*Thinking About Records

Baskets of Recordings and Facets of Reproduction

More of the Music of Rickie Lee Jones

Reviews and Commentaries for Rickie Lee Jones’ First Album

You need to use a basket of roughly five to ten recordings to test your equipment, tweaks, room, cleaning regimen and the like.

Don’t rely on any given recording to be The Truth. None of them are.

To illustrate this idea, imagine your stereo as a huge diamond. Every recording you play is showing you a different facet of that diamond, corresponding to a different strength or weakness of your system’s reproduction.

Audiophile X will play a record and say it has bad bass. His bass reproduction is excellent when playing other recordings, so record X, which seems to have bad bass, must be at fault.

If you have been in audio for very long, you should easily recognize the conclusion this person has drawn as a case of Mistaken Audiophile Thinking. 

Audiophile Y plays the same record and says it has good bass. Assuming the record has good bass for a moment, what is in fact happening in Audiophile X’s system is that most facets of his bass are good, but some facet of his bass is bad, and this record is showing him some shortcoming in his bass reproduction that his other records are not capable of showing him. 

If Audiophile X makes some changes to his stereo, and the record in question now has better bass, and, importantly, other records still sound as good or better than they used to, then some measure of success will have been achieved, and another step forward will have been taken in that very long and often frustrating journey we are all on.

Flaws in the Diamond

The diamond has many flaws. We find them and fix them by regular tweaking and tuning, both of which have the added benefit of improving one’s critical listening skills.

To help you improve your stereo, room, electricity and the like, we have scores of records that are good for testing a great many aspects of audio reproduction.

Testing with Rickie Lee

Rickie Lee Jones’ first album is what we would call a Bad Test Disc, for the simple reason that it’s too easy to get it to sound good on a mediocre system.

Port’s Rule states: If it isn’t easy for your Test Discs to sound wrong, they are not very good Test Discs.

If you are looking for Tougher Test Discs, we have you covered there, with two dozen ballbusters guaranteed to bring any stereo to its knees. If you like a challenge, and own some of these records, preferably Hot Stamper pressings you bought from us (because we know those have the right sound), we invite you to have at ’em.

Here are some other titles that are good for testing the same qualities we listen for on Rickie Lee’s first album, many with specific advice on What to Listen For.

Further Reading

Compromised Recordings and the Rapture of the Purely Musical Experience

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Core Collection Classical Albums with Hot Stampers Available Now

The best classical recordings of the ’50s and ’60s, like the wonderful Mercury you see pictured, were compromised in every imaginable way.

Yet somehow they manage to stand head and shoulders above virtually anything that has come after them. How is that possible?

Well, having taken advantage of scores of Revolutionary Changes in Audio that have come to pass since those days, finally we can hear them in all their glory on the kind of high quality playback equipment that exists today.

The music lives and breathes on those old LPs. Playing them you find yourself in the Living Presence of the musicians. You become lost in the performances captured in the grooves of these old records.

Whatever the limitations of the medium, they seem to fade quickly from consciousness. What remains is the rapture of the musical experience.

That’s what happens when a good record meets a good turntable.

We live for records like these. It’s the reason we all get up in the morning and come to work, to find and play good records. It’s what this site is all about — offering the audiophile music lover recordings that provide real musical satisfaction. It’s hard work — so hard that nobody else seems to want to do it — but the payoff makes it all worthwhile. To us anyway. Hope you feel the same.

The One Out of Ten Rule

If you have too many classical records taking up too much space and need to winnow them down to a more manageable size, pick a composer and play half a dozen of his works. Most classical records display an irredeemable mediocrity right from the start; it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

If you’re after the best sound, it’s the rare record that will have it, which makes clearing shelf space a lot easier than you might think. If you keep more than one out of ten you’re probably setting the bar too low if our experience is any guide.

Plenty of Vintage Pressings Don’t Make the Grade

Bad sounding vintage classical pressings on collectible labels are more common than you might think. We should know, we’ve played them by the hundreds. To do listings for them all would be a full time job. Here is just a small sample of some of the ones we’ve auditioned, broken down by label.

  • London/Decca records with weak sound or performances
  • Mercury records with weak sound or performances
  • RCA records with weak sound or performances


Dopey Record Theories – Putting Bad Ideas to the Test

More of the Music of Joni Mitchell

Reviews and Commentaries for Court and Spark

Below we discuss some record theories that seem to be making the rounds these days.

