Detail may be the Holy Grail to some audiophiles, but listening for the details in a recording can be a trap we too easily fall into if we do not guard against it.
Tonal balance is the key. Without it no judgments about detail have any real value.
One example: As good as the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing is, the guitar at the opening of Helplessly Hoping tells you everything you need to know about what’s missing. The guitar on the better Hot Stamper domestic copies has a transparency and harmonic integrity that cannot be found on Classic’s version.
The Classic Records pressing gets the tonal balance right, but their guitar doesn’t have the subtlety and harmonic resolution of the real thing.
I’m laboring here to avoid the word detail, since many audiophiles like bright, phony sounding records because of all their wonderful “detail.” Patricia Barber’s albums come to mind.
The MoFi guys and the CD guys often fall into this trap.
Get the sound tonally balanced first, then see how much detail you have left.
Detail is not the end-all and be-all of audio. Those who think it is usually have systems that make my head hurt.
But most people will never know what they’re missing on Helplessly Hoping, because they will never have an amazing sounding copy of this album. The hot copies are just too rare.
Fortunately, there is an alternative to having to shell out the big bucks we charge for the extremely hard to find debut album, one of the rarest titles we offer, and that would be our moderately pricey copies of So Far, which have the song Helplessly Hoping in excellent sound.
In addition, they have one of the hardest tracks to reproduce in the entire Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young canon: Find the Cost of Freedom. Scroll down to read more at the end of this listing.
This record is good for testing the following sonic qualities:
Find the Cost of Freedom
The better copies of So Far have Demo Disc Quality Sound on this track. You could say everything that needs to be said about the beauty of analog with this one track alone. It’s not even two minutes long, but it’s two really wonderful minutes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at the height of their powers.
The voices should sound as sweet and as silky as any CSN three part harmony you have ever heard. This song rivals Helplessly Hoping for vocal blend. Good pressings of this song have midrange magic to die for.
As this is the last track on side one, closest to the inner groove, most copies are going to have some trace of tracking distortion (or even cutting distortion). The better your arm and cartridge, the less this should present a problem for you. (My Dynavector 17dx/ Triplanar combo tracks the best copies perfectly.) For most weekend warrior audiophiles, it’s never going to vanish completely.
Anti-Skate Testing Too!
This track is a wonderful test for proper anti-skate adjustment. With the anti-skate set right, there should be less harmonic distortion in the voices. A correct setting will also bring out dynamics and energy as well.
Of course, the problem is that if you start playing this song again and again and making small adjustments to the anti-skate, you’re probably going to end up damaging the track.
One solution would be to find a cheap used copy to play with, not one of our wonderful (and pricey) Hot Stampers.