Advice – Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

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

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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.

But Then, A Few Years Later We Played This Copy…

Hot Stamper Sound on the MoFi pressing of Deja Vu, can it be possible? I have NEVER heard the MoFi sound this good, not even close. This just KILLS the other copies I’ve heard. I wrote a scathing review of their badly mastered pressing which you can read below, and I still stand behind every word, because this copy is not your average MoFi. The average one still sucks. What we are selling here is a FLUKE. Here is the story from our Hot Stamper shootout we just did.

This week we picked up a very clean looking MoFi pressing and decided to throw it in the shootout just for fun. We were shocked — this one actually sounded good! Not as amazing as our best Hot Stampers, but much better than we had expected. We checked our old copy and heard the same bad sound described above. 

Pressing variations exist for audiophile records as well, and here was another example. It just goes to show that nothing short of playing a record will tell you how it sounds — except for reading our website! Who besides us could spend so much time playing so many bad records? It’s a dirty job, but we’re happy to do it. Hearing one amazing record makes up for playing 10 bad ones, so we’ll keep at it.

A classic case of Live and Learn.

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is to simply avoid playing them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five or ten years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

It’s all good — until the needle hits the groove. Then you might find yourself in need of actual Better Records, not the ones you just hoped were better.

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)

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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…)

John Klemmer – Straight from the Heart – Listening for the Tubey Magic

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The best copies give you dynamics and immediacy like you have rarely heard outside of the live event. Hell, this record IS live; it’s live in the studio. It’s a direct to disc recording, what else could it be?

There is simply nothing getting in the way of the music. If you have the system for it, you can recreate the live sound of this session in a way that few other recordings allow you to do.

This copy had one quality not heard on most of the others: Tubey Magic. The sound is rich and full-bodied, practically free of grit and grain – this is the kind of sound one hears occassionally on the best tube equipment and practically nowhere else. Of course this is an all-transistor affair, but tubey sound is what ended up on the record, so go figure.

Many copies were slightly lean, making the sax a bit aggressive in places. The killer copies fill out the horn sound, giving it the needed weight and body that the real instrument would have, without adding a euphonically artificial richness that the real instrument wouldn’t. (more…)

We Review the Chesky Scheherazade

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Record and another Remastered Audiophile Pressing debunked.

Chesky is one of the WORST AUDIOPHILE LABELS in the history of the world. Their recordings are so artificial and “wrong” that they defy understanding. That some audiophiles actually buy into this junk sound is equal parts astonishing and depressing. Their own records are a joke, and their remasterings of the RCA Living Stereo catalog are an abomination. If there is a more CLUELESS audiophile label on the planet, I don’t know who it could be, and I don’t want to find out. 

Steely Dan – Katy Lied – Live and Learn

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And to think I used to swear by this pressing — specifically the 2000 Yen reissue, not the 1500 Yen original — another example of just how Wrongyou can be.

We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out.  (more…)