The discussion started with a stunning White Hot Stamper 2-pack that had just gone up on the site..

I implored the eventual purchaser to note that side two of record one has Joni sounding thin, hard and veiled. If you look at the stampers you can see it’s obviously cut by the same guy (no names please!), and we’re pretty sure both sides were stamped out at the same time of the day since it’s impossible to do it any other way.

What accounts for the amazing sound of one side and the mediocre sound of its reverse?

If your theory cannot account for these huge differences in sound, your theory is fundamentally flawed. 

Can anything be more ridiculous than the ad hoc, evidence-free theories of some audiophile record collectors desperately searching for a reason to explain why records — even the two sides of the same record — sound so different from one another?

The old adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” couldn’t be more apt. If you want to know if a pudding tastes good, a list of its ingredients, the temperature it was cooked at, and the name of the person stirring it on the stove is surely of limited value. To know the taste one need only take a bite.

If you want to know the sound of a record, playing it is the best way to find out, preferably against other pressings, under carefully controlled conditions, on good equipment, while listening critically and taking notes.

The alternative is to… Scratch that. There is no alternative. Nothing else will ever work. In the world of records there are no explanatory theories of any value, just as there are no record gurus with all the answers. There are only methods that will help you find the best pressings, and other methods that will not.

The good news is that these methods are explained in detail on this very site, free of charge.

We’ve made it clear to everyone how to go about finding better sounding LPs. Once you see the positive results our methods produce, we suspect you will no longer be wasting time theorizing about records.

You will have learned something about them, at least about some of them, and that hard-won knowledge is the only kind that counts for much in the world of records.

Scientific Thinking – A Short Primer

Some approaches to this audio hobby tend to produce better results than others. When your thinking about audio and records does not comport with reality, you are much less likely to achieve the improvements you seek.

Without a good stereo, it is hard to find better records. Without better records, it is hard to improve your stereo.

You need both, and thinking about them the right way, using the results of carefully run experiments — not feelings, opinions, theories, received wisdom or dogma — is surely the best way to acquire better sound.

A scientific, empirically-based audio approach leads to better quality playback. This will in turn make the job of recognizing high quality pressings — the ones you find for yourself, or the ones we find for you — much, much easier.

Further Reading

A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers – Making Mistakes, Part One

mistakes_stevensx20Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Thinking About Records

Want to get better at audio and record collecting?

Try making more mistakes

I was reading an article on the web recently when I came across an old joke Red Skelton used to tell:

All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.

Now if you’re like me and you play, think and write (hopefully in that order) about records all day, everything sooner or later relates back to records, even a modestly amusing old joke such as the one above.

Making mistakes is fundamental to learning about records, especially if you, like us, believe that most of the received wisdom handed down to record lovers of all kinds is more likely to be wrong than right.

If you don’t believe that to be true, then it’s high time you really started making mistakes.
And the faster you make them, the more you will learn the truths (uncountable in number) about records.

And those truths will set you free.

Yes, We Admit It. We Sell the “Wrong” Pressings

Think about it: perhaps as many as a third of the Hot Stamper pressings on our website are what would commonly be understood to be the “wrong” pressings — or, worse, records that are not supposed to sound any good at all. 

  • Reissues of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin from the wrong country?
  • ’60s and ’70s Living Stereo reissue pressings?
  • Original Jazz Classics from the ’80s?
  • Beatles records reissued in the ’70s, in stereo no less!
  • Kind of Blue on the ’70s Red Label?
  • Jazz “Two-Fers“?
  • Budget Reissue Classical LPs?

The list goes on and on. We’ve reviewed 147 reissues to date worthy of the Hot Stamper designation. Some budget reissues are so good, they actually win shootouts.

Can we be serious?

Yes, we are indeed quite serious. We believe that by now we know most of the best pressings — the ones with potentially the best sound — for most of the records we regularly shootout. Over the course of decades we’ve tried copy after copy of practically every title we do.

We know which ones to avoid, which betters the odds of finding good sounding pressings.

mistakes_stevensx20It’s pretty much as simple as that.

We’ve played all the copies that are supposed to be the best, and we’ve also played the ones that aren’t supposed to be any good — late reissues, or records pressed in the “wrong” country; or cut by the “wrong” mastering engineer; or found on the second, third, or fourth labels, all wrong, don’t you even know that much?! — and against all odds we’ve kept our minds and our ears open.

