Presenting another entry in our series of Big Picture observations concerning records and audio.
Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles’ First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets.
What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy — on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer — was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say “CD sound.”
When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.
We encouraged the lucky owner to play the bad side for himself, just to hear how awful it is. Yet surprisingly, one might even say shockingly, it has exactly the qualities that audiophiles and collectors are most often satisfied with: the right label, and, in this case, even the right stampers (assuming anyone besides us would know what the right stampers are).
The problem was it didn’t have the right sound.
I know our customers can hear the difference, but can the rest of the audio world? Most of my reading on the internet makes me doubt that they can. When some people say that the differences between pressings can’t be all that big, I only wish they could have played the two sides of this copy. Or had higher quality reproduction so that these differences become less ignorable.
Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you now have a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.
Audiophiles are often surprised when they hear that an LP can sound amazing on one side and mediocre on the other, but since each side is pressed from different metalwork, aligned independently, and perhaps even cut by different mastering engineers from tapes of sometimes wildly differing quality, in our experience it happens all the time.
In fact, it’s much more common for a record to earn different sonic grades for its two sides than it is to rate the same grade.
That’s just the way it goes in analog, where there’s no way to know how a any given side of a record sounds until you play it, and, more importantly, in the world of sound everything is relative.
Since each of the copies in the 2-pack will have one good side and one noticeably weaker or at best more run-of-the-mill side, you’ll be able to compare them on your own to hear just what it is that the Hot Stamper sides give you. This has the added benefit of helping you to improve your critical listening skills. We’ll clearly mark which copy is Hot for each side, so if you don’t want to bother with the other sides, you certainly won’t have to.
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