Heavy Vinyl Reviews and Commentaries

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Classic Records and the TAS List

This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We used to like the Classic Records pressing of LSC 2241 a lot more than we do now. Our system was noticeably darker and also far less revealing when we last auditioned the Classic back in the ’90s, and those two qualities did most of the heavy lifting to disguise its shortcomings.

We mistakenly noted: HP put the Shaded Dog pressing (the only way it comes; there is no RCA reissue to my knowledge) on his TAS List of Super Discs, and with good reason: it’s wonderful!

The rest of our commentary still holds up though:

But for some reason he also put the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl reissue on the list, and that record’s not even passable, let alone wonderful. It’s far too lean and modern sounding, and no original Living Stereo record would ever sound that way, thank goodness. 

If they did few audiophiles would still be paying the top dollar collector prices that the Shaded Dog commands to this day.

Updated Thoughts on the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl Reissue

The Classic on Heavy Vinyl (LSC 2241) is lean and modern sounding. No early Living Stereo pressing sounds like it in our experience, and we can only thank goodness for that. If originals and early reissues did sound more like the Classic pressings, my guess is that few would collect them and practically no one would put much sonic stock in them.

Apparently most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a classical recording of the quality of a good original pressing (or good ’60s or ’70s reissue). If they had Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and recognized and identified as such by us way back in 1994.

I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled — to this very day! There are dozens on the TAS List for Pete’s sake — but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. (We do admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock records, and we have the We Was Wrong entries on the site to prove it.)

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

(more…)

The Doors / Waiting For The Sun – Don’t the DCC Pressings All Sound Different Too?

I recently had a chance to listen again to this DCC pressing for the first time in many years. I was putting it up on ebay to sell and dropped the needle to check the sound. I can’t say I liked what I heard. Knowing the record as well as I do, I could her that the DCC was clearly to be brighter in the midrange.

When I went back to read what I had said about the DCC years ago, I saw that I had described that copy the same way. You can read it for yourself. Our old review follows.

We rate the DCC LP a B Minus

We used to like the DCC pressing of this Doors album. Now… not so much. It’s a classic case of Live and Learn.

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is simply to avoid playing them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five or ten years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

Of course the question on everyone’s mind is, “How does this Hot Stamper copy stack up to the famous DCC pressing?” After all, the DCC was the one we were touting all through the ’90s as The One To Beat.

Well, to be honest, the DCC is a nice record, but a really special original copy like this one throws a pretty strong light on its faults, which are numerous and frankly quite bothersome. The top end on the copy I played was a touch boosted, causing a number of problems.

For one, the cymbals sounded slightly tizzy compared to the real thing, which had a fairly natural, though not especially extended, top end.

But the real problem was in the midrange. Morrison sounded thinner and brighter, more like a tenor and less like a baritone, with a somewhat hi-fi-ish quality added to the top of his voice. Folks, I hate to say it, but if someone had told me that the record playing was half-speed mastered, I probably would have believed it. I detest that sound, and the DCC pressing bugged the hell out of me in that respect.

Morrison has one of the richest and most distinctive voices in the history of rock. When it doesn’t sound like the guy I’ve been listening to for close to forty years, something ain’t right.

The bottom end was also a tad boosted — not in the deep bass, but more in that area around 100-200 cycles, causing the sound to be overly rich. None of the originals we played had anything like it, so I’m pretty sure that’s a bit of added EQ Hoffman introduced for reasons known best to him.

Not So Fast There, O Hot Stamper Guru

But wait a minute — don’t all records sound different? Is it really fair to paint his version with such a broad brush on the basis of having played only one copy?

Of course not. Perhaps other copies sound better. (Maybe they sound worse. Think about that.) So here’s our offer to you, dear customer: We absolutely guarantee our Hot Stamper copies will handily beat the DCC pressing or your money back. We’ll even pay the return domestic shipping if for some reason you are not 100% satisfied with the sound of our Hot Stamper. Now there’s an offer you can’t refuse, for any one of you who love the album and have a wad of money burning a hole in your pocket.

More of The Doors

More Psych Rock

(more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys with reputations for doing good work, but the results of their latest collaboration [can you believe this record came out in 2006!?] 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.
(more…)

Deja Vu – This Classic Records Knockoff Is Not the Answer, But We Have One

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Rock LP badly mastered for the benefit of audiophiles looking for easy answers and quick fixes.

If you bought the Classic Record Heavy Vinyl pressing of Deja Vu, you should know by now how badly Classic Records ripped you off. If you feel disrespected, you should. They took your money and gave you practically nothing of value for it. The right CD (not the current one, that’s for damn sure) is dramatically better sounding than their vinyl reissue.

On the other hand, if you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you.

We of course want nothing to do with records like those remastered by Classic Records. We only want to play good sounding records, and most Classic Records, including this title, are definitely not good sounding, not by our standards anyway.

Records Are in a Sorry State – Here’s What You Can Do About It

It’s a sad state that we currently find ourselves in, but is it really any different than it used to be? Audiophiles used to like half-speeds, they used to like Japanese pressings, they used to like direct to disc recordings with questionable sound and even more questionable music.

Now they like SACDs, Heavy Vinyl and 45s. If you ask me it’s the same old wine in a different bottle.

The path out of that morass is exactly the path we have taken and charted for everyone, free of charge.