Whatever pressing sounds the best, sounds the best. Whether it’s the “right” pressing according to orthodox record collecting wisdom carries no weight whatsoever with us, and never will — because that way of thinking doesn’t produce good results.

All the Answers?

Please don’t think we’re trying to say we have all the answers. We most certainly do not. We find pressings that beat our old favorites on a regular basis — not every day, but often enough to make trying long shots an important part of our business.

Yes, there was a time when we actually had dozens of Tea for the Tillerman’s in stock, ready to shoot out.

Those were the days!


Stop These Things and You Too Will Find Better Sounding LPs

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Some audiophile reviewers prefer to discuss only those records that sound good to them and ignore the rest. We think this does the audiophile community a disservice.

Much like Consumer Reports, we like to test things. They test toasters, we test records.

And just like them, we put the things we’re testing through their paces and let the chips fall where they may.

They want to find out if the things they are testing offer the consumer quality and value. We want to find out if the records we are testing offer the record-loving audiophile good sound and music. If they do have exceptionally good sound and at least fairly good music, they go up on our site to be sold as Hot Stampers. The bad records end up on this blog in our Halls of Shame. (Yes, there are two.)

What It Takes

It takes a lot of people and a healthy budget to carry out large numbers of these kinds of tests.

No other record dealers, record reviewers or record collectors could possibly have auditioned more than a small fraction of the records that we’ve played. We’ve been looking for the best sounding records for a very long time. Now, with a staff of ten or more, we can buy, clean and play records in numbers that are unimaginable for any single person or group to attempt.

That puts us in a unique position to help audiophiles looking for higher quality sound.

Yes, we have the resources, the staff and the budget. More importantly, we came up with a new (sort of) and much more successful (definitely) approach.

We’ve learned through thousands and thousands of hours of experimentation that there is no reliable way to predict which pressings will have the best sound for any given album.

The impossibility of predicting the sound of records is one which we’ve learned to accept as simply axiomatic. As a born skeptic, this was never difficult for me to wrap my head around. Early on in my audio career, sometime in the ’80s, I realized it was, in fact, self-evident.

What to Stop

Given the chaotic nature of records, the solution we put into practice mainly comprised these five elements:

  1. We stopped pretending we could know something that can’t be known. [1]
  2. We stopped relying on theories proven to have virtually no predictive effect. [2]
  3. We stopped paying attention to the experts and so-called authorities. [3]
  4. We stopped assuming and speculating. [4]
  5. We stopped worrying about getting it wrong. [5]

It took many years, decades even, to learn what worked and what didn’t work in our pursuit of better records. We came to realize over time that the five things listed above weren’t helping, so we stopped doing them.

What remained was the simplest possible approach to the problem. One that could be taught in a high school science class, if high school science classes were run by experimentally-minded record collectors.

  1. Guess what pressings might be good for a given album.
  2. Buy some of those pressings and others like them.
  3. Clean them up, play them and see if your guess about the sound of the pressing turns out to be right, wrong or somewhere in-between.
  4. Repeat steps one through three until you chance upon a pressing that sounds better than all the others.
  5. Get hold of as many of those as you can and play them against each other under rigorously controlled conditions.
  6. Continue to make other guesses and acquire other pressings to play against the pressing you believe to be the best.
  7. Keep making improvements to your playback system and never stop testing as many records as possible.

That’s it. Nothing to it. It all comes down to experimenting at a sufficiently large scale to achieve success.

Failing Forward

Edison is said to have failed 10,000 times before inventing a light bulb that was useful.

Most audiophiles do not have the time and money, not to say patience, needed to fail again and again this way.

For us, having a full-time staff of ten and a rather large record buying budget, we see failures as just another part of the job. Our successes pay for them, since obviously somebody has to, Milton Friedman’s famous remark about free lunches being as true as ever. This partly accounts for our prices being as high as they are.

We don’t make a dime from writing about records that don’t sound good to us. We review them as a service to the audiophile community. We play them so that you don’t have to.


Letter of the Week – “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:

Hey Tom, 

Some audiophile guy professes to me that he prefers his Japan and German pressings of Dire Straits’ 1st LP over the UK press. How can I tell him in a kind way that he is wrong?

Dear Sir,

You can’t, in a kind way or any other way.

You have to play the two pressings for him, on his stereo or yours, and that’s simply not possible unless he lives near you, which is rarely the case, audiophiles being fairly thin on the ground as far as I know.

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why on earth would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable (or the modern equivalent of same).

