Labels with Shortcomings – Reference

Kōtèkan – Percussion And…

More Kōtèkan

More Percussion Recordings of Interest

  • You’ll find STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides of this original Reference LP
  • So transparent, dynamic and REAL, this copy raises the bar for the sound of percussive music on vinyl
  • Includes an extraordinary interpretation of Ravel’s La Flute Enchantee that must be heard to be believed
  • “… heady, explosive, weird, bizarre and brilliant playing…” – S.F. Chronicle

This Reference LP, mastered by Stan Ricker might just be the best sounding record this sorry excuse for an audiophile label ever made.

Any label that would release Audiophile BS records such as this one and this one has a lot of explaining to do.

I hadn’t played this Kōtèkan title in probably twenty years, but I remembered it sure sounded good to me back in the day, so we decided to get some in and do a shootout for them. This copy was an impressive reminder of just how good the recording can be.

(more…)

Copland / Appalachian Spring Suite on Reference Records

Exceptional Classical and Orchestral Pressings Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Reference Record reviewed and found wanting.

In all the years I was selling audiophile records, one of the labels whose appeal escaped me almost completely was Reference Records. Back then, when I would hear one of their orchestral or classical recordings, I was always left thinking, “Why do audiophiles like these records?”

I was confused, because at that time, back in the ’80s, I had simply not developed the listening skills that today make it so easy to recognize their faults. I thought other audiophiles must be hearing something I wasn’t. I could not put my finger on what I didn’t like about them, but now, having worked full time (and then some!) for more than twenty years to develop better critical listening skills, the shortcomings of their records, or, to be more accurate, the shortcomings of this particular copy of this particular title, took no time at all to work out.

My transcribed notes for RR-22:

  • Lean / No weight
  • No Tubey Magic
  • Blurry imaging when loud
  • No real depth
  • Hot tonal balance

Does this sound like what you are looking for in an audiophile record?

Shouldn’t you be looking for audiophile quality sound?

Well you sure won’t find it here.

This link will take you to some other exceptionally bad records that, like this one, were marketed to audiophiles for their putatively superior sound. On today’s modern systems, it should be obvious that they have nothing of the kind and that, in fact, the opposite is true.

We’ve just started a list of records that suffer from a lack of Tubey Magic like this one, and it can be found here.


A PUBLIC SERVICE

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some Hall of Shame records the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good pressing, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much less excusable.


An Astoundingly Bad Sound Show!! – If This Is Your Idea of a Reference Record, You Are in Real Trouble

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Half-Speed Mastered Disaster if there ever was one.

Mastered by none other than Stan Ricker. RR-7 also appears to still be on Harry Pearson’s TAS List!

My recent notes can be seen below. (The 1 in the upper left hand corner is my abbreviation for side one, which seems to be the worst side of the two here.)

Track two, the Red Norvo selection, is a real mess, highlighting the problems typically caused by Half Speed Mastering, especially at the hands of one of the most notorious “Audiophile” Mastering Engineers of All Time, the late Stan Ricker. Who cut as many bad sounding records as SR/2 himself? No one I can think of comes close.

His records, with few exceptions, suffer from bad bass (probably bloated and poorly defined in this case, my notes don’t say but after playing these records for thirty years I doubt I’m very off with this guess) and phony, boosted highs, which cause the striking of the mallets to be emphasized in an especially unnatural and unpleasant way.

Arthur Lyman had dramatically better sound in the ’50s. How come none of the audiophiles at Reference Records bothered to figure out how he did it?

Can anybody take sound like this seriously?

There is only one group that buys into this kind of ridiculous, surprisingly bad sound, and they go by the name of Audiophiles. They are the True Believers who can be found expressing their opinions on every audiophile forum on the internet. They will tell you all the reasons why this record should sound good — most of which can be found on the back of the jacket — without ever noticing that the sound is actually quite awful, regardless of the good intentions of Professor Johnson, Stan Ricker and everybody else involved with this disastrous piece of audiophile trash.

Can you imagine using a record this wrong to test and tune your stereo with? You would end up with one lousy sounding system.

But Mobile Fidelity makes Half Speed Mastered Records that sound every bit as wrong as this one to this very day. Dire Straits’ first album comes to mind immediately, I’m just waiting to find the time to review it. Self-described audiophiles seem to be eating their records up, never noticing how phony they sound. For the life of me I cannot understand it.

The bad records Mobile Fidelity was making in the ’70s and 80s tended to have sloppy bass, sucked out mids and a boosted top end. The ones they make now tend to be overly smooth up top (the sound of analog!), with sloppy bass and sucked out mids.

Apparently there is a market for records with that kind of sound.

(more…)

Red Norvo Quintet – The Forward Look (UHQR)

Audiophile Records with Honest-to-Goodness Top Quality Sound

This is a BRAND NEW UNPLAYED Reference 45 RPM Half-Speed Mastered UHQR LP. They only made 1,000 of these, so sealed or unplayed copies are virtually non-existent.

This is actually one of the best sounding Reference Records. It was recorded in the ’50s on location and has very natural sound. Half-Speed Mastered by Jack Hunt even!

I think the exceptionally natural sound is the result of two factors:

  1. It’s a live recording, meaning not everything can be controlled and the space is real, not engineered. And,
  2. This is early days in the recording history of Keith Johnson. As time went on he thought his engineering skills were improving, but I see little evidence of that in the results of his labors, the records he made. His records are as phony and weird as practically every other audiophile label of the day (M&K, Telarc, Chesky), no doubt the result of these audiophile types thinking they knew a lot more about the subject of recording than was actually the case. Play any vintage pressing from the ’50s to see exactly what they failed to accomplish.