Commentaries on Heavy Vinyl

Little Feat / Dixie Chicken – How Does the MoFi Sound?

Little Feat Albums We’ve Reviewed

How does the MoFi pressing sound?

We have no idea; we’ve never bothered to order one, for at least one very good reason. This is an album about rhythm.

Half-Speed mastered records have sloppy bass and, consequently, lack rhythmic drive.

Who is his right mind would want to half-speed master an album by Little Feat, one of the most rhythmically accomplished bands in rock and roll history?

The obvious answer is that it was a bad idea. But, if you’re Mobile Fidelity, and that’s the only idea you’ve ever had because you are in the half-speed mastering business, then what else can you do?

As the old saying goes, to a hammer everything looks like a nail.

OUR PREVIOUS HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY

Folks, this is no demo disc by any means, but the later pressings strip away the two qualities that really make this music work and bring it to life: Tubey Magic and Big Bass. This side two has both in SPADES.

Listen to how breathy and transparent the chorus is on the first track. Now layer that sound on top of a fat and punchy bottom end and you have the formula for Little Feat Magic at its funky best. This is the sound they heard in the control room, of that I have no doubt, and it is all over this side two. No side of any copy we played was better.

Personally

The All Music Guide (and lots of other critics) think this is Little Feat at their best. With tracks such as Two Trains, Dixie Chicken, Fat Man in the Bathtub and Roll Um Easy, who’s gonna disagree!? (I guess I am. I prefer Waiting for Columbus and The Last Record Album but cannot deny that Dixie Chicken is probably the best of the albums that came before them.)

Some Relevant Commentaries

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Letter of the Week – “It sounds like you’re listening to some kind of cultural artifact in a black box…”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. I’ve edited it a bit.

Hey Tom, 

Curious your thoughts on Analog Productions reissues? From the few I’ve heard, they seem to be among the better ‘new records’ out there, at least when they’re not involving digital in the process. 

Conrad,

How is it that you missed all my posts about their records? This link will take you to them: Analogue Productions.

I feel like I attack them too much, but apparently not!

Simply put, they may be the worst record label of all time.

Certainly no label is worse, some may be as bad, the electric recording guy in England is probably tied for most awful, Mobile Fidelity is up there too, but there are so many contenders for Worst Audiophile Record Label of All Time, how could you possibly know where to begin?

Not one record of AP I have ever heard was not awful, and if there are others that are not awful that I have yet to audition, those are very likely to be worse than a plain old copy easily found in a record store or on the web.

Curious to know what record of theirs you like. I find the very idea almost unimaginable

TP

Haha, enjoyed reading some of that.

I’m in the odd position that I can both entirely see what your criticisms are, and to a good extent share them, and yet, at least with the jazz records I’ve heard from them, I’m also hearing things I like.

They have absolutely no ambience… I have no idea why they’d do this, as it seems deliberate, like they thought this would improve things to a more ‘modern’ sound..?

And yes, this can have the effect of robbing the music of energy, life, interest etc. It sounds like you’re listening to some kind of cultural artifact in a black box, rather than a living piece of music.

On the other hand, the 45s esp. and even the 33s have a lot of presence and dynamic range, don’t sound too veiled (other than due to this bizarre remastering to remove ambience), and have a certain energy of their own – a kind of intensity. Maybe it’s the almost (or sometimes literal, since not all are all-analogue) digital effect; they’re going for that cleanness.

Or perhaps it’s the intensity of being slightly uptight and unnatural… but it’s interesting to hear. I know that sounds nuts, but it’s hard to describe; you have to accept you’re listening to a ‘re-presentation’, not the actual recorded sound.

On the other hand, several MoFi I’ve heard have this very fake ‘audiophile’ sound, with exaggerated mixing, overly thick, etc., and these AP I’ve heard at least sound more natural than this (at least on my system), for all their shortcomings.

I guess we can’t really compare experiences without knowing exactly the records we’ve each heard, and the AP pressings never hold a candle to any of the hot stampers I have received from you. It’s not close; my system and ears clearly know the difference. However, I don’t expect them to, and part of my relatively positive feeling about them is biased by knowing they’re dirt cheap at around $30 a pop.

