***Bad Audiophile Records – The Sh*t List to Date

The Power of the Orchestra – Remastered by Chesky!

Click Here to See Our Favorite Pictures at an Exhibition

More Reviews and Commentaries for Pictures at an Exhibition

Sonic Grade: F

Lifeless, compressed and thin sounding, with none of the weight and whomp that turn the best Shaded Dog pressings into the powerful listening experiences we know them to be.

It’s clean and transparent, I’ll give it that, which is no doubt why so many audiophiles have been fooled into thinking it actually sounds better than the original.

But of course there is no original; there are thousands of them, and they all sound different.

The Hot Stamper commentary below is for a pair of records that proves our case in the clearest possible way.

We sold a two pack of Hot Stamper pressings, one with a good side one and one with a good side two. Why? Because the other sides were terrible! If you have a bad original, perhaps the Chesky will be better.

Our advice is not to own a bad original, or this poorly-mastered Chesky reissue, but instead we advise that you make the effort to find a good original, or two or three, as many as it takes to get two good sides.

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Steely Dan / Katy Lied – A MoFi that Beggars Belief

Sonic Grade: F

Katy Lied is bad enough to have earned a place in our Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame. If it isn’t the perfect example of a Pass/Fail record, I don’t know what would be.

By the time I was avidly collecting Mobile Fidelity records in the late ’70s, this title had already gone out of print, one of the first to do so. My guess is that even the cloth-eared audiophiles at MoFi knew when they had a turkey on their hands and mercilessly put this one out to pasture.

Yes, the sound is so bad that even the brain trust at MoFi could hear it. 

Compressed and lifeless (almost as lifeless as the screen speakers so popular at the time), it’s hard to imagine any version sounding worse than this one.

And yet I continued to play my copy, for enjoyment of course, oblivious — I must have been oblivious, right? — to the bad sound.

Why? That’s hard to say, but here’s a stab at it.

The vinyl was exceptionally quiet for one thing, and for another, as an audiophile I knew this MoFi pressing had been made with tender loving care, using a superior process, Half-Speed Mastering, from The Original Master Tapes, and had been pressed in Japan on the quietest, flattest vinyl in the world. What could possibly go wrong?

My old story about One Man Dog gets to the heart of it. I didn’t understand records very well and I sure didn’t understand the value of doing shootouts or even how to do them with different pressings of the same album.

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Led Zeppelin / Presence – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

Sonic Grade: D

This was one of only three Classic Records 180 gram (later 200 gram) titles that I used to recommend back in the day.

Now when I play the heavy vinyl pressing, I find the subtleties of both the music and the sound that I expect to hear have simply gone missing.

It may be tonally correct, which for a Led Zeppelin pressing on the Classic Records label is unusual in our experience (II and Houses being ridiculously bright), but it, like Physical Graffiti and some others, badly lacks resolution compared to the real thing, the real thing being a run-of-the-mill early pressing.

You can adjust the VTA of your rig until you’re blue in the face, you’ll never get the Classic to sound better than passable.

The average original pressing is better, and that means Classic’s version deserves a sub-standard grade of D. (more…)

Cat Stevens and the Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

Our Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame listings totaled more than 40 back in 2010, and we noted at the time that the real number would be at least double that and probably more than triple that figure if we took the time to make listings for all the bad records this label has released, It stands at 50 or so as of 2022.

In case you don’t already know, one of the worst sounding, if not THE WORST SOUNDING VERSION OF ALL TIME, of our beloved Teaser and the Firecat 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 to compare it to or not.

If I were in charge of the TAS Super Disc List, I would strike this record from it in a heartbeat.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.

We offer a number of Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Here’s a good question:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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Love on Heavy Vinyl – Indefensible Dreck from Sundazed

More of the Music of Love

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Love

Sonic Grade: F

Two Audiophile Hall of Shame titles, and another two Sundazed records reviewed and found seriously wanting.

We got hold of a minty original pressing of the first Love album back around 2007, so in preparation for the commentary I pulled one of the Sundazed pressings off the shelf, (Forever Changes, the only one we ever bothered to sell), cracked it open and threw it on the turntable. 

