Bad Records

Some records that didn’t sound very good to us.

Nice and Easy

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Frank Sinatra – Nice and Easy

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

A piece of garbage that gets Frank’s voice completely wrong, thinning it out and boosting at it the top of his range. No one else besides MoFi ever managed to make Frank Sinatra’s voice sound this way, so what are the chances that they’re right and everybody else is wrong? Slim? None? Put us down for “none.”

See our in-stock copies of Frank Sinatra’s albums

 

 

The Graceland Remastering Disaster Part 2

 

Analogplanet Visits Sterling Sound and Interviews Mastering Engineer Ryan K. Smith

The interviewer apparently does not know how bad the new version sounds, but we had no trouble recognizing its awfulness here at Better Records and, as a public service, set about  describing what we heard on our site.

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can’t say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

More Graceland

Well, in favor of that proposition I guess you could say it sounds less like a CD now. On the other side of the ledger, it now sounds a great deal more like a bad LP.

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know what the album generally sounds like, the range from bad to good, and we know what qualities the very best copies must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the one thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals. The best of the best copies have all these qualities, but the one quality any good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s good about the sound of the record. Without clarity the music doesn’t even work.

The new version has been “fixed”. It got rid of all that pesky grit and grain and CD-like sound from the original digital mix by heavy-handedly equalizing them away.

Cut the top, cut the upper mids, boost the lower mids and upper bass and voila – now it’s what Graceland would have sounded like had it been all analog from the start, AAA baby!

Or at least analog for those who don’t know what good analog sounds like.

But it never was all analog, and trying to make it sound that way just ruins the one quality that it actually had going for it — clarity.

VTA

You can adjust your VTA and other table settings until you’re blue in the face, you’ll never get this pressing to sound right, and you’ll certainly never get it to sound very much like any Sterling original pressing I’ve ever heard.

The digital spit and grit is still there, under the darker EQ. And now it’s even worse — Simon’s voice has a thick, dull blanket over it, but you can still hear the spit underneath it.

You could probably take the CD and equalize it to sound like this record. But what would be the point?

The Bright Side

Well, perhaps there is a point to this equalization madness.

The CD already exists. It has a sound.

The original record has a sound too, and it’s a fairly common LP in the used bins. You could buy two or three for not that much money and try to find one you like better than the vinyl version you probably already own.

Or, dissatisfied with the sound of the original records and CDs above, and not in the market to spend hundreds of dollars on a good copy from us, you could look at the new Heavy Vinyl pressing as another option, a different take, a new approach, something along those lines.

Just don’t think that by doing so you’re going to hear Graceland the way Paul Simon, Roy Halee, or the folks at Sterling wanted you to hear it.

They produced millions of copies that mostly sound one way, and now some fellows — at least one of whom was involved with the new project, to be fair, but it was 40 years ago(!), and it’s fair to point that out too, right? — some new fellows have produced a few thousand copies that sound another way.

It’s clear to us who got it right, but based on what I’ve been reading in preparation for writing this commentary, the audiophile reviewers and at least some of the audiophile public at large see it quite differently.

Our Offer

We are more than happy to let you decide the issue for yourself. Rather than throwing up our hands and saying “we give up”, we actually would like to help you make an informed decision.

To that end we will happily send you our copy of the Heavy Vinyl version along with your purchase of any Hot Stamper of Graceland on the site. Play them head to head and let the chips fall where they may.

The only thing we ask is that you return it to us so the next person who wants to compare the two can do so. (Assuming you like the Hot Stamper better of course. If you don’t, send them both back for a full refund, including the domestic shipping. No, really, we insist.)

 

The Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame

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The MoFi Hall of Shame

40+ strong but the real number would be at least double that and probably more like triple that figure.

But who has time to make listings for all the bad records this label has released?

In case you don’t already know, one of the worst sounding, if not THE WORST SOUNDING VERSION OF ALL TIME, is the Mobile Fidelity Anadisq pressing that came out in the ’90s. If you own that record, you really owe it to yourself to pull it out and play it. It’s just a mess and it should sound like a mess, whether you have anything else to compare it to or not.

