Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Disaster from Classic Records… Zep IV

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

A classic case of Live and Learn

Back in the day I thought the Classic 180 and then 200 gram pressing was the king on this title. In late 2006 I wrote:

“You can hear how much cleaner and more correct the mastering is right away…”

Folks, I must have been out of my mind.

No, that’s not quite fair. I wasn’t out of my mind. I just hadn’t gotten my system to the place where it needed to be to allow the right original pressings to show me how much better they can sound.

Our EAR 324 phono stage and constantly evolving tweaks to both the system and room are entirely responsible for our ability to reproduce this album correctly. If your equipment, cleaning regimen, room treatments and the like are mostly “old school” in any way, getting the album to sound right will be all but impossible. Without the myriad audio advances of the last decade or so you are just plain out of luck with a Nearly Impossible to Reproduce album such as this.

All of the above are courtesy of the phenomenal Revolutions in Audio that have come about over the last twenty years or so. It’s what progress in audio in all about.

The exact same 200 gram review copy now [this was written about ten years ago] sounds every bit as tonally correct as it used to, and fairly clean too, as described above, but where is the magic?

You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, nothing will bring this dead-as-a-doornail Classic LP to life.

Relatively speaking, of course. For twenty eight bucks (when it was in print) could you buy something better? Probably not. (Now it’s $100 to $400 on ebay and at that price you are definitely not getting your money’s worth.)

The average IV is really a piece of junk. And if you don’t have at least $10k in your front end (with phono), forget it. It takes top quality equipment to bring this album to life, and you better be prepared to go through a large number of copies to find a good one.


Led Zeppelin / Presence – Classic Records Reviewed

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

Sonic Grade: D

This was one of only three Classic Records 180 gram (later 200 gram) titles that I used to recommend back in the day.

Now when I play the heavy vinyl pressing, I find the subtleties of both the music and the sound that I expect to hear have simply gone missing.

It may be tonally correct, which for a Led Zeppelin pressing on the Classic Records label is unusual in our experience (II and Houses being ridiculously bright), but it, like Physical Graffiti and some others, badly lacks resolution compared to the real thing, the real thing being a run-of-the-mill early pressing.

You can adjust the VTA of your rig until you’re blue in the face, you’ll never get the Classic to sound better than passable.

The average original pressing is better, and that means Classic’s version deserves a sub-standard grade of D. (more…)

Cat Stevens and the Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

Our Mobile Fidelity Hall of Shame listings totaled more than 40 back in 2010, and we noted at the time that the real number would be at least double that and probably more than triple that figure if we took the time to make listings for all the bad records this label has released, It stands at 50 or so as of 2022.

In case you don’t already know, one of the worst sounding, if not THE WORST SOUNDING VERSION OF ALL TIME, of our beloved Teaser and the Firecat is the Mobile Fidelity Anadisq pressing that came out in the ’90s.

If you own that record, you really owe it to yourself to pull it out and play it. It’s just a mess and it should sound like a mess, whether you have anything to compare it to or not.

If I were in charge of the TAS Super Disc List, I would strike this record from it in a heartbeat.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.

We offer a number of Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Here’s a good question:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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Love on Heavy Vinyl – Indefensible Dreck from Sundazed

More of the Music of Love

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Love

Sonic Grade: F

Two Audiophile Hall of Shame titles, and another two Sundazed records reviewed and found seriously wanting.

We got hold of a minty original pressing of the first Love album back around 2007, so in preparation for the commentary I pulled one of the Sundazed pressings off the shelf, (Forever Changes, the only one we ever bothered to sell), cracked it open and threw it on the turntable. 

Gag, what a piece of crap. When I had auditioned them all those years ago (2002), it was — I’m not kidding — the best of the bunch.

The sound to me back then was nothing special, but not bad. Knowing how rare the originals were, we gave it a lukewarm review and put it in the catalog, the single Sundazed Love album that (just barely) made the cut.

Now I wish I hadn’t, because no one should have to suffer through sound that bad. Here’s what I wrote for the shootout:

You’d never know it from those dull Sundazed reissues, but the right pressings of Love albums are full of Tubey Magic! With Bruce Botnick at the controls you can expect a meaty bottom end and BIG rock sound, and this recording really delivers on both counts.