He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

I Look Forward to Being Proven Wrong

Along those lines, I had a new customer tell me that this record was one of the better Heavy Vinyl reissues he had heard recently. Rather than just paint every Heavy Vinyl pressing with the broad brush of disgust I normally reach for when doing reviews for them, I thought maybe I should actually give this one a listen.

It might change my mind. It might help me see the light. Maybe I could even learn a thing or two instead of being so relentlessly negative about modern reissues. They can’t all be as bad as I say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one right then and there.

For thirty bucks, I learned a lesson worth a great deal more than the money I sunk into such a worthless piece of vinyl on the say-so of someone whose stereo I had never heard, which is this: never believe a word you read about audio or records, no matter who says it, or where you read it, except under certain circumstances.

What circumstances, exactly?

To my mind there is only one circumstance when it makes sense to believe what somebody — anybody — tells you about the sound of a record: If that advice comes with a 100% money back guarantee of the purchase price if you are not happy with the sound.

It can’t get any more simple than that, now can it?

Do any of these guys ever put their money where their mouths are? Not a one of them ever has to the best of my knowledge, and why would they? Plenty of downside, but not a trace of upside. To quote Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther from Victim of Love, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.”

Of course we do things very differently here at Better Records. Yes, we have strong opinions. Lots of them.

But we back those opinions up with a full money back guarantee. The upside for us is huge — a satisfied customer, our favorite kind — and the downside is practically nil — whatever record someone returns just goes back up on the site, sells to someone else and we never see it again.

Voila, another satisfied customer!

I don’t know how Chad Kassem would react to you trying to return his awful Stand Up or his mediocre-at-best Tea for the Tillerman, but I doubt he would take too kindly to the idea.

And speaking of not being wrong, we actually go out of way to point out when we are.

Better to be a scout rather than a warrior.

There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is. (more…)

Chad Has Served Poor Jethro Tull Most Barbarously

More of the Music of Jethro Tull

Reviews and Commentaries for Stand Up

With a nod to our old friend, John Barleycorn.

We were finally able to get our hands on Analogue Productions’ newly remastered Stand Up, a record we know well, having played them by the score. Our notes for the sound can be seen below.

If ever a record deserved a “no” grade, as in “not acceptable,” this new 45 RPM pressing mastered by Kevin Gray deserves such a grade, because it’s just awful.

But let’s put that grade in context. The last time a good sounding version of Stand Up was released, as far as we can tell, was 1989, and that version was the Mobile Fidelity Gold CD. I bought mine soon after it came out. I wasn’t even planning on buying a CD player when the Compact Disc was first invented, but then Mobile Fidelity played a dirty trick on me. Instead of releasing Loggins and Messina’s first album on vinyl, they put it out exclusively on CD as part of their Silver MFCD series.

As a die-hard MoFi fan, that sealed the deal: now I had to buy a CD player. I picked up a cheap Magnavox player, I think it ran me less than $100, and played my new Sittin’ In CD, which, as I recall, sounded pretty good. (One of my other early CD purchases was Tumbleweed Connection, the regular label release, and it was not good at all.)

I still own Stand Up on Gold CD, and I still find it superb in every way. (Many of the MFSL Gold CDs from this era are excellent and worth seeking out.)

It sounds nothing like this new vinyl release, and that’s a good thing.

On vinyl, Stand Up has rarely been given the care it deserved. The last version of Stand Up to have sound we would want to listen to was pressed in the UK in the early ’70s. That was close to fifty years ago.

We sold some domestic pressings of the album back in the early 2000s, describing them at the time as made from dub tapes with all the shortcomings that entails, but mastered very well from dub tapes. The best domestic pressings are rich, smooth, tonally correct and natural sounding. They’re too dubby to sell as Hot Stampers, but they are not bad records. Some later Chrysalis pressings are big and open, but often they are too thin and bass-shy for the music to work. We’ve never taken them seriously.

It wasn’t long before we’d eliminated everything but the early UK pressings for our shootouts, and we quickly discovered that the earliest of the UK pressings on the older Island label were not good at all. We wrote about the problem with some originals more than ten years ago.

What was surprising about the shootouts we had done in past years was how disappointing most of the early British pressings we played were. They were flat, lacked energy and just didn’t rock the way they should have.

We learned the hard way that most British Pink label pressings aren’t especially rich, that some are small and recessed, and some are just so smeary, thick and opaque that they frustrate the hell out of you as you’re trying to hear what any of the musicians other than Ian Anderson is doing.