With our approach to finding the best sounding records, cleaning them the way we do, playing them against each other the way we do, using the sound improving devices and equipment we recommend, we know you can succeed. If we can do it you can do it.

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

(more…)

Rachmaninoff / Symphonic Dances / Johanos – Audiophile Reviewers Raved About This Muddy Mess

I guess things never change.

Sonic Grade: F

This Athena LP is now long out of print, but it received rave reviews when it was released. (We quote many of them below.) This album is a member of the TAS Super Disc list, but we found the sound awfully opaque, smeary, slow and compressed, the kind of bad “analog” sound that Doug Sax brought to the early AP releases. 

The sticker on the shrink wrap of a previous copy had these quotes:

“…for this is the definitive symphonic recording to date.” – J. Gordon Holt/ Stereophile

“Wins ‘Best Record of the Year’ award against tough competition.” – Joe Hart/High End Audio Press & Music Review

“HP heard the Athena remastering of the Rachmaninoff and found it stunning. He could recommend it without reservation.” – Harry Pearson/The Absolute Sound #57

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

(more…)

Arrogant and Elitist Skeptics – They’re the Worst!

Below you will find a link to a reasonably fair and balanced look at the battle between transistors and tubes from Brian Dunning’s skeptoid website, worthwhile reading for those of us who favor a skeptical approach to life (and especially this hobby).

Thirty plus years ago, when I started my little record business, I knew that most records marketed to audiophiles offered junk sound (half-speed masters, Japanese pressings) or junk music (direct to discs by artists nobody ever heard of). As our playback has improved, fewer and fewer of these “specialty” pressings have survived the test of time, a subject we write about endlessly on our site and here on this blog.

For the longest time our motto has been “Records for Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records,” and we see no reason to change it.  If anything, the current spate of manufacturers of Heavy Vinyl pressings are making records that get worse sounding by the day. Many of the most egregious offenders can be found here.

More commentaries about Heavy Vinyl can be found here. We are not fans of the stuff, not because it’s our competition, but because it just doesn’t sound very good to us.

I Confess

Here is the article. I confess I have read through quickly, almost skimming it, because I have heard plenty on the subject of  tubes versus transistors. This is my fifth decade in audio and I know where I stand on the subject. I offer it as edification for those who might be interested.

Our Approach

In order to do the work we do, our approach to audio has to be fundamentally different from that of the audiophile who listens for enjoyment. Critical listening and listening for enjoyment go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing.

The first — developing and applying your critical listening skills — allows you to achieve good audio and find the best pressings of the music you love.

Developing critical thinking skills when it comes to records and equipment is not a bad idea either.

Once you have a good stereo and a good record to play on it, your enjoyment of recorded music should increase dramatically.

A great sounding record on a killer system is a thrill.

A Heavy Vinyl mediocrity, played back on what passes for so many audiophile systems these days — regardless of cost — is, to these ears, an intolerable bore.

If this sounds arrogant and elitist, so be it. We set a higher standard. Holding our records to that higher standard allows us to price our records commensurate with their superior sound and please the hell out of the people who buy them.

For those who appreciate the difference, and have resources sufficient to afford them, the cost is reasonable. If it were not we would have gone out of business years ago.

Hot Stampers are not cheap. If the price could not be justified by the better sound quality and quieter surfaces, who in his right mind would buy them? We can’t really be fooling that many audiophiles, can we?

(more…)

Chabrier / Espana / Paray – We Review the Classic Records Pressing on the TAS List

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another record perfectly suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past.

I much prefer Ansermet’s performances on London to those of Paray on Mercury. I know of none better. The famous Classic pressing of the Mercury is a grainy, gritty, shrill piece of crap.

I don’t know how dull and smeary a stereo would have to be in order to play a record this phony and modern sounding and make it listenable, but I know that it would have to be very dull and very smeary, with the kind of vintage sound that might work for Classic’s Heavy Vinyl pressings but not much else.

It’s a disgrace, and the fact that it’s on the TAS Super Disc List is even more disgraceful. Of course the lovely London (CS 6438) we prefer is nowhere to be found on Harry’s List, which should not be too surprising. Most of the best records we play are exactly that — nowhere to be found on his list.

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chabrier

(more…)

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland / Gypsy ’66 – Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

Sonic Grade: B?

We haven’t played a copy in years, but we think this is probably one of the better Speakers Corner jazz albums.  They cut this album on Heavy Vinyl back in 2002, and we recommended at the time.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will of course be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings fall short, with very few exceptions.

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

Reviews and Commentaries for Gabor Szabo

(more…)

Deep Purple / Machine Head on Rhino 180 Gram Vinyl

Sonic Grade: F

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound good. The average copy is nothing special, but this one is a boring, lifeless mess, so save your money.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

More Deep Purple

More British Blues Rock

(more…)

Respighi / Pines Of Rome / Maazel – Another Mediocre Speakers Corner Decca Reissue

More Reviews and Commentaries for The Pines of Rome

Sonic Grade: C

We were only slightly impressed with the Speakers Corner Decca pressing of this album, writing at the time:

The famous TAS List recording. Very good sound. You can do better but it’s not easy. This work is just too difficult to record.

Mostly true. Not sure about very good sound but difficult to record is spot on.

Click Here to See Our Favorite Pines of Rome


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.

Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner – Classical 

Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner – Jazz 

Labels With Shortcomings – Speakers Corner – Rock & Pop 

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners