This week’s testimonial letter comes from our good customer Roger, who was blown away by the Hot Stamper pressing of Aqualung we sent him [many, many years ago].
Roger, as expected, did a thorough shootout of his own, comparing of our Hot Stamper against the audiophile usual suspects. The result? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper pressing.
Note that a well known audiophile reviewer did his own shootout for the album years ago, failing miserably, very unlike our good customer Roger, who succeeded admirably.
I have to tell you that I was floored at the sound of the hot stamper Jethro Tull Aqualung I just bought. Darn you again and your hot stampers.
To give you some idea of how many times I have heard this album, backtrack to 1971 when it came out. On a Boy Scout trip a friend of mine had a portable 8-track tape player and this one tape, Aqualung. I remember sleeping on one of the seats in a car with the Aqualung tape on infinite repeat all night. In high school I had the 8-track and listened to this record hundreds of times.
Through the years after becoming an audiophile I bought many different copies looking for the ultimate-sounding LP, finally settling on the MFSL version, which I bought when it came out.
So I had a good time comparing 4 copies:
First I tried the 25th anniversary and it was just as I remembered it — it sounds digital, like a CD. Lots of detail, but hard, hyped, edgy, flat soundstage, compressed dynamics. As digital usually sounds, guitars were harsh and jumped unnaturally out of the mix.
The DCC version was surprisingly bland and undynamic as compared to the 25th, but smoother. Neither copy had any bandwidth, no bass at all and no highs whatsoever. Maybe they remastered the LP from an 8-track tape, LOL.
When I heard the MFSL version, it came back to me why I liked this reissue so much; there was lots of bass and highs, but as on most MFSL recordings, they sounded equalized like the MFSL engineers simply took a graphic equalizer and pushed up the 20-40Hz and 5-10kHz controls. I know this sound as I once had a graphic equalizer and used to do this. There was no midbass, just the lowest bass, and it just overwhelmed the rest of the sonic spectrum, which was thin and compressed. And drumsticks on cymbals and the high hat on the title song were pushed way forward in the mix and too prominent. [We call this the Smile Curve and lots of audiophile records have a bad case of it.]
It has been a real disappointment to have found out in the past 5 years or so that all of the money I spent on audiophile versions has not given me the ultimate-sounding copies.
I am sure I can sell them for big bucks, which I may indeed so someday.
So again, it was a real revelation to hear the hot stamper. I have never heard a copy with the space and detail of this record like I did with the HS. It was like the musicians were right in my room with amazing presence, weight, and space. The transparency was simply unreal.
And the highs and lows were balanced with the rest of the spectrum. Drums and voices jumped from the speakers, but were not overhyped, and I heard details I had never heard before. It was like hearing this vastly familiar recording for the first time, kind of like hearing the sinister laughs on Dark Side of the Moon inside my head on the HS copy of that record. Nice job on this one.
Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. We debunked those cruddy audiophile pressings ourselves, and we’re glad to see you heard exactly how much better the real thing is, just the way we did.