It is my contention that there is no audiophile pressing on the face of the Earth that can compete with the best sounding original Teaser and the Firecats. Of ANY music. This is a sound I simply don’t experience when playing modern mastered records. There is a magic in these grooves that seems to be impossible to recapture. Perhaps one day I’ll be proven wrong, but that day is not upon us yet. Until then, this is the king.Speaking of stereo improvements, a record like this is the reward for for the endless hours of effort and huge expense an audiophile must invest over the course of years — if not decades — to achieve the kind of reproduction a recording like this demands.

This record, on the right system, is a thrill that can not be experienced any other way.

See more copies of Teaser and the Firecat

Julie Is Her Name – A Boxstar Bomb

londojulieis_debunk_1258562077

A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where’s the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right?

We found the Tubey Magic on his pressing to be non-existent, as non-existent as it is on practically every Classic Record release he cut. If you have his version you are in for quite a treat when you finally get this one home and on your table. There is a world of difference between the sound of the two versions and we would be very surprised if it takes you more than ten seconds to hear it.

See all of our Julie London albums in stock

What to Listen For (WTLF)

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel’s guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played. Julie’s rendition of Cry Me a River may be definitive.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level.

Forgotten Sound

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Liberty pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable could care less.

Records For Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records

Records made for audiophiles are rarely any good, so rarely that we are shocked when an audiophile record is even halfway decent. After playing so many badly remastered pressings for so many years it’s practically a truism here at Better Records.

A mass-produced vintage record like this is the perfect example of why we pay no attention whatsoever to the bona fides of the disc, but instead make our judgments strictly on the merits of the pressing at hand.

It has opened up to us a world of sound that the typical audiophile — he who believes the audiophile pressing hype — will never have a chance to experience.


Further Reading

Other recordings that we have found to be especially Tubey Magical can be found here.

 

 

Original Is Better? Not on Jazz Waltz It Ain’t

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See all of our Shorty Rogers albums in stock

Don’t be put off by the title; these are not some sleepy old-fashioned waltzes. This is swingin’ West Coast jazz at its best. Of course, the arrangements are done in waltz time, but that doesn’t keep them from swingin’.

And the amazingly good sound? Credit Bones Howe, a man who knows Tubey Magic like practically no one else in the world. The Association, The Mamas and the Papas, The Fifth Dimension, and even Tom Waits — all their brilliant recordings are the result of Bones Howe’s estimable talents as producer and engineer.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Reprise pressing, whether in mono or stereo, has never sounded very good to us. The mono is quite a bit worse than the stereo – no surprise there – but both must be considered poor reflections of the master tape.

We sold one many years ago, describing it this way: “Beautiful Original with decent sound — rich, smooth and sweet.”

Which it was, but from us that’s little more than damning it with faint praise. The Discovery pressing is so much bigger, clearer and livelier it’s almost hard to imagine it and the 1962 Reprise original were both made from the same tape. Something sure went wrong the first time around — I think it’s safe to say at least that much.

Original equals Better? Not for those of us who play records rather than just collect them. Leave the originals for the Jazz Guys. The Hot Stamper reissues are for us Music Loving Audiophiles.

rogerjazzw_1606_1406894965

 

5 Commentaries – From Gino Vannelli to Mozart to Stokowski to Coltrane and Back Again to Gino Vannelli

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Gino Vannelli – Storm At Sunupand The Amazing ARC SP3A-1

(Item #: vannestorm_stereo)
by A&M LP



Storm at Sunup used to be my favorite Gino Vannelli album. I played it all the time back in the ’70s. It was one of a handful of recordings that made me want to pursue audiophile equipment in the hopes that higher quality playback would allow it to sound even bigger and more exciting. It was pretty damn big and exciting already, but I wanted more.
Right around that time I got my first audiophile tube preamp, the Audio Research SP3A-1, which replaced a Crown IC-150. As you can no doubt imagine, especially if you know the IC-150 at all well, playing this album through that state-of-the-art tube preamp was a revelation. From then on there was no looking back. I started spending all my money on better and better equipment and more and more records. That was forty plus years ago and I haven’t stopped yet.

  more Info










Mozart / Symphonies No. 40 & 41 / Giulini
Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)(Item #: mozarsym40_6225_reviewed)
by Speakers Corner



Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca. They released this title on Heavy Vinyl in 1998; it was one of the few Speakers Corner classical recordings we used to carry and recommend.

