Labels With Shortcomings – Analogue Productions

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – Defending the Indefensible

The Music of Sonny Rollins Available Now

This review is from 2014 or thereabouts.

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding pair of audiophile records than this 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl release, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

Surely someone must have noticed how awful these records sound.

So, being an enterprising sort, with a few idle moments to spare, I did a google search. To my surprise it came up pretty much empty. Sure, dealers are selling it, every last one of the bigger mail-order types.

But how is it that no reviewer has taken it to task for its oh-so-obvious shortcomings?

And no one on any forum seems to have anything bad to say about it either. How could that be?

We don’t feel it’s incumbent upon us to defend the sound of these pressings. We think for the most part they are awful and want nothing to do with them.

But don’t those who DO think these remastered pressings sound good — the audiophile reviewers and the forum posters specifically — have at least some obligation to point out to the rest of the audiophile community that at least one of them is spectacularly bad, as is surely the case here.

Is it herd mentality? Is it that they don’t want to rock the boat? They can’t say something bad about even one of these Heavy Vinyl pressings because that might reflect badly on all of them?

I’m starting to feel like Mr. Jones: Something’s going on, but I don’t know what it is. Dear reader, this is the audiophile world we live in today. If you expect anyone to tell you the truth about the current crop of remastered vinyl, you are in for some real disappointment.

We don’t have the time to critique what’s out there, and it seems that the reviewers and forum posters lack the — what? desire, courage, or maybe just the basic critical listening skills — to do it properly.

Which means that in the world of Heavy Vinyl, it’s every man for himself.

And a very different world from the world of Vintage Vinyl, the kind we offer. In our world we are behind you all the way. We guarantee your satisfaction or your money back.

Now which world would you rather live in?

Further Reading

Records are getting awfully expensive these days, and it’s not just our Hot Stampers that seem priced for perfection.

If you are still buying these modern remastered pressings, making the same kinds of mistakes that I was making before I knew better, take the advice of some of our customers and stop throwing your money away on Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed mastered LPs.

At the very least let us send you a Hot Stamper pressing — of any album you choose — that can show you what is wrong with your copy of the album.

And if for some reason you disagree with us that our record sounds better than yours, we will happily give you all your money back and wish you the very best.


The Best Policy for Any Label that Sells Bad Sounding Records

More of the Music of Stevie Ray Vaughan

A good customer, initials CF, 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 in the hopes that the rave reviews from audiophile reviewers were justified.

The complete story of his disappointment can be found here. An excerpt:

What do you do with the Box Set if you find out these reviewers are full of horse pucky and it sounds as awful as our friend CF say it does? Can you send it back to Acoustic Sounds?

Oh, sorry, you can’t.

Within 30 days of purchase, we will accept returns of any physically or audibly defective or damaged item. We do not guarantee that you will like the music or recording quality of a LP or CD, and personal taste does not qualify as a reason for return.

There is a reason they have that policy. They sell bad sounding records.

We have the opposite policy. You can return any record for any reason within 30 days and get 100% of your money back.

We can do that because we sell good sounding records.

PS from CF

Great stuff, love it. Someone’s gotta keep this industry as a whole accountable. It’s like we’re in the dark ages with just a few devoted monks scouring the libraries and preserving the truth of what once was. Hopefully due to your lifetime’s commitment to this we’ll one day see a renaissance of quality, but it’s looking pretty bleak currently.

Ain’t that the truth.

We leave you with this comment from Michael Fremer, a man who apparently cannot get enough of this crap.

With all of the reissues coming from questionable sources or proudly proclaiming their ‘digital-ness’ ala The Beatles Box, we’re fortunate to have labels like Analogue Productions, Mobile Fidelity, ORG, IMPEX, Rhino and the others cutting lacquers from analog tapes. Acoustic Sounds’ Chad Kassem sent this image of the master tape box from Couldn’t Stand the Weather one of the many Stevie Ray Vaughan albums his reissue label is currently readying for release, pressed at his Quality Record Pressings pressing plant in Salina, Kansas. That’s a form of vertical integration we like! I have heard some truly miserable vinyl reissues from labels like Vinyl Lovers and ZYX some of which didn’t even sound like the same music when compared to original pressings. I’ve also heard test pressings of these SRV albums and they will rock your world! So, we are lucky to have these companies that are doing things correctly lavishing vinyl goodies on us all year long. Sometimes we wish they’d stop long enough for us to catch up, but then we come to our senses and say “more please!” even when the shelves are stuffed.

