Advice – What to Listen For – Bass and Whomp

Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.

Reality Check Parts One and Two

Take the song Love Alive.

The beginning section is chock full of lovely and quite subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that seem to lose their magic on most systems. The autoharp is rich and chimey, and the tabla has some real low end extension. The recorders and flutes that join them are breathy and sweet, while the acoustic guitars heard throughout display all the tubey-magical harmonic richness found on our favorite Hot Stamper recordings, from the Eagles first album to Teaser and the Firecat. These qualities easily get lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the typical audiophile stereo. That’s Part One of the test — the opening. (more…)

Got Old Records? Played ‘Em Lately? What Did You Think of the Sound?

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It’s not that most copies of 5th sound bad; it’s that most of them just sound like old records — thick, dull, opaque, smeary, closed-in, two-dimensional, lifeless and boring.

You know that sound. It’s on a lot of the records we play, and no doubt on a lot of the records you own, especially the records you haven’t cleaned and played in a while (it’s there; you just aren’t aware of it).

Pull out your old copy of 5th. Back in the day it sounded just fine, but if you’ve been listening to mostly better records lately (assuming you haven’t fallen into the Heavy Vinyl trap), doubtlessly on much improved equipment than you had 40 years ago, your old A&M copy probably doesn’t sound as good as you remember it.

The records may not have changed, but your stereo and your standards should have.

Couple that with improved listening skills and before long the average old record starts to sound a lot more average than you wish it did. Even today’s better pot can’t fix the problems of most vintage pressings (or the Heavy Vinyl and CD reissues which are two of the biggest jokes ever played on the audiophile public).

But we can fix the problems — well, not really: we’re just finding the copies that managed to be mastered and pressed without the problems — and our Hot Stampers are 100% legal to boot! (more…)

Why M&K Direct to Disc Records Don’t Sound Right to Us

More Audiophile recordings

More Flamenco Fever “Live Direct to Disc”

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As an interesting side note, this album was recorded on location. The other M&K Direct to Disc record that I like was also recorded on location. Most of the M&K Direct to Discs were recorded in the showroom of the stereo store that Miller and Kreisel owned, which, like any showroom, was carpeted and draped. This is why almost all their records sound “dead”. This was their intention, of course. They wanted the sound to be “live” in your living room. I prefer to hear the kind of ambience that would be found in a real location, and so I have never been much of a fan of their label.

This record, however, gives you both that Direct Disc immediacy and freedom from distortion, as well as the live ambience of the location — the best of both worlds.

XTC – English Settlement – What to Listen For

More Demo Discs for Bass

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For Big Production Rock Albums like English Settlement there are some obvious problem areas that are often heard on at least one or two sides of practically any copy of this four sided album.  

With so many heavily-produced instruments crammed into the soundfield, if the overall sound is at all veiled, recessed or smeared — problems common to 90+% of the records we play in our shootouts — the mix quickly becomes opaque, forcing the listener to work too hard to separate out the elements of interest.

Exhaustion, especially on this album, soon follows.

Transparency, clarity and presence are key. Note that none of the British copies we played was thin and anemic. (The domestic copies are made from dubs and can’t begin to compete.) Almost all had plenty of tubey magic and bottom end, so thankfully that was almost never a problem. They did however tend to lack top end extension and transparency, and many were overly compressed. The sides that had sound that jumped out of the speakers, with driving rhythmic energy, worked the best for us. They really brought this complex music to life and allowed us to make sense of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – A Classic Records LP that Can Beat Most Pressings (!)

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More Classic Records Led Zeppelin Pressings Reviewed

Sonic Grade: B

Another Classic Records Heavy Vinyl LP reviewed.

Considering how bad (or at best mediocre) the average copy of the first Zep album sounds, let’s give credit where credit is due and say that Bernie’s remastered version on Heavy Vinyl is darn good (assuming you get a good one, something of course that neither I nor you should assume).

It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Zeppelin titles, most of which we found none too pleasing to the ear.

Our Thinking Circa 2010

We like the Classic, albeit with reservations. It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissues of the Zeppelin catalog, most of which are not very good and some of which are just awful.

Why is this one good? It’s tonally correct for one thing, and the importance of that cannot be stressed too strongly.

Two, it actually ROCKS, something a majority of pressings we’ve played over the years don’t.

Three, it’s shockingly dynamic. It may actually be more dynamic than any other pressing we have ever played.

If you aren’t willing to devote the time and resources necessary to acquire a dozen or more domestic and import copies, and you don’t want to spend the dough for one of our Hot Stamper copies, the Classic is probably your best bet.

