Hall and Oates – Remembering the Glorious Sound of Tubes

More of the Music of Hall and Oates

Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

This record has the sound of TUBES. I’m sure it was recorded with transistors, judging by the fact that it was made after most recording studios had abandoned that “antiquated” technology, but there may be a reason why they were able to achieve such success with the new transistor equipment when, in the decades to come, they would produce nothing but one failure after another.

In other words, I have a theory.

They remember what things sounded like when they had tubes. Modern engineers seem to have forgotten that sound. They have no reference for Tubey Magic. If they use tubes in their mastering chains, they sure don’t sound the way vintage tube-mastered records can sound.

Transistor Audio Equipment with Plenty of Tubey Magic

A similar syndrome was then operating with the home audio equipment manufacturers as well. Early transistor gear by the likes of Marantz, McIntosh and Sherwood, just to name three I happen to be familiar with, still retained much of the rich, natural, sweet, grain-free sound of the better tube equipment of the day.

I once owned a wonderful Sherwood receiver that you would swear had tubes in it when in fact it was simply an unusually well-designed transistor unit. Anyone listening to it would never know that it was solid state. It has none of the “sound” we associate with solid state, thank goodness.

Very low power, 15 watts a channel. No wonder it sounded so good.

Stick With the 4 Digit Originals (SD 7269)

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording this is about as good as it gets (AGAIG as we like to say). It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.   

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars that feature so prominently in the mixes.

Their Masterpiece

And, of course, when you can hear a record sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more. I’ve always liked this record, but now I consider it a classic. I could listen to it every week for a year and not get tired of it. Don’t write these guys off as some Top 40 blue-eyed soul popsters from the ’70s that time has forgotten. They are all of the above, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten, if only on the strength of this album.

Without question this is their masterpiece. We also consider it a Desert Island Disc and a Demo Disc. Next time we evaluate the Top 100 I think it will join the list. Changing the list is a pain so our plan at this point is to update it annually.

[Done, it’s on the list now.]

FURTHER READING

Our System Just Loves Certain Records – Why Do You Suppose That Is?

For the longest time our motto has been “Records for Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records,” and we see no reason to change it.  If anything, the current spate of manufacturers of Heavy Vinyl pressings are making records that get worse sounding by the day. Many of the most egregious offenders can be found here.

In order to do the work we do, our approach to audio has to be fundamentally different from that of the audiophile who listens for enjoyment. Critical listening and listening for enjoyment go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing.

The first — developing and applying your critical listening skills — allows you to achieve good audio and find the best pressings of the music you love.

Developing critical thinking skills when it comes to records and equipment is not a bad idea either.

Once you have a good stereo and a good record to play on it, your enjoyment of recorded music should increase dramatically.

A great sounding record on a killer system is a thrill.

A Heavy Vinyl mediocrity, played back on what passes for so many audiophile systems these days — regardless of cost — is, to these ears, an intolerable bore.

If this sounds arrogant and elitist, so be it. We set a higher standard, and price our records commensurate with their superior sound.  For those who appreciate the difference, and have resources sufficient to afford them, the cost is reasonable. If it were not we would have gone out of business years ago.

Hot Stampers are not cheap. If the price could not be justified by the better sound quality and quieter surfaces, who in his right mind would buy them? We can’t really be fooling so many audiophiles, can we?

Our approach to equipment and records is explained in more detail below, in a listing centered around an early pressing of a fifties Ted Heath Big Band album that knocked our socks off.  The right record at loud levels on Big Speakers can do that.