Records that Are Good for Testing Bass Definition

Romantic Russia – Who on Earth Could Possibly Take the Sound of this Awful Remaster Seriously?

There actually is such a person who does, can you imagine?

Only an Audiophile True Believer could be fooled by sound so ridiculously unnatural.

But the world is full of such people. They bought into the Audiophile BS of Mobile Fidelity in the ’80s and apparently haven’t learned much since.

Now they think Heavy Vinyl is the answer to the world’s problems. The more things change…

If your stereo is any good at all, you should have no trouble hearing the sonic qualities of this album described below. If you are on this blog, and you have tried some of our Hot Stamper pressings, there is a good chance you’re hearing pretty much what we’re hearing. Why else why would you pay our prices?

One thing I can tell you: we would never charge money for a record that sounds as weird and wrong as this MoFi.

A well-known reviewer has many kind things to say about this pressing, but we think it sounds like a hi-fi-ish version of a ’70s London, which means it’s opaque and the strings are badly lacking in Tubey Magical sheen and richness.

The bass is like jello on the MoFi, unlike the real London which has fairly decent bass.

If a self-styled Audiophile Reviewer cannot hear the obvious faults of this pressing, I would say there’s a good chance one or both of the following is true:

  1. His equipment is not telling him what the record is really doing, and/or,
  2. His listening skills are not sufficiently developed to notice the shortcomings in the sound.

The result is the worst kind of Reviewer Malpractice.

But is it really the worst kind? It seems to be the only kind!

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Georg Solti

Hot Stamper Decca and London Pressings Available Now

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The Pentangle – It Doesn’t Get Much More Real on Vinyl Than This

More Pentangle

More British Folk Rock

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This is an honest-to-goodness Demo Disc. When for a (thankfully) brief time back in the ’70s I was selling audio equipment, the song “Pentangling” was a favorite demo cut to play in the store. The sound of the string bass and snare drum are amazingly natural; I don’t know of any other pop album from the era that presents the vibrant timbre of those two instruments better.

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The Transatlantic British originals can be quite good as well, but are very tough to come by in good condition these days, and pricey when you find them. This record easily qualifies for our Top 100 List, it’s that good (but unfortunately too rare to make the cut).

The Best Sides

The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. With Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them, this album presents the classic lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.

It’s Acoustic!

The unprocessed folky sound found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound. (How many of the ’70s rock albums in our Top 100 have that natural drum sound? Not many when you stop to think about it.) (more…)

James Taylor / One Man Dog – Watch Out for Bass Blockage

More James Taylor

Reviews and Commentaries for One Man Dog

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Play Chili Dog here, one of our favorite tracks, and note not only the clarity and spaciousness, but the PUNCH and LIFE of the music. This song is supposed to be fun. The average somewhat compressed and dull copy only hints at that fact.

Then skip on down to the hit at the end of the side, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, another favorite track for testing.

There’s a lot of bass in the mix on this track, but the best copies keep it under control.

When it gets loose and starts blurring the midrange, the vocals and guitars seem “blocked.” The best copies let you hear all that meaty bass, as well as letting you hear into the midrange too. (more…)

Crosby, Stills & Nash on Nautilus – The Most Bloated, Ill-Defined, Overblown Bass in the Sad, Sordid History of Half-Speed Mastering

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Half-Speed Mastered Disaster if there ever was one.

An audiophile record dealer (of course; who else?) once raved to me about Crosby Stills and Nash on Nautilus. I said “What are you talking about? That version sucks!” He replied “No, it’s great. Helplessly Hoping sounds amazing.” 

Now one thing I know about the Nautilus is that although it is wonderfully transparent in the midrange, it may very well take the cake for the most bloated, out of control bass in the history of Half Speed mastering. What song on that album has almost no bass, just lovely voices in the midrange? You guessed it. Helplessly Hoping.

The Nautilus got one track right, and ruined the rest. Using that track for comparison will fool you, and when it comes time to play a side of the album, you will quickly hear what a disaster it is.

Or maybe you won’t. Who else harps on bad Half-Speed Mastered bass outside of those of us who write for this blog? I don’t recall ever reading a word about it. This does not reflect well on the bass response of the modern audiophile stereo.

