Top Artists – Blood, Sweat and Tears

Blood Sweat and Tears – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade – MoFi: D

We found a Hot Stamper copy for one of our best customers a while back and he wrote an incisive commentary which may be of interest to you. To see the results of his comparison between the Direct Disc Labs Half-Speed, the MOFI Anadisq, his original domestic pressing, and the Hot Stamper he bought from us, check out his letter.

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[I want to thank Roger Lawry for his extensive commentary on the BS&T’s second album. His critical listening skills are obviously quite well developed, especially since he agrees with me about what is the best sounding BS&T — the one I sold him! I will be adding some caveats in places to clarify a few issues, but basically Roger’s assessment is right on the money. I added the underlining below for emphasis.]

Hi, Tom:

I listened to 3 versions of the BS&T record and here is what I found (I wrote up a little review–you can use it on your website or laugh and delete it, whatever). (more…)

Letter of the Week – … going through all my Hot Stampers and taking it all in …

Customer Testimonials

More on The Stereo

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This week’s letter comes from our good friend Franklin who was having some serious sound problems that were driving him crazy after moving his speakers from the long wall (not a good idea) to the short one (much better as a rule).

He already had one pair of Hallographs, which had helped his room problems quite a bit. We rely on three pair, and the second and third pair were a big improvement over the first, so we recommended another to Franklin, which, by the sound of this letter, seems to have worked miracles!

This link will take you to the commentary for our Blood Sweat and Tears albums similar to the one that Franklin references.

Hello Mr. Port,

Just to let you know what you already know about this LP. When I first received this ($500) LP and listened to it, I thought I had really messed up.

I didn’t hear all the nuances you described. I just put it away and forgot about it. What a BUMMER!!!!! But I decided to try it again after placing the new pair of Hallos. I moved them all over the place. I even have the floor marked all over with painter’s masking tape to remind me where the best spots are for the Hallos. Floor really looks funny.

Sometimes when you make a change, it seems to be better for some LPs but not others. But when a change impacts all the LPs positively, you know you are in the game. I am going through all my Hot Stampers and taking it all in. I will tweak some more but for now I’ll just enjoy.

Regards,
Franklin

Franklin,

Thanks so much for your letter. When your system is cookin’ and you’re hearing all your records sound better than ever, that’s when audio is FUN. You had to do a lot of work to get there and the good sound you are able to enjoy now is your reward.

It’s amazing to me how little audiophiles are interested in actually making their stereos sound better. You reap what you sew in this hobby. Mediocre sound is easy; good sound is very very hard — that’s why I so rarely hear anything outside of my own system that strikes me as any good. Most audiophiles haven’t worked very hard on their stereos and they have the sound to prove it.

We write a lot about the ENERGY and POWER found on the best pressings of some recordings; the BS&T record we sent you is a perfect example. It’s the kind of recording with so much going on that it is guaranteed to bring practically any stereo system to its knees. When a record such as this gets loud, all the problems of your stereo become impossible to ignore. (One reason The Turn Up Your Volume Test is such a great test; the louder the problem, the harder it is to ignore.)

Turn Down the Volume, or Solve the Problem?

Rather than simply turn down the volume, why not solve the problem? That’s what the Hallographs do. All that energy that’s bouncing around your room is causing huge amounts of distortion. If you’re like most audiophiles it’s one of the main reasons you can’t play your system loud. The sound will become strident, edgy and sour; the soundstage will lose its shape and collapse into a chaotic mess; the bass definition will go out the window, turn bloated and get up into the midrange where it had no business being . These are mostly room problems. No matter how good your equipment is, these problems attend to most listening rooms. Concert halls aren’t twenty feet wide, but there sure are a lot of listening rooms that size, and smaller, which means room reflections are sending the sound waves crashing into each other all over the place. (more…)

Blood, Sweat and Tears – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

In my opinion this is the BEST SOUNDING rock record ever made. I may be biased by the fact that I like the music so much; nevertheless, on a big stereo a Hot Stamper pressing like the one is nothing less than ASTOUNDING. It has the power of LIVE MUSIC. You don’t find that on a record too often, practically never in fact. I put this record at the top of The Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time List for good reason — it’s in a class of its own.

Our last big shootout was back in early 2008. Since we never tire of discussing the Revolutionary Changes in Audio that have occurred over the last quite eventful year (really more like five quite eventul years) , we here provide you with yet another link to that commentary. Suffice to say, this record, like most good records, got a whole lot better.

(Some records do not, but that’s another story for another day.) We noted some new qualities to the sound that we would like to discuss; they’re what separated the men from the boys this time around. Note that we have left the exhaustive Track by Track Commentary from the last shootout in the listing. It took a long time to write it, and the vast majority of it is still true. We might quibble with some of it, but for the most part we think you will get a lot of out it, so there it will stay.

