knew)
Dust in the Wind
Sparks of the Tempest
This is the definitive Kansas recording and includes their most famous tune, ‘Dust in the Wind.’ The band is in peak form and also churned out the single “Point of Know Return,” which is still played daily on classic rock stations.
While their pop-oriented approach and standard rock guitar sound helped define the classic rock sound of the ’70s, careful listening reveals that this band’s talent goes beyond colleagues such as Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Boston.
Their arrangements and time signatures more accurately reflect the music of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. “Paradox” and “The Spider” are both excellent examples of their progressive approach. … their interplay and superior musicianship make this both an essential classic rock and progressive rock recording.