Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really?

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…)

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Hotter Than July

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

For the first time ever, White Hot Stampers discovered for Hotter Than July! We’ve been trying to find copies of this fun Stevie Wonder album that really deliver for quite some time, but until our gigantic shootout this week we just hadn’t had any luck. The average copy lacks the presence, energy and bottom end weight to let these funky songs work their magic, but a copy like this will let you appreciate the music without subpar sonics getting in the way.  (more…)

Peter Gabriel – So – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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TWO A+++ SIDES give you AMAZINGLY ANALOG SOUND for this digital recording! I don’t think you could find another copy of this album that sounds this good no matter what you do! We recently finished another big shootout for So, and we can tell you that the majority of copies — even the ones with the right stamper numbers — tend to be fairly harsh, edgy, and altogether unpleasant. When you find a copy like this, though, it’s worth all the trouble.    

With grades of A Triple Plus for both sides, this copy is SUPERB — punchy down low, sweet up top, full-bodied, lively, and above all, not too bright, spitty, or grainy. The vocals are present and clear and the bottom end is less opaque, blurry and bloated than on any copy you are ever likely to play.

Both sides are BIG and BOLD with incredible presence. The clarity is INSANE — this is Master Tape Sound from top to bottom, and you are getting EVERYTHING on this pressing that was recorded at the studio. All the detail, all the texture, all the ambience… and then some!

No Mean Feat!

It’s exceptionally hard to find good sounding copies of this album, as you can read about below. With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin. We love this music and we know there are great copies out there, so we keep picking these up. More often than not, we’re left cold.

We did a shootout years ago that taught us a few things. The most surprising finding? The Brit copy I had in my own collection sucked — how about that! As a rule I like the Brit pressings best for PG, but that rule got broken after playing all these domestic copies, some of which really sound good, clearly better than the average Brit. (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland – When Clarity Is King

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More Graceland

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Graceland

We regularly do shootouts for Graceland. Having played so many copies over the years we’re become quite familiar with the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we understand 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 thing a good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s especially good about the sound of Graceland. (more…)

Jack Sheldon – Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing – Reviewed in 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a PRACTICALLY BRAND NEW UHQR JVC Test Record. The record is virtually unplayed! The RAREST of the RARE! I’m SHOCKED at how good this record sounds. It has AMAZING live jazz sound.  (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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Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.   

There is one quality that the best copies always have and that the worst copies always lack: Frequency Extension, especially on the top end. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – Some of Our Favorite Twisted Melodic Pop

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  • A MONSTER pressing that simply cannot be beat – all four sides (well, almost) earned our highest sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Staggering Demo Disc Quality sound on the more highly produced tracks, of which there are plenty spread across these two discs
  • The power of the bottom end is especially impressive on all the sides (and John McVie kills it on bass as usual)
  • 5 stars: “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.” Twisted melodic pop? Sign me up!

This copy is absolutely KILLER, with the kind of transparency, space and openness you simply cannot find on most copies. When the soundstage is as wide and three-dimensional as it is here, it’s amazing how much more SENSE the music starts to make.

And the clarity is not the phony “audiophile” kind that’s the result of too much treble. The tonality is correct throughout, and there’s no lack of richness or warmth to the sound. They just don’t get any better. (more…)

Here’s How You Know You Have a Hot Stamper of Songs in the Attic

 

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It’s the side you play through to the end. When the sound is right you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.

Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound — what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive!
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Listening in Depth to Peter Gabriel – So

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of So. 

With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin. We love this music and we know there are great copies out there, so we keep picking these up. More often than not, we’re left cold.

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where the logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s sins. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high quality mastering doing exactly that. (more…)