Gag, what a piece of crap. When I had auditioned them all those years ago (2002), it was — I’m not kidding — the best of the bunch.

The sound to me back then was nothing special, but not bad. Knowing how rare the originals were, we gave it a lukewarm review and put it in the catalog, the single Sundazed Love album that (just barely) made the cut.

Now I wish I hadn’t, because no one should have to suffer through sound that bad. Here’s what I wrote for the shootout:

You’d never know it from those dull Sundazed reissues, but the right pressings of Love albums are full of Tubey Magic! With Bruce Botnick at the controls you can expect a meaty bottom end and BIG rock sound, and this recording really delivers on both counts.

With Sundazed mastering engineers running the show, you can expect none of the above.

No Tubey Magic, no meaty bottom end, no big rock sound.

After the shootout, I took the two copies we had in stock right down to my local record store and traded them in. I didn’t want them in my house, let alone on my site.

I’m glad that title didn’t sell very well because now I feel I owe a personal apology to anyone who might have bought one from me, thinking they were getting a half-way decent record.

They were getting no such thing. They were getting a piece of garbage. 

A textbook case of Live and Learn.


Charlie Byrd – Another Hyped-Up MoFi

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed [decades ago] and found seriously wanting.

This is a title Mobile Fidelity ruined (what else is new?), and having just played an early Riverside LP I can see how their mastering approach was — as is so often the case — misguided to say the least.

First off, the guitar and the drums on the original are tonally right on the money. They sound like bass and drums should. They sound, in a word, correct.

Mobile Fidelity felt it necessary to brighten up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and phony sounding drums, with tizzy cymbals thrown in for good measure.

(The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one. We’ve had Hot Stamper copies of the originals so we know they can sound superb, some of RVG’s best work.)

The old Mobile Fidelity — the pre-Heavy Vinyl Mobile Fidelity — rarely met a master tape they didn’t think needed a healthy dose of top end boost. They also never understood what an acoustic guitar sounds like. They blew it on every last one of the Cat Stevens albums, brightening up the guitars, which, as we all know from playing with the treble controls on our receivers way back when, emphasizes the “picking” of the strings at the expense of the resonating guitar body as well as the vibrating string harmonics.

What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record, for audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. (Chesky anyone?)

Another reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect. Bad guitars, bad drums and bad bass — that pretty much covers everybody in the trio. Resulting score: 0 for 3. (more…)

Chet Atkins / Chet Atkins in Hollywood on Classic Records

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

More of the Music of Chet Atkins

Sonic Grade: D

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as nothing special. Like a lot of the records put out by this label, it’s tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and, above all, Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade we could possibly give Classic’s pressing is a D for below average.

My guess is that the Living Stereo CD sounds better than this so-called Heavy Vinyl Audiophile Pressing. It did on this Classic Record, and for ten dollars, why not see for yourself?

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Paganini on Fenn 180g Vinyl – Where Is the Outrage?

Hot Stamper Pressings of the Music of Paganini

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Paganini

We managed to get hold of the Heavy Vinyl pressing put out by Fenn Music in Germany, about which a well known record dealer on the web (you may recognize the style) had this to say:

“Stunning Reissue Of EMI ASD 440 Recorded In Stereo In 1961. This Recording Featuring The Royal Philharmonic Conducted By Alberto Erede Provides Convincing Proof, If Any Were Needed, That Menuhin Was One Of The Great Violinists Of The 20th Century.”

The “convincing proof” provided by this record is that those responsible for it are Rank Incompetents of the Worst Kind (see what I did there?). Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound to be subjected to from this piece of Heavy Vinyl trash.

Had I paid good money to buy this pressing from 2004 in the hopes of hearing the supremely talented Yehudi Menuhin of 1961 tear it up on Paganini’s legendary first two concertos, I can tell you one thing: I would be pissed.

Where is the outrage in the audiophile community over this kind of trash?

