***Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

Balalaika Favorites on Classic Records – Unpleasantly Hard and Sour

What else is new?

Sonic Grade: F

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as unpleasantly hard and sour. Many of the later Mercury reissues pressed by Columbia had some of that sound, so I was already familiar with it when their pressing came out in 1998 as part of the just-plain-awful Mercury series they released.

I suspect I would hear it that way today. Bernie Grundman could cut the bass, the dynamics, and the energy onto the record. Everything else was worse 99% of the time.

The fast transients of the plucked strings of the Balalaikas was just way beyond the ability of his colored and crude cutting system. Harmonic extension and midrange delicacy were qualities that practically no Classic Records Heavy Vinyl pressing could claim to have.

Or, to be precise, they claimed to have them, and whether they really believed they did or not, they sure fooled a lot of audiophiles and the reviewers that write for them.

The better your stereo gets the worse those records sound, and they fall further and further behind with each passing year.

Here are a few commentaries you may care to read about Bernie Grundman‘s work as a mastering engineer, good and bad.

More Balalaika Favorites


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Classic Records – Rock and Pop 

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Classic Records and the TAS List

This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We used to like the Classic Records pressing of LSC 2241 a lot more than we do now. Our system was noticeably darker and also far less revealing when we last auditioned the Classic back in the ’90s, and those two qualities did most of the heavy lifting to disguise its shortcomings.

We mistakenly noted: HP put the Shaded Dog pressing (the only way it comes; there is no RCA reissue to my knowledge) on his TAS List of Super Discs, and with good reason: it’s wonderful!

The rest of our commentary still holds up though:

But for some reason he also put the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl reissue on the list, and that record’s not even passable, let alone wonderful. It’s far too lean and modern sounding, and no original Living Stereo record would ever sound that way, thank goodness. 

If they did few audiophiles would still be paying the top dollar collector prices that the Shaded Dog commands to this day.

Updated Thoughts on the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl Reissue

The Classic on Heavy Vinyl (LSC 2241) is lean and modern sounding. No early Living Stereo pressing sounds like it in our experience, and we can only thank goodness for that. If originals and early reissues did sound more like the Classic pressings, my guess is that few would collect them and practically no one would put much sonic stock in them.

Apparently most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of the quality of a good original pressing (or good ’60s or ’70s reissue). If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and recognized and identified as such by us way back in 1994.

I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled — to this very day! There are dozens on the TAS List for Pete’s sake — but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We do admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock records, and we have the We Was Wrong entries on the site to prove it.)

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

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Romantic Russia – Who on Earth Could Possibly Take the Sound of this Awful Remaster Seriously?

There actually is such a person who does, can you imagine?

Only an Audiophile True Believer could be fooled by sound so ridiculously unnatural.

But the world is full of such people. They bought into the Audiophile BS of Mobile Fidelity in the ’80s and apparently haven’t learned much since.

Now they think Heavy Vinyl is the answer to the world’s problems. The more things change…

If your stereo is any good at all, you should have no trouble hearing the sonic qualities of this album described below. If you are on this blog, and you have tried some of our Hot Stamper pressings, there is a good chance you’re hearing pretty much what we’re hearing. Why else why would you pay our prices?

One thing I can tell you: we would never charge money for a record that sounds as weird and wrong as this MoFi.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magical sheen and richness.

The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

If a self-styled Audiophile Reviewer cannot hear the obvious faults of this pressing, I would say there’s a good chance one or both of the following is true:

  1. His equipment is not telling him what the record is really doing, and/or,
  2. His listening skills are not sufficiently developed to notice the shortcomings in the sound.

The result is the worst kind of Reviewer Malpractice.

But is it really the worst kind? It seems to be the only kind!

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Georg Solti

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

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Peter Gabriel / Peter Gabriel (1) – Direct Disk Labs Half Speed Reviewed

Sonic Grade: D

The Direct Disk Labs half-speed here is thick, compressed and lifeless, though fairly rich tonally, a key quality the best UK pressings always have. The good UK pressings — on the original tan label, avoid the blue label reissues, they suck — are full of luscious Tubey Magic.

This is in fact the only Peter Gabriel recording that has that vintage Tubey Magical Analog sound. The worst recording of his first five, So, has the least amount. It is digital, and it sounds like it’s digital, but that is not the kiss of death if you can find a good pressing of it and clean it right.

You could do worse I suppose, but too much of the life of the music will be lost when playing this poorly remastered pressing.  Did they have a good British tape to work with? It doesn’t sound like it.

Is it better than the average domestic pressing, the ones that are clearly made from dubbed sub-generation tapes? Maybe, in some ways, but both this half-speed and the domestic pressings should be avoided by audiophiles looking for top quality sound.

More Peter Gabriel

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speed Mastered Records

The best place to start is here:

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

To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQ

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we’ve auditioned over the years.

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities

Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List (100+ and counting)

Deja Vu – This Classic Records Knockoff Is Not the Answer, But We Have One

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Rock LP badly mastered for the benefit of audiophiles looking for easy answers and quick fixes.

If you bought the Classic Record Heavy Vinyl pressing of Deja Vu, you should know by now how badly Classic Records ripped you off. If you feel disrespected, you should. They took your money and gave you practically nothing of value for it. The right CD (not the current one, that’s for damn sure) is dramatically better sounding than their vinyl reissue.

On the other hand, if you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you.