It could be that your system is revealing their shortcomings more than mine, although I can readily hear the absolute difference between APs and hot stampers; or perhaps my system is tuned somehow to present them in a more favorable light… or perhaps this is just a matter of personal judgement about what we can listen to; I take them for what they are: cheap attempts to modernize the sound of master tapes. They’re nothing on hot stampers, but I’ve heard FAR worse.

Hope I don’t lose all credibility with you for writing this; different systems, different records, different pressings, different ears/moods/etc… just know that the above doesn’t mean I can’t hear and profoundly appreciate the quality of hot stampers! Wouldn’t have dropped what must be approaching $15k by now if I couldn’t, and I cherish every record I’ve bought from you. Keep up the good fight!

C

I can’t agree with much of what you’ve written, other than our Hot Stampers being amazing in every way. I believe you are trying to find reasons to justify the purchases of these modern remastered records, despite the shortcomings of their sound. My stereo is not forgiving enough of their faults to play them for enjoyment, and my ears are not forgiving enough of their sonic irregularities to find them much more than tolerable.

I took off my rose colored glasses a long time ago, and I certainly have no intention of putting them back on.

Our stereo is designed to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of every record we play. Bad records sound awful on it, and mediocre records are a waste of time. There are some heavy vinyl pressings that are neither awful nor mediocre, and you can find our reviews for them here

Years ago, we started to notice that most of the new Heavy Vinyl pressings were sounding worse and worse, and by 2007, when Blue came out, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We decided to take a stand and we have never questioned for a moment the decision we made.

This is what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day.
In those days, it was obvious to us that vintage pressings were getting better sounding, or at least some of them did. (We call the good ones Hot Stampers.)

The Heavy Vinyl pressings kept getting worse. They became less and less competitive, and eventually none of them sounded as good as the records we could offer our audiophile customers.

The kind of mediocrity that is rampant in the record business is simply not going to cut it here at Better Records. You may find these modern records to be interesting as artifacts, but we want to listen to music that sounds so real you can forget you’re listening to a record at all. You sure can’t do that with the records these companies are making today.

The EQ anomalies and compression and inability to breathe like vintage records call attention to these remastered discs’ manifold shortcomings the instant the needle hits the groove.

They are a disgusting ripoff, plain and simple. We find their sound insufferable. You should too.

Thanks for your letter,

TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

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Schubert / Symphony No. 9 on Speakers Corner

Hot Stamper Classical and Orchestral Imports on Decca & London

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

Sonic Grade: B

We think this is probably still one of the better Speakers Corner Deccas.

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. 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 sound with a great performance to match. A TOP TOP TITLE in every way. This performance has never been equaled and probably never will be (on any format I can stand to listen to!)

It definitely beats the original London pressings we have played.

But is that the standard for sound quality, the original pressing?

No. The idea that the original is the best sounding version of any album is a myth, and an easily debunked one.

To make the case, here is just a small sampling of records with the potential to sound better on specific reissue pressings when compared head to head against the best originals. We also have some amazing sounding reissues available should you wish to purchase pressings that beat the originals, any originals, or your money back.

How Did We Do It?

There are more than 2000 Hot Stamper reviews on this blog. Do you know how we learned so much about so many records?

Simple. We ran thousands and thousands of record experiments under carefully controlled conditions, and we continue to run scores of them week in and week out to this very day.

If you want to learn about records, we recommend you do the same. You won’t be able to do more than one or two a week, but one or two a week is better than none, which is how many the average audiophile seems to want to do.

When it comes to finding the best sounding records ever made, our advice is simple.

Play them the right way and pay attention to what they are trying to teach you. You will learn more this way than any other.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Basie & Peterson – Probably Bad Sounding on Heavy Vinyl, But Who Can Be Bothered to Find Out?

More of the Music of Count Basie

More of the Music of Oscar Peterson

Analogue Productions remastered this longtime favorite of ours, The Timekeepers, on 45 RPM vinyl. Considering their dismal track record — an unbroken string of failures, scoring not a single winner with which I am familiar — I’m guessing the Hot Stamper we offered here would have blown the doors off their version, as well as any other Basie album they have done or will ever do on vinyl.