Lucky to Have Analogue Productions Around?

If you think his pressing of Tea for the Tillerman sounds good, it’s a near certainty you will want to be the first on your block to collect all the newly remastered Steely Dan Heavy Vinyls (the first of which has been reviewed here).

The same goes for this pressing of Stand Up. If this is the sound you are looking for, you can be sure Chad will give it to you, good and hard (apologies to H.L. Mencken).

Do these records sound fine to you? You’re happy with them, are you?

Then you have much to look forward to with the release of the complete Steely Dan LP collection!

These Analogue Productions releases will no doubt share many of the sonic characteristics of the above-mentioned titles.

How could they not? They are guaranteed to sound the way Chad wants them to sound. Chad is the customer, and the customer is always right.

If you’re Bernie Grundman, it might take you seven runs at it until you find that indescribable and elusive “Chad” sound, but you will have to keep at it until you do, assuming you want to get paid.

Further Reading

A Cosmo’s Factory Shootout from Way Back When

More of the Music of Creedence Clearwater Revival

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Creedence Clearwater Revival

This is a very old commentary describing a shootout we had done more than a decade ago. Some of what you see below would probably still be true. The cutting system used to make the AP pressing no doubt lacked Tubey Magic. It’s also true that many of the records mastered on it were as lifeless and boring as we describe.

The only way to be clear about what is going on with the audiophile pressings in this group is to do another shootout with them, and we just can’t see taking the time to do that when there are so many good vintage pressings we don’t have time to play as it is.

There are only so many hours in the day, why waste them playing this crap?

We do occasionally throw the modern remastered pressings we happen to have on hand into our shootouts when time permits. You can read all about the half-speeds we’ve reviewed here and some of the heavy vinyl pressings we’ve played here.

Our latest thinking about this Analogue Productions repress can be found here.

Now, on to our old shootout.

Years ago a customer sent me his copy of the Analogue Productions LP (mastered by Hoffman and Gray) in order to carry out a little shootout I had planned among the five copies I could pull together: two MoFi’s, the Fantasy ORC reissue, a blue label original, the AP, and another reissue. 

Let’s just say there were no real winners, but there sure were some losers.

My take on the Hoffman version is simply this: it has virtually no trace of Tubey Analog Magic. None to speak of anyway.

It sounds like a clean, tonally correct but fairly bass-shy CD.

No pressing I played managed to be so tonally correct and so boring at the same time.

The MoFi has plenty of weird EQ colorations, the kind that bug the hell out of me on 98% of their crappy catalog, but at least it sounds like analog. It’s warm, rich and sweet.

The AP copy has none of those qualities.

More pointless 180 gram vinyl sound, to my ear anyway. I couldn’t sit through it with a gun to my head.

You would need a lot of vintage tubes in your system to get the AP record to sound right, and then every properly mastered record in your collection would sound worse.

The approach we recommend now?


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

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

More Records Mastered by Doug Sax

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.


Just dug up part of my old commentary discussing the faults with the original 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.

Acoustic Sounds had just remastered and ruined a big batch of famous jazz records, and shortly thereafter a certain writer in TAS had said nice things about them.

Said writer and I got into a war of words over these records, long, long ago. You’ll notice that no one ever mentions these awful records anymore, and for good reason: they suck. If you own any of them, do yourself a favor and get either the CD or a good LP for comparison purposes. I expect you will hear what I’m talking about.

In my essay on reviewers I attack him for giving a big “Thumbs Up” in TAS to the botched remastering of Sonny’s Way Out West. The OJC reissue, though superior, is still only a pale shadow of the original.

Now we have the real thing! This LP has three alternate takes from that session, all mastered by George Horn, and surprise, surprise, surprise, they sound just like my original, much better than (but not so different from) the OJC, and worlds away from the muted flab of the Analogue Productions LP!

Anyone who owns a representative sample of records engineered by Roy Dunann knows that the overly sweet, delicate sound of the cymbals on the Analogue Productions Way Out West is unusual — if not positively unheard of — for him. His cymbal sound is lively, aggressive, with much more “splash” — more impact, more presence.

These “live music” qualities have been equalized out on the remastering and other patently euphonic qualities equalized in.

Anyway, the important thing is not the sound I or some reviewer or anybody else likes. It’s what you like that counts.

