Labels With Shortcomings – Analogue Productions

Chet Baker / Chet – Acoustic Sounds Hires Doug Sax to Ruin a Classic Jazz Album

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful album of ballads has Mile Davis’ rhythm section supporting Chet and other greats such as Kenny Burrell and Bill Evans
  • These guys are playing live in the studio and, on a copy that sounds this clear, you can really feel their presence on every track
  • This Chet Baker record belongs in any serious jazz collection, and for you audiophiles out there, prepare to be shocked when you play this copy against your Heavy Vinyl pressing
  • “…this Riverside issue captures the gifted but troubled trumpeter at his best. It might even qualify as Baker’s most satisfying and representative recording.”

Chet is one of the best sounding Chet Baker records we’ve ever played, although that’s not saying much because finding good Chet Baker records is like finding hen’s teeth these days.

The albums he did for Pacific Jazz in the ’50s can be wonderful but few have survived in audiophile playing condition.

The Mariachi Brass albums are as awful as everyone says — we know, we too have played them. The album he recorded for CTI in 1974, She Was Too Good To Me, is excellent and will be coming to the site again soon I hope.

We’d never heard the record sound better than in our most recent shootout, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since it was first reissued in the ’80s.

The less said about the awful Doug Sax remastering for Analogue Productions in the mid-’90s the better. What a murky piece of crap that was. Audiophile reviewers may have been impressed, but even way back then we knew a bad sounding record when we played one, and that pressing was very bad indeed.

One further note: the Heavy Vinyl pressings being made today, twenty-five years later, have a similar suite of shortcomings, sounding every bit as bad if not worse, and fooling the same audiophile reviewers and their followers to this very day. Nothing has changed, other than we have come along to offer the discriminating audiophile an alternative to the muddy messes these labels have been churning out. (more…)

Cat Stevens on 2 Heavy Vinyl 45 RPM Discs, Part 2 – Is This the Truest Tillerman of Them All?

Cat Stevens / Tea for the Tillerman on Two 200 Gram Discs Cut at 45 RPM

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this story, please click here.

Back to our real story. I listened to my good original pressing. I call it White Hot at least! (more…)

Cat Stevens on 2 Heavy Vinyl 45 RPM Discs, Part 1 – Is This the Truest Tillerman of Them All?

Cat Stevens / Tea for the Tillerman on Two 200 Gram Discs Cut at 45 RPM

About ten years ago we auditioned and reviewed the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions, the one that came on a single Heavy Vinyl 33 RPM LP.

I wrote a very long commentary about the sound of that record, taking it to task for its manifold shortcomings, at the end of which I came to the conclusion that the proper sonic grade for such a record is F as in Fail. My exhaustive review can be found under the not-very-subtle title This Is Your Idea of Analog?

Our intro gave this short overview:

Yes, we know, the folks over at Acoustic Sounds, in consultation with the late George Marino at Sterling Sound, supposedly with the real master tape in hand, and supposedly with access to the best mastering equipment money can buy, labored mightily, doing their level best to master and press the Definitive Audiophile Tea for the Tillerman of All Time.

It just didn’t come out very well, no matter what anybody tells you.

Recently I was able to borrow a copy of the new 45 cutting from a customer who had rather liked it. I would have never spent my own money to hear a record put out on the Analogue Productions label, a label that has an unmitigated string of failures to its name. But for free? Count me in!

The offer of the new 45 could not have been more fortuitous. I had just spent a number of weeks playing a White Hot Stamper Pink Label original UK pressing in an attempt to get our new Playback Studio sounding right.

We had a lot of problems. We needed to work on electrical issues. We needed to work on our room treatments. We needed to work on speaker placement.

We initially thought the room was doing everything right, because our Go To setup disc, Bob and Ray, sounded super spacious and clear, bigger and more lively than we’d ever heard it. That’s what a 12 foot high ceiling can do for a large group of musicians playing live in a huge studio, in 1959, on an All Tube Chain Living Stereo recording. The sound just soared.

But Cat Stevens wasn’t sounding right, and if Cat Stevens isn’t sounding right, we knew we had a Very Big Problem. Some stereos play some kinds of records well and others not so well. Our stereo has to play every kind of record well because we sell every kind of record there is. You name the kind of music, we probably sell it. And if we offer it for sale, we had to have played it and liked the sound, because no record makes it to our site without being auditioned and found to have excellent sound.

But I Might Die Tonight

The one song we played over and over again, easily a hundred times or more, was But I Might Die Tonight, the leadoff track for side two. It’s short, less than two minutes long, but a lot happens in those two minutes. More importantly, getting everything that happens in those two minutes to sound not just right, but as good as you have ever heard it, turned out to be a tall order indeed.

I could write for days about what to listen for in the song, but for now let me just point the reader to one of the most difficult parts to reproduce correctly.

