Labels With Shortcomings – Classic Records – Rock and Pop

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (1st Album) on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

Another addition to our Hall of Shame from one of our favorite whipping boys here at Better Records, the late but hardly lamented Classic Records.

Bernie Grundman’s mastering approach for the first PG album is a disaster — brighter and cleaner, which turns out to be precisely the wrong sound for the music.

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

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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: AjaAqualung and Blue. Can you really defend the expense and hassle of analog LP playback with records that sound as mediocre as this 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? (more…)

The Who By Numbers – More Bass or More Detail, Which Is Right?

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Who by Numbers.

With Doug Sax mastering from the real tape, you get a Rock Solid Bottom End like you will not believe. Talk about punchy, well-defined and deep, man, this record has BASS that you sure don’t hear too often on rock records. 

And it’s not just bass that separates the Men from the Boys, or the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue for that matter. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles. It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern. It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended. The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played.

But not the Classic. Oh no, so much of what gives Who By Numbers its Classic Rock sound has been equalized right out of the Heavy Vinyl reissue by Chris Bellman at BG’s mastering house. Some have said the originals are warmer but not as detailed. I would have to agree, but that misses the point entirely: take out the warmth — the fullness that makes the original pressings sound so right — and you of course hear more detail, as the detail region is no longer masked by all the stuff going on below it. Want to hear detail? Disconnect your woofers — you’ll hear plenty of detail all right! (more…)

Letter of the Week – Who’s Next

Who’s Next

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

Hey Tom,  

Just listened to the Very Hot Stamper of “Who’s Next” and thought I’d drop a little note: Holy F&*K that was POWERFUL!!! No record I own ever did that And I’m talking bone-rattling, earth-shaking, sock-you-in-the-gut POWERFUL. I’ve always known that The Who were one of the most intense bands in the history of rock n’ roll. Hell, everybody knows that and it’s part of the reason we love ’em so much. But with this record, I experienced the sheer physical force of their music like I NEVER have before. I couldn’t believe I heard bass notes hang in the air and resonate for long stretches. Bass notes never just hang like that! No record I own ever did that.
But this particular slab of vinyl offered more than just low-end power. Its grooves exploded with such energy, dynamics, and pure EXCITEMENT that I was honestly concerned my cartridge was going to jump off the record and say “Sorry, this is just too much.” Remarkably, it held up for the whole wild ride.

Anyhow, after that shockingly great experience, I (reluctantly) spun the Classic version of this album for comparison purposes. You’re right, there’s no going back. The difference is almost comical. On the track “Going Mobile”, while it certainly has well-defined bass and great detail, it sounded like a different take – a much worse take. The conviction in Townshend’s singing and guitar playing had been sucked out, as if he was bored of his own new song. I would have been sad hearing it if I didn’t know there was much better copy sitting on my shelf. So thank you for helping me take a dozen GIANT steps closer to the true sound of this phenomenal album. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

This was one of only three Classic Records 180 (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. These days the Classic just sounds second-rate compared to the real thing. 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…)

The Who – The Who Sell Out – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Not our idea of good sound. The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next, which is actually pretty good — we gave it a B. (I suspect it would earn a lower grade now; we had lower standards for Heavy Vinyl back then.) 

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Tonally correct, which is one thing you can’t say for most of the Zeps in this series, that’s for sure. Those of you with crappy domestic copies, crappy imported reissues and crappy CDs, which is pretty much all there is of this recording, will not know what you’re missing.

Compare this title to some of the better Classic Zep releases and I expect you will notice that hearing into the midrange is a more difficult proposition on these songs, with reduced ambience and space around the voices and instruments.

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. (more…)

Carole King – Tapestry on Classic Records Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: B

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic LP, but I remember it as being fairly good. At the time we wrote:

It’s a little rolled off on the top, but it’s a good rolled off, because brightening it up would make it sound modern and wrong. It’s rich and full of body, especially the piano, the way modern recordings almost never are.

Musically it’s hard to fault as well. What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good a non-hit track like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those on this album because almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play; the quality of the material is that good.

Heavy Vinyl and the Loss of Transparency (more…)

The Who – Tommy – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic Tommy is bass shy. It could have had amazing bass, like their Who’s Next, but it doesn’t. Why, I have no idea. The overall sound is thin, so thin that we immediately knew there was no point in carrying it (back in the bad old days when we carried Heavy Vinyl).

The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next; the rest of them vary from mediocre to dreadful.

The Who – Live at Leeds – Universal Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame Pressing

Universal Records 180 gram LP. Flat as a pancake sound. The CD almost has to be better.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.