A good customer emailed us back in 2012 with the quote below, authenticating our rather negative disposition at the time concerning the AP releases from the ’90s:

Recently I unearthed a pile of “The Tracking Angle” magazines, MF’s short-lived venture in publishing, that I’d kept all these years (this may damn me in your eyes, but at the time he was one of the more animated [animated but consistently wrong, not a good tradeoff] writers on audio). I dutifully reread the very first issue (Jan. 1995) for the first time in many years, even a review of “Tea for the Tillerman,”… I was flabbergasted to come across this:

So what does Mr. “Better Records” think? In a newsletter where he says a digital remastered OJC vinyl title sounds better than Acoustic Sounds’ all analogue version and says the whole lot of them “suck” and “simply cannot sound good on a good stereo,” he calls this Cat Stevens reissue “Fabulous. Very dynamic with plenty of presence in the midrange, unlike the ‘audiophile’ records of today.”

We proudly stand behind every word. If the comparable OJC title sounds better than the remastered one Acoustic Sounds is peddling, then it sounds better, digital remastering or no digital remastering. We don’t pay any attention to who makes the records, how they make them or why they make them. We just play them and let the chips fall will they may. Mr. Fremer thinks that making records the “right” way should result in better sounding records, but we have found precious little evidence to back up that theory, and volumes of evidence refuting it.

Yes, those Analogue Productions records sucked, they continue to suck, and they will always suck. The “audiophile” records of that day did lack presence, and the passage of time is not going to change that fact. Play practically any Reference, Chesky or Classic title from 1995 to the present day and listen for the veiled midrange, the opacity, the smeary transients, and the generally constricted, compressed, lifeless quality of its sound, a sound that has been boring us to tears for close to two decades (and fundamentally undermining the very rationale for the expense and hassle of analog itself in the modern digital age, a much more serious charge).

Ask yourself, where are those records now?

Piled on the ash heap of analog history, that’s where (apologies to Leon Trotsky). Nobody writes about them anymore, and it’s not because they were so good, no matter what any audiophile-type reviewer thought or may think about them.

As long as Analogue Productions is around, at least no one can say that Mobile Fidelity makes the worst sounding audiophile records in the world. They are certainly some of the worst, but not so hopeless that they have never made a single good sounding record, which is the title that Chad Kassem holds.

To the best of our knowledge. Obviously we have only played a small fraction of the records released on his godawful label. In our defense let me say that a small fraction was all we could take.


FURTHER READING

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Letter of the Week – “I now have had a listening experience for myself that confirms all the comments you make on heavy vinyl.”

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

95% of my record collection are now hot stampers. The other 5% are albums of my youth I am hanging on to waiting for a future shootout. I have no heavy vinyl.

A friend of mine got a 180g Analogue Productions copy of Amos Lee for me as a gift. When I first played it on my system, it sounded clear (no surface noise) but the sound was off (more digital than analog).

I imaged it playing in a reference room of a high end audio store and people sitting commenting how good it sounds. As the record played something was just not right. It sounded overly engineered – if that’s possible.

I pulled out a Bob Dylan (2/2) and listened; then another cut of Amos Lee; then a (3/3) Neil Young. The heavy vinyl just did not sound natural to me.

I now have had a listening experience for myself that confirms all the comments you make on heavy vinyl.

Thanks Tom for Hot Stampers!

Mike

Mike,Thanks for your letter, glad to hear that you hear what we hear!

You carried out your own little record experiment, and discovered the dirty little secret of the Heavy Vinyl pressing: they don’t sound right, at least not up against a real record.

We’ve carried out a few of our own, and you can find a bunch of them here:

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

You also no doubt improved your critical listening skills, and the better they get, the worse modern records sound. We have written a fair bit about that as well.

Improving Your Critical Listening Skills

With better critical listening skills, you have two options: do your own shootouts, or let us do them for you. There is no other way to find high quality pressings of the music you love.

Thanks for your letter.TP

P.S.

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 and get lost in it.

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 some Classic Records.

Now when we play the vinyl those companies produced 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 are we bothering?” 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.

A Simple Listening Test Makes It Easy to Judge Pressings of Scheherazade

Hot Stamper Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Advice on What to Listen For on Classical Records

The Classic reissue of LSC 2446 is a disaster for many reasons, but it does have one specific failing that is easy to recognize and worth further discussion and analysis.