We knew it sounded good, but up until recently, when we started collecting and playing the better Deccas and Londons, we sure didn’t know it could sound like one of our Hot Stampers!

See more of Mozart’s music in stock


  more Info










Liszt, Enesco, Smetana / Rhapsodies – Stokowski
Classic Records Debunked(Item #: lisztrhaps_debunk)
by Classic Records Heavy Vinyl



Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The lower strings are wonderful on the original — wall to wall, with that rosiny texture we love. I wrote at the time — this is twenty or so years ago — that the Classic pressing took that rich, dark sound and brightened it up, naturally ruining it in the process. Cellos and double basses just don’t sound like that. On the best pressings of LSC 2471 their timbre is Right On The Money. Of course, that’s is the real thing, not some audiophile rebutchering.

Now if you’re a Classic Records fan, and you like that brighter, more detailed, more aggressive sound, the original is probably not the record for you.


  more Info










John Coltrane – Giant Steps
Live and Learn(Item #: coltrgiant_learn)
by Atlantic LP



A classic case of Live and Learn. Previously we had written:

The extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum is what really sets the best copies apart from the pack. All the top end and that deep bottom and simply not to be found on most copies, and never on even the best originals in our experience. The cutters back then just couldn’t cut it.

Now, having heard some amazing originals, we know that the vintage mastering equipment of the day was perfectly capable of getting all the top, all the bottom, and tons of Tubey Magic besides onto the vinyl.

  more Info










Gino Vannelli – Powerful People
The Most You Can Hope For(Item #: vannepower_summation)
by A&M LP



Like most of the better audiophile records — from long ago as well as those being produced today — the most you can hope for from these reissues is that they can fix a few problems you might be saddled with on the particular pressing you own.
But if you work at it, the “right” plain old record, properly cleaned and played, will show you sound that the audiophile edition can barely begin to reproduce. Having auditioned by the thousands the kinds of records you see on the site, the reality of this truth is irrefutable to us now, and has been for a very long time. Our customers know exactly what we are talking about; they’ve heard it for themselves. That’s why they keep coming back.

  more Info

25 More Rejects! (Albums with Either Bad Sound or Bad Music)

The criteria for inclusion on this list are simple enough: We played them and we didn’t like either the music or the sound we heard.

Keep in mind that these specific pressings are the ones we found wanting.

 

    Lena & Gabor

Lena & Gabor

Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo
0 0 0

Classic Records Has an Epiphany – UHQRs Actually DO Sound Good!

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[This commentary is from 2007 and admittedly a bit long in the tooth for the brave new world of Heavy Vinyl we find ourselves currently in. Classic Records has been gone for quite a while and when that happened we said good riddance to their bad records.]

Mike Hobson finally figured out why his pressings often don’t sound good and/or are noisy. We’ll let him explain it. If you want the whole story (which goes on for days) you can find it on the Classic Records web site. While you’re there, remember the sound.

One day, while out for a run, I had an epiphany and rushed home to dig out a JVC pressing from the 1980’s pressed for Herb Belkin’s Mobile Fidelity. The Mobile Fidelity UHQR pressings were always revered as sounding better than the standard weight pressings from JVC – but why I thought? To find out, I cut a UHQR pressing in half and guess what I found? First, it weighed 195 grams and IT WAS A FLAT PROFILE! I cut a 120g JVC pressing in half and found that it had the conventional profile that, with small variations, seems to be a record industry standard and is convex in it’s [sic] profile – NOT FLAT.

So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings! [italics added]

There was no need to saw up a record; Mofi actually explained in the booklet for every UHQR how its shape differed from a conventional disc. Here is one of the images they used in the technical specs booklet that came with most UHQRs. Yes, it’s flat. (The later ones didn’t have the booklet because the whole project was such a disaster that they didn’t want to spend the money to print them for records they were selling below their cost. When I first got in the audiophile record biz in the late ’80s I was buying boxfuls of sealed UHQRs for $9 each.)