With that in mind, I’m so sure you’ll prefer the sound of Alternate Takes, that you’ll recognize and appreciate the differences I’m talking about, that I’m willing to make you this very special offer:

If Alternate Takes isn’t about the best sounding jazz record you ever heard, send it back to me and I’ll give you $30 toward anything else in the catalog! If you own any Analogue Productions LP, mail or fax me a copy of your receipt (along with your order) and I will give you a better sounding jazz record free as a bonus!

If you don’t own the AP Way Out West, call Chad up and order it. You really owe it to yourself to hear this mess! What have you got to lose? Acoustic Sounds offers a money-back guarantee. They say “guaranteed better than the original.”

What they don’t say is “guaranteed better than a plain old everyday standard-issue domestic copy which is still available from that pain-in-the-ass Tom Port over at Better Records” — because it’s not (better, although it may be still available)!

Robert Brook discovered a killer Way Out West not long ago which caused the heavens to open up and the angels to sing. I know exactly what he talking about. It’s happened to me more times than I can remember.

His story:

We added some thoughts of our own in this commentary:

We think both are worth reading.

Now Back to Our More Recent Commentary

Hey, here’s a question for you. When was the last time you read a word about those Heavy Vinyl pressings, so incompetently mastered by Doug Sax. With no real presence and bloated bass, they’re pure audiophile “smile curve” trash of the worst kind.

They’ve rather fallen from favor, have they not? I wonder why. Could it be that they were as ridiculously bad as I said they were back in 1995, and it just took the rest of the world a little longer to recognize that fact? Perhaps audiophiles are making progress. It’s just taking them a long, long time. Hey, it took me a long, long time, so who am I to talk?

[This prediction turned out to be way off the mark. If anything, the remastered records being made today sound worse than ever.]

No doubt most audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them think that making records the “right” way should result in better sound, but we have found precious little evidence to back up that theory, and volumes of evidence to refute it.

Yes, those Analogue Productions records sucked, they continue to suck, and they will always suck. The “audiophile” records of that day did lack presence, and the passage of time is not going to change that fact. Play practically any Reference, Chesky or Classic title from 1995 to the present and listen for the veiled midrange, the opacity, the smeary transients, and the generally constricted, compressed, lifeless quality of its sound, a sound that has been boring us to tears for close to two decades, and fundamentally undermining the very rationale for the expense and hassle of analog itself in the modern digital age, a much more serious charge.


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

Hot Stamper Pressings of Contemporary Label Jazz Albums Available Now

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

You may remember what a disaster the Analogue Productions 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 play one, 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.

[This is no longer true, there is one, so stay tuned to read all about it one of these days.]

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 one of 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 vintage LPs 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 (vintage 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. 

What to Listen For

As a general rule, this Heavy Vinyl pressing will fall short in some or all of the following areas:

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.

There are many kinds of audiophile pressings — Half-Speeds, Direct-to-Discs, Heavy Vinyl Remasters, Japanese Pressings, the list of records offered to the audiophile with supposedly superior sound quality is endless. Having been in the audiophile record biz for more than thirty years, it has been our misfortune to have played them by the hundreds,

How did we find so many bad sounding records? The same way we find so many good sounding ones. We included them in our shootouts, comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper Pressings..

When you can hear them that way, up against an actual good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Back to 2000

Even as recently as the early 2000s, we were often impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we’d never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem impressed by.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate or worse.

When I say worse, I know whereof I speak. Some audiophile records have pissed me off so badly I was motivated to create a special ring of hell for them.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. Judging by the hundreds of letters we’ve received, especially the ones comparing our records to their Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered counterparts, we know that our customers see things the same way.

Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great (But Awful Sounding) Hits

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries and Reviews

There is an interesting story behind how I got my mitts on this particular Heavy Vinyl pressing.

Months ago [now years], a fellow contacted us to buy some of our Hot Stamper pressings.  We sent him one or two, and he soon wrote back to say he was not happy with the sound. We exchanged emails with him for a while, trying to rectify the situation in the hopes that we could get him some records that he would be happy with.

In the middle of all this back and forth, we thought it would be worthwhile knowing what this gentleman thought was a good sounding record, seeing as how ours were not meeting his standards. Our discussion soon crossed over into Heavy Vinyl territory. We asked, “Were there any that he liked the sound of?”  Why yes, there were.

You guessed it. The above-pictured album from Analogue Productions is one he recommended. (There was another he also said we should try, but after playing this one we decided against buying any more records he recommended, for reasons that will soon be evident.)

