Sonic Grade: F
Acoustic Sounds had Stan Ricker remaster this record a number of years ago, and of course they (he) ruined it. A twinkly top end and flabby bass were just two of the major shortcomings of their version. Nothing surprising there, as Stan Ricker is famous for his “smile” curve, boosting both ends of the audio spectrum, whether they need boosting or not. (They rarely do).
When you add too much top end to a guitar album and ruin the sound of the guitar, what exactly are you left with?
Please note that not a single title from the Analog Revival series is any good, to the best of my knowledge, and every last one of them should be avoided if high quality sound is important to you.
The same is true for all the 180 gram jazz titles on Analogue Productions that were mastered by Doug Sax, as you may have read elsewhere on the site. Those records received rave reviews in the audiophile press when they came out, but you won’t find too many audiophile reviewers sticking up for them now, as they are, without exception, murky, compressed disasters of the worst kind.
I guess these reviewers eventually acquired equipment accurate enough to notice how bad those pressings are, which I guess goes to show there is hope for practically anyone.
One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:
I notice you don’t mention whether the Beatles recordings are stereo or mono. The rubber soul that just arrived is stereo. I’m guessing that the one I reordered is also stereo.
Do you guys stock the mono versions? Do you say on the site when something is mono. Let me know, as I like mono versions too.
I was close with Geoff Emerick and he always stressed to me that they spent tons of time on the mono mixes and not much on the stereos (up through Revolver). So let me know if/when you have mono for Rubber Soul and Revolver and perhaps I can snatch them up.
All our records are stereo unless we specifically mention otherwise, as are our Beatles records.
We never sell Beatles records in mono, ever. Here is a little something I wrote about it:
They spent time on the mono mixes because getting the levels right for all the elements in a recording is ten times harder than deciding whether an instrument or voice should be placed in the left, middle or right of the soundstage.
And they didn’t even do the stereo mixes right some of the time, IMHO.
But wall to wall beats all stacked up in the middle any day of the week in my book.
If you like mono Beatles records you will have to do your own shootouts, sorry!
Very interesting info on the Mono Beatles. I’ve never had the opportunity to play any early stereo pressings against the monos. Thanks for the opinion. I looked over the versions of the Beatles albums I bought that you are replacing for me and I noticed that they are 4th or 5th pressings.
Do you find that era better than first or second pressings (in general) or is it just a price and condition thing. Just curious. I’m new to higher end collecting and looking for an expert opinion (which clearly you are!). I’m excited to hear the better versions you’re sending me.
Some of the best pressings, but not all the best pressings, were cut by Harry Moss in the ’70s, on much better transistor mastering equipment than they had in the ’60s, and that is part of the reason why some of them sound so much better than most of the earlier pressings. (The same thing happened at Columbia for Kind of Blue and a small number of other albums.)
But plenty of what Moss cut does not sound good, so searching out his versions may be helpful but not as helpful as most people think.
It’s what scientists and historians refer to as “the illusion of knowledge.” It prevents you from understanding what is really going on with records.
This accounts for virtually every internet thread and every comment section that audiophiles can be found on. These are people who think they know a lot more than they do, and therefore have no need to find out more, because they already know it.
A Mr Dunning and a Mr Kruger wrote about it here, and it should be well worth your time to read.
Mono, Stereo, Reprocessed Stereo, We’ve Played Them All!
Romantic Warrior is my favorite JAZZ/ROCK FUSION album of all time. As good as the music is, the sound is even better. This is the Jazz/Rock Demo Disc that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my experience, no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn’t begin to do this kind of sound justice.
Simply put, not only is this one of the greatest musical statements of all time, it’s one of the great recording statements. Few albums in the history of the world can lay claim to this kind of POWER and ENERGY.
But the Super Sound has a purpose, a raison d’etre. This is the kind of music that requires it; better yet, DEMANDS it. In truth, the sound is not only up to the challenge of expressing the life of the music on this album, it positively ENHANCES it.
Those monster Lenny White drum rolls that run across the soundstage from wall to wall may be a recording studio trick, but they’re there to draw your attention to his amazing powers, and it works! The drums are EVERYWHERE on this album, constantly jumping out of the soundfield and taking the music into the stratosphere where it belongs.
