Record Labels with Shortcomings

Overtures in Hi-Fi – Wolff – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. 

This is a very early stereo recording, which means it is spacious and open, with little spotlighting. But what is especially memorable is the choice of material, with a few of the more obscure overtures really brought to life here, such as the opening piece by Adam on side one: Si j’etais roi. Although not long, every second is packed with color and energy, exactly what a good overture needs. And it even has a glockenspiel! How can you go wrong?

A Good Customer Compares Our Hot Stamper of Rumours to His Original and the Nautilus Audiophile Pressing

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This week’s letter [from quite a few years ago] comes from our good customer Roger, who was blown away by our Hot Stamper pressing of Rumours. Roger did his usual thorough shootout of our Hot Stamper against his own pressings. The results? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper pressing!

Hi Tom,

Just a quick note on the Fleetwood Mac Rumors Hot Stamper I just bought. I have a Nautilus pressing and my original pressing I bought in college when it came out. I have never liked this record as much as Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac, perhaps partly because its sonics were somewhat inferior.

So I played the Nautilus and quickly remembered what a piece of sonic detritus this thing is. How can audiophile labels like Nautilus put out something that is as thin, bright, flat, and compresssed as this thing is? It obviously reinforces your point that most audiophiles are lemmings when it comes to audiophile records. If some audiophile guru said the Japanese pressing of Girl Scout Troup #657 singing the Girl Scout Theme Song was sonic nirvana, it would show up on every internet record website for $50 each.

Next up was my original pressing with an F16 matrix on side one, and man, what a relief after following the Nautilus disaster. In fact, I resisted buying a pricey hot stamper because I always felt my pressing to be pretty darned good, which it was. So I was shocked to hear just how much better the hot stamper was.

I played Dreams on side one and it took all of about 5 seconds of hearing the massive bass and startlingly dynamic cymbal crashes on this track to find the hot stamper worth every penny I paid for it. If the drum kit on Oh Daddy doesn’t get your pants flapping, time for a new stereo. Voices were eerily present, guitars had great detail, pianos had weight just like in real life (we have a piano in our house), and best of all, the highs were arrayed in space and were delicate and detailed.

Since the Nautilus is too thin to make a good frisbee and would probably fetch big bucks on ebay I will stuff it back on my shelf forever, unless I need a good laugh, and add the HS Rumors to my favorite recordings.

Roger


Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nautilus Digitally Remastered Half Speed — Yes, you heard that right — is actually better than the average reissue, and probably better in most ways than the average grainy domestic original, which is pretty much unbearably edgy and gritty, especially if it hasn’t been cleaned right.
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Joan Baez Diamonds and Rust – The Half-Speed that Beats Most Originals

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Sonic Grade: B+

One of the best Half Speed Mastered Records we have ever played.

In our recent shootout we were shocked — shocked — to hear how good our old copy of Diamonds and Rust on Nautilus sounded head to head against the best first pressings. Hard to believe, but it actually beat every one.

If I hadn’t heard it with my own two ears I wouldn’t have believed it. 

OUR MOST RECENT HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY

  • If all you know are the originals you will be surprised at just how rich, natural and Tubey Magical the sound here can be
  • Guaranteed to handily beat the Nautilus Half-Speed as well as the TAS List-approved MoFi (which is awful by the way)
  • Five Stars: “…the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece and… her finest moment as a songwriter…”

Wonderful sound — rich, full, warm, and sweet. The vocals are full-bodied and breathy. The acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975.

Play Jesse on side two to hear the lovely space of the studio, as well as more harmonic extension on the acoustic instruments. Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem. (more…)

Herbie Mann – Live At The Village Gate on Audio Fidelity Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D-

Hall of Shame pressing and another Audio Fidelity / DCC LP debunked.

A murky mess. Hard to imagine you couldn’t find a common domestic pressing that wouldn’t sound better.. 

“Mann’s hit version of “Comin’ Home Baby” from this live set became his first big hit. Composer Ben Tucker plays second bass on that cut, and Mann’s other sidemen include vibraphonist Hagood Hardy, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, drummer Rudy Collins, and Chief Bey and Ray Mantilla on percussion. In addition to “Comin’ Home Baby,” Mann and his men perform memorable versions of “Summertime” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So”; the latter is 20 minutes long. Recommended.” – AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review 

Classic Records 45 RPM Remaster – This Is Your Idea of a Great Firebird?

