Labels With Shortcomings – Simply Vinyl

Roxy Music / Avalon – A Simply Vinyl Mastering Success? Or Is It?

More of the Music of Roxy Music

Reviews and Commentaries for Avalon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Roxy Music

[These notes were written many years ago, which means that we ourselves may not agree with some or all of the commentary you see below.]

Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)

This version just plain KILLS most domestic copies and probably quite a few Brit ones too. Simply Vinyl did a superb job here.

Correction: an unnamed mastering engineer at the label did a superb job. Simply Vinyl isn’t in the business of mastering ANYTHING. They leave that up to the pros at the record labels. Sometimes those guys screw it up and sometimes they get it right.

This pressing sounds just like the last import version I had, which sounded great but unfortunately went out of print in the mid-nineties as I remember. Might be mastered by the same guy using the same tape on the same cutter for all I know.

Take it from me, this pressing gets this music right in a way that will not leave the listener wanting more. It really delivers. The sound is superb — sweet, open, with punchy bass and extended highs.

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Gerry Rafferty / City To City – A Simply Vinyl Disaster

More of the Music of Gerry Rafferty

Reviews and Commentaries for City to City

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Simply Vinyl pressing debunked.

We had two copies of the Heavy Simply Vinyl pressing to audition as part of our last big shootout a few years back.

We actually used to like it, but it now sounds worse than we remember, especially in the low end, which is a blurry mess.

Better than any domestic copy I suppose, but that’s not really saying much.   

Rolling Stone Rave Review

Even in his mother’s womb, Gerry Rafferty must have expected the worst. This Scotsman entitled his melancholy 1971 solo album Can I Have My Money Back? (the answer was “No!”). And when Stealers Wheel, the group he subsequently formed with Joe Egan, became an overnight success with the hit single “Stuck in the Middle with You,” only to lapse into morning-after obscurity, he probably said, “I told you so.” On City to City, his first LP in three years, Rafferty sticks grimly to his guns. Not only does he use the same producer (Hugh Murphy) and several of the same musicians, but a similar un-self-pitying fatalism pervades the record.

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In Defense of Simply Vinyl – Are Their LPs Really Worse Than Anybody Else’s?

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dire Straits

This commentary was written many years ago.

Making Movies on Simply Vinyl had been out of print for quite a while, so when it was repressed recently [in the mid-2000s I would guess] we took the opportunity to give it a fresh spin and were SHOCKED — that’s right, SHOCKED — to hear how good it sounded, every bit as good as we remember it from years ago.

It sounded like a good British import, not some 180 gram remastered airless, opaque wannabe.

Most 180 gram records don’t do anything for us these days [circa 2008] — they leave a lot to be desired as we point out left and right in our commentaries — but here’s a wonderful exception to the dismal heavy vinyl rule.

But it is a good British (or Dutch, same thing) import, because Simply Vinyl is not in the remastering business.

Addendum 2012 

We played another copy on SV a year or so later, 2009 or 2010 as I recall, and it did not sound nearly as good as the one we describe above, for what that’s worth.

Also SV has “newer” remasterings of many of their records, which in our experience are uniformly inferior to the earlier ones. I would not buy any SV if I were you unless I heard it first or could return it.

Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album? Our Audiophile LP Overview

More of the Music of The Who

Reviews and Commentaries for Who’s Next

The following was written in the early 2000s. Some additional commentary has been added.

Who’s Next has been remastered for audiophiles many, many times, more often than not quite badly in our opinion.

To be fair, we should point out that our opinion has changed quite a few times over the course of the last twenty years.

This then is our story.

MCA MASTERPHILE

Back in the days when I was foolishly in the thrall of half-speed mastered audiophile pressings, I thought that the MCA Masterphile was king. That was probably the mid to late ’80s.

BRITISH TRACK LABEL ORIGINALS

By the early ’90s I had discovered how good the Black Label Original British Track pressings could be and started preferring those. A bit murky but Tubey Magical, full and rich, precisely the way a good British Rock recording (Faces, Jethro Tull) should be.

JAPANESE AND GERMAN

Of course by then I had played numerous Japanese and German pressings, none of which sounded right to my ears, then or now. The Japanese did what they like to do to most of the records they master, from whatever dub tapes are sent to them: they brighten up the sound.

When I had much darker, less-revealing system, the Japanese pressing did better than most of the other pressings I played.

But it was wrong, and the better my stereo got the more wrong it sounded. This process comes under the general heading of Audio Progress 

MCA HEAVY VINYL

In 1995 the MCA Heavy Vinyl version came out, mastered by Kevin Gray. I quite liked it at the time but no longer do; it’s brightened up, opaque, airless and much of the fine detail of the recording is missing, all due to the crude cutting system Kevin employed at the time. It’s also notoriously badly pressed, resulting in stitches in the vinyl that are audible on practically every copy. (more…)

Letter of the Week “Meanwhile I sold out near all my pseudo-audiophile LP’s – they are useless.”

