Advice – Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Crisis? What Crisis? The Exception that Probes the Rule

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[This is an old commentary from about ten years ago so take it with a grain of salt. The best domestic pressings kill this audiophile record. That said, the better half-speed copies are actually surprisingly good.

This Hot Stamper A&M Half Speed of Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis? today joins a VERY ELITE GROUP: Half-Speeds that hold their own in a head to head shootout against some of the BEST Hot Stamper Non-Audiophile pressings we can find. There are presently a total of three titles that fit the description: Dark Side of the Moon on MoFi, Crime of the Century on MoFi, and this title on A&M.

Most half-speed mastered records we throw on our table have us scratching our heads and asking, What the hell were they thinking? They SUCK! Tubby bass, recessed mids, phony highs, compression — the list of bad qualities they almost all have in common is a long one. Playing these kinds of records on a properly set-up modern system is positively painful.
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Basie & Peterson – The Timekeepers – Probably Bad Sounding, But Who Knows?

More Count Basie

More on The Timekeepers

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Analogue Productions remastered this longtime favorite of ours, The Timekeepers, on 45 RPM vinyl. Considering their dismal track record — an unbroken string of failures, scoring not a single winner with which I am familiar — I’m guessing the Hot Stamper we offered here would have blown the doors off their version as well as any other Basie album they will ever do on vinyl.

Dateline February, 2012 

A good customer emailed us recently with the quote below, authenticating our rather negative disposition at the time concerning the AP releases from the ’90s:

Recently I unearthed a pile of “The Tracking Angle” magazines, MF’s short-lived venture in publishing, that I’d kept all these years (this may damn me in your eyes, but at the time he was one of the more animated writers on audio). I dutifully reread the very first issue (Jan. 1995) for the first time in many years, even a review of “Tea for the Tillerman,”… I was flabbergasted to come across this:

So what does Mr. “Better Records” think? In a newsletter where he says a digital remastered OJC vinyl title sounds better than Acoustic Sounds’ all analogue version and says the whole lot of them “suck” and “simply cannot sound good on a good stereo,” he calls this Cat Stevens reissue “Fabulous. Very dynamic with plenty of presence in the midrange, unlike the ‘audiophile’ records of today.”

We proudly stand behind every word. If the comparable OJC title sounds better than the remastered one Acoustic Sounds is peddling, then it sounds better, digital remastering or no digital remastering. We don’t pay any attention to who makes the records, how or why. We just play them and let the chips fall will they may. Mr. Fremer thinks that making records the “right” way should result in better sounding records, but we have found precious little evidence to back up that theory, and volumes of evidence refuting it.

Yes, those Analogue Productions records sucked, they continue to suck, and they will always suck. The “audiophile” records of that day did lack presence, and the passage of time is not going to change that fact. Play practically any Reference, Chesky or Classic title from 1995 to the present and listen for the veiled midrange, the opacity, the smeary transients, and the generally constricted, compressed, lifeless quality of its sound, a sound that has been boring us to tears for close to two decades (and fundamentally undermining the very rationale for the expense and hassle of analog itself in the modern digital age, a much more serious charge).

Ask yourself, where are those records now?

Piled on the ash heap of analog history, that’s where (apologies to Leon Trotsky). Nobody writes about them anymore, and it’s not because they were so good, no matter what any audiophile-type reviewer thought or may think about them.

 

 

Today’s Audio Disaster – Sounds Unheard Of

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Remember the old Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizzyiness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records but that many audiophiles never seem to notice.

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism anywhere discussing the shortcomings of that series of badly half-speed mastered LPs. Outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Our Audiophile Vinyl Scorecard – Now 162 Strong

Our Audiophile Vinyl Scorecard

Winners and Losers

 

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Click here to sort the section alphabetically by manufacturer.

We have a section specifically devoted to our favorite pastime here at Better Records, a little something we like to call Debunking The Pseudo-Audiophile LP. The Audiophile’s Choice — the record that will do the best job of communicating the music through its superior sound quality — is almost never going to be the one marketed to him as an Audiophile Pressing. If you find this in any way hard to believe, we encourage you to read on.

Classic Records Has an Epiphany – UHQRs Actually DO Sound Good!

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[This commentary is from 2007 and admittedly a bit long in the tooth for the brave new world of Heavy Vinyl we find ourselves currently in. Classic Records has been gone for quite a while and when that happened we said good riddance to their bad records.]

Mike Hobson finally figured out why his pressings often don’t sound good and/or are noisy. We’ll let him explain it. If you want the whole story (which goes on for days) you can find it on the Classic Records web site. While you’re there, remember the sound.

One day, while out for a run, I had an epiphany and rushed home to dig out a JVC pressing from the 1980’s pressed for Herb Belkin’s Mobile Fidelity. The Mobile Fidelity UHQR pressings were always revered as sounding better than the standard weight pressings from JVC – but why I thought? To find out, I cut a UHQR pressing in half and guess what I found? First, it weighed 195 grams and IT WAS A FLAT PROFILE! I cut a 120g JVC pressing in half and found that it had the conventional profile that, with small variations, seems to be a record industry standard and is convex in it’s [sic] profile – NOT FLAT.

So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings! [italics added]

There was no need to saw up a record; Mofi actually explained in the booklet for every UHQR how its shape differed from a conventional disc. Here is one of the images they used in the technical specs booklet that came with most UHQRs. Yes, it’s flat. (The later ones didn’t have the booklet because the whole project was such a disaster that they didn’t want to spend the money to print them for records they were selling below their cost. When I first got in the audiophile record biz in the late ’80s I was buying boxfuls of sealed UHQRs for $9 each.)

Let’s Get Real

UHQRs were junk then and they are junk now. They are plain and simply bad sounding records. The UHQR pressings may have been revered in their day, may even be revered now, but they are truly awful sounding records, Tea for the Tillerman probably being the worst among them. Do UHQRs sound better than the standard weight pressings MoFi was pressing at the time? Some do and some don’t, but what difference does that make? Bad sound is bad sound; whether one bad record is slightly better than another bad record is not particularly helpful to know.

With One Exception

Crime of the Century. Yes, the right UHQR pressing of this album can truly sound amazing. The “right” pressing is also very hard to find.

Back to Our Story

But the second false conclusion drawn from this experiment is the statement I added italics to : “So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings!”

Is that really the reason? The only reason? Couldn’t it have something to do with the mastering? Does Mr. Hobson not know that most of the UHQR pressings are different masterings than the non-UHQR MoFi pressings? That he’s comparing apples to oranges?

This is the rest of this part of his story. (As I say, it goes on for days.)

But, there is a difference in the original Blue Note Mono flat profile and the JVC UHQR profile. While both are flat across the groove area, the JVC pressing had a groove guard! I sent half of the JVC UHQR pressing to our Super Vinyl Profile die maker and had a new set of dies made with a variant of the JVC UHQR groove guard. In mid 2007, RTI installed the new dies and immediately had success with the groove guard Flat Profile producing records which did not sound any different than non-groove guard Flat Profile pressings! We immediately changed over to pressing on what we are now calling Classic Records Super Vinyl Profile II (SV-P II) at RTI. Problems with stitching and non-fill were dramatically reduced and the reject rate at RTI also declined to below normal levels. Finally, we had found our way to greater consistency in terms of pressing quality!

Anyway, it seems he’s found a new way to press his records that makes them sound better. I sure don’t hear much improvement. Classic Records always sound like Classic Records to me. We’ve discussed the sound of quite a few of them on the site. If you’re interested you are more than welcome to check out some of our commentaries which can be found using the links on the left.