As I noted for some of the Classic Heifetz titles a while back, for all I know the CDs for his Living Stereo recordings may have better sound. That’s probably the first place to go, considering Classic’s rather poor track record regarding the remastering of his music.

Case in point: The Living Stereo CD I own (both the CD and the SACD) of Scheherazade is dramatically better than the awful Classic Records pressing of it.

Audiophiles who don’t notice what is wrong with the Classic pressing need to get hold of a nice RCA White Dog pressing to see just how poorly the Classic stacks up. (They could even find one that’s not so nice and listen through the surface noise. The difference would still be obvious.)

The solo violin in the left channel at the opening of the first movement should be all it takes.

Anyone has ever attended a classical music concert should have no trouble recognizing that the violin on any of the Heavy Vinyl pressings, including the Analogue Productions pressing, is completely wrong and sounds nothing like a violin in a concert hall would ever sound.

And I mean ever.

No matter where you might be sitting.

No matter how good or bad the hall’s acoustics.

The violin on these Heavy Vinyl pressings is dark, it’s veiled, and it’s overly rich, as well as lacking in overtones.

Solo violins in live performance never sound anything like that.

They are clear, clean and present. You have no trouble at all “seeing” them, no matter where you sit.

My best sounding White Dog pressing had that kind of clear and present sound for the violin.

Neither of the Heavy Vinyl reissues I auditioned did.

A pressing of Scheherazade that fails to reproduce the solo violin, the musical voice of the young lady herself, fails utterly and completely, no matter how big, rich and powerful the opening brass may be.

If you think your Heavy Vinyl pressings are doing justice to the sound of classical music, please attend a live concert as soon as possible in order to disabuse yourself of that notion.

Once you hear how unfaithful your classical records are to the sound of the live performance, you can begin to collect records of higher fidelity.

Would Adjusting the VTA for the Heavier Weight Vinyl Fix the Problem?

Probably not. VTA is all about balance. You can get the violin to be brighter and clearer by changing the VTA, but now listen for the weight of the opening brass. When the VTA is wrong, the brass won’t sound right. Neither will the percussion. Neither will the space of the hall be right. Neither will the orchestral perspective.

Adjusting for all these elements involve tradeoffs. When all the elements sound close to their best, and none of them are “wrong,” the VTA is pretty much right.

And that solo violin will not be much better. It is what it is, it sounds the way it sounds, because the mastering engineer got it wrong. You cannot fix bad mastering by changing the VTA.

Tea for the Tillerman?

Back in the ’80s, when I first got into the audiophile record business, I had a customer tell me how much he liked the UHQR of Tea for the Tillerman. This was a record I was selling sealed for $25. And you could buy as many as you liked at that price! I was paying $9 for them and could order them by the hundreds if I’d wanted to. (Yes, I admit I had no shame.)

I replied to this fellow that “the MoFi is awfully bright, don’t you think?”

“Oh no, you just adjust your VTA until the sound is tonally correct.”

At the time I could not adjust my VTA, so I filed that bit of information away for a later time.

When I finally did get a tonearm with adjustable VTA, I quickly learned that trying to correct the tonality of a record with VTA adjustments was a fool’s game.

The tonality might be better, but the bass would get wonky and weird, the deepest notes would disappear or become boosted, the highs would sound artificial, various elements of the recording would randomly become louder and softer, wreaking havoc with the balance of the mix, and on and on.

In other words, fixing one thing would cause lots of other things to go wrong.

This fellow couldn’t hear it, and like a lot of audiophiles writing about records these days, he simply did not have the critical listening skills to notice all the problems he was creating with his “fix.”

My skills were pretty poor back then too. I have worked very hard for the last 30 years or so to improve them. I did it by experimenting on records, and experimenting with VTA adjustments has taught me a lot.

It showed me that I could get dramatically better sound by playing with the VTA for ten or twenty minutes until I found the ideal setting.

It also taught me that trying to fix a mastering problem by adjusting the VTA will only work if you haven’t developed much in the way of critical listing skills.

Comparing the way the violin sounds on various pressings of Scheherazade will help you to develop these skills, as long as you know what this music should sound like in performance. You need both, and doing one without the other won’t get you very far. I spent my first twenty years in audio “in the wilderness,” so to speak, so I believe I am on solid ground with this advice.


