Miscellany

Does It Seem to You That This Guy Knows Much About Dark Side of the Moon?

It does not to me, but I admit to some bias when it comes to DSOTM. I must have played more than a hundred copies over the last forty-odd years. I was sure I understood exactly which copies had the best sound, and again and again I was proved wrong.

We only found out what the best sounding versions were about five or six years ago. We did that by doing shootout after shootout with every version we could lay our hands on, starting around 2005. We even did a shootout for two different Mobile Fidelity pressings many years ago, which we think makes for some good reading to this day.

It’s especially good reading for those who don’t appreciate how dramatic pressing variations can be for even quality controlled limited editions. The comparison of the two MoFi’s centers around the idea that midrange tonality is by far the most important quality to listen for on Dark Side, and that, surprisingly to some audiophiles, but obviously not to us, there are MoFi pressings with a correct midrange and there are some without.

Is this fellow listening for midrange tonality? If you watch the video and he says he is, then you can let me know!  And if not, you can ask him in the comments why he wasn’t. Maybe he just likes the chiming clocks and the bass of the heartbeat. Some audiophiles have been known to ignore the fundamentals when comparing records.

And picking six random copies of six different pressings is not exactly approaching the problem scientifically either of course. It is a clear violation of the First Cornerstone of Hot Stamper Shootouts, to wit

  1. You must have a sufficient number of copies to play in order to find at least one “hot” one.

Impressive Records? Not Really

Most of the versions of DSOTM that this individual is reviewing have never impressed us sonically. They are the pressings that most audiophiles have probably heard about and read about in the magazines and on forums. If you know practically nothing about the album going in, these might be the six pressings you would consider playing against each other in a shootout. To be charitable, I suppose you could call it a good start.

Our reviewer seems to be the type who puts a great deal of faith in so-called audiophile pressings — the Japanese Pro-Use Series, the UHQR — the kinds of records that sound more and more artificial and/or mediocre to us with each passing year.

If your stereo is not showing you what’s wrong with these kinds of records, you have your work cut out for you. This is especially true of some of the Ultra High Quality Records put out my Mobile Fidelity in the early ’80s, like this one.

Our Take on DSOTM Pressings

The domestic pressings we have auditioned over the years have never made it into a real shootout. They have always sounded far too flat and veiled to be taken seriously. There are some very good sounding Pink Floyd pressings on domestic vinyl — Wish You Were Here and The Wall can both sound amazing on domestic vinyl — but Dark Side is not one of them in our experience.

The Doug Sax-mastered Heavy Vinyl version from 2003 we played year ago was way too bright and phony to these ears. We hated it and said so at the time.

We came across a very early British pressing about fifteen years ago, the one with the solid blue triangle label, but it was not as good as other pressings we were playing at the time and we never bought another one.

We’ve liked a lot of later UK pressings over the years, but we don’t go out of our way to buy those anymore now that we have heard the really amazing pressings we like now.

As I said, we discovered the killer stampers about five years ago, and that showed us an Out of This World Dark Side we had no idea could even exist. We have a name for pressings like those. We call them Breakthrough Pressings, and we even sometimes used to award them a sonic grade of more than Three Pluses.

Note that we no longer give out the A++++ Beyond White Hot Stamper grade for the kinds of pressings that simply blew our minds, with sound so far superior to any copy we’d ever heard that they broke our grading scale.

Two Minutes Was Enough

I frankly admit I did not spend two minutes watching this video. I simply do not have the patience to watch audiophiles like this guy opine about records he thinks he knows a lot better than he actually does.

That said, if there is a pressing that he thinks is the best, and you own one, we would be happy to send you a Hot Stamper to go head to head with it and let the chips fall where they may.

We are not in the opinion business. Opinions are cheap. Everybody has them. We wrote a bit about the subject in a post entitled Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works. A relevant excerpt:

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable (or the modern equivalent of same).

He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

Rather than being in the opinion business, we prefer being in the better sounding records business, offering, as we like to say, Records for Audiophiles, Not Audiophile Records.

Our records are expensive, but they deliver the sound we describe, and we have the letters from customers to prove it.

