There is [was; it’s out of print now] a German 180 gram pressing of L.A. Woman which [was] so bad, I am calling this commentary The Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing is a sign that, to me at least, The End Is Near, or May Be. If this isn’t a good example of a Pass/Fail record, I don’t know what would be.
[This commentary was written a long time ago and much of our thinking about the recordings of The Doors has evolved since then, having played scores of their records in shootouts and learned something from every one. Click here to read more.]
Dateline: January, 2005
[Note that some of this commentary from the dawn of time (2005 qualifies when it comes to Hot Stampers) falls under the heading of We Was Wrong, especially the part about there not being a good vinyl version of the album. We heard some killer pressings starting around 2011-2012, but boy are they few and far between.]
There is a new 180 gram German pressing of The Doors LA Woman album which is so bad, I am calling this commentary Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing to me is a sign that The End Is Near. There is no hope for audiophiles if they can’t tell a good record from a bad one, and this is clearly a bad one.
When I first played it I thought there must be something wrong with my stereo. There was no deep bass. (This recording has amazing deep bass.) The sound was upper midrangey and distorted. There was no extreme top at all. This surprised me, as I had heard that this was supposed to be a good record. What I heard coming off the copy that I was playing was pure garbage. I was confused.
So I grabbed a couple of DCC Doors pressings. The first one I played was Waiting For The Sun, my favorite on DCC. Ahh, that’s more like it. Sweet, open, plenty of bass, extended highs, Steve Hoffman’s beautifully liquid midrange — everything I expected to hear on his version was there just exactly the way it should be.
So I knew it wasn’t my stereo. Then I pulled out the DCC LA Woman. What’s the difference you ask? Well, the DCC has a top end. Listen to the cymbals. They ring sweetly and correctly. You can hear that the tape hiss sounds correct, a sure sign that the top end is accurate. The midrange is a bit recessed compared to the German pressing. Steve says he took out a half DB in the upper mids. There’s distortion on the vocals and he was trying to soften the effect. It might have been better to leave it flat, but either way is preferable to the boosted, aggressive, edgy upper midrange to be found on the German pressing. The German LP sounds like something playing over the radio. AM, not FM. Part of the problem is that there’s no lower midrange on the German pressing to properly balance out the vocals. Perhaps it’s not on the tape they used. I’m guessing it probably isn’t. But any mastering engineer worthy of the name should know how to fix a problem like that. Steve did. Apparently this German fellow did not.
And worst of all, there is no deep bass on this record AT ALL. The whole lower octave is missing. Now to be fair, the DCC LP has the same problem. There’s no lower bass on it either. That’s why I don’t recommend that you listen to LA Woman on vinyl. I don’t know of any copy that sounds right. There is a version that gets EVERYTHING right, however, and it’s one of the few CDs in my collection I treasure: the DCC Gold CD. It has phenomenally good bass, some of the best I’ve ever heard. What good is a Blues Rock album without bass? Every other version is a joke compared to the DCC CD. The Gold Disc ROCKS. Any copy lacking bass cannot possibly convey the spirit of the music. And I’m sorry to say that that means analog loses to digital in this case.
There’s quite a bit more to this story, and you can read all about it here in Part Two.
This Is the 2003 German Heavy Vinyl Pressing to Avoid
Limited Edition on heavy audiophile 180 gram Vinyl
Pressed By – Optimal Media Production – B382369
Lacquer Cut At – Universal M & L, Germany
Sticker Info: Reissue from Original Mastertapes / 180 Gram Deluxe Edition
Matrix / Runout (Side A): B382369-01 A1 A33 075596 0 3281 S1 320
Matrix / Runout (Side B): B382369-01 B1 A33 075596 0 3281 S2 320
Here are some of reviews and commentaries for the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to dig in.
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 collect.
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. Judging by the letters we receive, 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.