Genre – Rock – Big Production Rock

The Old 80/20 Rule in Action (But It’s Actually More Like 90/10)

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Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better tweakers. You cannot buy equipment that will give you the best sound. You can only tweak the right equipment to get it.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought. At least 80% is what you’ve done with it. Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%. (more…)

Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C

Not Bad, But Hot Stampers Rule 

What do the best copies give you? They’re the ones with textured strings in the orchestral arrangements. The string tone on the average copy is hard and steely. (The Classic 200 gram pressing suffers from a case of slightly steely strings. Play it yourself and see.) When the strings are blasting away at the end of the title song, you want to be able to hear the texture without the strings sounding shrill and edgy. This is no mean feat, for the record or the stereo. (more…)

Analog Vs. Digital Revisited

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The Nightfly & Digital Sound

Do All the Pressings Have to Sound Like CDs?

The average copy of this digitally recorded, mixed and mastered LP sounds just the way you would expect it to: like a CD. It’s anemic, two-dimensional, opaque, thin, bright, harsh, with little extreme top and the kind of bass that’s all “note” with no real weight, solidity or harmonic structure. Sounds like a CD, right? (That’s the way most of my CDs sound, which is why I no longer listen to them except in the car)

But what if I told you that the best copies of The Nightfly can actually sound like a real honest-to-goodness ANALOG recording, with practically none of the nasty shortcomings listed above? You may not believe it, but it’s true.
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Audiophile Wire Testing with Jethro Tull and His Friend Aqualung

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… who seems to have a rather nasty bronchial condition…

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Like Heart’s Little Queen album, Aqualung presents us with a Demo Disc / Test Disc that really puts a stereo through its paces, assuming it’s the kind of stereo that’s designed to play an album like Aqualung.

Not many audiophile systems I’ve run across over the years were capable of reproducing the Big Rock Sound this album requires, but perhaps you have one and would like to use the album to test some of your tweaks and components. I used it to show me how bad sounding some of the audiophile wire I was testing really was.

Here’s what I wrote:

A quick note about some wire testing I was doing a while back. My favorite wire testing record at the time (2007)? None other than Aqualung!

Part One

Here’s why: Big Whomp Factor. Take the whomp out of Aqualung and the music simply doesn’t work, at all. To rock you need whomp, and much of Aqualung wants to rock.
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Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – A Heavy Vinyl Winner!

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Sonic Grade: B (or better)

Hey, they really did a good job with this one. We are going to listen to it again at a later date to see if our initial impressions were correct [I guess by now it should be clear that we are never going to do that, sorry], but it sure sounded good to us when we played it recently during our big GYBR shootout. 

I’m guessing no domestic copy can beat it, and certainly no audiophile half-speed mastered pressing can hold a candle to it; those records are pretty awful. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners Remixed on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Classic Records LP debunked. 

I’ve listened to Nash’s first solo outing countless times over the last thirty years, even more than Crosby, Stills and Nash’s first album. As I was listening to the Classic pressing I recall thinking “Wow, I don’t remember that sound being there; this version is so much better I can hear things I never heard before!” Well, owners of this album (all five of you) will certainly hear things you never heard before, because some of the tracks on this album have been remixed and some of the instruments re-recorded! How about them apples!

Both the snare and the kick drum on some songs are clearly too “modern” sounding for anything recorded in 1971; they’d be right at home on Nirvana, for Pete’s sake. Sometimes the vocal tracks are different—probably alternate takes I would think, as Graham obviously can’t sing like he did thirty years ago to even attempt a re-recording.

Our Old Commentary from the mid-2000s

I haven’t played this record in a long time — years in fact. During that time there have been dramatic improvements in my analog playback. I’m guessing that if I played this Classic Record now I would hear what I hear on almost all of them — less midrange magic than the best originals, some boost on the top, and maybe a bit too much bottom, and a slightly dry bottom at that.

Those of you with really magical originals are encouraged to hang onto them and pass on this Classic. As those do not grow on trees, if you want a good pressing of this album, the Classic may be just the ticket. If you find a hot original, you will have a benchmark against which to judge it.

One Helluva Well-Recorded Album (more…)

“NEVER would I have thought a single record could make this kind of difference…”

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Dan, our letter writer, is a new convert to the world of Hot Stampers. Although his system is modest by his own admission, the sound he was able to conjure up in his living room was “…a revelation…”
A good Dark Side can have that effect on you.

Hi Tom,
I received this DSOTM yesterday…

First I played the 180gm 25th anniversary release, so I listened to the first side. While it didn’t necessarily ‘grab’ me, I sat through and listened, with the assumption that I really needed to get a feel for this to do a somewhat critical A/B listening experience.

Then I put this Hot Stamper on.

From the very beginning, I heard vocals I never heard before, in my 12 years of listening to this album. There was such a dramatically engaging ‘dreamlike’ flow to the music, that I have never experienced before! The soundstage was so 3-dimensional, the speakers disappeared, and moment after moment, I completely forgot I was sitting in my living room!
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Counting Down to Ecstasy and Singing Along with My Old School

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Countdown to Ecstasy, Steely Dan‘s wonderful second album.

We’ve found that two songs are especially helpful in this regard: Razor Boy on side one, and My Old School on side two.

This album shares top honors with Katy Lied as the toughest Steely Dan album to get to sound right. It’s a positive shame that so many copies are such sonic let-downs: congested, bass-shy, veiled, compressed and grainy. There’s a good reason we don’t do this album but once a year, and it’s not because of a lack of demand. It’s because so many copies sound so bad.
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Sowing The Seeds Of Love for Psych

The Seeds Of Love

 

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This Tears for Fears album is a real desert island disc for me. When you get a big, rich, smooth copy such as this one, the short list of problems with the recording don’t interfere with the music. Like good stereo equipment, a good record lets you forget all that audio stuff and just listen to the music as music.

The Seeds Of Love is the band’s masterpiece, and hearing it this way is nothing short of a THRILL.

The sound of most copies is aggressive, hard, harsh and thin. What do you expect? The album is recorded digitally and direct metal mastered at Masterdisk. Most of us analog types put up with the limitations of the sound because we love the music, some of the most powerfully moving, brilliantly written and orchestrated psychedelic pop of the last thirty years. Imagine if the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper/ Magical Mystery Tour phase kept going in that direction. They very well might have ended up in the neighborhood of Sowing the Seeds of Love. (more…)

Elvis Costello Arrayed His Armed Forces and Produced His Single Best Sounding Album

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We consider Armed Forces to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, and a copy like this White Hot Shootout Winner is proof enough to back up our claim. The best copies are extremely transparent and silky sounding, but with unbelievably punchy, rock-solid bass and drums.

The sound of the rhythm section ranks with the best we’ve ever heard. Beyond that, the musical chops of this band at this time rank with the best in the history of rock. Steve, Bruce and Pete rarely get the credit they deserve for being one of the tightest, liveliest backing bands ever to walk into a studio or on to a stage.

The song Oliver’s Army on the first side is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Rock music doesn’t get much livelier than that. Skip on down to Green Shirt for another track that’s as punchy as they come.

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