Heavy Vinyl Reviews and Commentaries

The Definitive Vinyl Version? – Perhaps There Is a Third Way

More Joni Mitchell

Reviews and Commentaries for Blue

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The letter you see reproduced down below got me to thinking.

If I had to choose one record that separates the men from the boys, the stereos that really work from the phony, lifeless audiophile systems you might read about in the magazines or hear at an audio show, Blue would make a darn good choice.

The problem there is that you have to be one serious record collector to have a great copy of Blue. But good pressings are out there, if you can clean and play them properly. This is why we created the Blue Game. It can be done, and we can help you get there, but most of the work has to be done by you.

Naturally we are happy to do the shootouts for you and charge you the pretty penny the winners command, but for those of you who want to find out what’s wrong with the new Blue and don’t want to buy a Hot Stamper from us, there is a third way: Blue, The Game.

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Sarah Vaughan / The Lonely Hours on Classic Records

More Sarah Vaughan

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Classic Records remastered this album back in the day, and I can see why: the average pressing on Roulette is borderline unlistenable. Of course we didn’t know that when we started this shootout. We had found a nice sounding copy and subsequently went on the hunt for more. Little did we know how wide the variation in sound quality we would find on the original Orange Label pressings. There was simply no denying that many of the copies we played were just too thin, shrill and pinched in the midrange to be of any interest to our audiophile customers.

As mediocre as Bernie’s Classic cutting may be, it’s still better than the average Roulette original one might throw on the turntable.

And you can forget the monos completely; they were by far the worst sounding of them all.

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Cat Stevens – Tea, Teaser & Mona Bone – 180g Universal Debunked

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This commentary was written shortly after these three Universal Heavy Vinyl pressings were released in 2000.

Sonic Grades: F/F/F

Around 2000 Universal did the three most famous Cat Stevens titles, and they have to be three of the worst sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Many audiophile record dealers carry them. Have YOU been ripped off by one of these dealers? If so, we can help. We would never promote garbage like that.

Any record dealer who would actually charge money for these titles has to be either ignorant (having never taken the time to play the record — why bother when audiophiles will buy practically anything pressed on Heavy Vinyl?); auditorily-challenged (deaf, to be blunt about it); or cynically contemptuous of record lovers, music lovers and audiophiles in general.

If they’re gullible enough to buy into the 180 gram vinyl = better sound, they deserve what they get.

Mencken had a good take on a similar idea.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

If you want to stop throwing your money away on bad records, stop doing business with the ignorant, deaf or cynical people who peddle them. (more…)

Benny Carter / Jazz Giant – Analogue Productions Fails Spectacularly Right Out of the Gate

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More Shelly Manne

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Sonic Grade: F

You may remember what a disaster the Acoustic Sounds‘ version from back in the ’90s was. (Or maybe you agree with Michael Fremer that they were god’s gift to the audiophile record lovers of the world. We thought they were crap right from the get go and were not the least bit shy about saying so,)

I haven’t heard the new 45 RPM version and don’t intend to, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like our good Hot Stamper pressings. We have yet to hear a single Heavy Vinyl 45 that sounds any good to us, judged by the standards we set in our shootouts.

Actually, to run the risk of sounding overly pedantic, the records themselves set the standards. We simply grade them on the curve they establish.

We guarantee that none of their LPs can hold a candle to our records or your money back. If you have one of the new pressings and don’t know what’s wrong with it, or don’t think that anything is wrong with it, try ours. It will show you just how much better a real record can sound, with more space, more transparency, more energy, more presence, more drive, more ambience –more of everything that’s good about the sound of music on vinyl.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear our Hot Stamper pressing, those Heavy Vinyl records you bought might not ever sound right to you again.

They sure don’t sound right to us, but we have the good fortune of being able to play the best older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more audible — in fact, exceedingly obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison. 


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley Quintet In Chicago – Not Bad on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner jazz album.

Years ago we wrote the following:

This one has excellent sound (in that left-right jazz of the fifties kind of way).

We can’t be sure that we would still feel the same way (about the excellent sound; the hard left right is not up for debate). My guess is that this is still probably a good record if you can get one for the 30 bucks we used to charge.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short in in our experience. (more…)

Back In Bean’s Bag on Classic Records LP Sounds Pretty Good

More Coleman Hawkins

More Clark Terry

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Sonic Grade: B

We’re not the least bit embarrassed to admit we used to like their version very much, and happily recommended it in our catalog back in the day.

Like many Classic Records, the master tapes are so good that even with their mediocre mastering — and pressing: RTI’s vinyl accounts for at least some of the lost sound quality, so airless and tired — the record still sounds great, at least until you get hold of the real thing and hear what you are missing.