With Sundazed mastering engineers running the show, you can expect none of the above.

No Tubey Magic, no meaty bottom end, no big rock sound.

After the shootout, I took the two copies we had in stock right down to my local record store and traded them in. I didn’t want them in my house, let alone on my site.

I’m glad that title didn’t sell very well because now I feel I owe a personal apology to anyone who might have bought one from me, thinking they were getting a half-way decent record.

They were getting no such thing. They were getting a piece of garbage. 

A textbook case of Live and Learn.


Chet Atkins / Chet Atkins in Hollywood on Classic Records

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

More of the Music of Chet Atkins

Sonic Grade: D

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic pressing, but I remember it as nothing special. Like a lot of the records put out by this label, it’s tonally fine but low-rez and lacking space, warmth and, above all, Tubey Magic.

I don’t think I’ve ever played an original that didn’t sound better, and that means that the best grade we could possibly give Classic’s pressing is a D for below average.

My guess is that the Living Stereo CD sounds better than this so-called Heavy Vinyl Audiophile Pressing. It did on this Classic Record, and for ten dollars, why not see for yourself?

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Paganini on Fenn 180g Vinyl – Where Is the Outrage?

Hot Stamper Pressings of the Music of Paganini

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Paganini

We managed to get hold of the Heavy Vinyl pressing put out by Fenn Music in Germany, about which a well known record dealer on the web (you may recognize the style) had this to say:

“Stunning Reissue Of EMI ASD 440 Recorded In Stereo In 1961. This Recording Featuring The Royal Philharmonic Conducted By Alberto Erede Provides Convincing Proof, If Any Were Needed, That Menuhin Was One Of The Great Violinists Of The 20th Century.”

The “convincing proof” provided by this record is that those responsible for it are Rank Incompetents of the Worst Kind (see what I did there?). Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound to be subjected to from this piece of Heavy Vinyl trash.

Had I paid good money to buy this pressing from 2004 in the hopes of hearing the supremely talented Yehudi Menuhin of 1961 tear it up on Paganini’s legendary first two concertos, I can tell you one thing: I would be pissed.

Where is the outrage in the audiophile community over this kind of trash?

I have yet to see it. I suspect I will grow quite a bit older and quite a bit grayer before anyone from the audiophile commentariat notices just how bad this record sounds. I hope I’m proven wrong.

Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound from this piece of Heavy Vinyl garbage.

NO warmth.

NO sweetness.

NO richness.

NO Tubey Magic.

In other words, NO trace of the original’s (or the early reissue’s) analog sound. At most I may own one or two classical CDs that sound this bad, and I own quite a few. When audiophiles of an analog bent tell you they don’t like the sound of CDs, this is why they don’t like them: they sound like this junky heavy vinyl record.

I have to wonder how records this awful get released.

Then again, the Heavy Vinyl Buyer of today is not known for his discrimination. If he were, Sundazed, Mobile Fidelity, Analogue Productions, Music Matters and a host of others would have gone out of business many years ago.

This link will take you to some other exceptionally bad records that, like this one, were marketed to audiophiles for their supposedly superior sound. On today’s modern systems, it should be obvious that they have nothing of the kind and that, in fact, the opposite is true.

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The Doors – L.A. Woman Is a Disaster on German Heavy Vinyl, Part One

There is [was; it’s out of print now] a German 180 gram pressing of L.A. Woman which [was] so bad, I am calling this commentary The Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing is a sign that, to me at least, The End Is Near, or May Be. If this isn’t a good example of a Pass/Fail record, I don’t know what would be.

[This commentary was written a long time ago and much of our thinking about the recordings of The Doors has evolved since then, having played scores of their records in shootouts and learned something from every one. Click here to read more.]

Dateline: January, 2005

[Note that some of this commentary from the dawn of time (2005 qualifies when it comes to Hot Stampers) falls under the heading of We Was Wrong, especially the part about there not being a good vinyl version of the album. We heard some killer pressings starting around 2011-2012, but boy are they few and far between.]

