Labels We Love – EMI/Harvest

Electric Light Orchestra – ELO 2

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  • This British Harvest pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of the “you-are-there-immediacy” of ANALOG that sets the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else you care to name
  • “It was as personal an effort as Lynne had ever made in music, showcasing his work as singer, songwriter, guitarist, sometime synthesizer player, and producer, and it is more focused than its predecessor but also retains some of the earlier album’s lean textures… the album holds up well, and it and the single [Roll Over Beethoven] did go a long way toward getting them the beginnings of an audience in America.” – All Music

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Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite – Testing for Shrill, Gritty Strings

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

This Angel Melodiya pressing of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two incredible sides. Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT.

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce. You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. Speed, resolving power and freedom from distortion are what this record needs to sound its best. Is your system up to it? There’s only one way to find out.

And if you have any peaky audiophile wire or equipment in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality.

Testing

This is a superb Demonstration disc, but it is also an excellent Test disc. The sound of the best copies is rich, full-bodied, incredibly spacious, and exceptionally extended up top. There is a prodigious amount of musical information spread across the soundstage, much of it difficult to reproduce.

Musicians are banging on so many different percussive devices (often at the far back of the stage, or, even better, far back and left or right) that getting each one’s sonic character to clearly come through is a challenge — and when you’ve met it, a thrill. If you’ve done your homework, this is the kind of record that can show you what you’ve accomplished.

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Sullivan-Mackerras / Pineapple Poll Ballet / Mackerras

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More TAS List Super Discs

  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, this wonderful recording of the Pineapple Poll ballet has superb sound that will be very hard to beat
  • In the best tradition of vintage All Tube analog from 1962, these sides are both rich and clear, with rhythmic drive and energy that keeps the festivities briskly humming along, just as they would in one of the composer’s famous operettas
  • Remarkably colorful orchestration – the brilliant music of Sir Arthur Sullivan shines on this famous TAS List Super Disc
  • “As a score, [Pineapple Poll] quite simply sparkles like freshly popped champagne. … In fact, this is a comic masterpiece. Any viewer will be impressed with the vivacious dancing and the ‘built in’ humour which pervades the work…”

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Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

More on the Subject of Tubes in Audio

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What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness.

We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI the way they did back in the ’70s. Harry Pearson loved many of their recordings, but I sure didn’t.  To this day, some of the records on the TAS List seem to me better suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s than the modern systems of today.

I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the four basics:

  • the limitations of the equipment,
  • bad setups,
  • bad rooms, and
  • poor record cleaning

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s such as McIntosh, Marantz, etc. — I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that exist today.

Today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

The more revealing, more accurate systems of today are in fact what make it possible for us to do our job.

We used to not do it as well, and we talk about it in our Live and Learn section.

You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like. They should sound amazing on your system and in your room, and we stand behind that claim with a 100% Money Back Guarantee. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record is correct. All you need to do is play it back properly.

With each improvement you make in your system, the kinds of high quality pressings we sell — we call them Hot Stampers — will continue to reveal better and better sound in their grooves.

This is not true for the Modern Heavy Vinyl reissue. The better a system gets, the more the faults of those pressings come to light.  This typically sad story is one that is all too common with our customers. (more…)

Deep Purple / Made In Japan – Right at the Top of the List of Great Sounding Live Albums

More Live Recordings of Interest

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Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles.

Machine Head is clearly one of the best sounding hard rock records ever made, and Made In Japan, its successor, sounds more like a top quality studio production than any live album I’ve ever heard. It’s shocking how clean and undistorted the sound is. Equally shocking is the fact that it’s every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be.

This is a combination the likes of which we have never heard.