What do you get with Hot Stampers compared to the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue? Dramatically more warmth, sweetness, delicacy, transparency, space, energy, size, naturalness (no boost on the top end or the bottom, a common failing of anything by Classic); in other words, the kind of difference you almost ALWAYS get comparing the best vintage pressings with their modern remastered counterparts, in our experience anyway.

The Classic is a nice record, a Hot Stamper is a MAGICAL one.


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Classic Records – Rock and Pop  (more…)

John Coltrane / Coltrane’s Sound – A Very Good Reissue by Bernie Grundman

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Sonic Grade: B+ (at least)

This is one of the better sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings we have played recently. What makes it different from so many others that fail to live up to the remastering hype that surrounds them (and irritates the hell out of those of use who know what a good record is actually supposed to sound like)?

  • It’s tonally correct from top to bottom. At most five or ten per cent of the audiophile repressings we’ve played in the last ten years can make that claim.
  • The bass is not boosted or poorly defined. This eliminates at a minimum 95+% of all the Mobile Fidelity pressings we have ever played. Nobody seems to notice how bad the bass is on their records. A real puzzler, that fact.
  • It’s not exceptionally veiled or recessed. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of Heavy Vinyl pressings that are not much too veiled and recessed to compete with their vintage vinyl brethren.

It is slightly veiled, and lacks some of the life, the space and obviously some of the presence of the real thing, the real thing in this case being an early stereo pressing on the Blue and Green Atlantic label.

Still, for your money you are getting one helluva good record. One of the top two or three Rhino records to date.

(Bernie did a great job on this Coltrane album, but whatever you do, don’t waste your money on his recut of Lush Life. It is just plain awful, a Hall of Shame pressing that’s so bad it defies understanding. Something sure went wrong somewhere, I can tell you that. Stay tuned for my review.)

• Lacquers cut by Bernie Grundman
• LPs cut from the original analog masters
• Packages replicated to the finest detail manufactured with more care than ever

OUR PREVIOUS COMMENTARY

This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Advice on Which Pressings to Buy

Forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing — or be really lucky — to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables.

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Glazunov / Violin Concerto – Heifetz / Hendl – A Classic Records Winner

Superb Recordings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

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This is a 180g Classic LP with very good sound, the best of the violin concertos Classic has released to date and one of the best Classic classical titles ever.

This is one of the early 180 pressings which tend to be quieter than the later 200 gram pressings.

Original pressings of this late Heifetz/Hendl/CSO performance tend to be edgy, which has been remedied on this reissue through cutting directly from the three-track masters by Bernie Grundman. Grundman has also tuned the balance between Heifetz and the Orchestra to better integrate the phenomenal bowing and intonation that Heifetz is famous for with the power of the Chicago Symphony. Another 10++ performance and recording – not to be missed! – Liner Notes


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical (more…)

Sgt. Pepper’s and Bad Audiophile Thinking (Hint: the UHQR Is Wrong)

Hot Stampers of Sgt. Peppers

Letters and Commentaries for Sgt. Peppers

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Sonic Grade: D

We charge hundreds of dollars for a Hot Stamper Sgt. Pepper, which is a lot to pay for a record. But consider this: the UHQR typically sells for more than the price we charge and doesn’t sound as good. 

Of course the people that buy UHQRs would never find themselves in a position to recognize how much better one of our Hot Stampers sounds in a head to head shootout with their precious and oh-so-collectible UHQR. They assume that they’ve already purchased the Ultimate Pressing and see no need to try another.

I was guilty of the same bad audiophile thinking myself in 1982. I remember buying the UHQR of Sgt. Pepper and thinking how amazing it sounded and how lucky I was to have the world’s best version of Sgt. Pepper.

If I were to play that record now it would be positively painful. All I would hear would be the famous MoFi 10K Boost on the top end (the one that MoFi lovers never seem to notice), and the flabby Half-Speed mastered bass (ditto). Having heard really good copies of Sgt. Pepper, like the wonderful Hot Stampers we put on the site from time to time, now the MoFi UHQR sounds so phony to me that I wouldn’t be able to sit through it with a gun to my head. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker – Ansermet (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Nutcracker Available Now

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

More Classical Music

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Sonic Grade: B?

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

Superb! New records just don’t sound any better! This is the complete Nutcracker Ballet as conducted by Ansermet for Decca, a record that sets a standard of performance and sound that is unlikely ever to be equaled, and almost certainly not to be surpassed.


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

There are many kinds of audiophile pressings — Half-Speeds, Direct-to-Discs, Heavy Vinyl Remasters, Japanese Pressings, the list of records offered to the audiophile with supposedly superior sound quality is a long one indeed.

Having been in the audiophile record biz for more than thirty years, it has been our misfortune to have played them by the hundreds,

In order to help you avoid the worst of the worst, we put a great many of them in a section of their own, which we call:

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

How did we find so many bad sounding records? The same way we find so many good sounding ones. We included them in our shootouts, comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stampers.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.