Labels with Shortcomings – Crystal Clear

Bach / The Fox Touch, Volume 1 – Not As Good As We Thought, Sorry!

[The review reproduced below was written in 2010. Recently I have played copies of these Crystal Clear organ recordings and been much less impressed.

The ambience is a fraction of what it should be, and the reason I know that is that the vintage organ recordings I play have dramatically more size and space than these audiophile pressings do.]

A classic case of Live and Learn. As we like to say, all these audiophile records sound great sitting on the shelf. When you finally pull one out to play it, you may find that it doesn’t sound the nearly as good as you remember it, and that’s a good thing. That’s a sign you are making progress in this hobby!

Ten years from now, if during that time you’ve worked hard on your stereo system, room, electricity and all the rest, your Heavy Vinyl pressings will have flaws you never knew were there.

Our customers know what I am talking about. Some have even written us letters about it.


Our old review, mea culpa.

    • White Hot on both sides, a DEMO DISC quality organ Direct to Disc recording
    • Full, rich, spacious, big and transparent, with no smear
    • The size and power of a huge church organ captured in glorious direct to disc analog
    • We’ve never been fans of Crystal Clear, but even we must admit this recording is Hard To Fault

Are we changing our tune about Audiophile records? Not in the least; we love the ones that sound right. The fact that so few of them do is not our fault. 

The methods used to make a given record are of no interest whatsoever to us. We clean and play the pressings that we have on hand and judge the sound and music according to a single standard that we set for all such recordings. Organ records, in this case, get judged against other organ records. If you’ve been an audiophile for forty years as I have, you’ve heard plenty of organ records.

Practically every audiophile label on the planet produced at least one, and most made more than one. Some of the major labels made them by the dozen in the ’50s and ’60s, and many of those can sound quite wonderful.

Who made this one, how they made it or why they made it the way they did is none of our concern, nor in our mind should it be of any concern to you. The music, the sound and the surfaces are what are important in a record, nothing else.

Richter was making recordings of this caliber for London in the ’50s. Clearly the direct to disc process is not revelatory when it comes to organ records (or any other records for that matter), but finding vintage Londons with quiet vinyl that sound as good as this disc does is neither easy nor cheap these days, so we are happy to offer our Bach loving customers a chance to hear these classic works sounding as good as they can outside of a church or concert hall.

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Charlie Byrd / Direct to Disc – Dark and Unnatural, Not My Idea of Good Sound

More Charlie Byrd

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

This is a very nice looking Crystal Clear 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc LP pressed on white vinyl. Out of the couple of copies we played, this one had the best sound. It had more clarity than the other copy, which sounded veiled and smeary.

I admit I never liked the sound of the record though. It’s dark and unnatural to my ears.  I would avoid it.

There are so many other, better Charlie Byrd recordings, why waste your time and money on this one?

Another example of an “audiophile” record with little in the way of audiophile merit.


FURTHER READING

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings
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Laurindo Almeida – Virtuoso Guitar

More Laurindo Almeida

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • Virtuoso Guitar finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar sound you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog
  • It has the kind of sound I prefer, with none of the razor sharpness that you get on some direct to disc recordings
  • This is one of the best Almeida albums I know of and probably the best Crystal Clear title (which I know isn’t saying much)

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Direct to Discs on Crystal Clear – Few Make the Grade, and These Are Two of Their Worst

More Albums that Didn’t Make the Grade

These are just some of the recordings on Crystal Clear that we’ve auditioned over the years and found wanting.

Without going into specifics — who can be bothered to take the time? — we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection.  

Another Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.

 

Taj Mahal – Live & Direct (Direct to Disc)

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This is a Minty looking Crystal Clear Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign of Play. It’s an EXTREMELY rare title, one of the rarest and best Crystal Clear Direct Discs, with very good sound as I recall. 

“… several outstanding performances by Taj and his International Rhythm Band. Indeed, ‘Little Brown Dog’ catches Taj in one of his transcendental live moments when he gets so down in the groove you never want him to stop.” – AMG Review

Virgil Fox – The Fox Touch Volume 2

Played against the best Golden Age organ recordings, these Crystal Clear titles are noticeably lacking in ambience.

The best pressings, assuming one would do a shootout for them, might be expected to earn a sonic grade of B- or so.

Volume 1 is a TAS List record. But seeing as they were all recorded at the same time, this one might sound every bit as good. Then again, it might not. 

By the way, did you know Stan Ricker cut this record live direct to disc? He did a great job too.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

1. Piece Heroique (Cesar Franck)
2. Litanies (Jehan Alain)
3. Toccata From The Fifth Symphony (Charles Marie Widor)

Side Two

1. Prelude And Fugue In G Minor (Marcel Dupre)
2. Toccata (Eugene Gigout)
3. Finale From The Sixth Symphony (Louis Vierne)

Stoneground / Play It Loud – Bad Direct Disc Music & Sound

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

Sonic Grade: F

An awful Direct to Disc recording. The bad sound and pointless music — this is the kind of crap we audiophiles used to put up with back in the ’70s before we had much of a clue — means that it clearly belongs in only one place on our site: the Hall of Shame.

Laurindo Almeida / Virtuoso Guitar – It Is, Or Can Be, An Awesome Direct to Disc

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

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This recording has very little processing or EQ boost, and the studio is somewhat dead sounding (all too common in the late ’70s). That combination can mean only one thing: If you don’t play this record loud, it will not sound right. The famous Sheffield S9 is exactly the same way. It sounds dead and dull until you turn it up good and loud. When you do, lookout — it really comes alive. The best pressings can sound shockingly like live music, something one just does not hear all that often, even when one plays records all day long as we do.

The snare drum on this copy represents one of the most realistic and dynamic sounding snares I have ever heard. Talk about jumping out of the speakers! If you have plenty of large, fast, powerful dynamic drivers like we do, you are in for a real treat. Track one, side one — lookout!

What to Listen For

What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are two qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency and lack of smear. Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that are the hallmark of high-resolution analog. (more…)