Record Collecting for Audiophiles

The Rolling Stones / Out of Our Heads – Mono or Reprocessed Stereo?

More Rolling Stones

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On this London LP, even though it says the record is electronically re-processed into stereo, the songs we heard on side one were dead mono.

So much for believing what you read on album covers. (more…)

Led Zeppelin II – Stan Ricker Versus Robert Ludwig

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin

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Here is the story of my first encounter with a amazing sounding copy of Zep II.

I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.

To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.

The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded wrong.

Let me tell you, it was a watershed moment in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.

So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing. (more…)

The Who – Tommy

More of The Who

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  • Outstanding sound for all four sides with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on side one and solid Double Plus (A++) grades on the remaining three sides
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl too – they don’t come our way with audiophile quality surfaces like these very often, almost never in fact
  • Our early Black Label British Track pressing here has the rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that has the power to immerse you in the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy named Tommy
  • Top 100, and clearly our pick for the best sounding album The Who ever made – when you play a copy that sounds as good as this one we think you’ll have no problem seeing our point
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Townshend’s ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music.”

*NOTE: On all four sides, a very small warp is not audible.

I know of no other Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end.

Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic that will all but disappear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum. (more…)

Dear Audiophiles: The Wall Sounds Terrible on this Japanese “Audiophile” Pressing

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for The Wall

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This Japanese Import is one of the dullest, muddiest, worst sounding copies of The Wall we have ever played. It is clearly made from a second generation tape (or worse!).

And somehow this pressing, or one very much like it, ended up as on the TAS Super Disc List. I would hope that the copy Harry played sounded a whole lot better than this one.

And the CBS Half-Speed is every bit as bad!

How is it that the worst sounding pressings are so often marketed to audiophiles as superior to their mass-produced counterparts? In our experience, more often than not they are just plain awful, inferior in every way but one: surface quality.

Dear Audiophiles, stop collecting crappy audiophile pressings with quiet vinyl and just switch to CD already.

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Thoughts on Classical Music and My Hot Stamper Collection

         Dear Tom

So what I can’t get out of my mind, you have been doing this all these years, your own personal collection must be the creme de la creme. Cannot even imagine. But sure would love to hear!

Chuck

Chuck,

I’ve had an extensive record collection for all of my life, right up until about fifteen years ago. Starting at the tender young age of 10, I bought the 45 of She Loves You on Swan records, which I still own. Can’t play it, it’s broken, but I keep it anyway. When I was a kid, I used to take my two dollar weekly allowance and buy two 45s with it. Did that for years. Still have them, close to two hundred in old carrying cases. I look forward to playing them in my retirement.

I had hundreds of amazing sounding LPs in my collection, the best of the best from more than 20 years of doing shootouts. About fifteen years ago I asked myself what were all these great sounding records sitting on a shelf for? I never played them because I got to hear all my favorite records every day, and after playing records all day, the last thing I wanted to do at night or on a weekend was pull a record off the shelf and play it.

So I put all my personal records into shootouts, and sometimes they did well and sometimes they did not. (Those of you who go back and play your old records from years past will surely find some real surprises, both good and bad.)

I sit my wife down from time to time when the stereo is at its peak playback quality after doing shootouts all day. I might put on Deja Vu or Back in Black or The Wall or some other amazing pressing we’ve just found, and I always point out to her that this is a record that will be gone next week. This is it, listen to it now because you will not have the chance again for many months, sometimes even years.

Most audiophiles outside of our customers rarely have that experience, but it’s really the only way I listen to music anymore, on the best pressings in the world.

I play mostly classical records these days, which, on the best vintage pressings are really a thrill on big speakers at loud volumes. We had to stop going to the Santa Barbara symphony because the sound was better in my listening room than it was in that hall. Practically all of the performances on vinyl were better too, to tell you the truth. I can’t compete with Disney Hall for sonics, but it takes two hours to get there and good tickets are $300-500 each. It’s tough to make the commitment at those prices, especially when you have spent your entire adult life building a great stereo and room. Suspension of disbelief is immediate and lasting.

The best classical recordings cannot compete with a good orchestra in a good hall, but it has been my experience that those two things in combination are very hard to find in the real world. Fortunately for me, the memory of the music and sound I used to hear at the Disney Hall faded after a few weeks though, at which point I could go back to playing my classical records and enjoying the hell out of them.

Best, TP

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Judy Collins – Sometimes the Hits Are Mastered from Sub-Generation Tapes, and There’s Not Much You Can Do About It

More Judy Collins

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Both Sides Now, the Top Ten hit that finally put Judy on the map, is clearly made from a copy tape and doesn’t sound as good as the songs that follow it on side two. Hey, it happens, and I suspect it happens more often than most audiophiles think. I would wager that back in the day most people who bought this album never even noticed.

One thing I’ve noticed about audiophiles over the years: they’re like most people. The difference of course is that they call themselves audiophiles, and audiophiles are supposed to care about sound quality.

They may care about it, but are they capable of recognizing it? Are they capable of listening critically?  Critically enough to notice dubby sound when they hear it?

