Labels We Love – Asylum

Linda Ronstadt – The Middle of the Midrange Is Key

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Here’s what we learned when doing our recent shootout: many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a lot of things. In this case, these half-speed sounding ones had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had an overall diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. 

These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFi’s and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is THAT SOUND.

But think about it. What if you only had one copy of the album — why would you have more than one anyway? — and it had that Half-Speed Sound? You’d simply assume the recording had those qualities, assuming you could even recognize them in the first place. (Let’s face it, most audiophiles can’t, or all these companies would have gone out of business and stayed out of businesss, and their out of print records would sell for peanuts, not the collector prices they bring on ebay and audiophile web sites.) (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Hasten Down The Wind

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Hasten Down The Wind

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This copy is huge, rich and lively, with Linda’s vocals reproduced to near perfection.

The sound is rich, smooth, full-bodied and natural on both sides. In other words, this is Classic Analog from the ’70s, recorded by none other than Val Garay, one of our favorite engineers.

Most pressings of this album have quite obvious problems. If you own the record see if you don’t notice some of them on your own copy. Some have a boosted top end, a subject we have discussed on Linda’s records before. Some are just too fat and Tubey. Perhaps the result of too much Aphex Aural Excitement?

Some are thick, some are thin, some are too clean, some are not clean enough, every sonic issue you can imagine can be heard on this album if you have enough copies to play, and we had plenty. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

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What’s New

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for What’s New
  • So hugely spacious and three-dimensional, yet with a tonally correct and fairly natural sounding Linda, this is the way to hear it
  • What engineer George Massenburg gets right is the sound of an orchestra, augmented with jazz musicians (Ray Brown, Tommy Tedesco, Plas Johnson, Bob Cooper), all performing live in a huge studio
  • “…the best and most serious attempt to rehabilitate an idea of pop that Beatlemania… undid in the mid-60’s.”

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Joni Mitchell – Miles of Aisles

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Miles of Aisles

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  • This Joni Mitchell classic boasts STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all four sides
  • The sound is incredibly rich, warm and Tubey Magical with huge amounts of space and breathy presence on her vocals
  • Joni reworks all her material here, giving the songs new arrangements and making them fresh again – it’s got a cool Court and Spark vibe
  • “It’s a strong album of her best songs performed mostly informally… Much of the material here is beautiful, replete with the patented Mitchell tension. And a word for engineer Henry Lewy—the sound is terrific, the best reproduced concert album I’ve heard.” Rolling Stone

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Linda Ronstadt – For Sentimental Reasons

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For Sentimental Reasons

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  • A superb sounding copy of Ronstadt’s 1986 release with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Both sides are incredibly clean, clear, full-bodied, and lively with plenty of extension on both ends, we’ve never heard For Sentimental Reasons sound like this!
  • The final installment of the jazz trilogy that Ronstadt recorded with bandleader and arranger Nelson Riddle
  • “… it is in the hushed intensity of Mr. Riddle’s string arrangements for the album’s ballads that one senses a musician reaching deeply into his soul to make eloquent final statements… The arrangements’ emotional gravity reverberates in Miss Ronstadt’s singing…”

Both sides give you a much more natural sounding Linda than you have ever heard. She’s fuller, sweeter, breathier, less spitty (some tracks more than others) and just plain less artificial than any others we played. (more…)

Andrew Gold – Andrew Gold – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Andrew Gold – Andrew Gold

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. My comments for this side two note how spacious and present and full of energy it is. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not.

As with any pop album there are always some tracks that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material. This Hot Stamper copy brings Andrew Gold’s music to LIFE. (more…)

2-Packs – The Best Case for Dramatic Pressing Variations

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Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles’ First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets. 

What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy — on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer — was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say “CD sound. ” When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.

We encouraged the lucky owner to play the bad side for himself just to hear how awful it is, yet surprisingly, one might even say shockingly, it has exactly the qualities that audiophiles and collectors are most often satisfied with: the right label, and, in this case even the right stampers (assuming anyone besides us would know what the right stampers are). (more…)

Eagles – Desperado

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This Original Asylum White Label Pressing has a STRONG A++ side one backed with a KILLER A+++ side two! It’s been a couple of weeks since we finished our big shootout for this great album and I still can’t get over how amazing this copy sounded. Most copies are too compressed to ever really come to life, but this one is big, bold and dynamic with lots of energy. The bottom end is positively killer on this one. 

Side one earned an A++ grade. It’s incredibly transparent with lots of ambience and space around the various instruments. There’s loads of tubey magic; most copies just aren’t this rich, warm or sweet. Our very best side ones have a little more presence, but I doubt anyone will be less than thrilled by the sound here.

Side two has it ALL going on, which is why we gave it our top grade of A+++. The soundfield is big, wide and DEEP. The top end is extended and silky sweet, qualities that you don’t get on most copies out there. This side has all the immediacy you could ask for. I just don’t think you could find a better sounding side two no matter what you did.

On the TAS Super Disc List, Harry Pearson recommends the British SYL pressings for this album. SYL pressings can sound very good; we’ve previously found one that rated a Double Plus on both sides. But our champions for both sides were both domestic, both this time and last time. (more…)

Jackson Browne – The Pretender – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

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Amazing A++++ (Four Plus) sound, so good we rated it beyond our usual top grade of Triple Plus. Without a doubt it’s the best sounding Jackson Browne record ever made, and this copy backs up everything we say and more.

Side one was super transparent, with breathy, present vocals. What really blew us away on this one is the sheer size and openness of the soundfield. We were so impressed that we went beyond our usual top grade of A+++, something we rarely do. But when a copy like this comes along and sets a new standard for an album’s sonic potential, there’s nothing else we CAN do!

Side two was every bit as good! Absolutely As Good As It Gets! Big and open, solid and rich, this one is doing absolutely everything we could ask it to. The soundstage is HUGE, and the transparency and separation between parts are stunning. If you’re looking for Demo Disc Jackson Browne sound, this is it.

Demo Disc Sound

This is one of the all time great rock / pop Demo Discs — the sound of the best copies is so rich and full-bodied it makes most other rock records sound positvely anemic. As I’m sure you know by now, especially if you own a copy or two, pressings of The Pretender don’t usually sound like Demo Discs. In fact, most copies of this record are mediocre at best — thin, grainy, and flat sounding.

This copy is none of those things. And it positively MURDERS the famous MoFi pressing. Click on the Aural Excitement tab above to read more on that subject. (more…)

Eagles – Hotel California – Rockin’ Out to Victim of Love

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Victim of Love is yet another one of our favorite tracks that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

It’s the sound of this five piece tearing it up LIVE IN THE STUDIO. It’s also the track where the DCC just falls apart for us. Where did the rock and roll energy go? The DCC makes it sound like the band just doesn’t care, which was certainly not our experience when were playing any of the killer Hot Stampers we came across. Just the reverse was true; we had them turned up full blast and they ROCKED.

In fact I might go so far as to say that Victim of Love is the best sounding track on the whole album. It’s punchy, real and MUSICAL in a way that nothing else on the album is, because it’s being played by a real band, live. The energy and coherency of the sound is like nothing else you will hear on Hotel California, and possibly on any other Eagles record. (more…)