The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.
What the best sides of this McCartney Classic from 1970 have to offer is not hard to hear:
The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we listed above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Looking For The McCartney Magic? Look No Further(more…)
At the end of a recent shootout for Let It Be (June 2014) we decided to see how the 2012 Digitally Remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing would hold up against the 12 (yes, twelve!) British copies we had just finished critically auditioning.
Having evaluated the two best copies on side two, we felt we knew exactly what separated the killer copies (White Hot) from the next tier down (Super Hot). Armed with a vivid memory of how good the music could sound fresh in our minds, we threw on the new pressing. We worked on the VTA adjustment for a couple of minutes to get the sound balanced and as hi-rez as possible for the thicker record and after a few waves of the Talisman we were soon hearing the grungy guitar intro of I’ve Got a Feeling. (more…)
Assembling the latest Beatles album. Can’t see the label so can’t tell if this is the original real Parlophone (which we have never been fans of) or the original Capitol pressing with different tracks (which is equally awful).
But here is the question of the day:
How is it that none of the critics of “twin track stereo” — the two-track recording approach used on the first two albums, with the elements hard-panned left and right — has ever come clean about the obvious twin track sound of Rubber Soul? We used tracks four, five and six to test side two with, and in all three the vocals are hard panned right with most of the instruments hard-panned left. Why is it wrong for Please Please Me to sound that way — the mono mix being the critic’s choice — but fine for Rubber Soul to be heard that way? (more…)
Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series, this time for The Beatles’ amazing fifth album, released in 1965, Help.
Much like we said about the Please Please Me Hot Stampers, on the top copies the presence of the vocals and guitars is so real it’s positively startling at times. Drop the needle on You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away and turn up the volume — on the best copies it will be as if John and Paul were right there in your living room!
The best import copies of this album sound AMAZING, but the typical one is pretty mediocre. Most tend to be dull, with not enough extension up top, as well as thin, lacking weight and body from the lower midrange on down.
To find the Hottest Stampers it helps to have piles and piles of minty British pressings. And lots of time on your hands. Fortunately we have both!
This is a tough album to get to sound right, as long-time readers of our site surely know, but on a good copy it can sound wonderful. This one really delivers, with plenty of presence and energy as well as natural, balanced tonality.
So, What’s Out There?
We’ve heard copies that were smeared, murky, muddy, grainy, or all of the above. Almost all of them had no real magic in the midrange. And of course, we heard tons of copies with the kind of gritty vocals that you’ll find all over the average Parlophone Beatles pressing. So when we dropped the needle on this copy, it was nothing short of a revelation! It has the energy and the life of the music in the grooves in a way I guarantee you have never heard before. (more…)
We discuss in detail what we’re listening for and what the best copies seem to do well that the run-of-the-mill copies simply do not. If you own a copy of the German MMT plays yours and listen for what we’re listening for. It’s all laid out in the track commentary.
Magical Mystery Tour
The fact that this is a key track should be obvious to anyone who has ever played the album. If you don’t have a good copy of the MMT this song will take your head off. Only the German pressings have any real hope of getting it right — the MOFI, British, Japanese, domestic, etc. are uniformly awful in my experience: aggressive and irritating, the worst being the MOFI I would guess.
The German ones break down into three groups – too smooth; just right; and a bit bright or thin. Now remember, almost every copy of this record I played had the exact same stamper numbers. You can’t tell one from another except by dropping the needle on them. There is no visual clue on the record to associate with the sound, no possibility of bias. What comes out of the speakers is all I had to go by.
And it’s easy to confuse the overly smooth ones with the best ones, because on the song MMT smooth is a good thing . But when is smooth too smooth? That’s where track two comes in.
We had an original British pressing in our shootout, unbeknownst to me as it was playing of course. And guess where it finished: dead last. The most thick, congested, crude, distorted, compressed sound of ALL the copies we played. We love the work of Porky, Pecko, et al. in general, but once again this is a case where a British Band recorded in England sounds best on domestic vinyl. (McCartney on Apple is the same way.)
For this music to work all the elements need to be in balance, with correct timbre for the relatively few instruments that make up the arrangements. Opacity, smear or grit instantly destroy the whole point of having a straightforward production, which is to be able to have all the parts laid out cleanly and clearly. Get the production out of the way and just let the music speak for itself.
The truly Hot Stampers remind you of the kind of basic rock and roll record that really knows how to rock. Back in Black comes instantly to mind. Black Dog off Zep IV. This is the sound you want your Straight Up to have. The title of the album is the key to the sound. No fancy packaging, just the band, Straight Up.
The sound of the best pressings of The Beatles — when cleaned with the Walker Enzyme fluids on the Odyssey machine — are truly revelatory.
So much of what holds their records back is not bad mastering or poor pressing quality or problems with the recording itself. It’s getting the damn vinyl clean. (It’s also helpful to have high quality playback equipment that doesn’t add to the inherent limitations of the recordings.)
Know why you never hear Beatles vinyl playing in stereo stores or audio shows? (Love doesn’t count; give me a break.)
Because they’re TOO DAMN HARD to reproduce. You have to have seriously tweaked, top-quality, correct-sounding equipment — and just the right pressings, natch — to get The Beatles’ music to sound right, and that’s just not the kind of stuff they have at stereo stores and audio shows. (Don’t get me started.) (more…)
Back in 2005 we compared the MFSL pressing of Help to a British Parlophone LP and were — mistakenly, as you may have already surmised — impressed by the MoFi.
Mobile Fidelity did a GREAT JOB with Help!. Help! is a famously dull sounding record. I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly. Mobile Fidelity restored the highs that are missing from most copies.
The source of the error in our commentary above is in this sentence, see if you can spot it:
I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly.
Did you figure it out? If you’ve spent much time on our site of course you did. (more…)