Advice – Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Debussy / Ravel – Piano Works – Moravec – Reviewed in the ’90s

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Piano Works – Moravec

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This long out of print Athena LP is one of my favorite audiophile records of all time. It was recorded in 1967 and remastered by a real mastering engineer, Robert Ludwig, a man who knows the sound of an acoustic piano about as well as anyone ever will. He did scores of Vox recordings and knows the sound of classical music inside and out. 

Athena, like Chesky, is an Audiophile BS Label of the worst kind; most of their stuff is ridiculously artificial sounding. This is the only record of theirs that I can recommend. You will have a very hard time finding these piano pieces sounding any better than they do here.

Jethro Tull – Aqualung – A MoFi Disaster (But Don’t Tell This Guy)

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More Aqualung

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Sonic Grade: D

We noted in our Hot Stamper review for Aqualung that the MoFi is a disaster, with the murky bloated DCC even worse. (We didn’t like the Classic either.) 

But we used to like the MoFi and DCC just fine. What could possibly have changed?

It’s a long story, and a pretty long commentary, which we have excerpted from a customer’s letter, along with our reply.

We have edited our original commentary and his letter for the sake of brevity.

Now the letter:

To: Tom Port,

As far as “Aqualung” is concerned, I have a Mobile Fidelity issue of this album which sounds great and being pressed on some of the best vinyl in the world by people who are known for their meticulous care with records, I don’t think that there would be much difference at all in the quality of different Mo-Fi pressings of this or any of their records.

The key phrase here is “I don’t think that there would be much difference at all…”. You see, this is not something to think about, this is something to test. Thinking got this gentleman nowhere; testing might have had the opposite effect. (more…)

Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing

More by The Beatles

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Many audiophiles are still operating under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what with their strict ’quality control’, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site. 

Such is simply not the case, and it’s child’s play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears (I guess that’s actually five things, my bad). With all five the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

The raison d’être of the Limited Edition Audiophile Record is to take the guesswork out of buying the Best Sounding Pressing money can buy.

But it just doesn’t work that way. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our entire website is based on the proposition that nothing of the sort is true. If paying more money for an audiophile pressing guaranteed the buyer better sound, 80% of what we do around here would be a waste of time. Everybody knows what the audiophile pressings are, and there would be nothing for us to do but find them and throw them up on the website for you to buy. Why even bother to play them if they all sound so good?

I was guilty of the same Bad Audiophile Thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper.

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K Boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we put on the site from time to time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture on Telarc UHQR

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

This is what we had to say about the UHQR back in 2005 or so:

Having played this record all the way through, I have to comment on some of its sonic qualities. It’s about the most dynamic recording I’ve ever heard. This was the promise of digital, which was never really delivered. On this record, that promise has been fulfilled. The performance is also one of the best on record. It’s certainly the most energetic I can remember. 

[Now that we’ve heard the best pressings of the Alwyn recording on Decca I would have to say that Alwyn’s is certainly every bit as energetic if not more so and dramatically better sounding as well.]

They only made 1000 of these, which makes it 5 times more rare than any MOFI UHQR. I had a sealed copy of this record on the site not too long ago. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a sealed copy, as open ones are hard enough to come by.

Stoneground Play It Loud – Bad Direct Disc Music & Sound

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More Direct to Disc recordings

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Sonic Grade: F

An awful Direct to Disc recording. The bad sound and pointless music — this is the kind of crap we audiophiles used to put up with back in the ’70s before we had much of a clue — means that it clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – A Tale of Two MoFi Pressings

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1970 Masterpiece, Deja Vu

More Deja Vu

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Sonic Grade: F (or not!)

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Just for fun about 10 years ago I pulled out a MoFi pressing of Deja Vu I had laying around. I hadn’t played their version in a long time. I could have gone a lot longer without playing it, because what I heard was pretty disappointing. Playing their record confirmed all my prejudices. The highs sizzled and spit. The heart of the midrange was recessed and sour.

Know what it reminded me of? A bad Japanese pressing. (Since most of them are pretty bad I could have just said a typical Japanese pressing, but that’s another story for another day.)

And if that’s not bad enough, the bass definition disappeared. Bass notes and bass parts that were clearly audible and easily followed on our Hot Stamper copies were murky, ill-defined mud on the MoFi.

If you own the MoFi you owe it to yourself to hear a better sounding version. You really don’t know what you’re missing. (more…)

Lee Ritenour – Friendship on JVC Direct Disc

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is one of my all time favorite audiophile discs because this is real music worth listening to! The song Woody Creek is wonderful and reason enough to own this excellent album. The guitar of Lee Ritenour and the saxophone of Ernie Watts double up during a substantial portion of this song and the effect is just amazing. 

Special kudos should go to Ernie Watts on sax, who blows some mean lines. But everybody is good on this album, especially the leader, Lee Ritenour. I saw these guys live and they put on a great show. By the way, looking in the dead wax I see this record was cut by none other than Stan Ricker of Mobile Fidelity fame himself!

Red Norvo Quintet – The Forward Look (UHQR)

More Audiophile recordings

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This is a BRAND NEW UNPLAYED Reference 45 RPM Half-Speed Mastered UHQR LP. They only made 1,000 of these, so sealed or unplayed copies are virtually non-existent.

This is actually one of the best sounding Reference Records. It was recorded in the ’50s on location and has very natural sound. 

The Direct Disc Sound of the Glenn Miller Orchestra

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More Big Band Jazz

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

One of the all time GREAT Direct to Disc recordings. For sound and music this one is hard to beat. And the vinyl is as quiet as any you will find. 

We went a bit overboard years ago when we wrote, “I don’t think you can find a better sounding big band record on the planet.” Well, we’ve heard plenty of amazing big band albums in the course of our Hot Stamper shootouts for the last five or ten years, albums by the likes of Basie, Zoot Sims, Ellington, Shorty Rogers, Ted Heath and others. (more…)

Stockhausen / Noda – Zyklus & Eclogue on Direct to Disc (Reviewed in 2011)

More Audiophile recordings

More Stockhausen / Noda

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This RCA 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc fulfills the promise of both the direct to disc recording medium AND the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. As with the Virtuoso Guitar record we listed today, the sound is simply SUPERB — open, dynamic and distortion free. This is a real DEMO DISC, no doubt about it.

I’ve known this record had top quality sound for decades; we started way back in 1987 selling these kinds of audiophile pressings and this one was clearly a Top Title even back then. I’m happy to say that, unlike most of the audiophile pressings we used to sell, this title has actually gotten BETTER with time.  (more…)