Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Liszt, Enesco, Smetana / Rhapsodies – Stokowski – Classic Records Reviewed

More Franz Liszt’s music

Rhapsodies – Stokowski

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked. (The cover is clearly the original Living Stereo cover by the way.)

The lower strings are wonderful on the original — wall to wall, with that rosiny texture we love. I wrote at the time — this is twenty or so years ago — that the Classic pressing took that rich, dark sound and brightened it up, naturally ruining it in the process. Cellos and double basses just don’t sound like that. On the best pressings of LSC 2471 their timbre is Right On The Money. Of course, that’s is the real thing, not some audiophile rebutchering. 

Now if you’re a Classic Records fan, and you like that brighter, more detailed, more aggressive sound, the original is probably not the record for you.

We don’t like that sound and we don’t like most Classic Records. They may be clean and clear but where is the RCA Living Stereo Magic that made people swoon over these recordings in the first place? Bernie manages to clean that sound right off the record, and that’s just not our idea of high-fidelity, sorry. (more…)

The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday – Sundazed Mono Debunked

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More Younger Than Yesterday

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Sonic Grade: D

We can’t recommend this title. It’s thin, flat and dead in the midrange, with little of the magic of the originals. I suppose if you can’t find anything better, it will do in a pinch… 

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon – Heavy Vinyl Debunked

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More The Dark Side of the Moon

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Rock and Pop LP debunked.

The 30th Anniversary Heavy Vinyl pressing is TOO BRIGHT. There is a boost in the top end, probably right around the 12K region, which is a very poor mastering choice the late Doug Sax apparently made, a choice that is surely not doing this recording any favors. In the case of this new pressing in fact, it’s positively ruinous. (more…)

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill – Speakers Corner Debunked

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More Can’t Buy A Thrill

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

This has to be one of the worst sounding versions ever pressed. You think the average ABC or MCA pressing is opaque, flat and lifeless, not to mention compromised at both ends of the frequency spectrum? You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

As bad as the typical copy of this album is, the Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl is even worse, with not a single redeeming quality to its credit.

If this is what passes for an Audiophile Record these days, and it is, it’s just one more nail in the coffin for Heavy Vinyl. (more…)

John Coltrane – Giant Steps – The Rhino 45 RPM 2 Disc Set Sucks

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More Giant Steps

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Sonic Grade: F

The sound of the new 45 RPM 2 disc version cut by Bernie Grundman sounds thick and dull, much like the Deja Vu he remastered years ago for Classic Records.

As is the case with so many of the Heavy Vinyl reissues released these days, the studio ambience you hear on these pressings is a pitiful fraction of the ambience the real pressings are capable of revealing, the ones mass-produced by Atlantic, original and reissue alike. We’re not sure why audiophiles have trouble noticing such an obvious shortcoming but it and others like it sure don’t get by our crack listening panel here at Better Records too often. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – II – New Heavy Vinyl Discussed

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More Led Zeppelin – II

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Sonic Grade: ?

Can’t give it one, we never played it.

Instead we would like to reprint some of the more interesting observations made by a well known writer concerning the sound of the Heavy Vinyl pressing in question. They are in no particular order and clearly taken out of context — we’re not even providing the reference to the specific songs under discussion. Some you can guess; as for the rest, what difference, at this point, does it really make?

Zep II – With Trees This Ugly, Would You Give the Forest a Good Grade?

Allow us to present: The Trees

the spatial presentation seemed meek

individual cymbal hits in that psychedelic break lacked sparkle

instead of an interruption eruption the changeover was anything but abrupt

overall musical intent wasn’t being fully communicated

spatially mashed together and lacking in detail delineation

You can barely make out the flanging effects on Plant’s voice

should send shivers but just doesn’t

The bass line was homogenized and the attack softened

Textures sounded bland

Microdynamic gestures—very familiar ones—seemed to have been lost

The album’s grit and edge seemed worn down

Page’s guitars… are homogenized

small dynamic differences that communicate intent blend into one level, quelling musical excitement

These are not my words, but I certainly recognize the feeling that must have prompted their writing. It’s the same feeling I have after playing most of the Heavy Vinyl records I’ve auditioned over the past few years, regardless of make or model. (more…)

Gaite Parisienne with Fiedler – More Smeary Dreck from Classic Records

More Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

More Gaite Parisienne / Fiedler

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Sonic Grade: F

Another Classic Records LP found wanting. 

The last time I played the Classic I thought it was a smeary mess, as awful as their awful Scheherazade (both shamefully on the TAS List as I recall). If I were to play it today I’m guessing it would join the other Classic Records entries in our Hall of Shame. 

 I love Fiedler’s performance and the 1954 two track RCA Living Stereo sound but finding an original Shaded Dog pressing in clean condition under $500 with the right stampers (something above 10 as a rule) is all but impossible nowadays.

If you want to go that way more power to you. 

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? Two mics and two channels and it blows away 99% of all the classical recordings ever done! Some old record collectors and tube lovers say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it.

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.

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture on Telarc UHQR

More Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

This is what we had to say about the UHQR back in 2005 or so:

Having played this record all the way through, I have to comment on some of its sonic qualities. It’s about the most dynamic recording I’ve ever heard. This was the promise of digital, which was never really delivered. On this record, that promise has been fulfilled. The performance is also one of the best on record. It’s certainly the most energetic I can remember. 

[Now that we’ve heard the best pressings of the Alwyn recording on Decca I would have to say that Alwyn’s is certainly every bit as energetic if not more so and dramatically better sounding as well.]

They only made 1000 of these, which makes it 5 times more rare than any MOFI UHQR. I had a sealed copy of this record on the site not too long ago. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a sealed copy, as open ones are hard enough to come by.