We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are

  • The Band Rock of Ages,
  • Belafonte at Carnegie Hall,
  • David Live,
  • Johnny Cash At San Quentin,
  • Cheap Trick at Budokan
  • Eric Clapton Just One Night
  • Deep Purple Made in Japan,
  • Donny Hathaway Live,
  • The Jimi Hendrix Concerts,
  • Performance – Rockin The Fillmore,
  • Live Wire – Blues Power,
  • Waiting For Columbus,
  • Lou Rawls Live!
  • Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out and
  • Live at Leeds

I would be proud to have any of them in my collection. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish, this mind-blowing recording is guaranteed to rock your world
  • The transparency, the clarity, the energy, the power – it’s all here on these very special import pressings
  • Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the powerful finish
  • A Top 100 album (Top Ten actually) and Demo Disc to rival the most amazing sounding records of all time
  • 5 stars: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music… no other record defines [Pink Floyd] quite as well as this one.”

This vintage import pressing has the presence, the richness, the size and the energy you always wanted to hear on Dark Side — AND NOW YOU CAN! (more…)

Pink Floyd / Animals – About Ten Years Ago We Discovered the Hottest Stampers of Them All

More Pink Floyd

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

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More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

  • An outstanding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too (for the most part)
  • The best sounding pressing are British reissues, a discovery we made about ten years ago — nothing can touch them
  • For those who appreciate the concept, nothing we have played to date can touch them, but tomorrow we could find a stamper with even better sound – who can say what tomorrow may bring?
  • Forget the dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl and the domestic pressings too – only these Brits have the Tubey Magical Midrange that this Pink Floyd album needs
  • “Of all of the classic-era Pink Floyd albums, Animals is the strangest and darkest, a record that’s hard to initially embrace yet winds up yielding as many rewards as its equally nihilistic successor, The Wall. Animals is all extended pieces, yet it never drifts — it slowly, ominously works its way toward its destination. For an album that so clearly is Waters’, David Gilmour’s guitar dominates thoroughly …it surges with bold blues-rock guitar lines and hypnotic space rock textures.”

As of 2021, Animals sounds better to us this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On the Right Import Pressing 

On the Right Reissue Pressing

If you are interested, click on the link below for:

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice (more…)

Shostakovich – Symphonies Nos. 6 and 11 / Berglund

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

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  • This stunning double album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR sides of this original EMI pressing
  • The notes on every side say practically the same things – big, solid, weighty, punchy, dynamic, clear, musical, balanced
  • We don’t always hear those qualities on the TAS List Super Disc records we play in our shootouts, but we sure heard them on this one! (It has been off the list for a long time now, but back in the ’80s this is the pressing audiophiles were after.)
  • With sound this good, your ability to suspend disbelief will require practically no effort at all

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Set-up Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Turntable Setup Advice

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I once adjusted my anti-skate while playing this very album, at the time dialing it in to a “T”. Over the years I’ve found that the best test for fine anti-skate adjustment is massed strings, and not just at the end of a side but right at the beginning too.

When you have all the rosiny texture, the high-end harmonic extension, the least shrillness and the widest and deepest staging, you are there, assuming that tracking weight, azimuth and VTA are correct as well.

Four variables to mess with is admittedly a bitch, but having the right record to test with is absolutely critical as well. Maybe we should call it five variables.

And if I only had one record to bring to someone’s house in order to evaluate their equipment, this would certainly be a top choice. If you can make this record sound the way it should, your stereo is cookin’. If you are having problems, this record will show them to you in short order. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Meddle

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More Recordings by Robin Black

Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • An outstanding British copy of this shockingly well recorded album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • These sides have presence, size and space we guarantee you have never heard on this album in all your born days
  • An audiophile Demonstration Quality Recording on a par with Dark Side of the Moon, which is really saying something!
  • A mark plays during the opening “pinging” on side two, but find me a good sounding copy with a quiet intro for side two and I will eat it
  • 4 1/2 stars:”Pink Floyd were nothing if not masters of texture, and Meddle is one of their greatest excursions into little details, pointing the way to the measured brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon and the entire Roger Waters era.”

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