Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Kansas – Leftoverture – CBS Half-Speed Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Audiophile Record debunked.

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. 

The average copy of this record is so bright, thin, aggressive and transistory it will peel the paint in your living room and leave your ears bleeding.

Unmusicality

The best copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain “squaky, 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…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

This pressing has to be one of the worst audiophile remastering jobs in the history of the world. There is NOT ONE aspect of the sound that isn’t wrong. Not one! The highs are boosted, the upper midrange is boosted, the mid-bass is boosted, the low bass is missing — what part of the frequency spectrum is even close to correct on this pressing? The answer: none.

If you’re in the market for a Hot Stamper pressing of Led Zeppelin II, there is very little chance that we can help you; the good copies are all but impossible to find. However, if you would like another Led Zeppelin title with Hot Stampers, we might have something of interest. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – A Cut Above – An Awful Direct to Disc Recording (with synths!)

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing.

This Direct Disk Labs Double LP is an exceptionally WELL-RECORDED Direct-to-Disc. The bass is punchy, the piano sounds tonally Right On The Money (ROTM) and the overall sound is lively and immediate. It’s one of the better sounding Direct-to-Discs we’ve played lately.

The music goes nowhere however, hence the grade.  

Little Feat – Time Loves A Hero – Another Bad Nautilus Pressing

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing. After playing a killer Hot Stamper pressing of the album a few years back we wrote the following: 

If you own the Nautilus Half-Speed, a record we actually liked years ago even when we had long since forsworn those kinds of pressings, you are really in for a treat. THIS is what the band sounds like in the REAL world, not the phony audiophile world that so many seem to get stuck in.

Just listen to how punchy the drums are, a perfect example of what proper mastering does well and Half-Speed mastering does poorly. When you listen to a top quality Hot Stamper pressing you feel that you are hearing this music EXACTLY the way Little Feat wanted it to be heard. I just don’t get that vibe from the half-speed. It sounds like someone messed with it, and of course someone did. That’s how they get those audiophile records to sound the way they do. For some reason some audiophiles like their records to sound pretty and lifeless with blurry bass. That is not our sound here at Better Records.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Hi Roller
Time Loves a Hero
Rocket in My Pocket
Day at the Dog Races

Side Two

Old Folks’ Boogie
Red Steamliner
New Delhi Freight Train
Keepin’ up With the Joneses
Missin’ You

 

Peter Gabriel – Direct Disk Labs Half Speed Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Half Speed Mastered Record that belongs in our Hall of Shame.

The Direct Disk Labs half-speed here is thick, compressed and lifeless, though fairly rich. You could do worse I suppose, but too much of the life of the music will be lost when playing their poorly remastered pressing.  Did they have a good British tape to work with? It doesn’t sound like it.

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy – Classic Records Reviwed

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

We can describe the sound in two words: ridiculously bright. Honestly, what more need be said? 

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings for comparison purposes. After all, these Classic LPs are what many — perhaps most — audiophiles consider superior to other pressings.

We sure don’t, but everybody else seems to. You will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts.

Since then we’ve made it a point to create debunking commentaries for some of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is still by far the best of the bunch.

The Yes Album – Rhino 180g Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing. The worst version ever? Could be! That notorious hack Ron McMaster strikes again. (more…)

The Byrds – Fifth Dimension – More Dead as a Doornail Sundazed Sound

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Sonic Grade: D

The best stereo copies are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical — three areas in which the Sundazed reissues are seriously lacking. (If anyone still cares; we can’t be bothered with mediocrities such as this.) 

And none of the Columbia monos we’ve played did much for us either. Congested and compressed, with no real top, who in his right mind could possibly prefer that sound?

TRACK LISTING

Side One

5D (Fifth Dimension)
Wild Mountain Thyme
Mr. Spaceman
I See You
What’s Happening?!?!
I Come and Stand at Every Door

Side Two

Eight Miles High
Hey Joe
Captain Soul
John Riley
2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)

AMG Review

… its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “John Riley”.

 

Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue – One Customer’s Take on the 45

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A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout:

“By the way side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note [Analogue Productions] reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something. When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it…”

I know what you mean about these modern reissues “missing something”. No matter how well mastered they may be, they’re almost always missing whatever it is that makes the analog record such a special listening experience. I hear that “analog” sound practically nowhere else outside of the live event. 

Thanks for your letter. 
TP

Our Classic Review

Pretty flat and lifeless. You would never understand why audiophiles rave about this recording by listening to the Classic Records pressing.

We played it up against our best, and as expected it was nothing to write home about. Since Rudy has remastered and ruined practically all the Blue Note CDs by now, you will have your work cut out for you if you want to find a good sounding version of Midnight Blue. This sure ain’t one.

Of course we would be more than happy to get you an amazing sounding copy — it’s what we do — but the price will be five to ten times (or more) what the Classic costs. In our opinion it’s money well spent, as you will see in our review below.

Since the Classic conveys very little of what the musicians were up to whilst recording the album, our advice is to cross it off your list of records of interest. It’s thirty bucks down the drain.

Pink Floyd – Meddle – Another Lifeless Mess from MoFi

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Same problems as the MoFi Thick As a Brick: The MoFi is super-TRANSPARENT and OPEN, and the top end will be lush and extended. If you prize clarity, this is the one!

But if you prize clarity at the expense of everything else, you are seriously missing the boat on Meddle (and of course Thick As A Brick too). The MoFi is all mids and highs with almost nothing going on below. 

This is a rock record, but without bass and dynamics the MoFi pressing can’t rock, so what exactly is it good for?

Another Half-Speed Mastered Pressing Debunked.