Letter of the Week – “The WHS stamper just pulled you into those songs, so you could feel every little dynamic shift and tonal change…”

More of the Music of Steely Dan

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. [The bolding has been added by us.]

Hey Tom,   

A friend and I just did a shootout of 16 copies of Aja, plus one of your White Stampers, which easily trounced them all (including some DJ 12″ singles from the album) [1], and in exactly those areas that you cover in some of the WTLF descriptions you have for that album. Just a great big, open and lovely-sounding record–what a thrill!. And thanks very much for those notes–they help clarify the critical listening process.

We also listened to 16 copies of Tea for the Tillerman. Among those (UK pink rims, German, Japanese, and many US labels) were two excellent early brown label A&M pressings, which I saved for the end of the shootout.

And we had the Analogue Productions 33 rpm pressing, which has been a big disappointment since I first heard it. [2] Those two original A&Ms both sound so much more natural, with more delicacy, extension, air, presence and energy than the AP version. My listening buddy said they sounded as if they were cut at 45 rpm; and neither of us really expected your White Hot UK pink-rim pressing could be a significant improvement over those.

But, as good as those are, it was also obvious that your WHS brought the music several steps closer. The A&M brown labels both added some thickness and over-emphasized the low range of his voice–which (until we heard your WHS) was a pleasant coloration.

But as you frequently mention, the biggest issue, once you’ve heard a great copy, is how much more energy and flow the music has. The WHS stamper just pulled you into those songs, so you could feel every little dynamic shift and tonal change that the musicians were bringing to the table. It allowed that music to breathe in a way I’ve never heard before. What a record!

The BIG thing your Hot Stampers do is present the music in a perfectly balanced way–no frequency range is emphasized, which also means none are compromised. I think this is why you can always turn up the volume on a Hot Stamper. If you’ve got a bad mastering or bad pressing, at some point, turning up the volume only make parts of the recording more unlistenable. Turning up a Hot stamper makes it a bit louder, sure. But it also brings you further into the studio, and closer to the music–and that’s we really want, right?

Ivan

Ivan,

Quite a shootout! I see you learned a lot. That’s what shootouts are for, to teach you what the good copies do well that the other copies do not do so well. As you well know, going deep into the sound the way you did is a thrill, one we get to enjoy on a regular basis. Maybe not every day — not every record is as good as Tea for the Tillerman – but multiple times a week. It’s what make the coming to work every day fun for those of us on the listening panels.

Thanks for your letter.

P.S.

[1] I remember playing those Aja 12″ records back in the ’80s. I never thought they were all that good sounding. DJ appeal, not audiophile appeal.

[2] We couldn’t stand the AP pressing either, as you may have guessed by the title of our review: Tea for the Tillerman – This Is Your Idea of Analog? It’s the poster boy for records with No Tubey Magic Whatsoever.

Without Tubey Magic you might as well be playing a CD. The well known reviewer who has so many nice things to say about this pressing — I quote him at length in my review — apparently cannot hear that the new Heavy Vinyl pressing sounds more like a CD than the actual CD of Tea for the Tillerman does.

This self-described “champion of analog” is single-handedly guilty of more reviewer malpractice than anybody I can think of this side of Julian Hirsch, so it should come as no surprise to anyone — especially anyone who reads this blog — that the Heavy Vinyl Tillerman is yet another in a very long line of records he has been dead wrong about.

If your goal is to promote vinyl, at the very least you should know better than to do it with a record as lacking in analog virtues as this one is. We listed them chapter and verse in our lengthy review. We had no trouble identifying and calling them out, and we frankly still don’t understand why so many analog devotees have such a difficult time with the kind of in-depth critical listening that shows up the faults of junk vinyl such as this misguided remaster.

And just in case you are wondering, I happen to know that the Sterling mastered CD from many decades ago sounds better, because I still own mine and play it in the car from time to time.

If you are stuck in a Heavy Vinyl rut, we here at Better Records can help you get out of it. We did precisely that for these folks, and we can do it for you.

(You may of course not be aware that you are stuck in a rut. Few audiophiles are. The best way out of that predicament is to hear how mediocre these modern records sound compared to the vintage Hot Stampers we offer. Once you hear the difference, your days of buying newly remastered releases will most likely be over. Even if our pricey curated pressings are beyond your budget, you can avail yourself of the methods we describe to find dramatically superior killer pressings on your own.)


Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

Reviews and Commentaries for Tea for the Tillerman

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