More Letters

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he has been buying lately: 

Hey Tom, 

I want to express my gratitude to your long-lasting efforts with regard to music. It has fully changed my whole life as a listener of music. [emphasis added]

It’s a great pleasure and I reached a complete different level of enjoyment and listening habits. To hear a Hot Stamper it’s also often a physical and emotional experience (sensation of heat, tears in the eyes, palpitations etc.). Thanks to your great Hot Stampers I might experience with so much pleasure.

Meanwhile I sold out near all my pseudo-audiophile LP’s (i.e. MFSL, Nautilus, DCC, Simply Vinyl etc.) – they are useless.

And last but not least it’s very important to buy these hot LPs now and here, before deafness, tinnitus (my greatest fear) and dementia are going to kill us. All LPs are worth their price, because I can imagine how much effort it takes to do the shootouts. (I did some.) (more…)

Blondie / Parallel Lines on Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of Blondie

Reviews and Commentaries for Parallel Lines

Sonic Grade: D or worse

EMI and Simply Vinyl both released Heavy Vinyl versions of the album with little sonic success.

I remember being underwhelmed by the Simply Vinyl version, the perfect example of the smeary sub-gen sound you get when a record is made from a tape dub.

The EMI 180 was brighter and thinner and every bit as wrong in its own way. Choosing among them would have been difficult.

The best choice: none of the above. 

As is so often the case, the Heavy Vinyl Reissues are simply a disgrace.

I became a giant fan of this album the moment I heard it, but I always felt that the sound of my old original left something to be desired. So many copies are thick and lifeless; the music wants to cook but the sound seems to be holding it back.

And like an idiot I’m sure I had traded my original domestic pressing in for the MoFi when it came out in the early ’80s, the kind of dumbass audiophile move I discuss in the commentary Audiophilia 101 – What Kind of Audio Fool Was I?

The Who / Tommy – Our First Big Shootout Winner from Way Back in 2008

 

More of The Who

Reviews and Commentaries for Tommy

This British Track Black Label pressing DEMOLISHED our expectations for this album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard The Who sound this good.

Three out of four sides rate our top grade of A+++, and side three ain’t far behind at A++. What do such high grades give you for this album? Tubey magical guitars, silky vocals with lots of texture, unbelievable weight to the bottom end, “you are there” immediacy, BIG drums sound, OFF THE CHARTS rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

This is only the second $1000 Classic Rock Hot Stamper we’ve ever listed on the site. We know there’s always a rise in trash talk on the vinyl message boards when we throw this kind of record on the site, but we can’t worry about that silly business. Our job is to find you guys the best of the best, and here’s a record that we’re very proud to put at the very top of our top shelf. (more…)

Harry Nilsson / Nilsson Schmilsson – A Simply Vinyl Disaster

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Simply Vinyl pressing debunked.

Awful in every way. Made from a dub of the master tapes and then mastered poorly.

Phill (That’s Two L’s) Brown

I recently looked up the engineer for the album and am rather shocked that I never paid much attention to his body of work before.

He assisted on some amazing sounding records, many that we’ve auditioned and some that we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for and know to be superb recordings:

  • Arthur Brown – Crazy World of Arthur Brown
  • Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends (Superb)
  • Small Faces – Ogden’s Nutgone Flake
  • Traffic – Mr Fantasy (WOW! The Best of the Best)
  • Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower
  • Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
  • Steve Miller Band – Sailor
  • Spooky Tooth – Spooky Two (Superb)

And these are a sample of favorites he engineered:

  • Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
  • Jeff Beck – Rough and Ready
  • Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley
  • Roxy Music – Manifesto

The first and third can be superb, the other two merely good in our experience.

David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust – Avoid the Simply Vinyl and EMI 100 LPs

More of the Music of David Bowie

Reviews and Commentaries for Ziggy Stardust

Sonic Grade: D

The Simply Vinyl version sounds just like the EMI that came out in the ’90s. Neither are very good. Flat, compressed and badly lacking in Tubey Magic, the right CD probably sounds better than either of these Heavy Vinyl pressings.

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.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

And finally,

A Confession

One final note of honesty. Even as recently as the early 2000s we were still somewhat impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we had never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty plus years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem to prefer.

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.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. We know that many of our customers see things the same way.

Dire Straits / Brothers in Arms – Simply Vinyl Reviewed

Sonic Grade: B

This older Simply Vinyl pressing (with the gold SVLP sticker) actually sounds pretty good. It certainly is one of the most ANALOG sounding versions I’ve heard, high praise in my book.

We’ve recommended it in the past. It’s a nice record (if you can get your hands on one) but it’s not really a match for our Hot Stamper pressings. The multiple copies we auditioned did darn good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue and substantially better than the average pressing, hence the “B” grade. Simply Vinyl seems to have done a good job here.

Correction: an unnamed mastering engineer at the label did a superb job. Simply Vinyl isn’t in the business of mastering ANYTHING. They leave that up to the pros at the record labels. Sometimes those guys screw it up and sometimes they get it right.