Customer Testimonials for Dark Side of the Moon

And if we are wrong — which does happen from time to time, we see no reason to hide the fact — you get your money back.

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Pink Floyd

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

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The Hollies Remember – On a Carousel (various session segments)

More Hollies

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Hollies

If only their recordings were better. Most of their early albums sound like they are playing on an AM radio.

Thanks god The Beatles were so well recorded (although I have to say With the Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night are consistently thinner and brighter than they should be, and thinner and brighter than the albums that follow and Please Please Me before them).

(more…)

The Story Behind A Collection of Beatles Oldies

The LOST Beatles Album | Cancelled By Apple – Should It Be Re-released?

My vote would be no. The new Beatles albums are awful sounding. Here are a couple of reviews:

The Beatles / Rubber Soul – How Does the Heavy Vinyl Sound?

Let It Be on Heavy Vinyl – The Gong Rings Once More

We have our own take on this album:

The Beatles / A Collection of Beatles Oldies – Listening in Depth

The Beatles / A Collection of Beatles Oldies – Sounds Great on the Original

And of course we sell great sounding Beatles albums and have written quite a bit about them:


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Jimmy Page – The Session Man

I’m so glad this music from the early ’60s does nothing for me because I sure wouldn’t want to try and find any of these old records!

 

Hot Stamper Pressings of Led Zeppelin Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Led Zeppelin

Extreme Record Collecting Part II: There’s Only One Way to Find Better Records

A few months back Richard Metzger posted on the Dangerous Minds website a story recounting his lifelong search for better sounding pressings of his favorite albums.

The third paragraph evinced a deep understanding of this hobby of ours, as you can see:

Please allow me to state the obvious right here at the outset: Most people WILL NOT GIVE A SHIT about what follows. One out of a hundred maybe, no, make that one out of a thousand. Almost none of you who have read this far will care about this stuff. If you are that one in a thousand person, read on, this was written especially for you. Everyone else, I won’t blame you a bit if you want to bail.

The story of my life! Part One of Richard’s life story can be found here.

Gadzooks – Now there’s a Part Two!

After reading Richard’s post, I contacted him and offered to send him a Hot Stamper pressing of a record of his choosing, about which he was of course free to say anything he liked. (This is still America, right?)

That record turned out to be Aja and it seems he was pretty pleased with the copy we sent him.

Here is a link to his article.

I hope to have some comments to add when time permits.


Speaking of Aja, we’ve been playing that one since the day it came out in 1977. We’ve written extensively about the album since we started doing shootouts for it around 2006. Here is the link to some of our Reviews and Commentaries.

If you are interested in a Hot Stamper Steely Dan album, we have some of those too, but probably not Aja, because copies of Aja are getting very hard to find nowadays and the ones we do find with killer sound sell quickly.

The picture below was taken many years ago. That particular shootout involved 16 copies, but finding 16 copies of the album to do a shootout nowadays would take us at least two years, and maybe three. They are not sitting in the bins like they used to be.

However, since we have easily played more than a hundred pressings over the years, closer to two hundred by now I would guess, we know when Aja sounds right and when it doesn’t.  That’s why it was so easy to know how bad this version was when we first played it back in 2007.

John Is Pretty Sure Hot Stampers Don’t Sound Good: “The only problem I have with my evaluations is that I never heard his records.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out the interview Wired conducted with me a few years back.

If you have some time on your hands, maybe too much time on your hands, go to the comments section and read the 300 plus postings that can be found there, the writers of which seem to be offended by the very idea of Hot Stampers. They also decry the obvious shortcomings of analog vinyl itself, as well as the ridiculously expensive equipment some credulous, misguided audiophiles use to play it, as if you didn’t know already!

Here is one that I found to be especially interesting from a psychological perspective: 

Bad, mismatched system setup. Customer base probably has the same. Also evaluation process is questionable. Uses a mediocre solid state amp and looks for “tubey magic” because of some misplaced concept of “accuracy” as I discussed before.

Yes, there is a lot of bad stuff out there, and it does give the stereo industry as a whole a bad name. I have heard some pretty crappy, expensive setups in my day.

I was listening to Phoebe Snow’s “Second Childhood” on my best system last night. Boy, I love my new turntable!

