This Decca reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Roy Wallace was the engineer for these sessions from 1955 to 1961 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall.
It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s, 1972 to be exact. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the mediocre-at-best modern mastering of today.)
The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these superb sides.
We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.
Not sure how much of this video you can stand — nothing could interest me less than a couple of audiophile / vinyl enthusiasts spouting off on what they think about some random records sitting in a local store’s bins — but one or two bits caught my eye. I thought it might possibly be of service to share them with you.
Is there any value to the comments of these two collectors? If you care about what music they like, perhaps. Anything about what to look for on the label or jacket that might correspond to better sound? If it’s there I sure didn’t see it, but I admit to speeding through most of it so I can’t say for sure.
The first bit I refer to above is at 18:42. The album in question is the legendary Kind of Blue. At this point the unseen helmet-cammed audiophile picks up the record, recognizes the original cover, and proceeds to pull the record out to see what era the pressing is from.
Drat! The disappointment in this audiophile’s voice is palpable as he drops the record back in the bin with his dismissive comment that “it’s a later pressing.”
But we here at Better Records would be falling all over ourselves to get our hands on that later pressing. Those late pressings can and often do win shootouts. We would never look down our noses at a Red Label Columbia jazz LP, and neither should you.
Our intrepid audiophile explorer does much the same thing about 23 minutes in. It seems pretty clear to us that he has no respect for such reissues, another example of one of the most common myths in record collecting land, the myth that the original pressing is always, or to be fair, usually better. (more…)
Hits That Are Made from Dub Tapes
The sound of some songs on some greatest hits albums can be BETTER than the sound of those very same songs on the best original pressings.
How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. It’s a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the presumptive Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album’s final two track master mix tape and used to make the 45 single, the idea being that the single is what people are going to hear on the radio and want to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, go out and buy the album. One way or another, it’s the single that will do the selling of the band’s music. This is clearly the case with the albums of Traffic.
I received this email a while back: “Hi Tom, could you please recommend a book which would give the stamper numbers associated with the different pressings of a particular record.”
Let me take this opportunity to give a more comprehensive answer, since the concept of Hot Stampers is not especially well understood by the audiophile community outside of our admittedly rather small customer base. Only those who have spent a great deal of time reading the reviews and commentary on the site are likely to understand the importance of stampers. This is partly my fault, as this issue of stamper variability and quality is spread out all over the place, exactly where, no one really knows.
We get letters from time to time chiding us for charging what strikes some as rather large amounts of money for records that admittedly do not have much in the way of Collector Value, the implication being that collectible records are of course worth the high prices they command in the marketplace. Hot Stampers, however, are somehow different. Clearly they cannot be worth the outrageously high prices we’re asking.
It is our opinion that the writers of these letters have made a rather glaringly erroneous assumption: That the records we sell are not subject to the same market forces as all other records..
This strikes us as just plain silly.
As anyone with a grounding in basic economics will tell you, we cannot force our customers to buy anything from us, especially old vinyl records, the kind of thing that most people have found they can easily do without, thank you very much.
I defy anyone who has not made a lifelong study of record collecting to tell me what even 10% of the records shown here sound like.
The owner has no way of knowing either.
Anyone can amass a collection of records — one this big, ten times its size or one-tenth its size, the process is the same. You just buy whatever you like and organize them whichever way you see fit.
There is no limit to the kinds of records one might collect: originals, imports, audiophile pressings, picture discs, the TAS List – you name it, you can collect it.
There are literally millions of records for sale around the world on any given day. They’re not hard to find, and being so common, collecting them is easy. A single collection for sale as of this writing contains more than 3 million records. That works out to a thousand records each for three thousand collectors. Do you really have time to play more than a thousand records? That’s a different record every day for close to three years!
One Customer’s Story
I want to thank you once again…
Quite a few years ago now I contacted you and talked about this concept called “hot stampers”…It ended up both saving me a lot of misdirection and foolishly trying to rebuild my vinyl collection with new vinyl re-releases often called “audiophile” and “half-speed” issues.
After a few confirmations of what you said I quickly sold all those copies and began building a real world class collection of vinyl “original” hot stamper level records. A good number cam from your business and I also made a hobby of trying to do what you do in finding “hot stampers”. Fortunately Philadelphia has a reasonable number of used record stores but unfortunately, as you well know, this is a rigorous and costly endeavor…..but it can be rewarding at times and at other times requires that I rely on you.
So today I’m snowed in here so I fired up the rig and decided to do some small scale shoot outs and find the true great copies from my already culled collection. Put on several Hall and Oates and focused on “She’s Gone”… one was just clearly dynamic, clear and present…..then put on several Dire Straits “Love over Gold” and ended up with 3 killer copies (such a good lp).. I then put on about 5 copies of Phil Collins “Face Value” with “If Leaving Me is Hard”….What a great love song….and narrowed it to 2.
Yes my rig is really awesome for close up intimate listening at any level. It is something I have worked on for decades to become resolving, dynamic, harmonic, dimensional transparent, and involving. I can listen loud and close without distortion. When I suddenly find that “hot stamper” Phil Collins is in the room where I hear his voice articulate and rich with background singers just as good and the band perfectly balanced to his vocal.
And it is then I think of your contribution to all of this and want to tell you. So that is what I am doing. I know what three stars means…..I can’t afford many of them as I would assume some wealthy customers can but I really appreciate them and their unfortunate rarity….. and I appreciate all the work you have done to make this possible,
In his latest letter Dan tells us of his disappointment with the new reissues he’s been trying:
… And thanks again for that amazing “Who’s Next” record. It was startling to hear the difference between that and the Classic – and that was one of the better modern audiophile records!I can’t tell you how many modern reissues I’ve bought over the past couple months that have lost, and lost badly, to just my one single original or early pressing of an album. Reissues by AC/DC, The Who, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, and Patti Smith have all failed miserably against my merely average sounding originals.
Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.
Well, it certainly can be, but sometimes it isn’t, and failing to appreciate that possibility is a classic case of misundertanding a crucially important fact or two about records. Audiophile analog devotees would do well to keep these facts in mind, especially considering the prices original British pressings are fetching these days.
Simply put: Since no two records sound alike, it follow that the right label doesn’t guarantee the right sound. A recent shootout illustrated both of these truths.
In an old commentary for a shootout we did for Carole King’s Tapestry album we took shots at both the CBS Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile pressing and the Classic Heavy Vinyl Audiophile pressing, noting that both fell far short of the standard set by the Hot Stamper copies we’d discovered. This finding (and scores of others just like it) prompted us to promulgate the following axiom of audiophile record collecting, which we are calling…
Better Records Record Collecting Axiom Number Two
The better your stereo gets, the fewer Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings you will want to play, or own for that matter.
(This assumes a fact not in evidence: that audiophiles get rid of their bad sounding records. It has been my experience that the reverse is actually more often the case. Most audiophiles seem to like to hang on to their bad sounding audiophile pressings, Why they do so I cannot for the life of me understand. To me a bad sounding audiophile record is a record that has no business being played and should either be tossed or sold, with any proceeds from the sale applied to the purchase of good records — you know, like the ones on our site.)