Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really?

Peter Gabriel / Security

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  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”
  • If you’re a Peter Gabriel fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1982 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1982 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Security is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Man, does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest.

Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses.

On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection. (more…)

Rob Wasserman – Duets

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  • This rare and wonderful album from 1988 on the original MCA label offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout 
  • In-the-room vocal presence (Jennifer Warnes is stunning on Leonard Cohen’s Ballad Of The Runaway Horse) and tight, note-like bass are key to the best pressings
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – they don’t come quieter in our experience
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Some amazing duets and a great lineup that includes Aaron Neville (v), Stephane Grappelli (violin), Dan Hicks (v, g), and so on. The jazz community missed this one.” [But the audiophile community loved it.)

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Eric Clapton – Unplugged

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  • The sound of this superb import is rich, full-bodied, lively, and warm, with solid bass and breathy, clear vocals
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unplugged is the concert and album that established the MTV program as a classy, tony showcase for artists eager to redefine themselves via reexamination of their catalogs, which is what Clapton cannily did here.”

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Cowboy Junkies – Whites Off Earth Now!!

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs as well as an open and spacious soundfield
  • “Whites Off Earth Now!! establishes the spare country blues sound that took the band to international fame with their next album.” – Wikipedia
  • “… it’s fascinating to hear their signature country-on-valium sound develop. Margo Timmins sings beautifully.”

This vintage Latent Recordings pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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  • This STUNNING copy of Tusk boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR sides
  • The best sounding tracks are killer here – clear, rich, warm, full-bodied, with all the hallmarks of high-production-value analog throughout
  • These vintage pressings have the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 40 year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copy of those tapes)
  • 5 stars: “McVie and Nicks don’t deviate from their established soft rock and folk-rock templates, and all their songs are first-rate… Because of its ambitions, Tusk failed to replicate the success of its two predecessors, yet it earned a dedicated cult audience of fans of twisted, melodic pop.”
  • If you’re a fan of Late-’70s pop, especially the kind with a harder edge, this is a Must Own from 1979 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here. (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love

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  • On the better pressings you get something approaching the warmth and unforced clarity of analog we audiophiles crave
  • Some of Bruce’s best material is here: the title track and One Step Up are two of our favorites  
  • “Bruce Springsteen followed the most popular album of his career, Born in the U.S.A., with [a] low-key, anguished effort, Tunnel of Love.”

As is the case for the Bob Clearmountain mix of Born in the USA, the sound is not exactly vintage analog at its best, but at least on vinyl you get more analog qualities than would otherwise be possible. This is 1987, not 1967 and not even 1977. That said, the copies that earned the better grades were big and rich, with plenty of studio space and nicely present vocals.

Mostly what they do well is that they fill out the sound and take the edge off of it without losing musical information, dynamics or energy. Not many copies managed that feat but this one did. (more…)

Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

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  • This outstanding British import boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This Hot Stamper is far more natural than any other pressing you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • “Certainly a quantum leap from the organic R&B impressionism of the band’s early LPs and the gripping short stories of Making Movies, Love Over Gold is an ambitious, sometimes difficult record that is exhilarating in its successes and, at the very least, fascinating in its indulgences.” – Rolling Stone

This modern album (from 1982, which makes it 38 years old, but that’s modern in our world) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies, the highs are slightly grainy and can be harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and really get involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound. What do the best copies have? REAL dynamics for one. And with those dynamics, you need rock solid bass. Otherwise, the loud portions simply become irritating. (more…)

Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense

  • A wonderful sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are big, bold and dynamic, with the kind of energy that you rarely find outside the live event
  • “”A bona fide classic,” opined Neil Jeffries in a five-star review of the reissue for Empire, “a perfectly measured snapshot of a widely loved and respected band playing at the height of their powers … No other band could do this. No other music movie soundtrack sounds this good.”” Wikipedia

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Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

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  • An outstanding early British pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Rich, spacious and lively, with an open, extended top end – this is the sound you want from Tears for Fears
  • More great songs than practically anything from the ’80s – Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Head Over Heels, just to name a few
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It is not only a commercial triumph, it is an artistic tour de force. And in the loping, percolating “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-’80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic. Songs From the Big Chair is one of the finest statements of the decade.”

This is a CLASSIC in the Tears for Fears canon, probably the album most people regard as their best. I myself prefer Seeds of Love, which should take nothing away from Big Chair — both are exceptional productions from the ’80s no matter how you look at them.

SFTBC went to Number One on the charts for a reason. There’s really not a bad song on either side and mostly absolutely brilliant ones. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mirage

  • A STUNNING original Warner Bros. pressing of Mirage, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom
  • Most copies are washed-out, recessed, and lack weight, but this one will show you just how right this music can sound
  • The producing-engineering team of Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut return to provide top quality Rumours-like production
  • The album spent five weeks at Number One, probably on the strength of the amazingly fun single “Hold Me.”

It’s a surprisingly good album if you can find the right copy.

The mids and highs can be really silky and sweet. The whole album has that glossy sound, clearly the influence of Lindsay Buckingham and his production team. The sound of Fleetwood Mac in this period is their doing, and with a phenomenal run of success that’s rarely been seen in pop history, it’s hard to argue with either their approach to the material or the sound. It sounds like they used every track on the multi-track recorder and then some. (more…)