The only problem I have with my evaluations is that I never heard his records. My comments are probably correct, but it would be interesting to audition a few of his “golden” albums just to confirm he hasn’t really found anything. The reason I am confident that he probably does not have anything is because virtually every repressing I’ve heard is better than the original. Claiming otherwise hurts his credibility.

John

There is one sentence in the paragraphs above that should raise a giant red flag and help you to appreciate how reliable John’s analysis of our stereo and methods might turn out to be. If you didn’t catch it the first time through, give it another shot. Okay, here goes:

“The reason I am confident that he probably does not have anything is because virtually every repressing I’ve heard is better than the original.”

That’s so strange! Virtually every repressing I’ve heard is worse than the original. What gives?

If I may paraphrase our writer: the reason I am confident that he probably does not know anything about records or audio is that he thinks repressings are always better than vintage pressings. We’ve critically auditioned tens of thousands of records, including many hundreds of repressings, admittedly on our “bad, mismatched system setup,” and I guess we must have gotten it all wrong over the 34 years we’ve been in the audiophile record business. The shame of it all!

Obviously, John knows he does not need to try one of our Hot Stampers. You can see him talking himself into the wisdom of doing nothing with each succeeding paragraph. It’s so easy for him to be right by pretending to know something he can’t possibly know.

And if he did ever order one, and had at least a halfway decent stereo to play it on, it would turn his world upside down so fast it would make his head hurt, and the possibility of that happening would be very, very upsetting. It makes no sense for John to risk such an outcome.

Even if our records were as cheap as the ones he is buying, it would not justify the psychological damage that would result. He would basically have to start his collection over again, as this good customer did.  A few hundred others just like him have done the same, and they’re the ones that will be keeping us in business for years to come. To paraphrase another famous saying, “They’ve heard the future, and it works!

Better for John to follow the path he is on. It’s working for him. Why would he want to rock his own boat? (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:

        Hey Tom, 

Some audiophile guy professes to me that he prefers his Japan and German pressings of Dire Straits’ 1st LP over the UK press. How can I tell him in a kind way that he is wrong?

You can’t, in a kind way or any other way. You have to play the two pressings for him, on his stereo or yours, and that’s simply not possible unless he lives near you, which is rarely the case, audiophiles being few and far between. 

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable for all you know (or the modern equivalent of same). He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

I Look Forward to Being Proven Wrong

Along those lines, I had a new customer tell me that this record was one of the better Heavy Vinyl reissues he had heard recently. Rather than just paint every Heavy Vinyl pressing with the broad brush of disgust I normally reach for when doing reviews for these new pressings, I though maybe I should give this one a listen.

It might change my mind. It might help me see the light. Maybe I could even learn a thing or two instead of being so relentlessly negative about modern reissues. They can’t all be as bad as you say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one up right then and there.

For thirty bucks, I learned a lesson worth a great deal more than the money I sunk into such a worthless piece of vinyl on the say-so of someone whose stereo I had never heard, which is this: never believe a word you read about audio or records, no matter who says it, or where you read it, except under the following circumstances.

What circumstances, exactly?

To my mind there is only one circumstance when it makes sense to believe what somebody — anybody — tells you about the sound of a record: If that advice comes with a 100% money back guarantee of the purchase price if you are not happy with the sound of it.

It can’t get any more simple than that, now can it?

Do any of these guys ever put their money where their mouths are? Not a one of them ever has to the best of my knowledge, and why would they? Plenty of downside, but no trace of upside. To quote Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther from Victim of Love, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.”

Of course we do things very differently here at Better Records. Yes, we have strong opinions. Lots of them.

But we back those opinions up with a full money back guarantee. The upside for us is huge — a satisfied customer, our favorite kind — and the downside is practically nil — whatever record someone returns just goes back up on the site, sells to someone else and we never see it again. Voila, another satisfied customer!

I don’t know how Chad Kassem would react to you trying to return his Tea for the Tillerman, but I doubt he would take too kindly to the idea.

And speaking of not being wrong, we actually go out of way to point out when we are. Better to be a scout rather than a warrior.

There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is. (more…)