Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Boston Hot Stamper Testimonial – Shooting Out the Big Three

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This week’s letter comes from our good customer Roger, who did a little shootout of his own among three very different sounding pressings: two Half-Speeds, one by MoFi and one by CBS, probably the two most popular pressings among audiophiles, and our very own Hot Stamper LP. Here are his findings. Keep in mind that Roger bought a copy priced at $125, half the price of the best copy in our shootout.

Hi Tom,

I got your Boston hot stamper today and enjoyed comparing it to MFSL and CBS half-speed versions in a shootout. I had long since given up on listening to this record since it became part of a communist ploy to brainwash us by playing Boston repeatedly on the radio until we would give up any information they desired. “Deep Purple Lite” was what my college buddies and I used to derisively call it. Now I only wish we had this type of music still around. So I had fun reliving my college days and listening to this LP.

For a pop recording, it is a pretty good recording soundwise, and all 3 pressings were indeed good, if not interesting. I tried the CBS half-speed first, and it was tonally lean with good speed and detail, and bass was extended and quick. However, its Achilles heel was that it had too much energy on top and excessive brightness, something that couldn’t hide from my speakers’ ion tweeters.

Roger, you seem to be using the phrase “tonally lean” unpejoratively (if I can make up such a word), whereas for us here at Better Records, that is the kiss of death for Half-Speeds, and in fact Audiophile Records of All Kinds. Lack of weight down below, lack of Whomp Factor, is the main reason half-speed mastered records are so consistently and ridiculously bad. If not bad, certainly wrong. You can be very sure that Boston would not want, nor would they put up with, that kind of anemic sound for a minute. (more…)

Oscar Peterson Trio with Milt Jackson / Very Tall – Another Awful Anadisq

If you made the mistake of buying the atrocious Anadisq pressing MoFi put out in the ’90s, our Hot Stamper pressings will let you hear what a wonderful recording Val Valentin cooked up with these cats back in the day. (more…)

Supersax ‎/ Supersax Plays Bird on MoFi – Remastered, But Why Did They Bother?

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Awful music, awful sound. This is the record that convinced me that MoFi would not hesitate to remaster records that have no actual musical or sonic value.

And that spending $20 to find out if an album is any good is an expensive way to learn more about music you may not be familiar with.

As curators they were generally good, but in cases such as this one, they failed miserably. (more…)

Steely Dan ‎/ Gaucho – MCA Masterphile

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A pale shadow of the real MASTERDISK pressings. We’ve played at least a hundred of them, and I would be surprised if every one of them did not sound better than this compressed and desiccated audiophile piece of trash.

(more…)

Alison Krauss & Union Station ‎/ So Long So Wrong – Wrong in the Vocal Department

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We audiophiles have a soft spot for female vocals. It’s a sound that a high end stereo — practically any high end stereo — reproduces very well.

But why do some audiophiles listen to poorly recorded junk like Patricia Barber and Diana Krall? Their recordings are DRENCHED in digital reverb. Who is his right mind wants to hear the sound of digital reverb?

Rickie Lee Jones may not be my favorite female vocal of all time, but at least you can make the case for it as a Well Recorded Vocal Album. It’s worlds better than anything either of the above-mentioned artists have ever done.

The MoFi pressing of Alison Krauss (5276) is a disaster in the vocal department too.

Audiophiles for some reason never seem to notice how bad she sounds on that record. Can’t make sense of it. Any of the good Sergio Mendes records will show you female vocals that practically have no equal. Our best Hot Stampers bring the exquisite vocal harmonies of Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert) and Janis Hansen right into your living room. Why bother with trash like this Mobile Fidelity?

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This is the record you bothered to take a photo of and post next to your front end? Something is wrong somewhere.

Bob Seger – Night Moves – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

We’ve been trying to find killer copies of Night Moves for ages but it is not easy. Most copies out there are thin and dry, which is no way to hear these classic ’70s tracks. We brought in copy after copy that made us think, “I swear this sounds better on the radio!”

Finally, after pulling together a ton of copies from different eras, we started to realize that there were indeed vinyl pressings of Night Moves that sounded right… but they are few and far between, the exception and not the rule so to speak. Here’s a copy with an excellent side one and a killer side two — the first Hot copy of a Bob Seger album to EVER hit the site.

