Half-Speed Masters in General

The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta – Nautilus Debunked

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More Zenyatta Mondatta

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked. 

And to think we used to actually like the sound of the Nautilus pressing! It suffers from all the same shortcomings other Nautilus and similar half-speeds suffer from: the kind of pretty but lifeless and oh-so-boring sound that we describe in listing after listing. (More bad Nautilus pressings are discussed below.) 

Three of the Best, Or So We Thought

I just did shootouts with three of the best Nautilus Half-Speeds: Heart, The Police’s Ghost in the Machine, and Little Feat. None of them sound like the real thing, and especially disappointing was one of my former favorites, the Little Feat album.

On the title track the Nautilus is amazingly transparent and sweet sounding. There are no real dynamics or bass on that track, so the “pretty” half-speed does what it does best and shines. But all the other tracks suck in exactly the same way Night and Day does. Cutting the balls off Little Feat is not my idea of hi-fidelity.

We put audiophile beaters up for sale every week. Each and every one of them is a lesson on what makes one record sound better than another. If you want a wall full of good sounding records, we can help you make it happen. In fact it will be our pleasure. Down with audiophile junk and up with Better Records. (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears – Direct Disc Labs

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Sonic Grade: C

Yet another Half Speed of questionable sound quality.

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations. I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know they can be awesome, but there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, I have a big advantage over my customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally heard more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overridng reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself. It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love. This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings to find the hot one.

1/17/05

Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis – MoFi Reviewed

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More From Elvis in Memphis

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Sonic Grade: B-? C+?

Another MoFi LP reviewed. 

I first heard From Elvis in Memphis the way I heard so many albums back in the late ’70s and early ’80s: on the Mobile Fidelity pressing. I was an audiophile record collector in 1981 and if MoFi was impressed enough with the sound and the music to remaster it and offer it to their dedicated fans, of which I was clearly one, then who was I to say no to an album I had never heard? (Soon enough I would learn my lesson about MoFi’s A&R department. The MoFi release of Supersax Plays Bird, a record that had virtually nothing going for it, was the last time I took their advice.)

Turns out they did a pretty good job on the Elvis album though, not that I would have any way to know — back then it would not even have occurred to me to buy a standard RCA pressing and compare it to my half-speed-mastered pressed-in-Japan, double-the-price-of-a-regular LP. A decade or thereabouts later it would be obvious to me that MoFi had fooled around with the sound and that the right real RCA pressing would be more correct and more natural (but probably not as quiet of course).

Generic Audiophile LP Bashing

The most serious fault of the typical Half-Speed Mastered LP is not incorrect tonality or poor bass definition, although you will have a hard time finding one that doesn’t suffer from both.

It’s Dead As A Doornail sound, plain and simple, a subject we discuss in greater depth here.

And most Heavy Vinyl pressings coming down the pike these days are as guilty of this sin as their audiophile forerunners from the ’70s and ’80s. The average Heavy Vinyl LP I throw on my turntable sounds like it’s playing in another room. What audiophile in his right mind could possibly find that quality appealing? But there are scores of companies turning out this crap; somebody must be buying it. (more…)

Supertramp – Breakfast In America – An A&M Disaster

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More Breakfast In America

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Sonic Grade: F

So washed out, brittle, thin and compressed it practically defies understanding that anyone with two working ears ever considered calling this piece of crap an “audiophile” record. If you don’t think the major labels had anything but contempt for us audiophiles, play this pressing and see for yourself the kind of garbage they were happy to pawn off on an unsuspecting audiophile “community” (if there ever was such a thing. There is now of course, Hoffman’s being the most popular. Wonder what they have to say about this crap).  

Supertramp – Breakfast In America – MoFi Debunked

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More Breakfast In America

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Sonic Grade: C-

The MoFi Standard Operating Procedure of boosting the top end does this album no favors; it’s positively ruinous in fact. How dull does a system have to be to make this record sound right? Pretty damn dull. And the bad bass definition just adds to the phoniness. The average domestic copy is not that great either, so let’s give the MoFi a somewhat forgiving grade of C minus.  

Supertramp – Even In The Quietest Moments… – Sweet Thunder Debunked

Even In The Quietest Moments…

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.  

We’re big fans of this album here at Better Records and consider it to be one of Supertramp’s best. That said, this half-speed is a disgrace. There is absolutely no presence to the sound of the copy we played. The guitars, which on some cuts are double tracked, each coming directly out of the speaker hard right and hard left, are so dull it sounds like the speaker is facing the back wall!  

I think I know why — there is quite a bit of processing distortion and grit on the vocals. The Audiophile Masterminds at Sweet Thunder thought the best way to deal with it was to suck the hell out of the presence region (3 to 6k) which takes off some of the edge on the vocals but throws a thick blanket over the acoustic guitars. On the opening track of side one, the big hit off the album, it takes all the energy out of the one element that really drives the music — the guitars.

This is truly one of the worst half-speed mastered records we have ever had the displeasure of hearing. Shame on you, Sweet Thunder. (more…)

Record Collecting Axioms

axiom-definition-screenshot

In an old commentary for a shootout we did for Carole King’s Tapestry album we took shots at both the CBS Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile pressing and the Classic Heavy Vinyl Audiophile pressing, noting that both fell far short of the standard set by the Hot Stamper copies we’d discovered. This finding (and scores of others just like it) prompted us to promulgate the following axiom of audiophile record collecting, which we are calling…

Better Records Record Collecting Axiom Number Two

The better your stereo gets, the fewer Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings you will want to play, or own for that matter.

(This assumes a fact not in evidence: that audiophiles get rid of their bad sounding records. It has been my experience that the reverse is actually more often the case. Most audiophiles seem to like to hang on to their bad sounding audiophile pressings, Why they do so I cannot for the life of me understand. To me a bad sounding audiophile record is a record that has no business being played and should either be tossed or sold, with any proceeds from the sale applied to the purchase of good records — you know, like the ones on our site.)
(more…)

Carole King – Tapestry – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame Pressing

The CBS Half Speed is ridiculously bright — can you imagine a worse way to present this intimate music?   

The chances of there being Hot Stamper CBS Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Tapestry may be vanishingly small, but we can’t say the number is zero. There could be some, but considering how bad an idea Half-Speed Mastering is, would they have much chance of beating our Hot Stampers? As a practical matter I would have to say the chances are zero.

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes – Another MoFi Disaster

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More If That’s What It Takes

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s even fatter, muddier and more compressed than the standard domestic copy, as improbable as that may seem. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts in the history of their shameful catalog. With mastering credits on this album, Gerry Rafferty (058) and Blondie (050) you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.  

Jethro Tull – Aqualung – A MoFi Disaster (But Don’t Tell This Guy)

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More Aqualung

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Sonic Grade: D

We noted in our Hot Stamper review for Aqualung that the MoFi is a disaster, with the murky bloated DCC even worse. (We didn’t like the Classic either.) 

But we used to like the MoFi and DCC just fine. What could possibly have changed?

It’s a long story, and a pretty long commentary, which we have excerpted from a customer’s letter, along with our reply.

We have edited our original commentary and his letter for the sake of brevity.

Now the letter:

To: Tom Port,

As far as “Aqualung” is concerned, I have a Mobile Fidelity issue of this album which sounds great and being pressed on some of the best vinyl in the world by people who are known for their meticulous care with records, I don’t think that there would be much difference at all in the quality of different Mo-Fi pressings of this or any of their records.

The key phrase here is “I don’t think that there would be much difference at all…”. You see, this is not something to think about, this is something to test. Thinking got this gentleman nowhere; testing might have had the opposite effect. (more…)