Advice – What to Listen For – Bass and Whomp

Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees – David Hungate Gives a Master Class on the Bass

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Silk Degrees.

One of the main qualities separating the winners from the also-rans on this title is the quality of the bass. This is first and foremost rhythmic music. David Hungate just kills on this album; he’s giving a master class on rock and roll bass on practically every track. And, for us audiophiles, the good news is the bass is very well recorded — big, punchy and well up front in the mix.

The bad news is that only the best copies show you the note-like, clear, rich bass that must be on the master tape. Vague and smeary bottom end is the rule, not the exception, and it’s a veritable crime against Well-Recorded Sophisticated Pop such as this. (more…)

Blondie – Eat To The Beat

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  • Incredible sound for the band’s followup to Parallel Lines with both sides of this 2-pack earning a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it!
  • Turn it up as loud as you want – the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy 
  • The drums and bass of Die Young Stay Pretty are as real sounding as if you were standing five feet from the band
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The British… made Eat to the Beat another chart-topper, with three major hits, including a number one ranking for Atomic and almost the same success for Dreaming 

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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  • Excellent sound throughout with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++)
  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound great – smooth, rich and full of energy   
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambience. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

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On even the best copies there’s a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass I regret to say. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass. 

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and “modernizes” the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear. Having your bass under control on the playback side isn’t easy — in fact it’s probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio — but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

It doesn’t actually interfere much with your enjoyment of the music, mostly because all the other instruments and voices sounds so magical. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND QUIET VINYL THROUGHOUT! Both sides are lively and transparent with super low distortion and lovely breathy vocals. The sound is Right On The Money all the way around — superb clarity, mind-blowing transparency and tons of dynamics. This copy is ALIVE! The drums and percussion are powerful and punchy with lots of room around them, and the bass is PERFECTION. There’s plenty of whomp and lots of extension on the top end. This side two really conveys a sense of the amazing performances of these great musicians. It’s rich, full, smooth, sweet, open, spacious — everything you’d expect from an A+++ / A+++ record. 

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure. (more…)

David Bowie – Let’s Dance (2008)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Let’s Dance may look like an ordinary record, but it sure doesn’t sound like one. The sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD! You’re looking at THE Big Beat Demo Disc of All Time. What the Hot Stamper copy of Back in Black was to Super-Fidelity HARD Rock, this White Hot Stamper of Let’s Dance is to Super-Fidelity FUNKY Rock. In other words, this is the FREAKISHLY HOT STAMPER copy that gives you As Good As It Gets, Demo Disc, Mind Altering Sound. (more…)

In the Market for New Speakers? – See How Well They Handle the Fat Snare on Dreams

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

What do the best copies of Rumours have that the also-rans don’t? Lots and lots of qualities, far too many to mention here, but there is one you should pay special attention to: the sound of the snare. When the snare is fat and solid and present, with a good “slap” to the sound, you have a copy with weight, presence, transparency, energy — all the stuff we ADORE about the sound of the best copies.

Now if your speaker is not capable of really bringing the snare to life, perhaps because you have screen speakers or a small boxed design, this is still a handy test. Next time you are on the hunt to buy new speakers, see which ones can really rock the snare. That’s probably going to be the speaker that can do justice to Rumours, and The Beatles, and Zuma, and lots of other favorite records of ours, and we hope favorites of yours too. (more…)

What to Listen For on Eat a Peach

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EAT A PEACH

What do high grades give you for this album? Unbelievably Tubey Magical guitars, huge whomp factor on the bottom end, incredible dynamics and life, shocking transparency and clarity, and the kind of immediacy that puts these crazy southern rockers right in your very own living room. The overall sound is impressively BIG, BOLD, and POWERFUL!

This and Live At Fillmore East are the two monumental albums these guys ever put out, and they have a lot in common. You know what you’re gonna get with the Allmans: dueling electric guitars, sweet acoustic guitars, energetic drumming, and full-bodied vocals throughout. There’s obviously a lot of exploration — two complete sides are dedicated to the song Mountain Jam — but the heartfelt radio-friendly songs such as Melissa and Little Martha keep up the energy and provide maximum enjoyment factor.

The Three Keys: Transparency, Energy, and WHOMP

A great copy like this one really lets everything that’s great about this music come through. You can easily pick out each of the musicians and follow their contributions over the course of the songs. The huge WHOMP factor throughout kicks up the excitement factor and sets the foundation for the extended guitar jams to work their Southern bluesy magic. The top end extends beautifully to bring out all the ambience and spaciousness of the Fillmore. (more…)

The Who – Tommy – Simply Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the BEST titles on Simply Vinyl! Better than the Classic version, that’s for sure. This one has the bass that’s all but missing from the new 200 gram pressing.  

The Classic Tommy Has No Bass

It could have had amazing bass, like their Who’s Next, but it doesn’t. Why I have no idea. The overall sound is thin, so thin that we immediately knew there was no point in carrying it. (The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next; the rest of them are dreadful, some of the worst sounding reissues out there.) Not when there’s a very fine Heavy Vinyl pressing already around. You guessed it: the Simply Vinyl pressing, the one from that label that some reviewer thinks is “screwing up the market.”

Who’s Screwing Whom?

We invite all our readers and listeners to do the shootout for themselves. Both versions of Tommy are in print and widely available. [Woops, not any more, both are out of print.]

If you do find the Classic to be more to your liking, we simply ask that you send us your copy with a note as to the tracks you compared and what you found, so that we can hear it for ourselves. As you know from reading about Nirvana Nevermind, no two records, not even new audiophile ones, sound the same, so if you managed to get hold of a hot copy of the Classic, we want to hear it too! (After we have picked our jaws up off the floor we will happily send it back to you.)

Phil Collins – Face Value (2007)

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Face Value

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This Minty British LP has two AMAZING SIDES! Song after song, Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine with this breakout record. The sound on these Hot Stampers is VIBRANT! Side one has SUPERB extention on the top, PUNCHY BASS and excellent texture on the drums and percussion. Side two has BIG SOUND with really spacious strings and vocals. (more…)