So we bought a copy. Soon enough we found ourselves playing our newly remastered Heavy Vinyl LP.

Right from the get-go, thick, murky, compressed, lifeless, ambience-free, dead-as-a-doornail sound was now coming out of my speakers. Like sludge from a sewer you might say. The stereo had sounded fine moments before. What the hell was happening?

I quickly grabbed a Super Hot copy of the album off the shelf and put it on the table.

Here was the energy, clarity, presence, space and more that had been missing mere moments ago while the Heavy Vinyl pressing played. Now, coming out my speakers was everything that makes a good vintage pressing such a joy to listen to.

I felt like turning it up and rocking out. The first song is Born to Be Wild. Who doesn’t love to blast Born to Be Wild?

What a difference. Night and Day. Maybe more!

If this Steppenwolf LP isn’t the perfect example of a Pass/Not-Yet record, I can’t imagine what would be.

As I was thinking about the turgid, compressed, veiled, overly smooth but not tonally incorrect sound coming out of my speakers, I thought back about the kinds of stereo systems that can produce that sound on command. They often look like the one you see below.

If this is your idea of good sound, you are in luck. You can buy your Limited Edition Heavy Vinyl audiophile pressings from Acoustic Sounds to your heart’s content.  They’re sure a helluva lot cheaper than our records, and they apparently do a bang up job of giving you precisely the sound you’re looking for.

To finish up with our little story, to no one’s surprise we never could satisfy our new customer. We ended up refunding him all his money. It seems our records were expensive, and simply not much better than records he owned or could find cheaply enough.  Ours might be even worse! Who the hell do we think we are?  The nerve.

I also know he wasn’t playing them on an old console. He took great pains to tell me all about his fancy handmade tonearm, custom tube preamp and screen speakers. State of the Art stuff in his mind, no doubt about it.

But if your system is so ridiculously bad that an Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl LP doesn’t call attention to its manifold shortcomings, doesn’t actually make your head hurt and your blood boil at the very idea that someone would charge money for such bad sound, you might want to think about scrapping your precious audiophile equipment and starting over.

Of course, this guy and the thousands of other audiophiles like him would never do such a thing. They are thoroughly invested in whatever approach to audio they have taken, and nobody can teach them anything.

They already know more than you ever will.

They’re also the ones keeping hopelessly incompetent labels like Analogue Productions in business.  They supported Classic Records before it went under, they support Mobile Fidelity to this day. They are the guys that buy Heavy Vinyl records and extoll their virtues on audiophile forums far and wide.  Some even make youtube videos about this crap now and get tens of thousands of hits.

It’s sad, but there is nothing we can do but keep on doing what we are doing: finding good pressings for audiophiles who  appreciate the difference.

Another way we can help is this.

Use the guide below when you do your shootouts for records, Heavy Vinyl and otherwise. Perhaps you will avoid the mistakes the above-mentioned gentleman made.  We include them in practically every listening of every record we sell.

What We Listen For

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

And this blog is full of advice explaining practically everything there is to know about records, all of it gained using one approach and only one approach: by conducting experiments.

Letting go of theories that don’t produce good results is but one of the many steps you will end up taking on the long road to better sounding records. It’s a step you can take right now. Should you start on this journey, you may come to realize what a watershed moment it turned out to be.

We Can Help

If you are stuck in a Heavy Vinyl rut, we can help you get out of it. We did precisely that for these folks, and we can do it for you.


Letter of the Week – “I will spare you the time to comment on my 1992 Analogue Productions Reissue…”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Sonny Rollins’s Albums Available Now

Hot Stamper Pressings of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Albums Available Now

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

Dear Tom and Fred

After having had the opportunity to listen to the next batch of 7 more records, here are my observations on the now 40 records I bought from you.

First to my listening experience. After receiving the CSNY 4 Way Street and looking for my own record, I thought was a German press easy to beat I realized it was a white label promo first press and thought, oh, did I make a mistake to buy this for this kind of money from you guys, this may be a tough one to crack?

Not so, your SH Stamper clearly beat the WL promo, check!

Next up was the Miles Davis Sketches of Spain White Hot Stamper, one of my very top Miles favorites.

I did not recall that I had the six eye first press, and on side 2, with identical stampers (when your 3/3 WH show up, you do not have the time to check this but hurry :-since your WH 3/3s sell like hot cakes!).

