Digital – CDs, Digital Recordings, etc.

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

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Clean and clear and tonally correct 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 remember which ones. I auditioned copies of this record more than twenty years ago. Once I got rid of them I never bought another. What would be the point?

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 audio.

Some of the pressings these people 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.

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Jellyfish – Fan Club – 4 CD Box Set

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“The Jellyfish box set is here! Not Lame has worked with EMI on something VERY special. We have unearthed a bevy of unreleased material by one of the most important power pop bands of 90s, JELLYFISH!”

Great for fans (like me); others may want to pass.

“Packaged in a classic high-quality long-box format and featuring a full color 24 page booklet with essays, track info, and comments. “Fan Club” will feature the tracks shown below and features the input and many personal tapes and observations from all the members of the band, including Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer. Longtime J-fish soundman, Shalom Aberle helped oversee the re-mixing of some tracks and all of the mastering and Jack Puig supplied memorabilia galore! Rest assured if you are a fan, you will NOT be disappointed as Not Lame assays the task of of capturing the unique spirit of Jellyfish. This is a limited pressing, so DO NOT wait to order this now.”

Donovan – Storyteller on SACD – Reviewed in 2003

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This is a Factory Sealed Audio Fidelity Dual Layer Hybrid SACD (playable on any CD player) with superb sound.

One of the best sounding CDs I’ve ever heard! I can’t play the SACD layer anymore — my SACD player broke and I decided the medium was not for me. I’m a record guy and don’t want to invest the time and money to find a player that gets the SACD layer right. My CD player tells me that this is some of the best digital around and that’s good enough for me.

This disc is so rich and sweet you would swear it was an LP. Hoffman did an AMAZINGLY good job with this title. Same with The Searchers. Both are highly recommended. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / Deja Vu – The Joe Gastwirt CD Is a DOA Abomination

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More than a decade ago we wrote:

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. 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 it because we want good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years, just never got around to correcting the record.

And it’s not the fault of digital. There is an earlier CD, not cut by Joe Gastwirt, that sounds amazingly good. I own a few of them and pick them up whenever I see one. And Gastwirt’s version of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album is every bit as bad. If I see Joe Gastwirt’s name on a CD I put it back where I found it.

So there you have it, Live and Learn circa 2016. (more…)

The Beatles – Past Masters Volumes 1 & 2 – Digital Remastering at its Worst

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Sonic Grade: F

The ’90s import pressings of this album are bright and aggressive and very digital sounding, but if you want better sounding versions of these songs you’re gonna have to buy lots of pressings of the band’s albums and singles and EPs in order to find good sounding versions of them (which I did back in the ’80s and it took years to do it).

These are all the songs that aren’t on the original 13 British albums, so for those of you with the MoFi Beatles box, these 2 LPs give you all the tracks you don’t have.  

This was written so long ago that we actually refer to the MoFi Beatles Box as something and audiophile would own.

No serious audiophile who loves The Beatles should have the MoFi Box Set or Past Masters in his collection.

Dire Straits Brothers In Arms – Not Bad When It’s Properly Mastered and Pressed!



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  • This killer domestic pressing gives you a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a side two that’s not far behind (A++)
  • Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, for this music this is the right sound.
  • So Far Away, Money For Nothing and Walk Of Life all sound great on this Triple Plus side one!
  • “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.” — Allmusic, 4 stars

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is exactly the right sound for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this!

Surprisingly Analog Master Tape Sound

Both sides of this bad boy are SUPERB. Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of deep, tight bass.

The vocals are Right On The Money — full-bodied, with breathy texture, surrounded by the lovely ambience of the studio.

The 3-D quality to the soundfield here is something that most copies simply cannot reproduce.

The overall sound is lively, dynamic, and relatively natural. (more…)

Paul Simon – Hearts and Bones

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  • Hearts and Bones returns to the site for the first time in almost 10 years, with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Compared to every other copy in our recent shootout, this one was bigger and bolder with more Tubey Magic, clarity and separation
  • Turn this one up good and loud (which you can do when the sound is THIS good) and you’ll have a living, breathing Paul Simon standing right between your speakers
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… his most personal collection of songs, one of his most ambitious, and one of his best. It retains a personal vision… Simon’s most impressive collection in a decade and the most underrated album in his catalog.”

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Paul Simon – Graceland

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a record that ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale.

Super transparent and hi-res with no attendant sacrifice in low end or fullness, this is about as tonally balanced as Graceland gets. The top end is more delicate and extended, which was not true for most of the copies we played.

There’s a much more pleasant smoothness here, standing in sharp contrast to the typically grainy, spitty copy, with more weight down low and more presence to Simon’s vocals.

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we know precisely what qualities the premier copy must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It has many other good qualities as well: It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals.

The better copies have all these qualities to some degree, but the one quality a good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s especially good about the sound of the record.

Without clarity the music doesn’t work. The shortest definition of a Hot Stamper is that it’s the pressing where the music works. You can be sure that any Hot Stamper copy on our site has at least that going for it. (more…)

Art Pepper / Today – Which Is Better: Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

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[This commentary was written many years ago.]

 

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it had been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on.

Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn’s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr Delancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they’re just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.

And of course we here at Better Records never put much stock in what record jackets say; the commentary on the jackets rarely has much to do with the sound of the records inside them in our experience.

And, one more surprise awaited us as we were plowing through our pile of copies. When we got to side two we found that the sound of the Galaxy originals was often competitive with the best of the OJCs. Which means that there’s a good probability that some of the original pressings I tossed for having bad sound on side one had very good, perhaps even shootout winning sound on side two.

This is a lesson I hope to take to heart in the future. I know very well that the sound of side one is independent of side two, but somehow in this case I let my prejudice against the first side color my thinking about the second. Of all the people who should know better…

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love – A Near Perfect Pop Masterpiece

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The band’s MAGNUM OPUS, a Colossus of Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time. (Whew!)

When it comes to Genre Busting Rock I put this album right up at the top of the heap, along with several other landmark albums from the Seventies: Roxy Music’s first, The Original Soundtrack, Crime of the Century, Ambrosia’s first two releases, The Yes Album, Fragile, Dark Side of the Moon and a handful of others.

The Seeds Of Love is clearly the band’s masterpiece, and being able to hear it on a White Hot Stamper pressing is nothing short of a THRILL.

I have a long history with this style of Popular Music, stretching all the way back to the early ’70s. I grew up on Bowie, Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Peter Gabriel, Supertramp, Yes, Zappa and others, individuals and bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the constraints of the conventional pop song. Nothing on Sowing the Seeds of Love fits the description of a Conventional Pop Song.

Which albums by The Beatles break all the rules? Side two of Abbey Road and the whole of The White Album, which is why both are Desert Island Discs for me. Can’t get enough of either one.

The Discovery of a Lifetime

When I discovered these arty rock bands in my early twenties I quickly became obsessed with them and remain so to this day.

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups and others in the ’70s. These albums informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. I’ve had large dynamic speakers for the last four decades precisely because they do such a good job of bringing to life huge and powerful recordings such as these.

Tears For Fears on this and their previous album continue that tradition of big-as-life and just-as-difficult-to-reproduce records. God bless ’em for it. (more…)