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Classic Records 45 RPM Debunked

Sonic Grade: C-

A customer alerted me to a review Wayne Garcia wrote about various VPI platters and the rim drive, and this is what I wrote back to him:

Steve, after starting to read Wayne’s take on the platters, I came across this:
That mind-blowing epiphany that I hadn’t quite reached with the Rim Drive/Super Platter happened within seconds after I lowered the stylus onto the “Infernal Dance” episode of Stravinsky’s Firebird (45 rpm single-sided Classic Records reissue of the incomparable Dorati/LSO Mercury Living Presence recording).

That is one of my half-dozen or so favorite orchestral recordings, and I have played it countless times.

This is why I have so little faith in reviewers. I played that very record not two weeks ago (04/2010) against a good original and the recut was at best passable in comparison. If a reviewer cannot hear such an obvious difference in quality, why believe anything he has to say? The reason we say that no reviewer can be trusted is that you cannot find a reviewer who does not say good things about demonstrably bad and even just plain awful records. It’s the only real evidence we have for their credibility, and the evidence is almost always damning. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: D

When we did a shootout for this record way back in October of 2007 we took the opportunity to play the Classic Records 200 gram pressing. Maybe we got a bad one, who knows, but that record did not sound remotely as good as the real thing (6 eye or 360, both can be quite good). The piano sounded thin and hard, which was quite unexpected given the fact that we used to consider the Classic LP one of their few winners and actually recommended it.

As we said in our shootout: “We dropped the needle on the Classic reissue to see how it stacked up against a serious pressing. Suffice it to say, the real Time Out magic isn’t going to be found on any heavy vinyl reissue!”

Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking

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  • The band’s very well-recorded third album is here, and this early British Island pressing is killing it, with stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout and reasonably quiet vinyl
  • A copy like this is a rare audiophile treat – here is the rich, warm, clear, natural and lively sound you want for Fairport Convention
  • A superb collection of songs, including two previously unreleased Bob Dylan tracks, as well as Sandy Denny’s first foray into songwriting, with the achingly powerful “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”
  • 5 stars: “Unhalfbricking was a transitional album for the young Fairport Convention, in which the group shed its closest ties to its American folk-rock influences and started to edge toward a more traditional British folk-slanted sound.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

Hot stamper fans of Fairport Convention, British Folk Rock, Richard Thompson and the like should not expect to see another copy of this album for years to come. It took us a couple of years to get hold of enough clean copies with which to do this shootout, and the only quiet one with top quality sound was this very pressing.

Forget the dubby domestic LPs on A&M and whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the early UK vinyl is the only way to fly on Unhalfbricking

The “haunting, ethereal” vocals of the lovely Sandy Denny are sublime here. Some of you may recognize her voice from a ditty called “Battle of Evermore,” found on a grayish ’70s rock album that no one even bothered to give a name. Wonder whatever became of that group? No doubt by now their story is lost to the sands of time. I have to say I thought the music was pretty good though. (more…)

Benny Goodman – The King – Century Direct to Disc

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This is a Century Direct-to-Disc LP that is every bit as good sounding as the excellent Glenn Miller disc, and in some ways better.

The problem is that Benny sounds much too old and tired, so this one gets a Not Recommended ranking from us.

Letter of the Week – Boston

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

Hey Tom, 

Just wanted to say thanks for finding a record like this. I looked in my collection and thought, wow I have an anadisc (Serial #5), let’s see how they compare?

The MOFI is so bad! It sounds like there are three layers of Saran wrap on it… slow, murky and all the other things that your commentary says… the food analogy would be crappy soggy french fries… bloated… lifeless…

There is no comparison to the sound on side two…. the organ is rolling and alive and sounds like the Hammonds I have heard through Leslie cabinets… on the MOFI it was like the organ was behind glass doors… flat… no life…. I could go on and on.

The other songs were so much better on the Hot Stamper… makes me want to go frisbee my MOFI or maybe just sell it on ebay.

Ed F.

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Disaster from Classic Records… Zep IV

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The Classic 200 Gram Pressing — Dead as a Doornail

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought the Classic 200 gram pressing was the king on this title. In late 2006 I wrote: “You can hear how much cleaner and more correct the mastering is right away…” Folks, I must have been out of my mind.

I wasn’t out of my mind. I just hadn’t gotten my system to the place where it needed to be to allow the better original pressings to sound their best. (more…)