This commentary was the first one I wrote criticizing the sound of DCC vinyl, probably around 2008 or so.
During our shootout for Bonnie’s first Capitol album, we found that the DCC pressing was lacking in so many ways that I felt compelled to spell out for our customers what its shortcomings were.
I had enthusiastically recommended the album in 1996 when it came out, but our first big shootout had shown me how wrong that judgment turned out to be. Our complete commentary from 2008 is reproduced below.
The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Nick Of Time is how completely they MURDER the DCC LP. Folks, it’s really no contest.
Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound very good, but it can’t compete with the best original pressings. It’s missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we’ve discovered on the better original pressings.
As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound.
Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing.
Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.
We play albums like this VERY LOUD. I’ve seen Bonnie Raitt live a number of times and although I can’t begin to get her to play as loud in my listening room as she did on stage, I can try. To do less is to do her a disservice.
The DCC Approach
The DCC is too damn smooth. It’s an understandable approach for DCC to take, since this recording is more hyped-up than any of Bonnie’s earlier work, but this album actually has loads of personality and nuance. Just because an album sounds polished and maybe a bit too “clean,” it’s foolish to think that it lacks intensity or passion.
You listen to a track like “Thing Called Love” on the DCC, and it sounds good — the tambourine sounds like a tambourine, the bass sounds like a bass. The problem is you don’t hear the jingles of the tambourine hitting each other; the bass doesn’t smack you in the chest. When these elements are veiled, the life and, for lack of a better term, the point of the music go with them.
When I’m listening to Bonnie perform on a Hot Stamper pressing, I’m not merely hearing her singing the songs and nodding along with the beat, I’m being enveloped by her voice and transported to another place, as though she were in my living room, or I in her studio (something to do with Newton’s third law I believe). Although the DCC is very good, it doesn’t give us enough of what we’re looking for from an album like Nick of Time. It feels compromised, and you should never compromise the life of the music on an album that you love. (This is why I rail against panels and screens for speakers. Where is the life? The energy? The sound they produce bores me to tears.)
As a general rule, this Heavy Vinyl pressing will fall short in some or all of the following areas when played head to head against the vintage pressings we offer:
- It will tend to lack Ambience, Size and Space.
- It will tend to have more Compression.
- It will tend to lack Energy.
- It will tend to have more Smear.
- It will tend to lack Transparency.
Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.
Even as recently as the early 2000s we were still somewhat impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we had never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem impressed by.
We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate and even worse.
Some audiophile records have such poor sound, they had me so pissed off I was motivated to create a special ring of hell for them.
Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. Judging by the hundreds of letters we’ve received, especially the ones comparing our records to their Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered counterparts, we know that our customers see things the same way.