So when a reviewer comes along and says something positive about the new pressing compared to some unidentified original, we appreciate the problem that is at the root of his mistaken judgments:

Here’s the deal: if the goal was to duplicate the original pink label Island sound, this reissue misses that, which is good because this new double 45 reissue is far superior to the original in every possible way.

The tape was in great shape, that’s for sure. Clarity, transparency, high frequency extension and especially transient precision are all far superior to the original. Bass is honest, not hyped up and the mastering delivers full dynamics that are somewhat (but only slightly), compressed on the original. Ian Anderson’s vocals are naturally present as if you are on the other side of the microphone. Most importantly, the overall timbral balance sounds honest and correct. But especially great is the transient clarity on top and bottom.

If you’re fortunate to have an original pink label Island, at first you might think the sound is somewhat “laid back”, but that’s only because the mids and upper mids are not hyped up as they are on the original. That adds some excitement, but it clouds the picture and greatly obscures detail.

If you scroll down to our notes, you will see what we thought of the “laid back” sound this reviewer talks about. (Keep in mind that we first read the above review mere moments ago.)

We think “smaller, thick and stuck in the speakers” may be someone’s idea of “laid back,” but, just so there is no misunderstanding, it’s our idea of “awful.”

None of these are good things. Our Hot Stamper pressings are never small, thick or stuck in the speakers. They’re the records with the opposite of that sound. Our records are big, transparent and open. That’s why we can charge so much money for them and have people lining up to buy them.

They deliver the big, bold sound that the brilliant engineer for the album, Andy Johns, was known for. Laid back was not in his vocabulary.


Here is more of what we heard on side one.

Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square

“Transients are sharp but body is dull. Kinda phony.”

Phony sound is the key here. Messing with the EQ in the mastering benefits some aspects of the sound at the expense of others.

Nothing new there. Audiophile pressings with wacky EQ are the norm. I would be surprised if any common Reprise pressing from back in the day wouldn’t sound more “right,” more tonally correct, more seamless. I’ve played quite a few and I don’t recall ever hearing one sound “phony.”

On side two we played the first two tracks.


Record Collecting 101: Forget Your Theories, Just Get More Data

Record Collecting for Audiophiles

More Entries in Our Critical Thinking Series

Hot Stampers make more sense once one has a better understanding of statistical distributions.

Why statistics you ask? Simple. We can’t tell what a record is going to sound like until we play it.

For all practical purposes we are buying them randomly and “measuring” them to see where they fall on a curve.

We may be measuring them using a turntable and registering the data aurally, but it’s still very much measurement and it’s still very much data that we are recording (with a healthy amount of interpretation of the data involved, but that’s what we get paid to do, right?).

Many of these ideas were addressed in the shootout we did many years ago for BS&T’s second album. We played a large number of copies (the data), we found a few amazing ones (the outliers), and we tried to determine how many copies it really takes to find those records that sound so amazing they defy not only conventional wisdom, but understanding itself.

We don’t know what causes some copies to sound so good. We know them when we hear them and that’s pretty much all we can say we really know. Everything else is speculation and guesswork.

We have data. What we don’t have is a theory that explains that data.

And it simply won’t do to ignore the data because we can’t explain it. Hot Stamper Deniers are those members of the audiophile community who, when faced with something they don’t want to be true, simply manufacture reasons why it can’t or shouldn’t be true. That’s not science. It’s anti-science.

Practicing science means following the data wherever it leads. The truth can only be found in the record’s grooves and nowhere else.  If you don’t understand record collecting as a science, you won’t do it right and you certainly won’t achieve much success.

The above is an excerpt from a much longer commentary written about the subject, entitled Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound. Click on the link to gain a better understanding of one of the most important properties records have: unpredictability.

We wrote a commentary with much more on the subject on the processes involved in the making of records, and we called it A Random Walk Through Heavy Vinyl.

And if you think that some manufacturers can get around this reality, we discuss that subject in a commentary called Strict Quality Control? We Put That Proposition to the Test

We will leave you once again with wisdom from one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Richard Feynman. Here he summarizes The Scientific Method in a Nutshell for the benefit of mankind, especially us record collectors and audiophiles.


How Not to Conduct a Proper Shootout for Aqualung

I think this commentary was written in 2010 or thereabouts, since that’s the date on Fremer’s Aqualung review, which, for those with much more tolerance for audiophile BS than I am able to muster these days, can be found here. I’ve made a few changes to the commentary below, but most of the original text has been left intact.