So even more difficult to beat?? Promising start: your WH was clearly better on side 1, now to the identical stampers side 2: not as clearly but still just more transparent, better drums, less shrill on track 2, check!

But it certainly cannot get better than this 3/3 WH stamper, can it?

Next up is Sonny Rollins 3/3 WH Stamper [of Way Out West]. Hard to believe, but yes, even better than the great Miles 3/3 WHS, and I will spare you the time to comment on my 1992 Analogue Productions Reissue which I always thought was quite decent.

And so it goes on…



In less than a year you have acquired a large number of simply amazing sounding records. Congratulations.

As you point out about the stampers, you may have a pressing with the right stampers, but our copy will still beat it. How it was pressed and how it was cleaned are critical to the sound, and that is not something the stamper numbers can tell you. It’s a subject we discuss all over this blog. Here is a good place to start.

As for your 1992 Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl remaster, I honestly don’t know how anyone can listen to a record with sound like that and consider it acceptable, or, in your words, “quite decent.” I went into the long story of the album in this commentary:

Here’s an excerpt:

We don’t pay any attention to who makes the records, how or why. We just play them and report our findings. No doubt most audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them think that making records the “right” way should result in better sound, but we have found precious little evidence to back up that theory, and volumes of evidence to refute it.

Yes, those Analogue Productions records sucked, they continue to suck, and they will always suck. The “audiophile” records of that day did lack presence, and the passage of time is not going to change that fact. Play practically any Reference, Chesky or Classic title from 1995 to the present and listen for the veiled midrange, the opacity, the smeary transients, and the generally constricted, compressed, lifeless quality of its sound, a sound that has been boring us to tears for close to two decades (and fundamentally undermining the very rationale for the expense and hassle of analog itself in the modern digital age, a much more serious charge).

Some things have changed since I wrote that screed many years ago. For example, we don’t find the sound of the OJC pressing of the album acceptable these days, a subject I plan to address before too long.

But mostly what we heard in 1992 is what the record probably still sounds like today. How would I know that, not having played a copy of it in decades?

Well, I would simply point you in the direction of other Analogue Productions records with similar shortcomings. I site four in the list below, but I could easily link to a great many others.

Judging by these four, overly rich and overly smooth, the same ludicrously out of whack tonal balance as the AP Way Out West, appears to be something like the Analogue Productions house sound. They actually like their records to have these “qualities.” Click on any of the four to understand just how damaging their incompetent remastering was to these classic albums.

The bottom line is this: The Hot Stamper pressing of Way Out West you have now in your possession is the one that allows you to hear what that album is supposed to sound like.

Not the way Chad Kassem likes his records to sound: opaque, bloated, dull, smeary and compressed.

No, your White Hot Stamper has the brilliant sound that Roy DuNann recorded all those years ago, sounding, I believe, the way he wanted it to.

Contra Kassem, it didn’t need fixing. It didn’t need changing.

All that was needed was for some group to come along who could properly clean a batch of vintage pressings, original and otherwise, play them, figure out what the best copies do that the average copy doesn’t, identify that best copy, and send it your way.

There was nobody who could do that kind of work in 1992, not even us. It would be another 12 years before we managed to do our first official shootout, using a very different stereo and very different cleaning technologies, both immeasurably better than what we had to work with in the ’90s.

Christian, if you have any AP records, or Heavy Vinyl from any other manufacturers, pull them off the shelf and play them. They won’t sound anything like the Hot Stamper pressings of 4 Way Street, Sketches of Spain and Way Out West we sent you. I’m guessing they won’t sound “quite decent” either.

Now that you know just how good the right vintage pressings can sound, those modern imposters are simply no longer going to be able to trick you. They were always a fraud and a scam — a passable-at-best product to be offered at what appeared to be an attractive price — now hopelessly outclassed in every way by the real thing, the real thing being a properly pressed, properly cleaned old record.

Welcome to the world of amazing sounding vinyl. We look forward to finding you the best sounding pressings of many of your favorite recordings for years to come.

Thanks for your letter.

Best, TP


You may want to check out Robert Brook’s fairly extensive review for Way Out West, which can be found here.

Further Reading


Letter of the Week – “How the hell did this get released???”

We Get All Kinds of Letters

Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to Their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts

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 ambience, 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.


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


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. [More recent reviews of AP’s records can be found here. Even though some of them are better than Fragile, I still would not want to have anything they’ve ever pressed in my own collection. In 2007 I swore off mediocrities and feel no need to go back on my word.]