A PUBLIC SERVICE

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Why Own a Turntable if You’re Going to Play Mediocrities Like These?

Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

Reviews and Commentaries for Blue

This commentary was posted in 2007 and amended later with the statement that we would no longer be ordering new heavy vinyl titles starting in 2010. By 2011 we had eliminated them completely from our site.

If you bought any Heavy Vinyl pressing from us, ever, now is the time to get rid of it and hear what a Hot Stamper can do for your musical enjoyment. 

Three of the Top Five sellers this week (8/22/07) at Acoustic Sounds are records we found hard to like: Aja, Aqualung and Blue. Can you really defend the expense and hassle of analog LP playback with records that sound as mediocre as the Rhino pressing of Blue?

Why own a turntable if you’re going to play records like these? I have boxes of CDs that sound more musically involving and I don’t even bother to play those. Why would I take the time to throw on some 180 gram record that sounds worse than a good CD?

If I ever found myself in the position of having to sell mediocrities like the ones you see pictured in order to make a living, I’d be looking for another line of work. The vast majority of these newly-remastered pressings are just not very good.

We Aren’t Walmart and We Definitely Don’t Want to Be Walmart

We leave that distinction to our colleagues at Acoustic Sounds, Elusive Disc and Music Direct (Walmart, Target and Sears perhaps? [Yes, Sears existed when I wrote this screed! Time flies.]).

They sell anything and everything that some hapless audiophile might wander onto their site and find momentarily attractive, like shiny bits of glass dangling from a tree, glittering as brightly as fool’s gold. They know their market and they know where the real money is. (Hint: it ain’t records, dear reader, it’s equipment. If you haven’t seen one of their thick full-color catalogs lately, count how many pages of equipment you have to wade through at the front before you get to the “recommended recordings.”) [I would amend that to say that it probably is records now. Since 2007 they have become much more popular and profitable. Apparently you can cut the same title 16 different times and audiophiles will just keep buying them.]

The Hall of Shame

We had no business selling Neil Young’s Greatest Hits — the typical dead-as-a-doornail remastering job we’ve come to expect from Classic over the years — and now it can be found only in our Hall of Shame where it should have been located from the start.

Which, by the way, has a new member: In Through the Out Door. We were doing a shootout in time for the mailer this week and decided to crack the Classic open to give it another listen, since my review was about five years old at this point, a lifetime in the world of audio. (My world of audio, anyway, and hopefully yours.)

Well, it turned out to be nothing but an absolute piece of crap. Tonally wrong from top to bottom, compressed, lacking presence, life, energy — an unmitigated disaster, joining the Classic pressings of II, III and Houses, three of the other worst sounding Zeppelin records I have ever had the misfortune to play. It’s a perfect We Was Wrong entry — watch for it soon — and we owe an apology to anyone who bought one from us. So sorry!

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Universal Japan – The Economics of Buying a Pig in a Poke

One of my good customers sent me this email shortly after this series came out, circa 2000:

I noticed that Universal Japan has come out with several new titles, stuff I’m interested in, like Stevie Wonder / Innervisions…Stan Getz, James Brown…and many others — that are on acousticsounds.com.

Generally, for these somewhat expensive heavy vinyl releases (relative to used prices), I’m trying to stick with stuff where your site has favorable comments regarding the sound quality but you don’t seem to carry these new items.

Do you think they are bad, or you just have not had a chance to check them out yet?”

I replied as follows:

We don’t like Japanese records. They almost NEVER sound good to these ears. The only report I’ve heard concerned Aja, which was that it was awful, bright as bright can be.

A Japanese pressing that’s too bright? Shocking. Say it isn’t so.

We are going to be carrying almost no new releases of heavy vinyl pressings from now on. They just don’t sound good to us and we don’t want to waste our time playing bad records when there are so many good ones sitting around that need a loving home.

If you pay $30 for heavy vinyl reissues and only one out of five sounds good — an optimistic estimate if you ask me — you’re really paying $150 for the one good one, right?

This makes no sense to me. And since the real odds are one out of ten, it’s really $300 for the good one.


Which made me think back to our recent blog entry in which we discussed the latest round of bad Heavy Vinyl LPs that are apparently selling like hotcakes at Acoustic Sounds. If you like the new versions of Aja, Aqualung and Blue, by all means, buy some Universal Japanese Heavy Vinyl pressings. If that’s your sound, go for it, dude. Who are we to say you are wrong?

