Advice – Understanding Records

Cognitive Dissonance, or, I Just Paid $600 for This LP – Is That Too Much?

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Don, who wrote us the following letter, applauds us for being able to convince our customers to pay forty times the going rate for some of the records we sell — and like it!

The subject line of Don’s letter is Music.

What a great example of free market capitalism at it’s [sic] finest. Your web site is truly a unique example of marketing. You’ve taken a medium that [sic] completely relative and you can convince someone to pay upwards of 40X the going rate because….well, you said so. That doesn’t mean that the record will sound the same to them or that their experience of music is the same as yours as a reviewer. I guess if someone decides to spend $600 on a record they damn well better find a reason why it’s worth it even if they’re not completely convinced. (I took the time to read some of the other comments on your site.)

Don’t understand why someone would be upset about that or how they could argue that the records aren’t worth the price. They’re worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them as I see it. Maybe because they didn’t think of it first or they have some misplaced sense of ethics….who knows. I know it’s not worth it to me and thankfully there are plenty of other resources available for buying music. Another great example of capitalism…..

Sincerely,

Don L.

 

Don, honestly, I’m positively blushing at the thought that my “say so” is what gets people to pay the ridiculously high prices we charge for what appear to be fairly common rock records, the kind that might be worth roughly, oh, I don’t know, 1/40th of what we are asking? (Truth be told, probably even less.)

Ah, but here’s the kicker: there’s actually a scientific explanation for it!

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Identical Stampers + New Vinyl = Very Different Sound?

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The dirty little secret of the audiophile record biz is that record dealers can’t possibly know for certain what the sound quality of any sealed record they sell actually is, audiophile vinyl or otherwise. They turn a blind eye to the fact that some copies are simply not going to measure up to the sound of the review copy that they auditioned and described. (A good reason not to sell sealed records, which we don’t.)

But wait a minute. That’s giving much too much credit to audiophile record dealers. Only a small fraction actually review the records they sell. Most cut and paste a review from the manufacturer and let it go at that. And the few that do write reviews are so far off the mark that they might as well be talking about another pressing entirely.
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British Guy, British Pressing… Right?

More Elvis Costello
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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

The British pressings are simply not competitive with the best domestics. No import, from any country, can touch a good Columbia pressing from the states. The most common stampers for the Columbia pressings have never sounded very good to these ears, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some killer copies with different stampers sitting in the bins wearing the generic ’70s Red Columbia label. We’ve heard them. Wish we could find more of them but they are rare and only getting rarer.
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Roxy Music – Avalon – A Simply Vinyl Mastering Success ? Or Is It?

More Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music

More Avalon

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Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)

[These notes were written many years ago, which means that we ourselves may not agree with some or all of the commentary.] 

This version just plain KILLS most domestic copies and probably quite a few Brit ones too. Simply Vinyl did a superb job here.

Correction: an unnamed mastering engineer at the label did a superb job. Simply Vinyl isn’t in the business of mastering ANYTHING. They leave that up to the pros at the record labels. Sometimes those guys screw it up and sometimes they get it right. (more…)

Beethoven Kreutzer and Spring Sonatas – Shaded Dogs Vs. Red Seals

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The Shaded Dog original RCA pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

In this listing for one of our Hot Stamper 2-packs we compare the sound of the originals (which tend to be crude, veiled, recessed and a bit smeary) with the reissues, which can be awful or wonderful depending on which side of which copy you are playing.

OUR COMMENTARY

This Red Seal Super Hot stamper Two-Pak may be comprised of reissue pressings, late ones even, but the sound is SUPERB. And with a Two-Pak, you get two great sides (just not on the same records of course). The immediacy of the violin was shockingly good; it was Right There, solidly between the speakers, the kind of sound that left the vast majority of pressings we’ve played of LSC 2377 in the dust. (Including the sound on the “bad” sides, which are mediocre at best.)
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An Extraordinary Recording of the Carmen Fantasie – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

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This London Whiteback LP has DEMO DISC sound like you will not believe, especially on side two, which earned our coveted A Triple Plus rating. The sound is warm, sweet and transparent; in short, absolutely GORGEOUS. We call it AGAIG — As Good As It Gets!

As this is one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time, it is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophle’s collection. (If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.) Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout.
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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers – The More Mistakes the Better, Part One

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I was reading an article on the web recently when I came across an old joke Red Skelton used to tell:

All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.

Now if you’re like me and you play, think and write (hopefully in that order) about records all day, everything sooner or later relates back to records, even a modestly amusing old joke such as this. Making mistakes is fundamental to learning about records, especially if you, like us, believe that most of the received wisdom handed down to record lovers of all kinds is more likely to be wrong than right.

If you don’t believe that to be true, then it’s high time you really started making mistakes.
 
And the faster you make them, the more you will learn the truths (uncountable in number) about records. (more…)

Dopey Record Theories – Putting Bad Ideas to the Test

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Court and Spark

Below we discuss some record theories that seem to be making the rounds these days.

It started with a stunning White Hot Stamper 2-pack that just went up on the site..

I implored the eventual purchaser to note that side two of record one has Joni sounding thin, hard and veiled. If you look at the stampers you can see it’s obviously cut by the same guy (no names please!), and we’re pretty sure both sides were stamped out at the same time of day since it’s impossible to do it any other way. What accounts for the amazing sound of one side and the mediocre sound of its reverse?

If your theory cannot account for these huge differences in sound, your theory is hopelessly, fundamentally flawed. Need we bother to note the rather important, one might even say all-important, fact that it has no practical value in the first place: how is anyone to know at what specific time of day a record was pressed? Or how many copies had come off the stamper ahead of it?

Can anything be more ridiculous than the ad hoc, evidence-free theory of some audiophile record collector desperately searching for a reason to explain why records — even the sides of the same record — sound so different from one another? (more…)

Making Progress in Audio with Supertramp

Even in the Quietest Moments

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The story behind this record is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

We wrote up this album in 2005 as a Hot Stamper Stalled listing; we just couldn’t find anything that really sounded right to us. The imports were a smeary mess, the half-speed was and is a complete joke (we used to like it but that just goes to show how wrong you can be), and the domestic copies were so grainy and phony-sounding we knew there was no way to make the case that this was some sort of audiophile recording.

Could it be that when Geoff Emerick took over the recording duties from his friend Ken Scott, who had engineered the two previous albums, both of which are stunning — Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis? — he had simply dropped the ball and done a bad job? How could that be possible? (more…)

Twin Track Stereo on Rubber Soul

Rubber Soul

 

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Assembling the latest Beatles album. Can’t see the label so can’t tell if this is the original real Parlophone (which we have never been fans of) or the original Capitol pressing with different tracks (which is equally awful).

But here is the question of the day:

How is it that none of the critics of “twin track stereo” — the two-track recording approach used on the first two albums, with the elements hard-panned left and right — has ever come clean about the obvious twin track sound of Rubber Soul? We used tracks four, five and six to test side two with, and in all three the vocals are hard panned right with most of the instruments hard-panned left. Why is it wrong for Please Please Me to sound that way — the mono mix being the critic’s choice — but fine for Rubber Soul to be heard that way?
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