Records that Are Good for Testing Transparency

Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

More Sinead O’Connor

xxxxx

  • This early UK pressing is big and rich with superb clarity and three-dimensional space that most pressings barely hint at
  • You won’t believe how good Nothing Compares 2 U sounds here – it’s surely one of the best torch songs ever written, and her performance of it (as well as the arrangement) is perfection
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the album plays like a tour de force in its demonstration of everything O’Connor can do… it’s evidence that, when on top of her game, O’Connor was a singular talent.”

NOTE: The first two tracks on side one are on the low side of the grade. This record is rarely quite and this copy is no exception to that rule.

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, a brilliant and unique piece of work, is widely considered one of the best albums of the ’90s. I positively love the album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni’s Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill you won’t soon forget. (more…)

Barney Kessel / Carmen – A Great Disc for Testing Transparency

More Barney Kessel

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Barney Kessel

xxxxx

We highly recommend you make every effort to find yourself a copy of this album and use it to test your system. The right pressing can be both a great Demo Disc and a great Test Disc.

Transparency Is Key

The best Hot Stamper Original pressings have the Tubey Magic we’ve come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that RVG often struggles to get on tape. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that most original pressings rarely did.

There’s a room around this drum kit. So many copies don’t show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does.

It’s amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is all leaned out.

If you like that sound, buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these originals to those of us who are after this sound. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield / Retrospective – Listening in Depth

More Buffalo Springfield

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series, with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Retrospective.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

Extracting all the midrange magic from a legendary album and Desert Island Disc like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile.

Who cares what’s on the TAS Super Disc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it.

And if the only way to find good-sounding clean copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records like this is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what we will have to do.

We’ve never heard a copy of this album that truly qualifies as a Demo Disc, but some of the songs can sound superb — Kind Woman and I Am A Child come immediately to mind. The recording, like so many from the ’60s, may not be perfect, but it’s so full of midrange magic, ambience and sweetness that the musical values of the recording are communicated effortlessly and completely — assuming you have a good copy.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

For What It’s Worth

Almost all copies have surface noise issues at the start of this song.

Mr. Soul

The aggressive quality of the screaming crowd at the beginning of this track is a dead giveaway of the poor sound found on most pressings. When the screaming is clean, undistorted and extends well up top, you have a contender. Add bass, some tubey magic to the midrange and then you can call it a Hot Stamper.

How hot is another question entirely, but if you get this far, you are definitely in the majors. The typical pressing of this album is strictly bush league.

Sit Down, I Think I Love You

On the best copies the tape hiss is clearly audible and tonally correct; this is the first thing you will notice if you have a Hot Stamper. The second thing is how much the guitars “ring”. On the higher rez copies the guitars have some of the loveliest tone you can find on any Springfield album. (more…)

James Taylor / Sweet Baby James

More James Taylor

Reviews and Commentaries for Sweet Baby James

xxxxx

  • This STUNNING copy of Sweet Baby James boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, especially for this album
  • All that lovely echo is a dead giveaway that this pressing has resolution far beyond that of the others you may have heard (and of course the Rhino Heavy Vinyl)
  • Top 100, inarguably a Masterpiece – Fire and Rain and Suite for 20 G (one of JT’s All Time Best) are killer here
  • 5 stars: “Sweet Baby James launched not only Taylor’s career as a pop superstar but also the entire singer/songwriter movement of the early ’70s that included Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and others…”

Vocal reproduction is key to the best sounding copies of Sweet Baby James, as it is on so many Singer Songwriter albums from the era.

To find a copy where Taylor’s vocals are front and center — which is exactly where they should be — but still rich, sweet, tonally correct and Tubey Magical is no mean feat. Only the best copies manage to pull it off.

Out of the dozen or more Green Label early pressings we play every year, relatively few have the full complement of midrange magic we know the best copies can have. As a rule of thumb, the hotter the stamper, the better the vocal reproduction on that copy.

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real James Taylor singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

The Townshend Seismic Isolation Platform Is Key to Better Orchestral Playback

One of our good customers has started writing a blog which he calls

A GUIDE FOR THE BUDDING ANALOG AUDIOPHILE

Below is a review Robert Brook wrote for one of our favorite tweaks. We have most — but not all — of our equipment sitting on one of these stands. We were big fans of the earlier model all the way back in the early 2000s, the kind that had air bladders inside for isolation and that you had to pump air into with a bicycle pump.

