Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music

Some records that didn’t sound very good to us.

The Recordings of Weather Report – These Three Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the Weather Report recordings we’ve auditioned over the years and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your audiophile collection.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Cat Stevens – Tea, Teaser & Mona Bone – 180g Universal Debunked

More Cat Stevens

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This commentary was written shortly after these three Universal Heavy Vinyl pressings were released in 2000.

Sonic Grades: F/F/F

Around 2000 Universal did the three most famous Cat Stevens titles, and they have to be three of the worst sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Many audiophile record dealers carry them. Have YOU been ripped off by one of these dealers? If so, we can help. We would never promote garbage like that.

Any record dealer who would actually charge money for these titles has to be either ignorant (having never taken the time to play the record — why bother when audiophiles will buy practically anything pressed on Heavy Vinyl?); auditorily-challenged (deaf, to be blunt about it); or cynically contemptuous of record lovers, music lovers and audiophiles in general.

If they’re gullible enough to buy into the 180 gram vinyl = better sound, they deserve what they get.

Mencken had a good take on a similar idea.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

If you want to stop throwing your money away on bad records, stop doing business with the ignorant, deaf or cynical people who peddle them. (more…)

Benny Carter / Jazz Giant – Analogue Productions Fails Spectacularly Right Out of the Gate

More Benny Carter

More Shelly Manne

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Sonic Grade: F

You may remember what a disaster the Acoustic Sounds‘ version from back in the ’90s was. (Or maybe you agree with Michael Fremer that they were god’s gift to the audiophile record lovers of the world. We thought they were crap right from the get go and were not the least bit shy about saying so,)

I haven’t heard the new 45 RPM version and don’t intend to, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like our good Hot Stamper pressings. We have yet to hear a single Heavy Vinyl 45 that sounds any good to us, judged by the standards we set in our shootouts.

Actually, to run the risk of sounding overly pedantic, the records themselves set the standards. We simply grade them on the curve they establish.

We guarantee that none of their LPs can hold a candle to our records or your money back. If you have one of the new pressings and don’t know what’s wrong with it, or don’t think that anything is wrong with it, try ours. It will show you just how much better a real record can sound, with more space, more transparency, more energy, more presence, more drive, more ambience –more of everything that’s good about the sound of music on vinyl.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear our Hot Stamper pressing, those Heavy Vinyl records you bought might not ever sound right to you again.

They sure don’t sound right to us, but we have the good fortune of being able to play the best older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more audible — in fact, exceedingly obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison. 


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison. (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter – Awful Mercury Mastering

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

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Sonic Grade: F

This recording was released through Mercury after Philips bought the label. It was recorded by Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart, mastered by George Piros, the legendary Mercury team of renown. It is instructive to note that the Philips mastering is dramatically superior to the mediocre Mercury mastering, which may strike you as counterintuitive, but is nonetheless a fact. It’s precisely the reason we play records all day here at Better Records. You can’t judge a record by its credentials. The only way to know how it sounds is to play it, and to really know how it sounds you must play it against a sizeable number of other copies.

Then, and only then, can you talk knowledgeably about the sound. (Note to forum posters: this means you.)

The potentially right pressing comes in a cover very much like this one:

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The Sheffield Track Record – Who in His Right Mind Thinks This Qualifies as a Super Disc?

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing.

This is a Sheffield Lab LP of Rock Instrumental Tracks For Audio Component Testing and Evaluation. Harry Pearson calls this absolutely the best sounding rock record ever made.

We cannot agree with HP as to the recording quality of this album. The sound is surprisingly compressed, and the music is every bit as lifeless as the sound.


FURTHER READING

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to Understanding The Fundamentals

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Direct to Disc Recordings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Record Collecting Myths

Finlandia – Striving for Orchestral Clarity with Decca and Failing with RCA

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

More of the music of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

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The original RCA Living Stereo pressings we played in our 2014 shootout were not competitive with the best Deccas and London reissues.

Is the original the best way to go?

In our experience with Finlandia, not so much.

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The record you see above is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The 1961 master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from the early-’70s, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.
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Sonny Terry ‎/ Sonny’s Story – Skip the OBC

More Classic Blues Albums

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Some OJC (or OBC) Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t – This One Doesn’t

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with very few exceptions, are the worst.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.

Tom Port

Better Records (more…)

Holst / The Planets – Remastered on 2 Japanese 45 RPM LPs, It’s Just Awful

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

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This EMI 45 RPM Japanese Import 2 LP set with the OBI strip and Little Sign Of Play (LSOP) is widely considered one of the great Planets, but it’s not, based on our playing of a copy we had years ago, which means it belongs in our Hall of Shame. 

The best copies on British or Dutch EMI vinyl are clearly better than this “audiophile” pressing. What else is new? 


FURTHER READING

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to Understanding The Fundamentals

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Direct to Disc Recordings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Record Collecting Myths

Charlie Byrd / Direct to Disc – Dark and Unnatural, Not My Idea of Good Sound

More Charlie Byrd

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

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This is a very nice looking Crystal Clear 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc LP pressed on white vinyl. Out of the couple of copies we played this one had the best sound. It had more clarity than the other copy, which sounded veiled and smeary.

I admit I never liked the sound of the record though. It’s dark and unnatural to my ears.  I would avoid it. There are so many other, better Charlie Byrd recordings, why waste your time and money on this one?

Another example of an “audiophile” record with little in the way of audiophile merit.


FURTHER READING

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – 45 RPM Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to Understanding The Fundamentals

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Direct to Disc Recordings

Bruch & Mozart / Violin Concertos – Were We Wrong?

More Recordings Featuring the Violin

Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

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Many years ago we wrote the following review for LSC 2472:

Superb sound. The violin is wonderful on both sides. The Mozart is absolutely gorgeous; the best I’ve ever heard it.

The orchestra on the Bruch side gets a little congested in the louder passages, which is typical for records of this era.

Laredo plays these pieces beautifully. The Bruch is an especially romantic work and his violin sings sweetly and with deep emotion throughout. The Mozart is more spritely and he plays it with the light touch it requires. You will have a hard time finding a better violin concerto record. This ranks with the best of them.

More recently we got in a nice 1S/1S pressing that sounded thick and dark, even after a good cleaning.

Were we wrong years ago? Hard to say. That copy from many years ago is gone.

Three things we always keep in mind when a pressing doesn’t sound like we remember it did, or think it should:

  1. Our standards are quite a bit higher now, having spent decades critically listening to vintage classical pressings by the hundreds.
  2. Our stereo is dramatically more revealing and more accurate than it used to be.
  3. Since no two records sound the same, maybe the one from long ago actually did sound as good as we thought at the time.

All things considered, the consensus would now be that LSC 2472 is very unlikely to be as good a record as we used to think it was.

A classic case of Live and Learn and also a case of Progress in Audio, probably.

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