Genre – Folk

Doc Watson – Home Again

More Doc Watson

More Folk Revival Music

Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Here is the in-the-room performance intimacy that will surely bring Doc’s music to life in a way you’ve never heard before
  • If you own the veiled, opaque, recessed, ambience-challenged Cisco remaster, you are in for a treat – our Hot Stamper is none of those things!
  • “[H]is most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. [The album] features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass.

This vintage Vanguard stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). (more…)

Bob Dylan / The Times They Are A-Changin’ – A Sundazed Winner?

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

This review was written in 2001, upon the release of the album. It has since be remastered and re-released on Sundazed in 2014. I would take our commentary below with a huge grain of salt.

In 2001 we still liked DCC’s Heavy Vinyl pressings, so we were definitely not where we needed to be in order to judge records properly, but we sure thought we were!

That said, this may be a very good sounding record, and if you can find one for cheap, and don’t have the money for one of our amazing Hot Stamper pressings, it might just be a good way to go. We simply have no way of knowing whether we were right or wrong about the sound of this pressing twenty years ago when we wrote our review.

You can read more about our many, many mistaken judgments from the old days here, under the heading: Live and Learn.

Our 2001 Review

Sundazed finally gets one REALLY right! The mono version here MOIDERS the competition. (It’s a mono recording with stereo echo added — how tough can it be?)

Considering Sundazed‘s dismal track record, I wouldn’t have thought they could do anything right.

[And I can’t even say that I have much confidence that they actually did make a good sounding record in this case!]

Bob Dylan / The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – We Preferred the Mono in 2016

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

Back in 2016 we liked the Mono pressings of this album best. We wrote:

We greatly prefer the best Mono pressings to the best stereo copies, but they are very hard to come by.

This is our favorite of the early Dylan albums for both music and sound. We’re picking up both mono and stereo copies when we see them clean (which is rare) but the best mono copies truly take this music to a whole new level.

Now we like them both, and we like the stereo pressings maybe even a bit better.

Live and learn we say!


Mono, Stereo, Reprocessed Stereo, We’ve Played Them All!

On this Dylan album, the mono and stereo pressings both have the potential to sound amazingly good.

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Other records that sound their best one way or the other can be found using the links below.

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Mono

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Stereo

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Donovan / Catch The Wind – Superb in Mono (and Pretty Good in Reprocessed Stereo)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Donovan

The sound when summed to mono is natural, with a correct top end. This is some of the best of the early, folky Donovan from 1965.

We were less than impressed with the sound of this electronically reprocessed album in stereo, but were very pleasantly surprised when we hit the mono button on our EAR phono stage. The weird, phasey top end disappeared almost completely on side two, and Donovan’s voice and guitar sounded pretty darn right to us by the second track (the first track on side two is a mess).

If you do not have a mono switch on your phono stage or preamp, this is probably not the right record for you. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Gold Versus Green

More Peter, Paul and Mary

More Folk Rock

In previous shootouts we felt strongly that the best Gold Label copies had the lock on Tubey Magic, while the best Green Label pressings could be counted on to offer superior clarity.

That was quite a few years ago, and as we never tire of saying, things have changed.

Now the Gold Label pressings have the ideal combination of Tubey Magic and clarity.

In fact, based on our recent shootout we would state categorically that the best originals are clearly better in every way, with the most vocal presence, the most harmonic resolution, the most space, the most warmth and intimacy, the most natural string tone on both the guitars and bass — in sum, the most of everything that allows a Hot Stamper vintage LP to be the most sublime musical experience available to any audiophile fortunate enough to own it.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If these three gifted singers don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing across from you — left, right and center — toss your copy and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the midrange is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you really can’t even imagine it. It’s a bit shocking to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully, sounding so much like live music.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we must constantly strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest.

The Mids Are Key

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange. These are not big-budget, high-concept multi-track recordings. They’re simple, innocent folk songs featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, with straightforward guitar and double bass accompaniment (and a few more instruments thrown in for good measure at this later stage of the game).

If Peter, Paul and Mary’s voices aren’t silky sweet and delicate, while at the same time full-bodied and present, let’s face it, you might as well start looking for another record to play.

The best copies convey the surprisingly moving artistry, taste and energy of the group’s performance in the studio all those years ago. When Peter, Paul and Mary start to sing good and loud on some of these tracks, not only can you really hear them belting it out, you FEEL it too. (more…)

Donovan – In Concert

More Donovan

More Hippie Folk Rock

  • With two insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to sound far better than any copy you’ve ever heard; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A shockingly well recorded live set, so REAL and natural, with some of Donovan’s best songs played with real feeling
  • This early Epic stereo pressing is the only way to hear the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The only album that comes close to having the flow of this concert was the studio recording of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks … One of the great live albums of the ’60s.”

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. You could certainly demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, even one that’s not nearly this good, because this one is superb.

But what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best excuse to show off your stereo.

Midrange presence and immediacy are key to the sound. Get the volume just right and Donovan himself will be standing between your speakers and putting on the performance of a lifetime. This early Epic stereo pressing is the only way to hear the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is dramatically more REAL sounding.

Donovan’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of artificiality you cannot help but find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

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Bob Dylan – Leave It Dry, Or Add Some Reverb?

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

The noisy (aren’t they all?) mono copy we keep around as a reference presents Dylan and his guitar in a starkly immediate, clear and unprocessed way. The stereo version of the album is simply that sound with some light stereo reverb added.

More than anything else, on some tracks the mono pressing sounds like a demo.

It’s as if the engineers threw up a mic or two, set the EQ for flat and proceeded to roll tape. This is a good sound for what it is, but it has a tendency toward dryness, perhaps not on all of the tracks but clearly on some. Certainly the first track on side one can have that drier sound.