A Milestone

As I’ve noted before, this record is a milestone in the history of popular music. Not only is it The Most Successful Fusion of Rock and Jazz Ever. It’s also One of the Finest Recordings of Popular Music Ever. The sound is nothing short of amazing. Just the drums alone are enough to win awards: the kick drum has real kick, the snare is, in my opinion, the best rock snare ever recorded, the cymbals shimmer like real cymbals; almost everything is right with this record. Especially the music.

What We Learned This Time Around

All the best qualities of the best copies stayed the same; this is to be expected. If records you know well over a long period of time suddenly start to sound different, you can be pretty sure that you’ve made an audiophile error in your system somewhere. You need to find it and figure out how to fix it as fast as possible, although as a rule this process can turn out to be very time consuiming and difficult. The first place I would look is to any changes in wire, whether speaker, interconnect or power cord. It has been my experience that this is where most of the bad sound in audiophile systems comes from. Much commentary to that effect can be found in The Better Blog. (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears – Direct Disc Labs

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Sonic Grade: C

Yet another Half Speed of questionable sound quality.

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations. I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know they can be awesome, but there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, I have a big advantage over my customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally heard more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overridng reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself. It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love. This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings to find the hot one.

1/17/05

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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A QUIET White Hot Stamper on side one for BS and T’s debut, one of my favorite albums of all time. Why do we so rarely list amazing copies of this album? Let me ask you this: have you played one recently? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.

We present here a FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUNDING SIDE ONE. This copy blew the doors off the competition, earning our highest grade of A Triple Plus and giving us a whole new appreciation for what this record can really sound like! Who knew? The brass has power on this copy like we almost never hear for this album. The bass was bigger and bolder than any other; finally, here is the kind of rock sound we are always looking for on the album but is so elusive. (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears – The 30 Second Spinning Wheel Test

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This test is found in the track commentary for side two of our Hot Stamper listings for the album. If you think you have a hot copy, see if yours does what our best copies can.

We also think that a record like this — a dynamic, full-spectrum recording, not overly concerned with detail — makes a much better Test Disc than the kind most audiophiles seem to prefer. Patricia Barber it is not. If you’re in the market for new speakers, take this record — or one like it — with you to the audition. Any speaker that can play this record properly deserves your consideration, or at the very least your respect. In my experience not many speakers have what it takes to do this album justice.

The Blood, Sweat and Tears Spinning Wheel Test  (more…)

Two Reviews of Blood, Sweat & Tears – Fremer Vs. Better Records – You Be the Judge

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More Fremer Vs. Better Records — You Be the Judge

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In 2010 MF reviewed both the Sundazed and Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl pressings of the album. I think his review is mistaken on a number of counts, and mostly unhelpful. The commentary below will discuss his errors in detail, in the hopes that you, dear reader, will not make the same mistakes yourself. 

He talks about his history with the album for a while, and then notes:

Anyway, the original “360 Sound” edition of this record sounds fantastic. It’s a high quality Columbia studio recording, with vivid harmonics, impressive transparency and dynamics, shimmering highs and tight extended bass. The soundstage is expansive and the images tightly presented. I’m not sure it can get much better than the original given how well-pressed Columbia records were in those days, especially if you have a clean original.

We, however, seem to hold precisely the opposite view. I quote from our review:

“Why did it take us so long [to do a Hot Stamper shootout]? Let me ask you this: have you ever played this album? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.”

We then go on to discuss in detail what most copies do wrong and what to listen for in order to find a copy that gets it right. (More on that later.) (more…)

Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound

Thinking About Hot Stampers

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A while back we did a monster-sized shootout for Blood, Sweat and Tears’ second release, an album we consider THE Best Sounding Rock Record of All Time. In the midst of the discussion of a particular pressing that completely blew our minds — a copy we gave a Hot Stamper grade of A with Four Pluses , the highest honor we can bestow upon it — various issues arose, issues such as: How did this copy get to be so good? and What does it take to find such a copy? and, to paraphrase David Byrne, How did it get here?

Which brings us to this commentary, which centers around the concept of outliers.

Wikipedia defines an outlier this way: “In statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data.” In other words, it’s something that is very far from normal. In the standard bell curve distribution pictured below, the outliers are at the far left and far right, far from the vast majority of the data which is in the middle.

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Child Is Father to the Man – What to Listen For

Child Is Father to the Man

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At the end of a long day of listening at loud levels to multiple copies of this album you may want to run yourself a nice hot bath and light some candles. If you have an isolation tank so much the better. You could of course turn down the volume, but what fun is that? This music wasn’t meant to be heard at moderate levels. Playing it that way is an insult to the musicians who worked so hard to make it.

The Right Balance

Every once in a while you hear a pressing in which the right balance has been struck, and this one clearly belongs to that group. It’s not perfect; you have to put up with a few rough patches to get the sound that serves most of the music properly. No copy will do it all; with this album the goal is to do the best you can.
(more…)