Heavy Vinyl Super Discs – “Nobody should have to listen to sound like that.”

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

This entry links up a few of the commentaries I wrote as I went back through the Classic catalog, comparing their pressings to both originals and reissues.

We take to task Classic Records, The Absolute Sound, and Chesky, as you will see below.

This commentary was written in 2005, prompted at the time by a rave review in TAS for one of the new Speakers Corners Mercury reissues. I detested the sound of the first one I heard, and subsequent releases only confirmed that the mastering of the Mercury catalog for Speakers Corner was abominable, an affront, in my none-too-humble opinion, to all right-thinking audiophiles.

Some thoughts on the Heavy Vinyl version

Here is what a real Mercury pressing sounds like…

when you get hold of an exceptionally good one and know how to clean it.

As for my commentary, it should be obvious that these awful remastering labels have not gone out of business, but instead have prospered, making millions of dollars from audiophiles eager to lay down their hard earned money for one Heavy Vinyl pressing after another, often of the same title even.

When Harry Pearson (of all people! — this is the guy who started the Living Stereo craze by putting those forgotten old records on the TAS list in the first place) gave a rave review to LSC 1806, I had to stand up (in print anyway) and say that the emperor clearly had removed all his clothing, if he ever had any to begin with. (And now he has a CD List? Ugh.)

This got me kicked out of TAS by the way, as Harry does not take criticism well. I make a lot of enemies in this business with my commentary and reviews, but I see no way to avoid the fallout for calling a spade a spade.

Is anybody insane enough to stand up for LSC 1806 today? Considering that there is a die-hard contingent of people who still think Mobile Fidelity is the greatest label of all time, there may well be “audiophiles” with substandard audio equipment or weakened powers of observation and discrimination, or both (probably both, as the two go hand in hand), that still find the sound of that steely stringed Classic pressing somehow pleasing to the ear. Hey, anything is possible.

As I’ve said again and again, the better a stereo gets, the more obvious the differences between good vintage pressings and most current reissues become. Modest front ends and mediocre playback systems can disguise these differences and mislead the amateur audiophile. (One clear exception to this rule: Cisco Records, the people behind the wonderful Young Person’s Guide and many others.) [No longer our opinion, a classic case of We Was Wrong.]

And the “professional” too. We’ve all had the experience of going back to play a record from years ago that you remember as being amazing, only to find it amazingly bad. (The Japanese Led Zeppelin series comes immediately to mind. How could my system have been so dull that those bright pressings actually fooled me into thinking they sounded good ten years ago? I’ve done a few Mea Culpas over the years, and that’s one of the bigger ones.)

Remember when Chesky records were the rage? Does anybody in his right mind play that shit anymore? (A short anecdote: A good customer called me up one night years ago. He had just finished playing the Chesky Spain, and had pulled out his Shaded Dog original to compare. The sound was so much better he took his Chesky and, with great fanfare, not to mention satisfaction, ceremoniously dropped it in the trash can. He said, “Of course I could have sold it or traded it away, but nobody should have to listen to sound like that.”)


FURTHER READING

The sonic signature of the modern Heavy Vinyl Classical Reissue in Four Words: Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Vague.

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.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

And finally,

A Confession

One final note of honesty. 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 plus years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem to prefer.

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 or worse.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. We know that many of our customers see things the same way.

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