You are mistaken about the “Rank amateurs at the controls it seems…”

The man at the controls was Kevin Gray. He is a professional mastering engineer and has been for a very long time. His records don’t sound very good though, as our reviews make clear for those who care to read them.

Here is a typical review for one of this label’s 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 dynamic 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 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.

Chad was interviewed at the AXPONA show in 2022 by a writer for The Absolute Sound and this is how the conversation went:

“Everything here that I reissued, I wouldn’t have reissued it if I didn’t think it was killer,” Chad said. “At Analogue Productions I’m doing my favorite records, the ones that I think are killer. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it.

“All of those records, you won’t go wrong. If they don’t impress or satisfy you, you might oughta find another hobby.”

Chad also praised the remastered Analogue Productions pressing of Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues on the Delmark label.

“We’re in Chicago, so if you got a preference for Chicago blues, you need this.”

Our customer is pretty convinced that he “did go wrong.”

Since he was not able to return the record owing to Chad’s “no returns for bad sound” policy, I guess Chad would say that he “might oughta find another hobby.”

Or wise up and stop buying records from someone who apparently doesn’t have faith in his own product.


Steely Dan / Can’t Buy Much of a Thrill – Now with Notes!

More of the Music of Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Steely Dan

At least some of the thrills are here, and for any record on Chad’s label, that is really saying something.

Sonic Grade: B+ to A-

A few comments for the UHQR have been added since this went up on 4/4, now that I’ve had a chance to see the notes in full. I’ve noted the additions in brackets and sectioned some off as well.

Word from the listening panel is in, and they say the new Bernie Grundman mastered UHQR is actually not bad! [Not good, but not bad.]

The tonality is much closer to correct than a lot of the Heavy Vinyl LPs we’ve played recently. Oddly enough, instead of the EQ being overly smooth, in the way that appears to be all the rage these days, the tonality instead errs on the side of somewhat thinner and brighter than ideal. (One could also use the term “correct.”)

This should not be especially surprising. Bernie Grundman has been remastering Heavy Vinyl records since the mid-’90s. Overly smooth titles that he cut are hard to find, on the hundreds of titles he did for Classic Records or anywhere else. The more of his recent work I play, the more I have come to see his disastrously dull Giant Steps as an outlier.

The instruments where these tonality issues are most easily recognized are two that we have written a great deal about on this blog: pianos and snare drums.

The snare sound on the Brothers in Arms that Chris Bellman cut at Bernie Grundman Mastering has the same problem as this new Can’t Buy a Thrill. (Review with specifics coming, sorry for the delay, it has only been two years.)

The thin sounding piano on the Cisco pressing of Aja is likewise a common shortcoming we notice on many of the modern recuts we play.

With links to 29 titles to test for a correct piano sound, and 13 for the snare, the critical listener should be able to find some records in his own collection that will shed light on the problems we heard on Chad’s UHQR.

If your system errs on the side of fat and dark, Chad’s repress has what you need to “fix” the sound of the album. Instead of a murky piano, now you have a clear one. Instead of a too-fat snare getting lost in the mix, now you have a clear snare that you can more easily separate out from the other instruments.

Added 4/5

Note that we did not play all four sides. We felt sides one and three were enough to get an idea of how thrilling this pressing was going to be. We don’t get paid to play Heavy Vinyl pressings. We play them to help audiophiles understand their strengths and weaknesses. We hope that some audiophiles will hear what we have described and perhaps consider that there is a better way. That other way can be found in the bins of their local record store or, for those with deeper pockets, on our site. Either way, settling for the kind of sound found on these modern reissues is the one choice no one should be making.

We played the following four songs, and heard the sonic qualities described below:

  • Do It Again
    • Slightly sandy on the vocals and percussion. [Sandy typically refers to transistory, dry, grainy, or gritty sound.]
    • Has space though.
    • Not too congested and smeary. [A backhanded compliment, that.]
  • Dirty Work
    • Cymbals are bright.
    • Vocals are a bit sandy.
    • Has space.
  • Reelin’ In The Years
    • Voice is thin.
    • Not very natural up top.
  • Fire in the Hole
    • A bit bright.
    • Not harsh but missing some body.

The new version of Can’t Buy a Thrill is not a bad record. In fact, it’s the best ever released by Analogue Productions, as far as we know.

In the Washington Post video, I upset a lot of people by remarking that Chad has never made a good sounding record.

