The highest fidelity vintage recordings are truly amazing if you can play them right. That’s a big if.
In fact, it may just be the biggest if in all of audio.
Be that as it may. What do we love about vintage pressings like the Ted Heath disc you see pictured?
The timbre of the instruments is hi-fi in the best sense of the word.
The unique sound of every instrument is being reproduced with remarkable fidelity on this old record.
That’s what we mean by “hi-fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS sound that passes for hi-fidelity on some records.
Older audiophile records, typically those made by Mobile Fidelity in the ’70s and ’80s, suffered from a common group of problems on practically every record they released:
Nowadays that phony sound is no longer in vogue. A new, but equally phony sound has taken its place.
What seems to be in vogue these days, judging by the Heavy Vinyl Reissue pressings we’ve played over the last few years, is a very different sound, with a very different suite of shortcomings.
These are currently the hallmarks of the Heavy Vinyl LP. Whether made by Speakers Corner, DCC, AP or any other label, starting at some point in the mid-’90s, the sound these labels apparently preferred had an infuriating tonal balance problem we noted in practically every record we played — sound that was just too damn smooth.
The phony boosted highs of the bad old days are gone, replaced by the phony rolled off highs of today.
(Bernie Grundman cut hundreds of records for Classic Records starting in the ’90s, and it’s clear he chose to go a different way, but his way turned out to be every bit as problematical.)
Are the audiophiles who buy these new, super-smooth records any better off?
The ones with bright, phony systems probably are.
As we have been saying for years, first you need to have reasonably good sound. Then you can buy records that actually are good.
How do we know we are right about the tonality issues of these modern remasterings?
Stay tuned for part two of this commentary.
The Ideal System for an Exceptionally Well Recorded Album
It’s clear our stereo loves this record. Let’s talk about why that might be the case.
Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us exactly what is on the record, nothing added, and nothing taken away.
When we play a modern record, it should sound modern. When we play a vintage Tubey Magical Living Stereo pressing, we want to hear all the Tubey Magic, but we don’t want to hear more Tubey Magic than what is actually on the record. We don’t want to do what some audiophiles like to do, which is to make all their records sound the way they like all their records to sound.
They do that by having their system add in all their favorite colorations. We call that “My-Fi,” not “Hi-Fi,” and we’re having none of it.
If our system were more colored, slower and tubier, this record would not sound as good as it does. It’s already got plenty of richness, warmth, sweetness and Tubey Magic.
To take an obvious example, playing the average dry and grainy Joe Walsh record on our system is a fairly unpleasant experience. Some added warmth and richness, with maybe some upper-midrange suckout thrown in for good measure, would make it much more enjoyable. But then how would we know which Joe Walsh pressings aren’t too dry and grainy for our customers to enjoy?
We discussed some of these issues in another commentary:
We have put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.
It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.
If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.
A White Hot copy should have a near-perfect blend of Tubey Magic and clarity, because that’s what we hear when we play it on our system.
We are convinced that the more time and energy you’ve put into your stereo over the years, decades even, the more likely it is that you will hear this wonderful record sound the way we heard it. And that will make it one helluva Demo Disc in your home too.