There is a new 180 gram German pressing of The Doors LA Woman album which is so bad, I am calling this commentary Audiophile Apocalypse. The fact that some audiophiles and audiophile reviewers appear to like this pressing to me is a sign that The End Is Near. There is no hope for audiophiles if they can’t tell a good record from a bad one, and this is clearly a bad one.

When I first played it I thought there must be something wrong with my stereo. There was no deep bass. (This recording has amazing deep bass.) The sound was upper midrangey and distorted. There was no extreme top at all. This surprised me, as I had heard that this was supposed to be a good record. What I heard coming off the copy that I was playing was pure garbage. I was confused. (more…)

Grant Green on Music Matters – Tizzy Cymbals and a Bright Snare Drum, That’s Your Idea of Audiophile Sound?

Hot Stamper Blue Note Albums Available Now

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, the audiophile world is drowning in them).

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 they 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. (To be clear, we only sold verified good sounding records starting in 2004.)

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:

Bass is sloppy and fat.

The bass is boosted and badly lacks definition. It constantly calls attention to itself. It is the kind of sloppy bass that cannot be found on any RVG recording, none that I have ever heard anyway, and I’ve heard them by the hundreds.

You no doubt know about the boosted bass on the remastered Beatles albums. It’s that sound. Irritating in the extreme, and just plain wrong.

Reserved. Playing through a curtain.

Very few Heavy Vinyl records these days do not sound veiled and reserved in the midrange.

To get a better sense of the effect, throw a medium weight blanket over your speakers. Voila! Your thin vinyl now weighs 180 grams!

No space.

Typical of Heavy Vinyl. The studio space and ambience found on the better vintage pressings, the kind we play all day long, is GONE.

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More Evidence of Ron McMaster’s Flat Out Incompetence

More of the Music of Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Gaucho

Sonic Grade: D

Reasonably good bass, we’ll give it that, but no top end and no Tubey Magic.

More of Ron McMaster’s handiwork. The result is a record that simply has no reason to exist.

The AVERAGE original pressing sitting in your local record store bin right now for probably all of ten bucks will MURDER this piece of crap. 

As we noted for Ron’s remastered Band album:

When you see that little RM in the dead wax of one of these new Heavy Vinyl reissues, you know you’ve just flushed your money down the toilet. There should be a warning label on the jacket: Mastered by Ron McMaster.

It’s only a warning to those of us familiar with his work of course; the general public, and that includes the general audiophile public, probably won’t have much of a problem with the sound of this record, or anything else he does.

He still has the job, doesn’t he? What does that tell you?


FURTHER READING

There is an abundance of audiophile collector hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and many of them are simply awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how bad it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

Audiophiles seem to have approached these records naively instead of skeptically.

(But hold on just a minute. Who am I to talk? I did the same thing when I first got into audio and record collecting in the Seventies.)

How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear how mediocre-at-best these records sound.

Their equipment is not the issue. I suspect most audiophiles have perfectly good equipment. What some of these audiophiles have failed to ask themselves about the sound of their Heavy Vinyl records is, “compared to what?”

It’s the most important question in all of audio. And to answer it, audiophiles need to learn how to do shootouts. This means you.

Without shootouts, how can you begin to know the specific strengths and weaknesses of the sound of the pressings you own?

That’s where we come in. We are happy to help you find better sounding records using the methods we’ve developed over the last twenty years.

One of the best place to start is with this FAQ entry: How Can I Find My Own Hot Stampers?

Now, if you would like some evidence to support the idea that Hot Stamper pressings actually are better sounding records, before you spend all the time and effort it will take to find your own, we make it very easy for you to do just that.  Simply go here and order anything you see.

We recommend you try a record you know well. It also helps if you have other pressings to play against our Hot Stamper. You have to hear the difference and see the value for yourself, on your stereo. You determine what the value of the record is, not me.

Hearing Is Believing. No explanations or descriptions can do justice to the sound of a truly great vinyl pressing played on high quality audiophile equipment. It is the thrill we all live for, and it never gets old.

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Classic Records and the TAS List

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

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 apparently far less revealing when we last auditioned the Classic back in the ’90s, and those two qualities did most of the heavy lifting needed 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.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.

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