Top Artists – Ambrosia

The Pareto Effect in Audio – The 80/20 Rule Is Real

Hot Stampers of Ambrosia Available Now

Commentaries and Letters for Ambrosia’s Debut

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Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better audio tweakers.

You cannot buy equipment that will give you the best sound. You can only tweak your equipment to get it.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought. At least 80% is what you’ve done with it. (Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%.)

This is known as the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, The Law of the Vital Few and The Principle of Factor Sparsity, illustrates that 80% of effects arise from 20% of the causes – or in lamens terms – 20% of your actions/activities will account for 80% of your results/outcomes.

The Pareto Principle gets its name from the Italian-born economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who observed that a relative few people held the majority of the wealth (20%) – back in 1895. Pareto developed logarithmic mathematical models to describe this non-uniform distribution of wealth and the mathematician M.O. Lorenz developed graphs to illustrate it.

Dr. Joseph Juran was the first to point out that what Pareto and others had observed was a “universal” principle—one that applied in an astounding variety of situations, not just economic activity, and appeared to hold without exception in problems of quality.

In the early 1950s, Juran noted the “universal” phenomenon that he has called the Pareto Principle: that in any group of factors contributing to a common effect, a relative few account for the bulk of the effect. Juran has also coined the terms “vital few” and “useful many” or “trivial many” to refer to those few contributions, which account for the bulk of the effect and to those many others which account for a smaller proportion of the effect. — Juran

This Is One of The Records That Did It For Me

Perhaps hearing Dark Side was what made you realize how good a record could sound. Looking back on it over the last thirty years, it’s clear to me now that this Ambrosia album, along with a score of others, is one of the surest reasons I became an audiophile in the first place, and stuck with it for so long. What could be better than hearing music you love sound so good?

It’s clearly an album we are obsessed with. We have written extensively about 50 of them to date. It is our contention that to be any good at this hobby, you have to become obsessed with well-recorded albums and work out the consequences of those obsessions for yourself. We wrote about it here. An excerpt:

As a budding audiophile I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year.

As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some of them will no doubt become more apparent. For the most part, however, with continual refinements and improvements to your system and room, vintage pressings will continue to sound better the longer you stay active in the hobby.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Ambrosia “Why can’t all records sound this good and why can’t all recording engineers be as great as Alan Parsons?”

One of our good customers wrote to tell me about a Hot Stamper pressing he purchased recently:

  Hey Tom,   

Question: Does Tom Port have any clue as to what the hell he’s doing or selling to the public? That is my question.

Hello Tom, I’m the idiot who spent $399 on your White Hot Stamper of Ambrosia’s first album a few weeks ago. I did an A/B listening test with an A++/A++ copy I bought from you a few years ago. Your website waxes lyrical about the exceptional qualities of this recording; I always thought it was very, very good but not quite the recording you make it out to be!

To perform my listing test, I listened to my A++/A++ side one first. Then listened to the newly purchased A+++/A+++ next. The results? I almost had to call 911 because my jaw hit the floor! THIS was the recording you had written about in the records descriptive comments. This pressing is so holographic I swear I could have stepped into the recording.

Dare I say this is a better recording than Dark Side of the Moon; and yes, I can make such a claim, I purchased an A++/A+++ – A++/A+++ copy from you guys a few years ago. This is what I refer to as Master Tape sound quality. A Holy Grail for audiophiles.

It’s pressings like this that pose the questions: Why can’t all records sound this good and why can’t all recording engineers be as great as Alan Parsons?

So, back to my original question. Does Tom Port know what the hell he is doing or selling to the public?

Yes Tom, I’d say absolutely, 100% you know what you are doing and I’m the happiest idiot on this Earth. Keep up the great work, Tom, and thank you and your staff for the incredible service you provide.

Todd N.

Dear Todd,

Thanks for your letter. I’m positively blushing!