At about 50 seconds into the track, Cat repeats the first verse:

I don’t want to work away
Doing just what they all say
Work hard boy and you’ll find
One day you’ll have a job like mine, job like mine, a job like mine

Only this time he now has a multi-tracked harmony vocal singing along with him, his own of course, and he himself is also singing the lead part louder and more passionately. Getting the regular vocal, call it the “lower part,” to be in balance with the multi-tracked backing vocal, call it the “higher part,” turned out to be the key to getting the bottom, middle and top of the midrange right.

When doing this kind of critical listening we play our records very loud. Live Performance level loud. As loud as Cat could sing, that’s how loud it should be when he is singing his loudest toward the end of the song for the final “But I might die tonight!” If he is going to sing loudly, I want my stereo to be able to reproduce him singing as loud as he is actually singing on the record. No compression. No distortion. All the energy. That’s what I want to hear.

The last fifteen seconds or so of the song has the pianist (Cat himself) banging out some heavy chords on the piano. If you have your levels right it should sound like there is a real piano at the back of the room and that someone is really banging on it. It’s a powerful coda to the song. (more…)

Benny Carter / Jazz Giant – Analogue Productions Fails Spectacularly Right Out of the Gate

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More Shelly Manne

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Sonic Grade: F

You may remember what a disaster the Acoustic Sounds‘ version from back in the ’90s was. (Or maybe you agree with Michael Fremer that they were god’s gift to the audiophile record lovers of the world. We thought they were crap right from the get go and were not the least bit shy about saying so,)

I haven’t heard the new 45 RPM version and don’t intend to, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like our good Hot Stamper pressings. We have yet to hear a single Heavy Vinyl 45 that sounds any good to us, judged by the standards we set in our shootouts.

Actually, to run the risk of sounding overly pedantic, the records themselves set the standards. We simply grade them on the curve they establish.

We guarantee that none of their LPs can hold a candle to our records or your money back. If you have one of the new pressings and don’t know what’s wrong with it, or don’t think that anything is wrong with it, try ours. It will show you just how much better a real record can sound, with more space, more transparency, more energy, more presence, more drive, more ambience –more of everything that’s good about the sound of music on vinyl.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear our Hot Stamper pressing, those Heavy Vinyl records you bought might not ever sound right to you again.

They sure don’t sound right to us, but we have the good fortune of being able to play the best older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more audible — in fact, exceedingly obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison. 


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Hoodoo Man Blues on Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl – “How the hell did this get released???”

More Analogue Productions

One of our good customers had this to say about a record he played recently:

Hey Tom,   

Not a hot stamper update, but thought to write briefly…

I’ve been experimenting a bit with some of the Analogue Productions stuff, as unlike you I’ve had some mixed success here. However…

OMG. I just opened their pressing of Junior Welles’ Hoodoo Man Blues. It’s, pardon my crudity, not fit to wipe your ass with. The most disgusting perversion of this record imaginable. I’m choking even hearing it. Rank amateurs at the controls it seems… how the hell did this get released??? Are they deaf? Are they even listening to what they’re putting out, or just pressing money? It’s too nauseating to describe, but all your usual terms fit exactly; no ambiance, bloated, unreal EQ, compressed and flat and dead, completely f*cking off. I’m just amazed.

The only reason I ventured here is that I have had some good luck with them on various jazz recordings, where the tricks do seem to help (45rpm, master tapes all analogue, etc.). Not so here. Everything you rage about holds true and is possibly the worst case of it I’ve ever come across.

Just sharing with the thought that there is a RANGE of AP stuff; it’s not all this bad. This pressing is escort-it-off-the-property-and-dispose-of-in-someone-else’s-garbage-can-bad.

C

(Meanwhile, latest box of hot stampers arrived today, and are glorious as usual.)

Conrad,

I take issue with any of AP’s records being any good.  None of their “tricks” ever managed to help them produce a record I would want to own. The best one I heard was Fragile, and even that was mediocre at best.

Here is a typical review for one of their godawful remasterings:

Vince Guaraldi – A Bloated Mess at 45 RPM from Acoustech

We flushed good money down the drain in order to suffer through the 45 Analogue Productions cutting of the album. What a mess. Ridiculously bloated overblown bass is its major shortcoming, but compression and an overall lifeless quality are obvious problems that made us give up on it pretty quickly.

This is the kind of sound that audiophiles want? I find that hard to believe. It’s what they’re stuck with because the good early pressings are just too hard to find and too noisy and groove damaged when you do find them.

Most pressings of this album, the OJC and the later reissues especially, are just plain awful, so for the typical audiophile record collector the 45 might actually be a step up over those pressings. Like so much of the heavy vinyl we have played in the last few years, we did not find the sound enjoyable or compelling. I would venture a guess that the DCC gold CD is clearly better overall.

