The best of the best vintage recordings are truly amazing if you can play them right. That’s a big if.
In fact, it may just be the biggest if in all of audio.
But that is not our story for today. Our story today concerns the relationship between more accurate timbre and higher fidelity.
What do we love about vintage pressings like the Ted Heath disc you see pictured above?
The timbre of the instruments is hi-fi in the best sense of the word.
The unique sound of every instrument is being reproduced with remarkable fidelity on this old record.
That’s what we mean by “hi-fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Sound that passes for hi-fidelity on some records.
Older audiophile records, typically those made by Mobile Fidelity in the ’70s and ’80s, suffered from a common group of problems heard on practically every record they released:
Nowadays that kind of low fidelity sound is no longer in vogue.
A new, equally low fidelity sound has taken its place.
What seems to be in vogue these days, judging by the Heavy Vinyl Reissue pressings we’ve played in recent years, is a very different sound from that described above, with a different but no less irritating suite of shortcomings.
Such are the current hallmarks of the Heavy Vinyl LP. Whether made by Speakers Corner, DCC, Analogue Productions or any other label, starting at some point in the mid-’90s, the sound these labels apparently preferred had a problem we heard in practically every infuriatingly unbalanced record we played: sound that was just too damn smooth.
The phony boosted highs of the bad old days are gone, replaced by the phony rolled off highs of today.
(The exception: Bernie Grundman. Bernie cut hundreds of records for Classic Records starting in the ’90s, and it’s clear he chose a different path, but his path turned out to be every bid as problematical. And Mobile Fidelity no longer makes bright records with ill-defined, bloated bass. Now they make overly smooth records with ill-defined, bloated bass.)
Are the audiophiles buying these new, unnaturally smooth records any better off?
The ones with bright, phony systems probably are. Everybody else is getting taken to the cleaners. Ripped off. Sold a bill of goods. Etc. Etc. (There are scores of terms for this activity because there have always been companies and individuals who were happy to take your money in exchange for something of low quality dressed up in fancy packaging.)
The First Thing
As we have been saying for years, to get anywhere in this hobby, the first thing you need is reasonably good stereo sound.
Then you can buy records that actually have the potential to be good records. Records with higher fidelity. Records that are tonally correct.
If you’re buying these modern heavy vinyl pressings, what are you going to do with them when you finally get around to making your stereo reproduce music properly and can hear how second- and third-rate they are?
How do we know we are right about the tonality shortcomings of these modern remastered records?
Stay tuned for part two of this commentary for the answer. (more…)