Labels With Shortcomings – Rhino / Warners

The Doors – The Soft Parade on Rhino Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

A Gold Label original pressing blew out minds not long ago, after whichwe wrote “Need I even mention how much better this copy sounds than the 180g version from the Rhino Box Set, digitally remastered by Bernie Grundman? That thing is just awful, possibly the worst sounding pressing I have ever heard.” 

The Gold CD Hoffman did for Audio Fidelity is very likely to be night and day better. So much for the concept of vinyl superiority. Not with Bernie at the helm anyway. (more…)

For Pete’s Sake, What’s Wrong With Blue? – Thoughts on “The Definitive Vinyl” Version

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In 2007 a customer took issue with our summary rejection of the new Blue.

Tom, 

I find it curious you are not carrying the new Joni Mitchell Blue vinyl issue. Even to the point of saying you can do better… for 25 bucks? After clicking on the LP cover and reading the comments from over the years it makes me wonder what your agenda really is. I paid $250 for a wonderful WLP and this Rhino issue smokes it, even as good as it is. I even have a Cd cut from this mastering session off the analog FLAT, not Dolby tapes and this vinyl even beats it…. of course just my opinion.

I have listened on $100,000 systems, all the way down to portable units, solid state and tube and there is no denying this is the definitive vinyl version….. and again for 25.00. What a bargain.

Maybe all you did was look at that Rhino sticker and think back to the Grateful Dead records they did a few years ago (horrible) and just assumed this wasn’t up to Better Records standards.

Thanks for reading. I enjoy your e mails and store….

Tom

Tom,

We don’t review records based on their labels or stickers. And of course we never assume anything about the sound of a record. We talk about this stuff all the time. Here’s a relevant quote:

My approach to reviewing records is pure skepticism: a record sounds good if it sounds good, regardless of how it was made, who made it, or why. I’ve heard lots of expensive so-called audiophile equipment do a pretty poor job of making music over the years, the owners of which had an armful of reasons for why the sound should be truly awe-inspiring. But it just wasn’t. Most fancy gold faceplates are nothing but lipstick on a pig in my opinion.

I heard Blue poorly reproduced at a friend’s house, and this is probably the best explanation for this letter writer’s inability to understand our position on Blue.

And paying $250 for a White Label Demo that apparently doesn’t sound good is the height of audiophile collector foolishness. That money should have gone for better equipment or room treatments or tweaks, something, anything, to make this guy’s stereo and room work better than they do.

Actually this brings up a good point. If I had to choose one record that separates the men from the boys, the stereos that really work from the phony, lifeless audiophile systems you might read about in the magazines or hear at an audio show, Blue would be a darn good choice.

The problem there is that you have to be one serious record collector to have a great copy of Blue. But good pressings are out there, if you can clean and play them properly. This is why we created the Blue Game. It can be done, and we can help you get there, but most of the work has to be done by you.

Naturally we are happy to do the shootouts for you and charge you the pretty penny the winners command, but for those of you who want to find out what’s wrong with the new Blue and don’t want to buy a Hot Stamper from us, there is a third way: Blue, The Game.

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 Doors – Morrison Hotel – Rhino / Universal Heavy Vinyl Debunked

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More Morrison Hotel

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Sonic Grade: D (at best)

Hall of Shame and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

A few years back we played the 180 gram reissue of Morrison Hotel. Initially we thought it pretty good, but the longer it played, the more its artificiality became apparent — and annoying. Just listen to the vocals — they’re all wrong. Jim Morrison has one of the richest and most distinctive voices in the history of rock. When it doesn’t sound like the guy I’ve been listening to for close to forty years, something is very, very wrong.

The best Hot Stamper copies are nearly always the earlier Big Red label copies. There’s substantially more tubey magic on these pressings; the typical Butterfly Label copy lacks a bit of the weight that the older cutting equipment allowed. The best Butterfly Label copies can be pretty darn good though.

Ron McMaster Strikes Again – Who Approved This Miserable Band Pressing?