More Crosby, Stills and Nash

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young


Some Relevant Commentaries

A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem (more…)

Mussorgsky et al. / Danse Infernale / Fiedler – Our Favorite Night On Bald Mountain

More of the Music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Reviews and Commentaries for Mussorgsky’s Music

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings We’ve Discovered with Demo Disc Sound

  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides make this the consistently best sounding batch of Orchestral Showpieces we have ever played
  • After a two year hiatus, our favorite performance of Night on Bald Mountain is back, and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind (and maybe a woofer or two)
  • Side one also boasts an excellent Danse Macabre, with a powerful finish that may remind you of the thrill of live orchestral music
  • Side two contains a wonderfully exciting Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Both sides are clear and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling
  • Watch your levels – this pressing is dramatically more DYNAMIC than most Golden Age recordings

If you like Orchestral Spectaculars, have we got the record for you!

This pressing clearly has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — not in every way, but in some important ways. The ENERGY of both the sound and the performances of these barnburning showpieces is truly awesome. Fiedler brings this music to LIFE like no other conductor we have heard.

This pressing boasts relatively rich, sweet strings, especially for a Deutsche Grammophon LP. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy (and the reason it is so hard to find a copy that plays better than Mint Minus Minus. We do have a quieter copy with lower grades if you are interested though.) (more…)

Why M&K Direct to Disc Recordings Rarely Sound Right to Us

More Audiophile Records

More Flamenco Fever “Live Direct to Disc”

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As an interesting side note, this album was recorded on location. The other M&K Direct to Disc record that I like was also recorded on location. Most of the M&K Direct to Discs were recorded in the showroom of the stereo store that Miller and Kreisel owned, which, like any showroom, was carpeted and draped. This is why almost all their records sound “dead”. This was their intention, of course. They wanted the sound to be “live” in your living room. I prefer to hear the kind of ambience that would be found in a real location, and so I have never been much of a fan of their label.

This record, however, gives you both that Direct Disc immediacy and freedom from distortion, as well as the live ambience of the location — the best of both worlds.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash / More Young

  • This stunning copy offers exceptionally good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • The two tracks exclusive to this album, Ohio and Find the Cost of Freedom, are amazingly well recorded – both have Demo Disc quality sound on this killer side one
  • Huge, rich and energetic, this pressing brings the gorgeous harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to life like nothing you have ever heard
  • If you’ve made the mistake of buying any Heavy Vinyl pressing containing any of these songs, this record will show you just exactly what you’ve been missing

When you get hold of a pressing as good as this one, the sound is so correct it makes a mockery of the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering and pressing of the Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered versions.

The MoFi and the Classic 200g LP are both clearly wrong in important ways. This record will make it clear exactly what’s wrong with them, assuming you have the critical listening skills to recognize the differences. If you are on this site chances are very good you do.

Once you hear this copy you will never be able to enjoy those audiophile pressings again, of that we are quite confident. (more…)

Duke Ellington / Ellington Indigos – Amazingly Spacious Sound

More Duke Ellington

More Records with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Sound

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  • With two outstanding sides rating a Double Plus (A++) for sound, this was one of the better copies in our most recent shootout
  • This original 6-Eye Stereo pressing blew us away with its superbly well recorded romantic big band jazz, of which Ellington was a true master
  • A near-perfect demonstration of just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be – no modern record can hold a candle to a pressing as good as this one
  • If you like your jazz ballads performed with deep feeling, by a road-tested group of virtuoso players, this record is for you

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz, you can’t do much better than Ellington Indigos. Many of the other Six Eye copies we played suffered from blubbery bass and transient smearing, but the clarity and bass definition here are surprisingly good. The warmth and immediacy of this sound may just blow your mind.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

The key for vintage super-tubey recordings is balancing clarity with richness. The easiest way to test for those two qualities on this album is to find a track with clear, lively, loud trumpets that also includes rich trombones and other low brass. On side one that track is Where or When. If your copy has clear, lively trumpets and rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical low brass, it is definitely doing something right. (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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Brothers in Arms – Half-Speed Mastered, But Why?

More Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

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Sonic Grade: D

The Warner Brothers 180g Double LP pictured above was mastered by Stan Ricker at half-speed.

Most of the time Stan Ricker’s approach to half-speed mastering results in a record that is too bright, with sloppy bass.

And what do you know, it IS too bright and the bass IS sloppy. Imagine that!

We often discuss the unpredictability of records, but when it comes to Half-Speed Mastered pressings their faults are fairly consistent and easy to spot, once you know what to listen for.    (more…)