We would agree now with almost none of what we had to say about this Classic title when it came out back in the day. We’ve reproduced it below so that you can read it here for yourself.

It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right? (more…)

Sergei Prokofiev – Scythian Suite and Lt. Kije / Abbado

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful LP boasts our favorite performances for both of these popular 20th century works
  • Big, clear, present and transparent, with a HUGE bottom end, this is some Demo Disc sound all right
  • When the brass is the way it is here – rich and clear, not thin and shrill – you have yourself a top quality DG pressing

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Mobile Fidelity’s Approach to Mastering – I Have a Theory

More Little Feat

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I have a theory about why MoFi’s mastering approach here tended to work for the album when it failed so miserably for so many others. It goes a little something like this. 

Back in their early days MoFi tended to add bass and treble to practically every record they mastered, regardless of whether or not the master tape they were using needed any such boost. A little extra sparkle up top and a little extra slam down below was what the audiophile public seemed to want. Truth be told, I was a member of that group and I know I did.

Fortunately for them Waiting for Columbus is an album that can really use a little at both ends. Rarely did The Mastering Lab supply it, making the original domestic pressings somewhat bass-shy and dull up top. The MoFi clearly corrected the poor EQ choices The Mastering Lab had made for the most part.

The Bottom

But at what cost? At a very high one, revealed to us during our shootout by the killer pressings we uncovered. On the MoFi the bass, although there is more of it, just the right amount in fact, is BLUBBER. The lack of definition is positively painful, once you’ve heard how well-recorded it is, which is what the best copies can show you. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga and Dist. Colleagues (S9)

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning pressing of this famous audiophile recording, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • This copy will be awfully hard to beat for sound – get your VTA right and the bottom end on this LP will turn into a Bass Demo Disc like nothing you’ve heard
  • It’s very difficult to find this album in clean condition, and even more difficult to find one that sounds as good as this one does
  • One of the rarest Hot Stamper records bar none — only a handful have ever made it to the site

This is a stunning copy of The Big One — Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues’ first Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP aka S9. We’ve been comparing and contrasting pressings of this album for more than twenty years and this is one of the better copies we’ve stumbled upon. The sound is BIG, RICH and FULL OF ENERGY.

Both sides have prodigious amounts of bottom end. It is a thrill to hear the power of the bass on this recording. The kick drum is HUGE.

Both sides have about as much Tubey Magic as can be found on the album, although Tubey Magic is clearly not what the engineers were going for with this recording. It’s a sound that many copies reproduce less than ideally, being somewhat dry. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out

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  • This outstanding Six Eye Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • A wonderful copy of this Must Own Jazz Classic – big and open, with note-like bass and huge amounts of studio space
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, an audiophile favorite and a great example of what’s phenomenally good about 1959 All Tube Analog recordings
  • “Dave Brubeck’s defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time.”

NOTE: *On side one, a small mark makes 3 light ticks, followed by 1 moderate pop at the beginning of track 1, Blue Rondo A La Turk. On side two, a mark makes 7 moderately light pops at the beginning of track 2, Kathy’s Waltz and a bubble makes 15 soft intermittent thumps at the end of track 3, Everybody’s Jumpin’ and beginning of track 4, Pick Up Sticks.

This may not be the quietest copy we’ve ever played, but it’s certainly one of the best sounding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Dave Brubeck music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


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 is doing pretty much everything we want a top quality Time Out to do.

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.

Early pressings of this album are now very tough to find in clean condition and they do not come cheap. If you want to hear Take Five and the other great songs here in stunning Demo Disc quality, you won’t want to miss out on this copy — it will likely be a while before we find another one with grades this high and vinyl this clean. (more…)

Love – Love

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  • A superb sounding stereo original of Love’s first album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • A classic from 1966, a combination of proto-punk and psychedelia featuring My Little Red Book, Hey Joe and more
  • The first Love album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recording in the Love catalog
  • Engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick, here is the kind of massive bottom end weight and energy that we like to call WHOMP
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Love’s debut is both their hardest-rocking early album and their most Byrds-influenced…”

Some of you may not know this music, but it’s a true Must Own Psychedelic Gem from the ’60s, a record no rock collection should be without, along with other groundbreaking albums from the ’60s such as Surrealistic Pillow, The Doors’ debut, the first Spirit album and too many others to list.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1966 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. This Gold Label pressing is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. Of course there’s a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl have no need of it. (more…)