TRACK LISTING and COMMENTARY
The grandiose opening of this record serves as an important sonic checkpoint, as well as a tipoff for the pyrotechnics to come. On the better copies Corea’s multi-layered, swirling synths occupy their own space, clearly separated from each other, not blurred and inarticulate as they are on the poorer pressings.
Also notice how much attack Lenny White’s drums have, especially in the more exposed sections. The transients are breathtakingly immediate. Run-of-the-mill copies tend to flatten Mr White, making his acrobatic playing seem two-dimensional and less-than-inspired. The best copies prove that nothing could be further from the truth.
This groove-oriented track is a testament to RTF’s diversity, as well as the mastery of Messrs. Clarke and White as a rhythm section. This is a real test for bottom end. Even though the bass goes unbelievably deep, the best copies manage to exhibit plenty of control while still allowing you to FEEL the bass rising up through the floorboards and into your chair. There is so much deep bass at the opening of this track that at any sort of serious levels I would immediately run out of the wattage needed to sustain them. It was either back off the volume or distort like crazy. You need some serious juice to play this track, or a very efficient speaker, or both.
All the members of this All-Star cast are showcased in the improv section, highlighted by Corea’s brilliant piano solo in the middle, one of my personal favorite solos of all time. Corea is a musician’s musician. There is nothing he or his bandmates are not capable of on this recording. This is more than mere fusion. On this album the whole world of jazz can be heard.
The Romantic Warrior
The blistering opening track for side two is the quintessence of guitar-driven prog rock, a heads up for what’s to come. Most copies lack the top end extension that allows the hottest copies to open up and come alive. With the right top to bottom mastering and pressing this track is Gold! Demo Disc Quality all the way and then some.
Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant
Sonic Grade: C
Ten or fifteen years ago we did a listing for this Mobile Fidelity pressing as a Pseudo-Hot Stamper. Here is what we wrote at the time:
This is actually a pretty good sounding record, all things considered. We put this one through our cleaning process and gave it a listen. Although our Hot Stamper copies do sound better, they’re also quite a bit more expensive. This copy had the best sound we heard out of the three or four we played, which makes it a Hot Stamper I suppose, but we are instead just calling it a Very Good Sounding Copy.
Waiting for Columbus is one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made, containing performances by one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play. If you only buy one Little Feat album in your lifetime, make it this one.
We spent years trying to get shootouts together for this album, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.
This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience. All I can hear is what it does wrong. I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better.
The better pressings have the kind of Tubey Magical, big-bottomed, punchy, spacious sound that we’ve come to expect from Larry Levine‘s engineering for A&M. If you have any Hot Stamper pressings of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s albums, then you know exactly the kind of sound we’re talking about.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack the full complement of harmonic information.
In addition, when the top end is lacking, the upper midrange and high frequencies get jammed together — the highs can’t extend up and away from the upper mids.
This causes a number of much-too-common problems that we hear in the upper midrange of many of the records we play: congestion, hardness, harshness, and squawk.
Painstaking Vertical Tracking Angle adjustment is absolutely critical if you want your records to play with the least amount of these problems, a subject we discuss in the Commentary section of the site at length.
Full-bodied sound is especially critical to the horns.
Any blare, leanness or squawk ruins at least some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.
The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).
Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right musically and tonally from top to bottom.
On any given day a White Hot side one of The Original Soundtrack could very well be the best sounding record on the site.
“On any given day” being a day when we don’t have a hot German copy of Dark Side of the Moon to offer, or a killer Eagles first album, or a top copy of the self-titled BS&T, or an RL Zep II, or a White Hot Teaser and the Firecat.
Most days we don’t have such records on the site, and on those days this 10cc album is a recording Tour De Force that would be bigger, bolder, more dynamic, and more powerful than anything we could throw against it.
One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:
So that Jennifer Warnes blew the repress away, absolutely wiped the floor with it. I couldn’t believe the difference, sigh. I really thought that was a nice repress until I heard yours.
Bloody Hell. Lol.
Thanks as always.
Some Heavy Vinyl records sound good enough to fool you. Up against a truly Hot Stamper, the differences become very obvious. That’s why we say that the only way to find a Hot Stamper pressing is through the shootout process. Any record can sound good, but up against five or ten others? That’s a test that only the best pressings can pass.
Thanks for your letter,
Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers, let alone a killer White Hot Stamper like this one.
We wish that weren’t the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days, making this a very special copy indeed!
(Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. And his Deja Vu is just as bad.)