Heavy Vinyl Reviews and Commentaries

Bad Santana LPs from Mobile Fidelity – We Admit We Was Wrong

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More Debut Albums of Interest

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This is one of the MoFi LPs we’ve reviewed on the site. And for us audiophile record lovers – not lovers of audiophile records, but guys who love records with audiophile sound – it’s simply another nail in the coffin for one of the most laughably inept remastering labels in the history of that unrelievedly sad enterprise.

We also have a Hall of Shame for bad sounding audiophile records such as these. It currently has 250 members but could easily have double that if someone wanted to take the time to make entries for all the bad audiophile pressings we’ve played over the years. (That person would have to be me and I don’t want to do it.)

Santana is a record we admit to having liked a bit when it first came out. Since then we have changed our minds. As embarrassing as it may be, clearly We Was Wrong.

It’s just too damn compressed and lifeless. The Whomp Factor on this pressing is Zero. Since whomp is critical to the sound of Santana’s music, it’s Game Over for us. The review below is exactly what we wrote at the time the record came in. We tried to like it, but it’s clear to us now that we tried to like it too hard. Please accept our apologies.

I noted in my [now discontinued] web site blog: “But now I would have to say that the MoFi LP is far too lifeless to be acceptable to anyone, even those with the worst kinds of Audiophile BS systems.”

And I noted that the Abraxas they remastered never got past the first elimination round; it had to have been one of the worst half-speeds I have ever heard. Dead dead dead as a doornail. (more…)

Paul Simon and Judy Collins Finally Turned Me Against DCC

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I remember being a bit taken aback by how much better my original Artisan pressing sounded when I finally got around to comparing it to the supposedly superior DCC, pressed at high quality Heavy Vinyl at RTI to the most exacting standards possible.

What finally turned me completely against DCC were the awful Paul Simon solo albums they remastered.  Two were released, two I had as unreleased test pressings, and all of them were at best second-rate compared to the good original pressings I had on hand.

So much for believing in DCC. Since that time we have learned that placing your faith in any record label or cutting operation is a mistake.

You have to play the records to know how they sound. Nothing else works, and nothing else can work. (more…)

Another Fine Entry for Our Hall of Shame (Now Nearly 300 Strong)

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pictures at an Exhibition

More on Mussorgsky’s (and Ravel’s) Masterpiece – Pictures at an Exhibition

 

Sonic Grade: F

Classic Records Repress at 33, 45, or any other speed

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

The shrillness, the hardness, the sourness, the loss of texture to the strings, the phony boosted deep bass — this is the kind of sound that makes my skin crawl. After a minute or two I’ve had it.

HP put this on his TAS List? Sad but true.

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 on 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. (more…)

Moondance on Heavy Vinyl Is a Disgrace to Audiophiles and Records Lovers Around the World

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Rhino / Warners Heavy Vinyl Debunked – Again

Sonic Grade: F

The original grade I gave out in 2014 when last I played this remastered version as part of a shootout was “D.” I explained at the time:

Just listen to how strange Van’s voice sounds, so lean, hard and sour. That alone qualifies it for an “F”, but considering how bad most pressings of this album are, let’s be fair, if not downright generous, and call it a “D”.

I just revisited the record in a current shootout, and after giving it some thought I have decided that the right grade is in fact “F.” It cannot be any other, for reasons I discuss below.

In 2014 I had written: (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – In the Land of Hi-Fi

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  • Adderley’s fourth studio album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, presence and performance energy on this Hot Stamper pressing than on anything you’ve ever heard
  • Big Group energy and enthusiasm is key to the better pressings like this one – here you will find the most natural sounding ambience of any of the copies in our shootout
  • This one has most everything going for it, with bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension and more – it’s a real Demo Disc, make no mistake about it

(more…)

Brothers in Arms – Half-Speed Mastered, But Why?

Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List

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Sonic Grade: D

The Warner Brothers 180g Double LP pictured above was mastered by Stan Ricker at half-speed.

Most of the time Stan Ricker’s approach to half-speed mastering results in a record that is too bright, with sloppy bass.

And what do you know, it IS too bright and the bass IS sloppy. Imagine that!

We often discuss the unpredictability of records, but when it comes to Half-Speed Mastered pressings their faults are fairly consistent and easy to spot once you know what to listen for.      

