Advice – What to Listen For – Bass and Whomp

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Let’s Dance

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this copy is one of the best we have ever heard
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of rock solid bass, clear guitar transients, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • A real Demo Disc at high volumes on the right system – Modern Love, China Girl and the title track are knockouts when you play them good and loud
  • Top 100 of course – Let’s Dance is one of the best sounding Bowie albums ever recorded – this superb pressing is proof!

Bowie is without question one of the all-time great frontmen and producers. This is his last good album and a Must Own for audiophiles, especially if you have big dynamic speakers. Like we say, with this one you are in for a treat.

Hearing a top copy of Let’s Dance is truly a special experience; the damn thing is amazingly well recorded, especially considering it came along well after the Golden Age of Rock Recording (the ’60s and ’70s, don’t you know). The sound is analog at its best; rich, full and super-punchy. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out

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

This time around no other copy of Time Out could touch our good Six Eye Stereo pressings — they were in a league of their own.

If you’ve been with us for a long time you may remember that this was not always the case. We used to really like some 360s as I recall, as well as the original mono pressing. This time around, not so much. 

This time around most everythings’s different. Allow us to explain.

1. Our stereo is different; we’ve made quite a number of changes to it since our last big shootout for Time Out a few years back.

2. We’re different; we have better (I would hope) listening skills. In fact I’m sure we listen for different qualities in a recording than we might have years ago.

3. Even more importantly, we don’t have the same pile of pressings we had years ago. They’re gone, replaced by a new batch. This new batch had some killer original pressings, some good 360s, and not much to speak of on the later labels.

With a different batch we might have found a great sounding 360 pressing; we have to believe they exist, and we certainly can’t say that our best copy here could not have been bettered in some way. That would be foolish; anything can be bettered. But for us, in 2014 (and probably through 2015), this is it. This is the right sound. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

STUNNING A+++ SOUND AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! Breathtakingly spacious and transparent, this copy has the big three-dimensional soundstage that makes this record such a joy to listen to. The piano has weight and heft, the drums are big and dynamic, and everything is relaxed and sweet — in short, this copy does everything we want it to.

Listen to the drums on Everybody’s Jumpin’ . This album was recorded on a big sound stage and there is a HUGE room which can clearly be heard surrounding the drum kit. Add to that that some of the drums are in the left channel and some of the drums are in the right channel and you have one big drum kit — exactly the way it was intended to sound. (more…)

Crowded House – Woodface

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Woodface

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  • This original import copy of Woodface boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from start to finish
  • A special pressing with hard-to-find exceptionally quiet vinyl – this copy plays Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as they come
  • Thankfully the care and effort that went into every aspect of the production of Woodface more than justifies the effort we put into finding good copies
  • Some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last twenty-seven years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers’ perfectly matched voices.”

The best copies of Woodface fulfill the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. The effect so totally immerses you in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record at all. In your mind, you have the sense that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians, producers, and engineers intended it to sound. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music without limitation.

It only happens when the right record meets the right stereo, and that means rarely, but when it does the memory of the sound becomes fixed in the mind like no other, and it never leaves.  (more…)

Heart – Little Queen – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Little Queen.

One of the little tricks I used toward the end of my marathon Little Queen tweaking session from a few years back (which lasted more than six hours one Saturday evening, leaving me euphoric but exhausted) was to listen to the ending of Barracuda.  

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Barracuda

One of the little tricks I used toward the end of my marathon Little Queen tweaking session from a few years back (which lasted more than six hours one Saturday evening, leaving me euphoric but exhausted) was to listen to the ending of Barracuda. Some of the big guitar chords at the end of the song are louder than others, and the more the differences in level among them can be heard, the better the stereo and the room must be doing.

You can’t make the guitarist play some of the notes at the end louder than others, you can only reveal the fact that he indeed must have. This is what is meant by FIDELITY, the higher the better. (more…)

Dave Grusin – Discovered Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing has AMAZING SOUND! Out of the six copies we played, this was the White Hot Stamper WINNER of our shootout with the kind of life and musical energy simply not to be found on the average Sheffield copy.

The typical direct to disc pressing of Discovered Again leaves much to be desired. Two areas are especially lacking as a rule: the top end tends to be rolled off, and there is a noticeable lack of presence, which can easily be heard in the drum sound: the snare sounds like it’s covered with a towel on most copies of this album. Wha’ happen?

Who knows? Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which no doubt affect the sound. The album is cut on two different lathes — M (Master) and S (Slave), and pressed in two different countries: Japan and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the acetate and many, many stampers made from those mothers. (I saw one marked stamper number 15!)  (more…)

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…)