*Our Record Overview – The Really Not Good At All

Some records that didn’t sound very good to us.

The Band – Music From Big Pink – MoFi’s Ruinous EQ Destroys Another Classic

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

In 2012 the new MoFi put out another remastered Big Pink. Since their track record at this point is, to be honest, abysmal, we have not felt the need to audition it.

It’s very possible, even likely, that they restored some of the bass that’s missing from the originals. But bad half-speed mastered bass — poorly defined, never deep and never punchy — is that the kind of bass that would even be desirable?

To us, it is very much a problem. Bad bass is just plain annoying. Fortunately for us it is a problem we have to deal with much less often now that we’ve all but stopped playing half-speed mastered records. (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Hawk Eyes

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Hawk Eyes

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This 1960 Saxophone Ballad session from 1960 has to be seen as yet another recording triumph for Rudy Van Gelder  

The best pressings of these OJC and Prestige reissues from the ’70s and ’80s sound like the vintage jazz albums they emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.

In the case of Hawk Eyes we simply have never seen an original copy clean enough to buy, so we have no reference for what an original would sound like.

That said, having critically auditioned literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few years, we’re pretty confidant we know what they are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of this very pressing. (more…)

The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta – Nautilus Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked. 

And to think we used to actually like the sound of the Nautilus pressing! It suffers from all the same shortcomings other Nautilus and similar half-speeds suffer from: the kind of pretty but lifeless and oh-so-boring sound that we describe in listing after listing. (More bad Nautilus pressings are discussed below.) 

Three of the Best, Or So We Thought

I just did shootouts with three of the best Nautilus Half-Speeds: Heart, The Police’s Ghost in the Machine, and Little Feat. None of them sound like the real thing, and especially disappointing was one of my former favorites, the Little Feat album.

On the title track the Nautilus is amazingly transparent and sweet sounding. There are no real dynamics or bass on that track, so the “pretty” half-speed does what it does best and shines. But all the other tracks suck in exactly the same way Night and Day does. Cutting the balls off Little Feat is not my idea of hi-fidelity.

We put audiophile beaters up for sale every week. Each and every one of them is a lesson on what makes one record sound better than another. If you want a wall full of good sounding records, we can help you make it happen. In fact it will be our pleasure. Down with audiophile junk and up with Better Records. (more…)

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon – Heavy Vinyl Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Rock and Pop LP debunked.

The 30th Anniversary Heavy Vinyl pressing is TOO BRIGHT. There is a boost in the top end, probably right around the 12K region, which is a very poor mastering choice the late Doug Sax apparently made, a choice that is surely not doing this recording any favors. In the case of this new pressing in fact, it’s positively ruinous. (more…)

Bad MoFi Mastering – Part One – Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens and His Sparkling Acoustic Guitars?

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Tea for the Tillerman

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In the commentary for America’s first album we noted that:

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo fidelity. … most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. … on a copy with a bit too much top end they will have an unnatural hi-fi-ish sparkle. 

This kind of sparkle can be heard on practically every record Mobile Fidelity made in the ’70s and ’80s. Tea for the Tillerman, Sundown, Year of the Cat, Finger Paintings, Byrd at the Gate, Quarter Moon in a 10 Cent Town — the list of sparkling MoFis would be very long indeed, and these are just the records with prominent acoustic guitars!

Next time you drop the needle on a Mobile Fidelity record — one of the ones pressed in Japan; the Anadisq series tends to have the opposite problem, no top end at all — listen carefully to the acoustic guitars and tell me if you don’t think they sound a tad sparkly.

We’ve all heard acoustic guitars up close, at parties and coffee shops and what-have-you. Do they really sound like that?

 

John Coltrane – Giant Steps – The Rhino 45 RPM 2 Disc Set Sucks

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Sonic Grade: F

The sound of the new 45 RPM 2 disc version cut by Bernie Grundman sounds thick and dull, much like the Deja Vu he remastered years ago for Classic Records.

As is the case with so many of the Heavy Vinyl reissues released these days, the studio ambience you hear on these pressings is a pitiful fraction of the ambience the real pressings are capable of revealing, the ones mass-produced by Atlantic, original and reissue alike. We’re not sure why audiophiles have trouble noticing such an obvious shortcoming but it and others like it sure don’t get by our crack listening panel here at Better Records too often. (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears – Direct Disc Labs

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Sonic Grade: C

Yet another Half Speed of questionable sound quality.

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations. I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know they can be awesome, but there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, I have a big advantage over my customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally heard more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overridng reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself. It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love. This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings to find the hot one.

1/17/05

Dvorak / Cello Concerto – Munch / Boston – Hard to Recommend in Living Stereo

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I have never heard a copy of this record sound better than decent. This title is very unlikely to have the wonderful sound of the best Living Stereo pressings that you can find on our site, each of which has been carefully evaluated to the highest standards.

If you can get one for cheap, go for it. Otherwise I would pass.

Gaite Parisienne with Fiedler – More Smeary Dreck from Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: F

Another Classic Records LP found wanting. 

The last time I played the Classic I thought it was a smeary mess, as awful as their awful Scheherazade (both shamefully on the TAS List as I recall). If I were to play it today I’m guessing it would join the other Classic Records entries in our Hall of Shame. 

 I love Fiedler’s performance and the 1954 two track RCA Living Stereo sound but finding an original Shaded Dog pressing in clean condition under $500 with the right stampers (something above 10 as a rule) is all but impossible nowadays.

If you want to go that way more power to you. 

This 1954 2-track recording is RCA’s first stereo recording of the work. 1954. Can you believe it? Two mics and two channels and it blows away 99% of all the classical recordings ever done! Some old record collectors and tube lovers say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be. This record proves it.