What the stereo reverb does is fill out the sound of Dylan’s voice respectfully.

The engineers of the late ’50 and ’60s had a tendency to drown their singers in heavy reverb, as anyone who’s ever played an old Tony Bennett or Dean Martin album knows all too well.

But a little reverb actually benefits the vocals of our young Mr. Dylan on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and there is an easy way to test that proposition. When you hit the mono button on your preamp or phono stage, the reverb disappears, leaving the vocal more clear and more present, but also more dry and thin. You may like it better that way. Obviously, to some degree this is a matter of taste.

The nice thing about this stereo copy, assuming you have a mono switch in your system (which you should; they’re very handy), is that you have the option of hearing it both ways and deciding for yourself which approach you find more involving and enjoyable — if not necessarily truthful.

We suspect your preference will be both listener- and system-dependent. Isn’t it better to have the option and be able to make that determination for yourself?

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in mono, click here.

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in stereo, click here.

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Mark Knopfler – Local Hero

More Dire Straits

  • A KILLER Vertigo import pressing of Knopfler’s 1983 soundtrack album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • This one is doing everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than anything else we played
  • As good as the Warner Brothers pressings might be, we think these Vertigo originals are a step up in class
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler’s intricate, introspective finger-picked guitar stylings make a perfect musical complement to the wistful tone of Bill Forsyth’s comedy film, Local Hero… The low-key music picks up traces of Scottish music, but most of it just sounds like Dire Straits doing instrumentals, especially the recurring theme, one of Knopfler’s more memorable melodies.”

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Doc Watson – I Have to Admit: This Cisco Pressing Had Me Vexed

More of the Music of Doc Watson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Doc Watson

Folks, if you made the mistake of buying the Cisco Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album, and you manage to grab one of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are really in for a treat.

I have to confess that when this record came out in 2003 I had a hard time coming to grips with what was wrong with it. I knew I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t sure exactly why. I wasn’t sure what it was doing wrong. It seemed tonally correct and natural sounding. Why didn’t I like it?

It wasn’t phony up top with sloppy bass like a MoFi. It wasn’t hard and transistory like so many Classic Records of the day.

I didn’t know the record so I had nothing to judge it by. But there was definitely something lacking in the sound that had me confused.

Eventually I figured it out. Looking back on it now, the problems with the Cisco I could not identify were these:

  • The Cisco lacks presence. It puts Doc Watson further back than he should be, assuming that he is where he should be on the good vintage pressings, which sound right to me, some better, some worse of course. Moving him back in the sound field does him no favors.
  • The Cisco lacks intimacy, which is key to the best pressings. The shootout winners remove all the veils and put you in the presence of the living, breathing Doc Watson. The Cisco adds veils and takes the intimacy right out of the record.
  • The Cisco lacks transparency. It frustrates your efforts to hear into the recording.
  • Doc is in a studio, surrounded by the air and ambience that would naturally be found there. The Cisco is airless and ambience-free, with Doc performing in a heavily damped booth of some kind. At least that’s what it sounds like.
  • And the last thing you notice is the lovely guitar harmonics on the originals and early reissues, harmonics that are attenuated and dulled on the Cisco.

As my stereo got better and better, and my critical listening skills improved in tandem, it became more and more obvious to me what was wrong with the Cisco. When we play modern Heavy Vinyl pressings these days, especially albums we know well, it usually doesn’t take us two minutes to hear what they are getting wrong.

We go back and forth between the new pressing and one of our Hot Stampers a few times, make some notes, and proceed to put the review up on the blog, and maybe mention it in our listings for the album. A half hour or an hour is the most it takes these days. Like I say, these records are obviously doing some things poorly, and these failings are easy to spot if you know the album well, a little harder, but not that much harder, if you don’t.

MoFi Review Coming

The 45 RPM two disc version of Dire Straits’ first album MoFi cut at half speed not long ago is a disaster of epic proportions. There will be a video of me and my assistant Sunshine playing the record against some wonderful UK pressings and describing just how badly the brain trust at MoFi ruined the album.

It will be a while before it comes out, but until then you might want to do some searches for reviews, professional and otherwise, of their half-speed mastered recut. I have not seen anyone tear it to shreds, but I fully plan on doing so as soon as the video comes out.

I mention on this blog that Cisco’s releases (as well as DCC’s) had to fight their way through Kevin Gray’s opaque, airless, low-resolution cutting system. We discuss that subject on the blog in more depth here.


We only got around to putting the Cisco pressing in our Hall of Shame recently. There are just not enough hours in the day…

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Doc Watson singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.


Here are some reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

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Bud & Travis – …In Concert

More Folk Revival Music

This original Liberty Black and Rainbow Label LP has exceptionally quiet vinyl and very good sound.

About fifteen years ago, I played side one and thoroughly enjoyed it. These guys are very entertaining, especially their between song banter.

What was surprising was how dynamic the vocals are on this recording. You would never hear a studio recording with these kinds of dynamics, I can tell you that.

Why does this 1960 recording of live folk music sound so good?

Well, Liberty was a label that tended to produce very good sounding records. We’ve played scores of them, and we did some shootouts for the ones that had music that could justify our high prices the cost of all the time and effort required to find the best sounding copies.

But the most obvious reason this record has such good sound is that Ted Keep recorded it.

You don’t have to, but if you want this kind of sound quality, it pays to go back to the All Tube Recording and Mastering chains of the late ’50s and early ’60s. That is where you are most likely to find it.

If you’re a fan of live folk music, this album from 1960 surely belongs in your collection.

The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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