Or to notice that one side of a record often sounds very different from another?

Or that some reissues sound better than the originals of the album?

Or that there is no correlation between the country that a rock band comes from and the country that made the best sounding pressings of their albums?

The embrace of one third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing after another by the audiophile community has rendered absurd the pretense that their members ever developed anything beyond the most rudimentary critical listening skills.

Sadly, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the best explanation for the sorry state of audio these days, means they simply don’t know how little they know and therefore see no reason to doubt their high opinions of themselves, their equipment and their acumen.

Progress in audio is possible, but only if you know that you are not already at the top of the mountain. You should recognize that you have a lot of serious climbing to do.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan Box Set – One Customer’s Take on the Analogue Productions 45 RPM Remaster

A good customer bought some SRV Hot Stampers from me a while back. He then told me he was going to spend $400 on the AP SRV Box Set

Hey Tom,

For kicks on this issue of heavy vinyl vs. hot stampers, I’m tempted to order the ‘Texas Hurricane’ box set — 45rpm, 200g etc. — and shoot it out against the SRV records I’ve got from you.

Would you be interested to know how that goes?

In the admittedly unlikely event that the heavy vinyl smoked the hot stampers, would you take them back? Easy to sell the heavy vinyl on without losing money, but not so much the hot stampers.

Just an idea… I’m delighted with what I have from you, but so curious to learn more by comparing etc. Could be fuel for a cool blog post in due course…

CF

I replied:

Oh, I think you are in for quite a shock, and of course we would take our copies back, but I would give you very good odds that that will
never happen as long as you have two working ears.

A few weeks go by.

Tom,

So the results are in … after listening to Texas Hurricane (at 45rpm) and comparing to the White Hot Stamper versions of the same albums I can say… as a musical experience it’s incomprehensible. It just doesn’t rock, doesn’t uplift, and it’s veiled, so you lose the whole meaning of this music, the energy, soul, life.

I wasted $400 to find this out. Any chance you have another customer who’d like to relieve me of it to do their own shootout?

I’ll never doubt you again : )

CF

Good to know you will never doubt me again! Always think back to the sour taste in your mouth and the painful throbbing in your brain from playing this heavy vinyl garbage and perhaps you will never be tempted again. If you feel the urge to cross over to the dark side, please email me and I will do my best to talk you out of it. That way lies madness (and audio frustration).

TP

Here’s the $32,000 Question

Is this a bad sounding record? I don’t know, never played it. Is it worth it to you to spend $400 to find out? Does Analogue Productions have a pretty good track record to rely on in these matters? Or are they, as I have been saying since 1995, one of the worst labels of all time. In another commentary I wrote: (more…)

Vince Guaraldi – A Bloated Mess at 45 RPM from Acoustech

More Bad Sounding Pressings from Analogue Productions

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We played an amazing Hot stamper copy that got the bottom end on this album as right as we’ve ever heard. The contribution of the bass player was clear and correctly balanced in the mix, which we soon learned to appreciate was fundamentally important to the rhythmic drive of the music.

The bass was so tight and note-like you could see right into the soundstage and practically picture Monte Budwig plucking and bowing away.

This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazilian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to Cast Your Fate to the Wind or Manha de Carnival.
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Original Is Better? Sez Who?

Which albums sound better on the right vintage reissue pressing?

These do

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Don’t be put off by the title; these are not some sleepy old-fashioned waltzes. This is swingin’ West Coast jazz at its best. Of course, the arrangements are done in waltz time, but that doesn’t keep them from swingin’.

And the amazingly good sound? Credit Bones Howe, a man who knows Tubey Magic like practically no one else in the world. The Association, The Mamas and the Papas, The Fifth Dimension, and even Tom Waits — all their brilliant recordings are the result of Bones Howe’s estimable talents as producer and engineer.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Reprise pressing, whether in mono or stereo, has never sounded very good to us. The mono is quite a bit worse than the stereo – no surprise there – but both must be considered poor reflections of the master tape.

We sold one many years ago, describing it this way: “Beautiful Original with decent sound — rich, smooth and sweet.” Which it was, but from us that’s little more than damning it with faint praise.

The Discovery pressing is so much bigger, clearer and livelier it’s almost hard to imagine it and the 1962 Reprise original were both made from the same tape. Something sure went wrong the first time around — I think it’s safe to say at least that much. (more…)

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto – Japanese Pressing

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Audiophile Pressing reviewed.

This is a Minty looking Verve Japanese Import LP. It’s not competitive with the best domestic pressings but you could definitely do worse. Trying to find domestic copies that aren’t trashed is virtually impossible, so if you’re a click and pop counter, this copy may be the ticket! Stan Getz is a truly great tenor saxophonist, the cool school’s most popular player. This LP is all the evidence you need. Side 1 has those wonderfully relaxed Brazilian tempos and the smooth sax stylings of Stan Getz.

Side two for me is even more magical. Getz fires up and lets loose some of his most emotionally intense playing. These sad, poetic songs are about feeling more than anything else and Getz communicates that so completely you don’t have to speak Portugese to know what Jobim is saying. Call it cool jazz with feeling.