Let me now amend that to “Chad has made exactly one good [not actually good, more like decent] sounding record to our knowledge.”

That’s not really fair though. Maybe his version of Countdown to Ecstasy is good [or decent], can’t say it isn’t.

Our advice: Chad should fire all the other engineers he’s been hiring lately and just work with Bernie from now on. (The guy who cut this record should definitely not be rehired. When’s the last time he mastered a record that’s any better than passable?)

And if it takes six tries to get side one sounding right, then that’s how many times that side will have to be cut.

Matrix / Runout (Side A runout, etched): Bernie Grundman APP 134-45-A (RE-6)
Matrix / Runout (Side B runout, etched): Bernie Grundman APP 134-45-B (RE 3)
Matrix / Runout (Side C runout, etched): Bernie Grundman APP 134-45-C (RE 3)
Matrix / Runout (Side D runout, etched): Bernie Grundman APP 134-45-D (RE 3)

(Once Bernie figured out the kind of thinner, brighter sound that Chad liked for side one, sides two, three and four were a snap. They only took three tries.)

Allow me to make a point about that.

Bernie’s first five versions of side one might have been more to our liking; they might have been less thin and less bright. Whether they were or not is a mystery, and Bernie is certainly not going to be telling any tales out of school.

Added 4/5

Chad is clearly a guy who could be fooled by a thinner, brighter sound. The tonality of his records over the years has been, to be charitable, less than consistent. He doesn’t seem to be able to make up his mind what kind of colorations he prefers.

He used to like super-fat and tubey jazz records, and he hired Doug Sax to make some of those for him. For a while he liked MoFi-like records, and he hired Stan Ricker to make some of those for him. He hired Kevin Gray to make mediocrities like Quiet Kenny (review coming, but you can watch the Washington Post video to get the idea), and he hired George Marino to make a mess of Tea for the Tillerman.

If he’s hiring the best, as he likes to say he is, why all the second-rate and third-rate and just plain awful sounding records?

Of course Bernie has made more than his share of bright records, too. Who is to blame for the shortcomings of Can’t By a Thrill? We’ll probably never know.

Translating Our Grading Scale

The A Minus grade we awarded this UHQR is the highest grade we have ever given to a Heavy Vinyl pressing.

How does that compare to our Hot Stamper grades, you ask? The best way to look at our grades is to compare them to the grades you might have gotten in school, assuming you got some A’s.

White Hot is A Triple Plus. That would be the equivalent to a normal grade of A+, something like 97 or better out of 100.

Super Hot is A Double Plus. That would compare to a normal grade of A,  94 to 96 out of 100.

Hot is A with One Plus or One and a Half Pluses. That would compare to a normal grade of A-,  90 to 93 out of 100.

We stopped listing One Plus Hot Stampers years ago. The lowest rated records you can find on our site these days are Hot Stampers with One and a Half Pluses, graded A+ to A++, and usually only on one side, the other side being Super Hot.

This UHQR would be close to, and perhaps even equal, a Hot Stamper of this grade, assuming you have the cleaning machinery and fluids that we use. (If not, the sonic grade would have to be lowered by half a plus at least, maybe even a full plus. We discuss that here.)

[This UHQR, with grades that averaged less than One and a Half Pluses, would not be a record we would want to offer our customers.]

However, we have played some records that might make the cut.

I would give the Bellman cutting of Brothers in Arms about the same grade [probably a better grade], and the Zep II Jimmy Page put out in 2014 as well [ditto].

This Coltrane record cut by Bernie would also probably earn that grade. [Again, a better grade than the UHQR.]

All of this assumes that the copy you buy sounds as good as the copy we auditioned, of course, something that cannot be assumed but could be tested, I suppose, by buying more than one copy of the UHQR. Anybody want to give that a try?

Added 4/5

Here’s a better idea. Buy every black label ABC copy you see that looks good. No record club copies. No imports. Just original domestic pressings. Clean a bunch of them up and play them. They will show you what is missing from the UHQR.

For some reason, UHQR stands for Ultra High Quality Record. It’s a classic case of an audiophile label overpromising and underdelivering. Does nothing in the world of records ever change?

Yes, something in the world of records does change. Something has changed. Better Records and their Hot Stampers came along. They guarantee to sell you a dramatically better sounding copy of Can’t Buy a Thrill than anything you have ever heard, and if for any reason you are not happy, any reason at all, they give you all your money back.

