Who Can’t Hear Differences in Sound from Side to Side on Most Records?

rimskscheh_2446More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Our Favorite Performance of Scheherazade – Ansermet with the Suisse Romande

Both the Chesky [1] and Classic reissue pressings of LSC 2446 are just plain terrible. Embarrassingly the latter is found on the TAS List.

There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album garnering rave reviews in the audiophile press. We didn’t like it either. It fails the violin test that we wrote about here.

Please note that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original vinyl used for comparison is a Shaded Dog pressing. In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the later White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have noted previously on the site.


The “original is better” premise of most reviewers renders the work they do practically worthless, at least to those of us who take the time to play a wide variety of pressings and judge them on the merits of their sound, not the color of their labels.

Missing the Obvious

The RCA White Dog with the best side two in our shootout had a very unmusical side one. Since reviewers virtually never discuss the sonic differences between the two (or more) sides of the albums they audition, how critically can they be listening? Under the circumstances how can we take anything they have to say about the sound of the record seriously?

The sound is obviously different from side to side on most of the records we play, often dramatically so (as in the case of Scheherazade), yet audiophile reviewers practically never seem to notice these obvious, common, unmistakable differences in sound, the kind that we discuss in every listing on the site. If they can’t hear the clear differences in sound from side to side, doesn’t that call into question their abilities at the most basic level?

Heavy Vinyl

For us it is this glaring obtuseness that best explains the modern audiophile reviewer’s infatuation with Heavy Vinyl. Poor reproduction or poor listening skills, it could be one or the other; most likely it’s some combination of the two (they clearly do go hand in hand, no surprise there). We can never be sure exactly where the fault lies. But do we really need to concern ourselves with the reasons for their shocking incompetence?

One final note of honesty. Even as recently as the early 2000s we were still somewhat enamored with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings (not many of the Living Stereo reissues I hasten to point out). If we had never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last ten or fifteen years perhaps we would find more merit in the reissues these reviewers 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 and 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 feel the same way.

[1] Chesky proudly touted their approach to mastering as simply making a flat transfer from the original RCA tapes. If you know much about records, you know these tapes were never supposed to be transferred without EQ, as well as whatever interventions were deemed necessary by those who do this sort of work for a living.

Flat transferring the tapes is an idea that holds great appeal to the kind of hubristic and clueless audiophiles who think they know something real mastering engineers must have missed. This guy comes to mind, but there are no doubt plenty of others out there in Audiophile Record Land just like him, and plenty to buy the awful sounding records he’s made.


Basic Concepts and Realities Explained 

Improving Your Critical Listening Skills

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries and Reviews

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