I have yet to see it. I suspect I will grow quite a bit older and quite a bit grayer before anyone from the audiophile commentariat notices just how bad this record sounds. I hope I’m proven wrong.

Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound from this piece of Heavy Vinyl garbage.

NO warmth.

NO sweetness.

NO richness.

NO Tubey Magic.

In other words, NO trace of the original’s (or the early reissue’s) analog sound. At most I may own one or two classical CDs that sound this bad, and I own quite a few. When audiophiles of an analog bent tell you they don’t like the sound of CDs, this is why they don’t like them: they sound like this junky heavy vinyl record.

I have to wonder how records this awful get released.

Then again, the Heavy Vinyl Buyer of today is not known for his discrimination. If he were, Sundazed, Mobile Fidelity, Analogue Productions, Music Matters and a host of others would have gone out of business many years ago.

This link will take you to some other exceptionally bad records that, like this one, were marketed to audiophiles for their supposedly superior sound. On today’s modern systems, it should be obvious that they have nothing of the kind and that, in fact, the opposite is true.

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The Doors – L.A. Woman Is a Disaster on German Heavy Vinyl, Part One

There is [was; it’s out of print now] a German 180 gram pressing of L.A. Woman which [was] so bad, I am calling this commentary The Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing is a sign that, to me at least, The End Is Near, or May Be. If this isn’t a good example of a Pass/Fail record, I don’t know what would be.

[This commentary was written a long time ago and much of our thinking about the recordings of The Doors has evolved since then, having played scores of their records in shootouts and learned something from every one. Click here to read more.]

Dateline: January, 2005

[Note that some of this commentary from the dawn of time (2005 qualifies when it comes to Hot Stampers) falls under the heading of We Was Wrong, especially the part about there not being a good vinyl version of the album. We heard some killer pressings starting around 2011-2012, but boy are they few and far between.]

There is a new 180 gram German pressing of The Doors LA Woman album which is so bad, I am calling this commentary Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing to me is a sign that The End Is Near. There is no hope for audiophiles if they can’t tell a good record from a bad one, and this is clearly a bad one.

When I first played it I thought there must be something wrong with my stereo. There was no deep bass. (This recording has amazing deep bass.) The sound was upper midrangey and distorted. There was no extreme top at all. This surprised me, as I had heard that this was supposed to be a good record. What I heard coming off the copy that I was playing was pure garbage. I was confused. (more…)

Direct to Discs on Crystal Clear – What Was I Thinking?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

These are just some of the recordings on Crystal Clear that we’ve auditioned over the years and found wanting.

Without going into specifics — who would bother to take the time? — we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor musical performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection.  

The Big Picture from a Lifelong Audiophile

You may have seen this text in another listing, but it bears repeating. There is nothing new under the sun, and that is especially true when it comes to bad sounding audiophile records. The world is full of them.

Hey, the records being marketed to audiophiles these days may have second- and third-rate sound, but at least now they have good music

That’s progress, right?

These two titles are the kind of crap we newbie audiophiles used to put up with back in the ’70s before we had anything resembling a clue.

They clearly belong on our list of Bad Audiophile Records

You might be asking: What Kind of Audio Fool Was I? to buy a couple of dumbass records like these.

Yes, I was foolish enough to buy records like these and expect them to have good music, or at least good sound. Of course they had neither. Practically none of these kinds of records ever did. Sheffield and a few others made some good ones, but most Crystal Clears were crap.

As clueless as I was, even back in the day I could tell that I had just thrown my money away on these two lipsticked-pigs in a poke.

But I was an audiophile, and I wanted to believe. These special super-hi-fidelity records were being made for me, for special people like me, because I had expensive equipment and regular records would just never be good enough to play on my special equipment, right?

To say I was wrong to think about audio that way is obviously an understatement. Over the course of the last forty years, I (and to be fair, my friends and my staff) have been wrong about a great deal when it comes to records and audio.

You can read more about many of the things we got wrong under the heading: Live and Learn.

Thank goodness Audio Progress is real and anyone who goes about it the right way can achieve it.

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