The unfortunate aspect of that design was the fact that the amount of air in the bladders had a profound effect on the sound quality of the system. We would pump up the thing, and then listen, and if the sound wasn’t right we would let some air out. We would do this a couple of times, and if the sound kept getting worse, we would pump the thing up again and start over.

For every shootout. The air pressure changed during the day with the heat, and the bladders did not hold air all that well, so you had to do a lot of pumping and air releasing if you wanted to get the best sound.

Crazy, huh? And that’s in combination with all the VTA adjustments that were needed for each title.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, this design is set and forget, with no adjustments to make (although I have some advice for you if you buy one from us). We ordered one to keep around so that our customers can try it in their own homes before buying one. It should be here in a few months. They are hard to get these days, like lots of things that come from across the pond.

I would, however, like to take issue with the title of this commentary. Getting rid of distortion in your system and getting higher resolution sound, which is what this platform can help you do, is key to every kind of music.

It’s also key to getting your system to the next level, the level at which your mediocre modern pressings seem to fall further and further behind your best vintage pressings. If you keep making improvements such as the ones Robert Brook has been advocating on his blog, at some point all the criticisms we make about these new pressings become obvious. Self-evident even. You won’t need me to point them out to you. You’ll hear them just fine on your own. Many, if not most, of our customers already do, which is why they buy records from us that don’t sound anything like most of those Modern Remastered Records.

The Townshend Seismic Isolation Platform IS The KEY to CLASSICAL!

Beethoven / Violin Concerto – Classic Records Reviewed

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for Recordings Featuring Jascha Heifetz

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

It is an airless fraud, a cheap fake reproduction that’s incapable of fooling anyone with two good ears, a properly set up stereo and a decent collection of Golden Age violin concertos. 

The Classic pressing of this album does not present the listener with the sound of a real, wood instrument bowed by horsehair in physical space.

Notes from a Recent Hot Stamper Pressing (more…)

John Williams / Star Wars & Close Encounters / Mehta

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Recordings conducted by Zubin Mehta

This Mobile Fidelity LP contains the music of Star Wars and Close Encounters, conducted by Zubin Mehta. This MoFi pressing is far more TRANSPARENT than the London pressings we have of the same music, even the ones half-speed mastered by Stan Ricker himself. Yes, he cut the original Londons!

It’s still one of the better MoFi remasters, all things considered. The music, to these ears, has always been hi-fi-ish schlock, and the recording itself is way too multi-miked, in the tradition of Phase IV, than I could ever begin to take seriously.

Bottom line, a loser, but the original Londons are even worse!
(more…)

Debussy / Iberia on Classic Records – What, Specifically, Are Its Shortcomings?

The Music of Claude Debussy Available Now

Album Reviews of the music of Claude Debussy

xxx

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic of LSC 2222 is all but unlistenable on a highly resolving, properly set-up hi-fidelity system.

The opacity, transient smear and loss of harmonic information and ambience found on Classic’s pressing was enough to drive us right up the wall. Who can sit through a record that sounds like that? Way back in 1994, long before we had anything like the system we do now, we were finding fault with the “Classic Records Sound” and said as much in our catalogs.

With each passing year — 26 and counting — we like that sound less.  The Classic may be on Harry’s TAS list — sad but true — but that certainly has no bearing on the fact that it’s not a very good record.

MORE RECORDS GOOD FOR JUDGING THESE QUALITIES

Ambience, Size and Space

Smear

String Tone and Texture

Transparency Vs Opacity

(more…)

Shostakovitch / Piano Concerto Nos. 1 and 2 – Another Amazing Piano Concerto Discovery

More of the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

xxxxx

  • This stunning classical release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Westminster is not a label that we typically associate with top quality sonics, but I knew from the moment I dropped the needle on an audition copy that the sound of this Hidden Gem could not be faulted
  • What made this the clear winner was not complicated – it’s solid and weighty like no other, with virtually no smear, situated in the biggest space, with the most energetic performances
  • Clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling, this is a sound that the modern reissue, of any music, from any era, fails to reproduce utterly
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too

(more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland

More Paul Simon

Hot Stamper Pressings of Graceland Available Now


xxxxx

  • A KILLER copy of Paul Simon’s 1986 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Richer, smoother yet still very clear and highly resolving, in precisely the way so few copies are
  • Guaranteed to trounce the well-reviewed but nevertheless AWFUL Heavy Vinyl LP in every way, or your money back and the shipping is on us
  • There’s a delicate, extended top end on this pressing that simply does not exist on the new reissue
  • 5 stars: “An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.”

(more…)