But if you don’t like the sound of those three titles on Heavy Vinyl, where can you go to find records that sound better than those three do? I only know of one place, and it’s right here.

Happy Shopping,
TP

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Letter of the Week – ” Big, warm, mushy and limp, yes.”

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries and Reviews

One of our good customers had this to say about some records he played recently:

Hey Tom, 

I just had to drop you a brief note, to say THANK YOU, for your writings regarding DCC pressings many years back.

I was just going back through them on your site, after I unearthed my DCC pressings this afternoon and gave a couple of them (i.e., Elton’s Madman; Joni’s Court and Spark) a spin – as I recall y’all being the first to speak truth in the face of overwhelming adoration regarding these (when they first were released).

OMG. They are COMPLETELY lifeless, with ZERO energy! Big, warm, mushy and limp, yes. Probably sound comforting (at some level) on a low-budget lean solid state system. But on a system with any level of transparency and truth-to-pressing, YIKES. It just made me sad.

THEN, I went online, and checked the current PRICES for these pressings (of which I own several sealed), and I got SUPER HAPPY! People are paying some serious coin for these turkeys – so I can be well rid of them, and take that cash and buy some more of YOUR awesome pressings! Win-win! 👍😊

Warmest regards

Steve

Steve,

Thanks for your letter. A few thoughts:

The sound I think you are hearing that you refer to as lifeless and lacking in energy is really the result of Kevin Gray’s lousy cutting chain. The sound you hear on your DCC albums is the precisely the sound I had heard on this DCC album many years ago. Played back to back with the properly mastered, properly pressed originals, the DCC was shockingly lacking in many of the most important qualities a record can have.

Low resolution cutters like the ones used to cut the DCC discs sound dead and and boring, even when the mastering choices are good ones and no obvious compression is being used. (Kevin Gray famously does not have a way to put compressors into his chain, as my friend Robert Pincus at Cisco found out when he cut 52nd Street and could not get some aspects of it to sound right. It needed compression and there was none to be had.)

I have been beating this long-dead horse for about fifteen years now. Any time I actually do play one of the DCC records these days it usually sounds worse than I remember it.

As one’s stereo improves, and one actually has good records to play, the shortcomings of these audiophile pressings become less and less tolerable, and now, in 2022, with all the Revolutions in Audio that have come our way, they sound so third-rate one would be hard-pressed to sit through one.

We think this is a clear sign of progress.

Lucky for you there are still audiophiles who have not made the progress you’ve made. They are still willing to pay premium prices for these records, and that means you won’t have to take a haircut on them.

Think about this though.

I liked those DCC records just fine when they came out. Said lots of nice things about them. Back in the ’90s, when you first bought some, you liked them just fine too.

The audiophiles buying them today are not idiots and fools. They are exactly where we were in those days. We learned, and they can learn too. There is hope for everybody!

But you had help. You got hold of some Hot Stampers, and that raised the bar for your listening experience beyond any Heavy Vinyl pressing ever made. The obviously superior sound of the Hot Stamper pressings you acquired — or found on your own — made it easy to hear what was wrong with the reissues and their “audiophile sound.”

As long as the fans of Heavy Vinyl stick with Heavy Vinyl, how are they ever going to learn how mediocre their records are?

It is a problem that has no easy solution. We sure haven’t found one.

These people are stuck, and the more we attack their records, the more they defend them in order to avoid feeling bad about themselves, a classic example of the pernicious results of the natural human need to avoid cognitive dissonance.

You are the living proof that some can hear, some can tell the difference, and some can make progress in this crazy hobby of ours. Thanks again for your letter.

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

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Critical Listening Vs. Listening for Enjoyment

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 of these — 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 important too but that is not the focus of today’s commentary.)

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 insufferable bore.

If this sounds arrogant and elitist, so be it. Heavy Vinyl records are fine for some people, but for about the last fifteen years we’ve set a higher standard for ourselves and our customers. Holding our records to that higher standard allows us to price our Hot Stamper pressings 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? We talked about our approach to audio in a commentary we wrote decades ago:

We have put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.

It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.

If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.

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