Or you can get a fancy box with a pair of mediocre pressings of Can’t Buy a Thrill in it from Chad.


Why Would Anyone Want to Take All the Fun Out of CCR’s Music? Part Two

More of the Music of Creedence Clearwater Revival

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Creedence Clearwater Revival

The last time I played one of Chad’s CCR pressings, which I confess was close to a decade ago, it had all the bad qualities of the Bonnie Raitt disc on DCC that I’ve grown to dislike so much.

But what the new AP version really gets wrong is the guitar sound.

Creedence’s music lives or dies by its guitar sound, and the AP pressing is as wrong as they come.

Latest Findings as of 2022

This commentary used to end this way:

The fat, smeary, overly-smooth guitars you hear on the record, lacking any semblance of the grungy energy that are the true hallmarks of this band’s recordings, probably means that some audiophile mastering engineer got hold of the tapes and tried to “fix” what he didn’t like about the sound.

You know, the sound that is all over the radio to this very day. Something was apparently wrong with it. So now that it’s been fixed, everything that’s good about CCR’s recordings is missing, and everything that has replaced those sonic elements has made the sound worse.

Nice job! Keep up the good work. Chad is proud of ya, no doubt about it.

It has now become clear that the various mastering engineers Chad hires are not the ones trying to fix what they don’t like about the sound. Chad is El Jefe, the one telling them what to fix and rejecting their work until these remastered albums sound the way he wants them to sound.

There is no use complaining about the awful work Doug Sax, Steve Hoffman, Kevin Gray, George Marino or anyone else did when hired to master for Analogue Productions. Their task was to please Chad. He is the customer, he is the one paying their fees, and he is the one getting the sound he wants.

If Chad wanted better sounding records — records that are more lively, more tonally accurate, less bloated down low and less smoothed-over up top — veteran engineers such as the gentlemen named above would surely have been able to master these titles more correctly than the evidence would lead you to believe.

But Chad, like many other audiophiles, is a My-Fi guy, not a Hi-Fi guy, and he likes the sound he likes, regardless of what is on the master tapes or what other pressings, mastered by a number of different engineers, often over the course of many decades, might have sounded like. He wants the sound he wants, and their job is to give it to him.

Bernie Grundman, the man in charge of remastering Aja, is finding out that his way is not going to work for Chad. If it takes seven test pressings before Aja has the sound Chad likes, then he will just have to keep working it until Chad hears “his Aja” sounding the way it should.

When it finally comes out, I have no doubt that it will be very different from any pressing of Aja you or I have ever heard. It won’t sound much like the early pressings that Bernie Grundman mastered for ABC in 1977, which are of course the ones we sell. Unless I miss my guess, it will be very different from the master tape.

It will sound the way Chad likes music to sound. He paid a small fortune for the privilege of making Steely Dan sound the way he wants them to sound. Now that the die is cast, those of us with good stereos and basic critical listening skills can go pound sand. The mid-fi guys are being pandered to — in the audiophile world, that’s where the Heavy Vinyl money is — and expecting anything else from this atrocious label means you haven’t been listening very carefully to the records they’ve been releasing for more than 30 years.

Will I Like the New Steely Dan Remasters?

If you think this pressing of Tea for the Tillerman sounds good, it’s a near certainty you will want to be the first on your block to collect all the newly remastered Steely Dan Heavy Vinyls.

The same goes for this pressing of Stand Up. If this is the sound you are looking for, you can be sure Chad will give it to you, good and hard (apologies to H.L. Mencken).

Do these records sound fine to you? You’re happy with them, are you?

Then you have much to look forward to with the release of the complete Steely Dan LP collection!

These Analogue Productions releases will no doubt share many of the sonic characteristics of the above-mentioned titles.

How could they not? They are guaranteed to sound the way Chad wants them to sound. Chad is the customer, and the customer is always right.

If you’re Bernie Grundman, it might take you six or seven runs at it until you find that indescribable and elusive “Chad” sound, but you will have to keep at it until you do, assuming you want to get paid.

Our review for the first of the series that we’ve had the chance to play is in, and here it is.

Could it have been worse? Absolutely. Is it really very good? No, it’s not.

Considering his dismal track record, it’s probably as good sounding a record as Chad is able to make.

To paraphrase Cormac McCarthy:

It’s a mess of a record, ain’t it, Tom?

If it ain’t, it’ll do till a mess gets here.”