Heavy Vinyl Reviews and Commentaries

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, this copy is getting the sound of Gabor Szabo’s music right from first note to last
  • This copy plays on exceptionally quiet Impulse vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • The credit must go to one of, if not THE Greatest Jazz Engineers of all time, Mr. Rudy Van Gelder
  • “Szabo’s original sound, the unusual instrumentation (two or three guitars, Sadao Watanabe on flute, Gary McFarland on marimba, bass, drums and percussion) and McFarland’s clever arrangements uplift the music.”

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Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing

More on the UHQR

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Near Mint UHQR JVC Test Record in a white generic jacket.

The RAREST of the RARE! I’ve never even seen one offered for sale!

For those of you who do not know the complete story, basically the UHQR — the ultra high quality record — was invented by JVC as a test to see how good the ultimate vinyl pressing could sound. It was thicker, had a longer pressing cycle, and other technological improvements, all with the goal of making the ultimate lp.

Mobile Fidelity produced limited editions of eight titles on UHQR, and both Reference and Telarc produced one each.

Apparently tests were done by others as well, because here we have some m&k recordings on UHQR. I believe they are not known to exist — until now. I bought them from m&k myself a few years back, along with some flamenco fevers and a box full of unplayed for dukes. That was a good day for better records!

Anyway, obviously the price you see reflects the collectibility of such a unique pressing, not necessarily the musical or sonic qualities it may possess. If you want to be not just the first but the only person to own such a pressing, this is your opportunity to do so. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

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The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys I respect, but the results of their latest collaboration leave much to be desired. The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
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Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner – Diffuse, Washed Out, Veiled, and Just So Damn VAGUE

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Rimsky-Korsakov – The Tale of Tsar Saltan on Speakers Corner

Sonic Grade: C

We cracked open the Speakers Corner pressing shown here in order to see how it would fare up against a pair of wonderful sounding Londons we were in the process of shooting out a while ago. Here’s what we heard in our head to head comparison.

The soundstage, never much of a concern to us at here at Better Records but nevertheless instructive in this case, shrinks roughly 25% with the new pressing; depth and ambience are reduced about the same amount. But what really bothered me was this: The sound was just so VAGUE.

There was a cloud of musical instruments, some here, some there, but they were very hard to SEE. On the Londons we played they were clear. You could point to each and every one. On this pressing it was impossible.

Case in point: the snare drum, which on this recording is located toward the back of the stage, roughly halfway between dead center and the far left of the hall. As soon as I heard it on the reissue I recognized how blurry and smeary it was relative to the clarity and immediacy it had on the earlier London pressings. I’m not sure how else to describe it – diffuse, washed out, veiled. It’s just vague.
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Child Is Father to the Man on Speakers Corner – What The Hell Were They Thinking?

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

Back in 2007 when this record came out, we auditioned one and were dumbfounded at the poor quality of the sound. We noted:

This is the worst sounding Heavy Vinyl Reissue LP I have heard in longer than I can remember.

To make a record sound this bad you have to work at it.

What the hell were they thinking? Any audiophile record dealer that would sell you this record should be run out of town on a rail. Of course that never happens, because every last one of them (present company excluded) will carry it, of that you can be sure.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, out comes a record like this to prove that it can.

More on Blood, Sweat and Tears brilliant debut, Child Is Father to the Man

Grant Green’s Green Street on Heavy Vinyl – Music Matters, But Apparently Sound Does Not

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

After discovering Hot Stampers and the mind-blowing sound they deliver, a new customer generously sent me a few of his favorite Heavy Vinyl pressings to audition, records that he considered the best of the modern reissues that he owns.

He admitted that most of what he has on Heavy Vinyl is not very good, and now that he can clearly hear what he has been missing, having heard some of our best Hot Stamper jazz pressings, he is going to be putting them up on Ebay and selling them to anyone foolish enough to throw their money away on this kind of vinyl junk.

We say more power to him.  That money can be used to buy records that actually are good sounding, not just supposed to be good sounding because they were custom manufactured with the utmost care and marketed at high prices to soi-disant audiophiles.

Audiophile records are a scam. They always have been and always will be.

I haven’t listened to a copy of this album in a very long time, but I know a good sounding jazz record when I hear one, having critically auditioned more than a thousand over the course of the 33 years I have been in business selling good sounding records.

I knew pretty early on in the session that this was not a good sounding jazz record.  Five minutes was all it took, but I probably wasted another ten making sure the sound was as hopeless as it originally seemed.

For those of you who might have trouble reading my handwriting, my notes say: (more…)

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite / Dorati on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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The standard Classic Records failings are as obvious and as irritating on this remaster as they are on practically all of the others.

Lack of ambience.

Smeary and hard strings.

A lack of Tubey Magic.

Veiled and recessed in general.

Bottom line: Not a good record.

Of course, Classic Records made very few good records; why should this one be any different?

It sure fooled a lot of audiophiles though.  Allow me to quote a writer with his own website devoted to explaining and judging classical recordings of all kinds. His initials are A.S. for those of you who have been to his site.

Classic Records Reissues (both 33 and 45 RPM) – These are, by far, the best sounding Mercury pressings. Unfortunately, only six records were ever released by Classic. Three of them (Ravel, Prokofiev and Stravinsky) are among the very finest sounding records ever made by anyone. Every audiophile (with a turntable) should have these “big three”.

Obviously we could not disagree more. I’ve played all six of the Classic Mercurys; the Ravel and Prokofiev titles are actually even worse than the Stravinsky we reviewed here on the blog.

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Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – How on Earth Did This Pressing Get Approved?

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Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl. This review is from 2014 or thereabouts.

Sonic Grade: F

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?” (more…)

Albeniz / Suite Espanola – De Burgos – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas! Excellent sound and lovely music. This pressing also sounds much better than the Super Analogue pressing of the same music.

When you get the right original pressing — London or Decca — they’re even better, but they sure are hard to find on quiet vinyl.

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow – Another DCC Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

Sour and opaque, a major disappointment. You can do worse but you would really have to work at it.

Our Hot Stamper Commentary from 2008

It’s An Uphill Battle Every Time

This album is an exceedingly difficult nut to crack — no matter how many copies we have, no matter how much information we have to work with. Play the typical copy and you’ll likely run for cover — we heard played copies that were aggressive, shrill, lifeless, dull, thick, veiled, bass-shy — you name it, we heard it. Not only that, but as a rule these early pressings are BEAT TO DEATH. Finding a copy that sounds any good and plays Mint Minus Minus or better is a real challenge.

But we didn’t give up. We knew that the best pressings of this album have tubey magic in spades. Undaunted, we kept up the search and eventually found some OUT OF THIS WORLD Hot Stamper copies.

Almost every pressing you’ll ever find suffers from at least a bit of harmonic distortion — some MUCH worse than others. We were convinced at one point that it was on the tapes, but after playing these super clean copies, we now know better.

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