Let’s Get Real

UHQRs were junk then and they are junk now. They are plain and simply bad sounding records. The UHQR pressings may have been revered in their day, may even be revered now, but they are truly awful sounding records, Tea for the Tillerman probably being the worst among them. Do UHQRs sound better than the standard weight pressings MoFi was pressing at the time? Some do and some don’t, but what difference does that make? Bad sound is bad sound; whether one bad record is slightly better than another bad record is not particularly helpful to know.

With One Exception

Crime of the Century. Yes, the right UHQR pressing of this album can truly sound amazing. The “right” pressing is also very hard to find.

Back to Our Story

But the second false conclusion drawn from this experiment is the statement I added italics to : “So, that is why the UHQR JVC pressings sounded better than their standard profile pressings and further confirmation of why our Flat Profile pressings sound better than 180g conversional pressings!”

Is that really the reason? The only reason? Couldn’t it have something to do with the mastering? Does Mr. Hobson not know that most of the UHQR pressings are different masterings than the non-UHQR MoFi pressings? That he’s comparing apples to oranges?

This is the rest of this part of his story. (As I say, it goes on for days.)

But, there is a difference in the original Blue Note Mono flat profile and the JVC UHQR profile. While both are flat across the groove area, the JVC pressing had a groove guard! I sent half of the JVC UHQR pressing to our Super Vinyl Profile die maker and had a new set of dies made with a variant of the JVC UHQR groove guard. In mid 2007, RTI installed the new dies and immediately had success with the groove guard Flat Profile producing records which did not sound any different than non-groove guard Flat Profile pressings! We immediately changed over to pressing on what we are now calling Classic Records Super Vinyl Profile II (SV-P II) at RTI. Problems with stitching and non-fill were dramatically reduced and the reject rate at RTI also declined to below normal levels. Finally, we had found our way to greater consistency in terms of pressing quality!

Anyway, it seems he’s found a new way to press his records that makes them sound better. I sure don’t hear much improvement. Classic Records always sound like Classic Records to me. We’ve discussed the sound of quite a few of them on the site. If you’re interested you are more than welcome to check out some of our commentaries which can be found using the links on the left.

 

 

If you can’t make a good record, don’t make any record at all

steelcantb_debunk_1361980482

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill

Speakers Corner Debunked

This has to be one of the worst sounding versions ever pressed. You think the average ABC or MCA pressing is opaque, flat and lifeless, not to mention compromised at both ends of the frequency spectrum? You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

As bad as the typical copy of this album is, the Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl is even worse, with not a single redeeming quality to its credit. If this is what passes for an Audiophile Record these days, and it is, it’s just one more nail in the coffin for Heavy Vinyl.

But that’s not the half of it. Go to Acoustic Sounds’ website and read all the positive customer reviews — they love it! Is there any heavy vinyl pressing on the planet that a sizable contingent of audiophiles won’t say something nice about, no matter how bad it sounds? I can’t think of one.

To sum up, this record is nothing less than an affront to analog itself. I guarantee you the CD is better, if you get a good one. I own four or five and the best of them has far more musical energy than this thick, dull, opaque and boring piece of audiophile analog trash.

It was probably made from a digital copy of the master, or more likely a digital copy of an analog dub of the master — three generations, that’s sure what it sounds like — but that’s no excuse.

If you can’t make a good record, don’t make any record at all. Shelve the project. The audiophile vinyl world is drowning in bad sounding pressings; we don’t need any more thank you very much.

A Trick Played on the Audiophile Public

genesatric_mfsl_debunk_2015_1377533644Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail

MoFi Debunked

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

The last time I played the MoFi I could not believe how ridiculously COMPRESSED it was. On top of that, the midrange is badly sucked out (as is the case with most MoFi’s) making the sound as dead as dead can be. You think 180 gram records are lifeless? Play this piece of crap and see just how bad an audiophile record can sound.

See all of our Genesis albums in stock

And to think I used to like this version! I hope I had a better copy back in the ’80s than the one I played a few years ago. I’ll never know of course. If you have one in your collection give it a spin. See if it sounds as bad as we predict it will.