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities

Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Led Zeppelin – A Classic Records LP that Can Beat Most Pressings (!)

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More Classic Records Led Zeppelin Pressings Reviewed

Sonic Grade: B

Another Classic Records Heavy Vinyl LP reviewed.

Considering how bad (or at best mediocre) the average copy of the first Zep album sounds, let’s give credit where credit is due and say that Bernie’s remastered version on Heavy Vinyl is darn good (assuming you get a good one, something of course that neither I nor you should assume).

It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Zeppelin titles, most of which we found none too pleasing to the ear.

Our Thinking Circa 2010

We like the Classic, albeit with reservations. It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissues of the Zeppelin catalog, most of which are not very good and some of which are just awful.

Why is this one good? It’s tonally correct for one thing, and the importance of that cannot be stressed too strongly.

Two, it actually ROCKS, something a majority of pressings we’ve played over the years don’t.

Three, it’s shockingly dynamic. It may actually be more dynamic than any other pressing we have ever played.

If you aren’t willing to devote the time and resources necessary to acquire a dozen or more domestic and import copies, and you don’t want to spend the dough for one of our Hot Stamper copies, the Classic is probably your best bet.

We would agree now with almost none of what we had to say about this Classic title when it came out back in the day. We’ve reproduced it below so that you can read it here for yourself.

It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right? (more…)

The Doors – L.A. Woman – Rhino Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

See all of our Doors albums in stock

Reviews of L.A. Woman

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The Rhino pressing we auditioned from the Doors Box Set was surprisingly good. It’s rich and smooth with an extended top end — tonally correct in other words — and there’s lots of bass. This is all to the good. For the thirty bucks you might pay for it you’re getting a very good record, assuming yours sounds like ours, something we should really not be assuming, but we do it anyway as there is no other way to write about records other than to describe the sound of the ones we actually have on hand to play.

What it clearly lacks compared to the best originals is, first and foremost, vocal immediacy. There’s a veil that Jim Morrison is singing through, an effect which becomes more bothersome with time, as these sorts of frustrating shortcomings have a habit of doing.

A bit blurry, a bit smeary, somewhat lacking in air and space, on the plus side it has good energy and better bass than most of the copies we played. All in all we would probably give it a “B.” You could do a helluva lot worse.

Record Collecting Advice

All the ’70s and ’80s reissues of this album we’ve ever played were just awful, especially those with the date inscribed in the dead wax.

Remastering Out Too Much of the Good Stuff

What is lost in the newly remastered recordings so popular with the record collecting public these days ? Lots of things, but the most obvious and irritating is the loss of transparency.

Modern records tend to be small, veiled and recessed, and they rarely image well. But the most important quality they lack is transparency. Almost without exception they are opaque. They resist our efforts to hear into the music.

We don’t like that sound, and like it less with each passing day, although we certainly used to put up with it back when we were selling what we considered to be the better Heavy Vinyl pressings from the likes of DCC, Speakers Corner, Cisco and even Classic Records.

Now when we play those records they either bore us to tears or frustrate us with their veiled, vague, lifeless, ambience-challenged presentation.

It was sometime in 2007 when we turned a corner. The remastered Blue on Rhino Heavy Vinyl came out and was such a mediocrity that we asked ourselves “Why bother?” That was all she wrote.

We stopped selling those third-rate remasters and dedicated ourselves to finding, cleaning, playing and critically evaluating vintage pressings, regardless of era or genre of music.

The result is a website full of great sounding records that should find special appeal with audiophiles who set high standards, who own good equipment and who have well-developed critical listening skills.

Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign on Mediocre Sundazed Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: C

Commenting about the first Hot Stamper pressing of this album ever to come our way, we noted:

This original Stax LP has AMAZING sound. You could not make this record sound any better. We really liked the  Sundazed copy of this record until we heard this bad boy. It MURDERS their pressing! It has far more life, energy and presence than the Heavy Vinyl pressing. We always suspected that a good original would be better but we had no way of knowing since all the copies we saw were beat to death.

Shostakovich – The Age of Gold – Another Mediocre Classic Records Pressing

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Classic Records classical title reviewed and found wanting.

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as fairly typical of their mediocre-at-best catalog, tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and above all Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original or a VICS reissue that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade to give Classic’s pressing is probably a D: below average.