Mobile Fidelity did a version of this album that was so bright we found it not just hard to enjoy but actually hard to listen to. The typical domestic pressing ain’t much better but I’ll take boring, dry sound over the aggressive MoFi approach any day. (more…)

Tom Petty / Damn The Torpedoes – Is This LP Bright Enough For You?

“Masterphile Series”

Mastered at Half-Speed

 

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On this pressing it sure is. If your stereo is dull, dull, deadly dull, this company’s remastering approach, like many of the CBS Half-Speeds, will fix your lack of high end.

A perfect example of Stone Age Audio Thinking – a bright record to fix a dark system.

The only problem is, what happens when you put together a better system, one that’s tonally correct?

Then you will have to get rid of your old record collection and start over, right?

So get your stereo right before you go wasting lots of money on phony sounding records.

And most Heavy Vinyl today is every bit as bad, with boosted bass and overly smooth upper mids. Tune your system to that crap and you will find yourself in the same predicament down the road, assuming you ever get your stereo working right.

Kansas – Leftoverture – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Way too bright and thin. What were they thinking?

It’s the sound that most audiophiles are fooled by to this day! Brighter and more detailed is rarely better. Most of the time it’s just brighter. Not many half-speed mastered audiophile records are dull. They’re bright because the audiophiles who bought them preferred that sound. I did. Hopefully we’ve all learned our lesson, expensive and painful as it may have been. 

If your speakers are dull, dull, deadly dull, the way Old School speakers tend to be, this record has the juice to bring them to life!

Unmusicality

The best real-time mastered copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain “squawky, pinched” sound to the guitars. Bad copies of the album have that sound through and through, along with excessive amounts of grain and grunge. The guitars are very prominent in the mix on practically every song here, so when the guitars sound sour, the track as a whole does too.

These mastering and pressing problems make the overall sound simply UNMUSICAL. The way we found that out was simple. We cleaned and played lots of copies, and every once in a while we heard one that allowed the music to breathe, open up, sound balanced, make sense even.

Those copies showed us a Leftoverture we didn’t know existed and gave us a goal to shoot for with all the other copies we played. After hearing such a truly killer copy we often go back and downgrade the ratings for the copies we thought were the best. Such is the way with these shootouts. (more…)

Blondie / Parallel Lines on EMI, Simply Vinyl and Mobile Fidelity – Three Strikes and You’re Out

Sonic Grade: D or worse

EMI and Simply Vinyl both released Heavy Vinyl versions of the album with little sonic success. I remember being underwhelmed by the Simply Vinyl version, the perfect example of the smeary sub-gen sound you get when a record is made from a dub tape. The EMI 180 was brighter and thinner and every bit as wrong in its own way. Choosing among them would have been difficult. The best choice: none of the above. 

As is so often the case, the Heavy Vinyl Reissues are simply a disgrace.

MOBILE FIDELITY

Two words: compressed muck (like most domestic pressings, to be fair).

I became a giant fan of this album the moment I heard it, but I always felt that the sound of my old original left something to be desired. So many copies are thick and lifeless; the music wants to cook but the sound seems to be holding it back.

And like an idiot I’m sure I had traded my original domestic pressing in for the MoFi when it came out in the early ’80s, the kind of dumbass audiophile move I discuss in the commentary Audiophilia 101: What Kind of Fool Was I?

As previously noted, the MoFi, one of those Jack Hunt turgid muckfests (check out City to City #058 for the ultimate in murky MoFi sound), is incapable of conveying anything resembling the kind of clean, clear, oh-so-radio-friendly pop rock sound that Mike Chapman and the band were aiming for.

The recording has copious amounts of Analog Richness and Fullness to start with. Adding more is not an improvement; in fact it’s positively ruinous.

George Benson – Tell It Like It Is – A&M Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked.

The Half-Speed is pretty — pretty lifeless if you ask me, in the way that so many Half-Speed mastered records are. It’s cut very clean, but until you play a good A&M pressing, you don’t know how much meat has been stripped from the bones. The best A&M pressings sound like a Rudy Van Gelder recording, which, of course, they are.