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The Band on Heavy Vinyl

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Flat, compressed, no top end, no Tubey Magic, this is Ron McMaster’s work at its worst, helped along by the fact that he does not have the original master tape or even a copy of it to work with, but instead the new remix that was made a few years back because the original tape had been lost. And somehow reviewers like it!
(more…)

The Doors – Strange Days – Rhino and DCC Reviewed

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More Strange Days

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Sonic Grade: DCC: B / Rhino: C

It’s not easy for us to find copies of Strange Days that outperform the DCC, but our best Hot Stampers beat it handily. We also put our original copies up against the 180g version from the Doors Box Set and it was an absolute bloodbath. We understand that a well-known reviewer likes the sound of those Doors pressings (along with just about every heavy vinyl reissue that hits his table) but we here at Better Records prefer to set higher standards. We think you deserve better, and at these prices the record better deliver a world of sound that the heavy vinyl pressing only hints at. And it does. (more…)

The Doors – L.A. Woman – Rhino Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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More L.A. Woman

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Sonic Grade: B

The pressing we auditioned from the Doors Box Set was surprisingly good. It’s rich and smooth with an extended top end — tonally correct in other words — and there’s lots of bass. This is all to the good. For the thirty bucks you might pay for it you’re getting a very good record, assuming yours sounds like ours, something we should really not be assuming, but we do it anyway as there is no other way to write about records other than to describe the sound of the ones we actually have on hand to play.

What it clearly lacks compared to the best originals is, first and foremost, vocal immediacy. There’s a veil that Jim Morrison is singing through, an effect which has a tendency to become more bothersome with time, as these sorts of frustrating shortcomings have a habit of doing.

A bit blurry, a bit smeary, somewhat lacking in air and space, on the plus side it has good energy and better bass than most of the copies we played. All in all we would probably give it a “B.” You could do a helluva lot worse. All the ’70s and ’80s reissues of this album we’ve ever played were just awful, especially those with the date inscribed in the dead wax. (more…)

The Doors – The Doors – Rhino / Universal Heavy Vinyl Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

What a mess. Imagine listening to this album with a two inch thick velvet curtain placed over your speakers — that’s the sound of this remastered record! How bad does a stereo have to be in order to disguise the fact that this is one of the worst Classic Rock reissues in the history of the world? I don’t know and I sure don’t want to find out.

Joni Mitchell – Blue – Rhino / Warners Reviewed

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More Blue

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Sonic Grade: B-

In March of 2007 we remarked that we would not be carrying the new 180 gram Rhino pressing of Blue. We noted at the time: 

Since Kevin and Steve are [perhaps erstwhile] friends of mine I won’t belabor its shortcomings. Let’s just say I think you can do better.

The following is an excerpt from our first successful Hot Stamper shootout back in 2007. Blue has only gotten better — dramatically better, if I may be so bold — since then.

The copy of Blue we are offering today is one of the few that sounded good before. Now it sounds really good. It got much quieter after applying some of our new cleaning techniques, and the sound became even warmer, richer, sweeter and more transparent.

Both sides sound wonderful — rich, sweet, and delicate. The warmth, breath, and presence of Joni’s vocals take this copy to a place light years beyond the typical copy, not to mention any reissue. The guitars sound amazing, particularly on side two, and the piano has weight without hardness. There’s tons of energy and lots of ambience, plus real depth to the soundfield — you really hear INTO this copy. Try that with your Rhino LP.

The best pressings (and better playback equipment) have revealed nuances in this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged that allowed us to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings. Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; now it’s just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring Blue to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back.

John Coltrane – Giant Steps – The Rhino 45 RPM 2 Disc Set Sucks

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More Giant Steps

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Sonic Grade: F

The sound of the new 45 RPM 2 disc version cut by Bernie Grundman sounds thick and dull, much like the Deja Vu he remastered years ago for Classic Records.

As is the case with so many of the Heavy Vinyl reissues released these days, the studio ambience you hear on these pressings is a pitiful fraction of the ambience the real pressings are capable of revealing, the ones mass-produced by Atlantic, original and reissue alike. We’re not sure why audiophiles have trouble noticing such an obvious shortcoming but it and others like it sure don’t get by our crack listening panel here at Better Records too often. (more…)