Seriously, the right vintage pressing, on the right stereo, can take the enjoyment of music to a level far beyond that of anything experienced by the audiophile of today stuck in the rut of the Heavy Vinyl Reissue. (more…)

Ambrosia – Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides of this truly phenomenal ’70s Big Rock Production – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best sides have the trademark Alan Parsons sound, with huge amounts of space in the studio, and the kind of musical energy that made the first Ambrosia album (which he mixed) such a joy to play
  • This band, their producers, and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording
  • “There is an unusual dreamlike quality that pervades its work. The songs seem to be reaching the listener direct from some strange and beautiful realm of the unconscious. It is an experience rare in popular music today or at any time. ” – Billboard

Alan Parsons produced this album, and at its best, it is truly a Demo Disc — if you have the system to play it.

This album needs lots of space and a big, wide, open soundstage if it’s going to work, and the best sides deliver that sound. It’s a rare copy that manages to have real presence and top end without getting too edgy; on the good ones, the bass is big, solid and punchy and the energy is superb. (more…)

Ambrosia / Life Beyond L.A. – WW, LW, JW? Which Stampers Sound the Best?

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There’s a unique story behind this title, which goes something like this. I recount it because it’s a classic and hopefully instructive case of Live and Learn.

In 2005 we acquired more than a dozen sealed copies. Knowing that no two of them would sound the same we decided to crack them open, clean them up and play them.

All three of the major stamper prefixes for Warners were represented in the various matrix numbers: WW, JW and LW. As we started to play them it quickly became clear that most copies of this record just do not sound good. The typical copy is hard, midrangy, opaque, dull and sour.

Only one of those prefixes — WW, JW, LW — actually has any hope of sounding good, and surprisingly it’s not the one I would normally expect it to be. Live and learn.

Live and learn indeed. This time those stampers did not sound nearly as good as others, another good reason why there will never be a Book of Hot Stampers, not one written by us anyway.

Like we’ve said in the past, if you think the world is in need of such a book, please do us all a favor and write one. We’ll sit back and take potshots at it. There is no chance in the world it won’t be full of misinformation. Hell, if we wrote it would be full of mistakes too, and we think we know as much about stampers as anybody in the world, and probably more. I ask you, under what circumstances would anyone be in a position to know more than we do? (more…)

Ambrosia and Its Elusive Hot Stamper Pressings – “Press On!”

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Sage Advice from Calvin Coolidge

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”Calvin Coolidge

If you substitute “finding Hot Stamper pressings” for the words “the human race” you will surely appreciate the point of this commentary.

Our story today revolves around the first Hot Stamper listing we have ever done for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. It took us a long time to find the right pressing. Do you, or any of the other audiophiles you know, keep buying the same album over and over again year after year in hopes of finding a better sounding copy? We do — have been for more than twenty years as a matter of fact — and here’s why.

Around 2007 I stumbled upon the Hot Stampers for this record — purely by accident of course, there’s almost no other way to do it — and was shocked — shocked — to actually hear INTO the soundfield of the recording for the first time in my life, this after having played copy after frustratingly opaque copy for roughly thirty years.

Yes, the stereo got better and that helped a lot. Everything else we talk about helped too. But ultimately it came down to this: I had to find the right copy of the record. Without the right record it doesn’t matter how good your stereo is, you still won’t have good sound. Either the playback source has it or it doesn’t.

It’s not what’s on the master tape that matters; it’s what’s on the record. (more…)

Ambrosia – One Eighty – A Little Soft Rock Never Hurt Anybody, Right?

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings. 

I’m glad to say I’m not the kind of snob who looks down his nose at a good soft rock hit. (I’m a snob in other ways of course; who isn’t?) I don’t mind admitting I enjoy the hell out a good Hall & Oates jam, and I positively love Bread. Ambrosia can and does hold their own with the best of these soft-rockers. And they usually sound better doing it.