Some audiophiles have complained that we spend too much time bashing Heavy Vinyl, but if ever a record deserved it, it’s that one. It’s a failure as a remastering and an insult to the analog buying audiophile public at large. Searching the web I am glad to see that no one seems to have anything nice to say about it as of this writing. No one should, but that has not deterred the reviewers and forum posters in the past. (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan Box Set – One Customer’s Take on the Analogue Productions 45 RPM Remaster

A good customer bought some SRV Hot Stampers from me a while back. He then told me he was going to spend $400 on the AP SRV Box Set

Hey Tom,

For kicks on this issue of heavy vinyl vs. hot stampers, I’m tempted to order the ‘Texas Hurricane’ box set — 45rpm, 200g etc. — and shoot it out against the SRV records I’ve got from you.

Would you be interested to know how that goes?

In the admittedly unlikely event that the heavy vinyl smoked the hot stampers, would you take them back? Easy to sell the heavy vinyl on without losing money, but not so much the hot stampers.

Just an idea… I’m delighted with what I have from you, but so curious to learn more by comparing etc. Could be fuel for a cool blog post in due course…

CF

I replied:

Oh, I think you are in for quite a shock, and of course we would take our copies back, but I would give you very good odds that that will
never happen as long as you have two working ears.

A few weeks go by.

Tom,

So the results are in … after listening to Texas Hurricane (at 45rpm) and comparing to the White Hot Stamper versions of the same albums I can say… as a musical experience it’s incomprehensible. It just doesn’t rock, doesn’t uplift, and it’s veiled, so you lose the whole meaning of this music, the energy, soul, life.

I wasted $400 to find this out. Any chance you have another customer who’d like to relieve me of it to do their own shootout?

I’ll never doubt you again : )

CF

Good to know you will never doubt me again! Always think back to the sour taste in your mouth and the painful throbbing in your brain from playing this heavy vinyl garbage and perhaps you will never be tempted again. If you feel the urge to cross over to the dark side, please email me and I will do my best to talk you out of it. That way lies madness (and audio frustration).

TP

Here’s the $32,000 Question

Is this a bad sounding record? I don’t know, never played it. Is it worth it to you to spend $400 to find out? Does Analogue Productions have a pretty good track record to rely on in these matters? Or are they, as I have been saying since 1995, one of the worst labels of all time. In another commentary I wrote: (more…)

Vince Guaraldi – A Bloated Mess at 45 RPM from Acoustech

More Bad Sounding Pressings from Analogue Productions

guaraldi45

We played an amazing Hot stamper copy that got the bottom end on this album as right as we’ve ever heard. The contribution of the bass player was clear and correctly balanced in the mix, which we soon learned to appreciate was fundamentally important to the rhythmic drive of the music.

The bass was so tight and note-like you could see right into the soundstage and practically picture Monte Budwig plucking and bowing away.

This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazilian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to Cast Your Fate to the Wind or Manha de Carnival.
(more…)

The Awful Sound of the Heavy Vinyl Reissues Doug Sax Mastered in the ’90s

More Sonny Rollins

More Analogue Productions

More Doug Sax

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Longstanding customers know that we have been relentlessly critical of most audiophile LPs for years, especially in the case of these Analogue Productions releases from back in the early ’90s. A well-known reviewer loved them, I hated them, and he and I haven’t seen eye to eye on much since.

Newflash!

Just dug up part of my old commentary discussing the faults with the orginal series that Doug Sax cut for Acoustic Sounds. Check it out!

In the listing for the OJC pressing of Way Out West we wrote:

Guaranteed better than any 33 rpm 180 gram version ever made, or your money back! (Of course I’m referring to a certain pressing from the early ’90s mastered by Doug Sax, which is a textbook example of murky, tubby, flabby sound. (Too many bad tubes in the chain? Who knows?)

This OJC version also has its problems, but at least the shortcomings of the OJC are tolerable. Who can sit through a pressing that’s so thick and lifeless it communicates none of the player’s love for the music? If you have midrangy bad transistor equipment, go with the 180 gram version (at twice the price). If you have good equipment, go with this one.

[We are no longer fans of the OJC of Way Out West, and would never sell a record that sounds the way even the best copies do as a Hot Stamper. It’s not hopeless the way the Heavy Vinyl pressing is, but it’s not very good either. It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right?

The following commentary comes from our catalog from the mid- to late-’90s, back when I could still find great jazz records like Alternate Takes. Note also that the AP records were in print at the time. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

yes__fragi_myth_1304118647

The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys I respect, but the results of their latest collaboration leave much to be desired. The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
(more…)

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – How on Earth Did This Pressing Get Approved?

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Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl. This review is from 2014 or thereabouts.

Sonic Grade: F

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?” (more…)