We recently put up a Hot Stamper Aqualung that just BLEW THE DOORS OFF the CLASSIC 200g pressing. Michael Fremer may think the new reissue is the ultimate pressing, but we sure don’t. 

The Aqualung shootout on his site is priceless. He has so many silly things to say about it, let’s not waste any more time and get right to them.

His Shootout Begins

He says he “… compared Classic’s new 200g reissue with: 1) an original UK Chrysalis 2) an original American Chrysalis/Warner Brothers, 3) an original French Pink Label Island, 4) The Mobile Fidelity ½ speed mastered edition and 5) DCC’s 180g issue mastered by the team of Hoffman and Gray.”

How many of each? One, right? (All the articles in front of the nouns are singular. Assuming MF is using good grammar, how many could there be?)

Mikey, that’s your first mistake.

When it comes to the domestic release, one is a wholly inadequate sample size for pressings that were pumped out by the millions and therefore mastered multiple times. Go to Discogs if you want to see just how many different stamper numbers can be found in the original Reprise pressings. Hint: it’s a lot. Some of them are known to us to be awful, some fall into the middle of the pack, and some we like. Figuring out which are which has taken us a lifetime of work and is well beyond the ability of any single person to decode for more than a few dozen records.

Maybe you got hold of a bad sounding “original American Chrysalis/Warner Brothers,” did you ever think of that? The record bins are full of them.

If you did get hold of a bad one — and all the evidence points in that direction — the value of your shootout just went flying out the window, defenestrated as some might say.

Proper shootouts cannot be carried out using a small number of pressings. Anybody who claims to know anything about records ought to know that.

This next line just floors me.

Now rather than make value judgments, let’s just compare without prejudice.

This guy may not be good for much, but he sure is good for a laugh.

Does he really expect us to believe that the comments that follow are not biased in any way, that they are The Truth, that he is able to measure “intimacy and warmth” and tell us precisely how much of each there is on any given pressing? Who in his right mind thinks like that?  (At this rate he may end up wandering about a park with snot running down his nose, greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Help is available; perhaps Stereophile has a mental health plan under which he could be covered.)

Soon enough he goes on to give his opinion as to the merits of each of the pressings noted above. I’m sorry, did I say opinion? I meant comparisons without prejudice. Sorry, my bad.

The Big Truth

And of course he is more than welcome to make any and all the comparisons he deems fit, each from that lovely sample size of one. And if he wants to add another sample (size = 1) to the mix by playing the DCC gold CD, he’s welcome to do that too, which he did. I’m guessing that his CD player is every bit as accurate as his front end (comprising turntable/ arm/ cartridge/ phono stage/ cables), which, if he were to ascribe a number to the accuracy of all the pieces that make up this chain, would have to be in the 100% or so range. Or as the late John McLaughlin might say, on a scale of one to ten: ten, meaning Metaphysically Accurate.

No colorations. No imperfections. Pure Truth, and nothing but.

I could go on like this for days, but even I’m getting tired of it. Without a basic understanding of records and the wide variation in the quality of pressings, you cannot design a testing protocol that will result in any meaningful findings.

You end up with a Pseudo Shootout, custom made for an audience of one, especially one who never wants to be wrong. If you are not trying to separate truth from falsehood, open to the possibility of overturning your preconceived notions by the proper use of the scientific method, how can you learn anything?


Beware of Fooling Yourself with Pseudo Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

How Can I Recognize What I Should Be Listening For on a Given Album?

We encourage any audiophile who wants to improve the quality of his record collection to start doing his own shootouts. Freeing up an afternoon to sit down with a pile of cleaned copies of a favorite LP (you won’t make it through any other kind) and playing them one after another is by far the best way to learn about records and their manifold pressing variations.

Doing your own shootout will also help you see just how much work it is.

Be sure to take extensive notes.

Shootouts are a great deal of work if you do them right. If you have just a few pressings on hand and don’t bother to clean them carefully, or follow rigorous testing protocols, that kind of shootout anyone can do. We would not consider that a real shootout. (Art Dudley illustrates this approach, but you could pick any reviewer you like — none of them have ever undertaken a shootout worthy of the name to our knowledge.)

With only a few records to play – a woefully inadequate sample size — you probably won’t learn much of value and, worse, you are unlikely to find a top copy, although you may be tempted to convince yourself that you have.

As Richard Feynman famously remarked, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” (more…)