One Eighty (recorded on 1/80, get it?) kicks off with a real rocker: Ready, which is a great name for an opening track and really gets the album off to a high-energy start. Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, Livin’ On My Own. I actually used to demonstrate my system with it: the bass is huge, way up in the mix and really punchy. Additionally there are powerful multi-tracked vocal harmonies in the chorus that are wall-to-wall, surprisingly dynamic, yet sweet (all things considered; this is a modern recording after all). (more…)

“You’ve heard a few copies and now you’re on a ‘mission from god’ to find the HOLY GRAIL COPY”

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Our good customer Ed likes doing his own shootouts, and to that we say Hear Hear — more power to ya. He had about a dozen copies of Ambrosia’s debut on hand and thought he might actually have one or two that were pretty special. Then he popped for one of our Super Hot Stamper copies and heard why we’ve been such big fans of the album. Here is his story.

So let’s assume that you have either spent enough on good advice or evolved a stereo system that simply resolves what is in a vinyl groove.

Let’s also assume that you have discovered that there ARE actually substantial audible.differences among the various copies of a given vinyl record title i.e. harmonics, resolution, detail, musicality, transparency, micro-dynamics, macro-dynamics, “whomp” factor, IGD (inner groove distortion), all kinds of surface noise and defects (film, dirt, grit, burnt regrind, scrubbed record label particles, and oh yes, the end products of styli that were never replaced until they fell off. Whoops, almost forgot the Mastering Engineer. (more…)

Ambrosia – Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This SUPERB WHITE HOT STAMPER copy is our overall winner from the recent huge Hot Stamper shootout we did for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. Friends, it’s been a long time coming but, judging by this copy and the others which fared well, it was worth it. We LOVE this music.

Ambrosia is one of the few groups that has mastered the technique of being both far-out galactic in scope of vision and mainstream AM commercial in execution… There is an unusual dreamlike quality that pervades its work. The songs seem to be reaching the listener direct from some strange and beautiful realm of the unconscious. It is an experience rare in popular music today, or at any time.

Billboard, 1977

MORE AMBROSIA

We here present one of the best sounding copies for Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled we have ever played. Side one rated A+++, As Good As It Gets, with a side two that was not far behind at A++. From beginning to end this pressing is KILLER. (more…)

Ambrosia / Ambrosia – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when youTurn Up Your Volume.

Here’s another INSANELY GOOD pressing of my all-time favorite album, which is every bit as good sonically as it is musically! Side two in particular (A+++, As Good As It Gets!) has DEMO DISC quality sound with the kind of SONIC ENERGY that not one out of a hundred titles can lay claim to.

Put this one up against your best Dark Side. Unless you bought a High Dollar DSOTM from us, I’d say there is little chance this album won’t decimate it. (We talk about how similiar the recordings are below.)

Side two has everything you could ask for from this music: tubey magical mids; richness and fullness; big punchy drums; delicate, breathy vocals; startling immediacy; huge energy; top-notch transparency and impressive clarity. And that’s just for starters!

Side one is also very good but doesn’t fully extend up top or down low. I doubt you’ll even notice what’s missing until side two shows you the light!

There is no question that this band, their producers and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording. They went the distance. In the end they brought in Alan Parsons to mix it, and Doug Sax to master it. The result is a masterpiece, an album that stands above all others. It’s not prog. It’s not pop. It’s not rock. It’s Ambrosia — the food of the gods. (more…)

Ambrosia – Ambrosia – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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Commentaries and Letters for Ambrosia’s Debut

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AMBROSIA is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it. It’s also part of our extensive Listening in Depth series. There is no question that this band, their producers and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording. They went the distance. In the end they brought in Alan Parsons to mix it, and Doug Sax to master it. The result is a masterpiece, an album that stands above all others.

It’s not prog. It’s not pop. It’s not rock. It’s Ambrosia — the food of the gods.

The one album that I would say it most resembles is Dark Side of the Moon. (Note the Parsons connection.) Like DSOTM, Ambrosia is neither Pop nor Prog but a wonderful mix of both and more. 

Perhaps hearing Dark Side was what made you realize how good a record could sound. Looking back on it over the last thirty years, it’s clear to me now that this album, along with a handful of others, is one of the surest reasons I became an audiophile, and managed to stick with it for so long. What could be better than hearing music like this sound so good? (more…)