We of course want nothing to do with records like those remastered by Classic Records. We only want to play good sounding records, and most Classic Records, including this title, are definitely not good sounding, not by our standards anyway.

Records Are in a Sorry State – Here’s What You Can Do About It

It’s a sad state that we currently find ourselves in, but is it really any different than it used to be? Audiophiles used to like half-speeds, they used to like Japanese pressings, they used to like direct to disc recordings with questionable sound and even more questionable music.

Now they like SACDs, Heavy Vinyl and 45s. If you ask me it’s the same old wine in a different bottle.

The path out of that morass is exactly the path we have taken and charted for everyone, free of charge.

With our approach to finding the best sounding records, cleaning them the way we do, playing them against each other the way we do, using the sound improving devices and equipment we recommend, we know you can succeed. If we can do it you can do it.

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

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Hall and Oates / Abandoned Luncheonette – More Stone Age Audio EQ from MoFi

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

Those of you who have had the misfortune to play the MoFi LP know that they absolutely ruined this album. They boosted the hell out of the top end, the last thing in the world this recording needed. 

Actually, that’s probably not true. People who collect MoFi records probably like the kind of phony sound found on the MoFi of this title.

To the extent that a MoFi collector is not happy with the sound, my guess is he would more than likely place the blame on the recording, not the mastering.

Of course, since such a collector would never lower himself to buy a plain old domestic copy of the record, he would have no way of knowing that it trounces his so-called audiophile pressing. If your stereo likes that MoFi sound in this day and age, you shouldn’t be buying records. You should be buying new equipment which hopefully will allow you to recognize bad records when you play them.

More Hall and Oates

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Steely Dan ‎/ Gold on MCA Audiophile Vinyl – Sounds Like a Good CD to Me

Clean and clear and tonally correct, just like a good CD should sound. If this is what you are after, why not just buy the CD? It’s a lot cheaper.

Some songs sound better than others, can’t for the life of me remember which ones. I auditioned copies of this record more than twenty years ago. Once I got rid of them I never bought another. Why would I?

No doubt there are still audiophiles extolling the virtues of this record in various threads. One thing you can be sure of: these are people who are not very serious about making progress in audio.

Some of the pressings these sorts like can be found in our Stone Age Audio Record section.

If you have top quality, highly-tweaked modern equipment, a good room, and the myriad other things that make exceptionally good vinyl playback possible these days — in a way that was not possible even ten or fifteen years ago — you would have no reason to keep a record of such mediocrity in your collection.

Or say anything nice about it on a site ostensibly devoted to audiophile vinyl.

More Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Steely Dan

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Rachmaninoff / Symphonic Dances / Johanos – Audiophile Reviewers Raved About This Muddy Mess

I guess things never change.

Sonic Grade: F

This Athena LP is now long out of print, but it received rave reviews when it was released. (We quote many of them below.) This album is a member of the TAS Super Disc list, but we found the sound awfully opaque, smeary, slow and compressed, the kind of bad “analog” sound that Doug Sax brought to the early AP releases. 

The sticker on the shrink wrap of a previous copy had these quotes:

“…for this is the definitive symphonic recording to date.” – J. Gordon Holt/ Stereophile

“Wins ‘Best Record of the Year’ award against tough competition.” – Joe Hart/High End Audio Press & Music Review

“HP heard the Athena remastering of the Rachmaninoff and found it stunning. He could recommend it without reservation.” – Harry Pearson/The Absolute Sound #57

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

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Surfer Girl Takes MoFi Spit to a New Level

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP reviewed and found wanting.

I played the MoFi pressing of this record many years ago, some time back in the early ’90s if memory serves, and at the time I could hardly believe that the good people of MoFi would release a record that was so ridiculously SPITTY. The sibilance is positively out of control, the result of their wacky cutting system and phony EQ and who knows what else.

But then I remembered that there has never been a title produced by these people with sound so bad that they would have cancelled its release. {This is a classic case of begging the question. I really have no idea why some of their titles that exist only on test pressing — Pearl for one — never saw the light of day. It is possible that it was cancelled because it sounded worse than even the hard-of-hearing Powers That Be at MoFi could tolerate. Doubtful, but possible.)

The audiophile public was clamoring for remastered pressings of their favorite albums and MoFi saw it as an opportunity to serve them.

In other words, to paraphrase a famous wag, their fans had spoken and now they must be punished.

It started with their execrable remastering of Katy Lied and continued all the way to the turgid muck of the Anadisc series and beyond. Those who have visited our Hall of Shame have seen many of their worst productions on display. If we had more time to write listings for them I’m sure I could come up with double or triple the number that are there now. 

More of The Beach Boys

More Recordings that Are Good for Testing Sibilance


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Chabrier / Espana / Paray – We Review the Classic Records Pressing on the TAS List

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

I much prefer Ansermet’s performances on London to those of Paray on Mercury. I know of none better. The famous Classic pressing of the Mercury is a grainy, gritty, shrill piece of crap.

I don’t know how dull and smeary a stereo would have to be in order to play a record this phony and modern sounding and make it listenable, but I know that it would have to be very dull and very smeary, with the kind of vintage sound that might work for Classic’s Heavy Vinyl pressings but not much else.

It’s a disgrace, and the fact that it’s on the TAS Super Disc List is even more disgraceful. Of course the lovely London (CS 6438) we prefer is nowhere to be found on Harry’s List, which should not be too surprising. Most of the best records we play are exactly that — nowhere to be found on his list.

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

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