Top Artists – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Original Soundtrack Recording)

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More Soundtrack Albums

  • An incredible copy of Dylan’s 1973 soundtrack album with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing practically everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than almost anything else we played
  • Includes the hit “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which charted on the Top 20 and would be famously covered in later years by the likes of Eric Clapton and Guns N’ Roses
  • “This record also proved that Dylan could shoehorn his music within the requirements of a movie score without compromising its content or quality, something that only the Beatles, unique among rock artists, had really managed to do up to that time…”

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Bob Dylan / The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – We Preferred the Mono in 2016

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

Back in 2016 we liked the Mono pressings of this album best. We wrote:

We greatly prefer the best Mono pressings to the best stereo copies, but they are very hard to come by.

This is our favorite of the early Dylan albums for both music and sound. We’re picking up both mono and stereo copies when we see them clean (which is rare) but the best mono copies truly take this music to a whole new level.

Now we like them both, and we like the stereo pressings maybe even a bit better.

Live and learn we say!


Mono, Stereo, Reprocessed Stereo, We’ve Played Them All!

On this Dylan album, the mono and stereo pressings both have the potential to sound amazingly good.

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Other records that sound their best one way or the other can be found using the links below.

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Mono

Mono or Stereo? Stick with Stereo

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Bob Dylan – Leave It Dry, Or Add Some Reverb?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

The noisy (aren’t they all?) mono copy we keep around as a reference presents Dylan and his guitar in a starkly immediate, clear and unprocessed way. The stereo version of the album is simply that sound with some light stereo reverb added.

More than anything else, on some tracks the mono pressing sounds like a demo.

It’s as if the engineers threw up a mic or two, set the EQ for flat and proceeded to roll tape. This is a good sound for what it is, but it has a tendency toward dryness, perhaps not on all of the tracks but clearly on some. Certainly the first track on side one can have that drier sound.

What the stereo reverb does is fill out the sound of Dylan’s voice respectfully.

The engineers of the late ’50 and ’60s had a tendency to drown their singers in heavy reverb, as anyone who’s ever played an old Tony Bennett or Dean Martin album knows all too well.

But a little reverb actually benefits the vocals of our young Mr. Dylan on The Times They Are A-Changin’, and there is an easy way to test that proposition. When you hit the mono button on your preamp or phono stage, the reverb disappears, leaving the vocal more clear and more present, but also more dry and thin. You may like it better that way. Obviously, to some degree this is a matter of taste.

The nice thing about this stereo copy, assuming you have a mono switch in your system (which you should; they’re very handy), is that you have the option of hearing it both ways and deciding for yourself which approach you find more involving and enjoyable — if not necessarily truthful.

We suspect your preference will be both listener- and system-dependent. Isn’t it better to have the option and be able to make that determination for yourself?

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in mono, click here.

To see our current selection of Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound better in stereo, click here.

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Bob Dylan / John Wesley Harding

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This KILLER Columbia 360 Stereo pressing has KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • In preparation for this shootout, we thought we would try a couple of ’70 pressings, just to make sure the originals were still the best. They were even worse than we remember! Funny how so many labels reissued records without making an effort to master them to sound like the originals
  • The 360 LPs are of course the only ones we offer as Hot Stampers, and not many of them sound as good as this one does, that’s for sure
  • Here is the bass, richness and vocal presence that allow John Wesley Harding to retain its power to move the listener more than fifty years after it was recorded
  • The title track, Dear Landlord, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, All Along the Watchtower and I Pity The Poor Immigrant are but a small sampling of the many memorable songs here
  • 5 stars: “The music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late ’60s.”

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Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’

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  • This 360 stereo pressing offers outstanding sound from first note to last
  • The keys to this stark recording – just Bob, his acoustic guitar, and harmonica – is correct tonality, as well as vocal presence with breathy intimacy, and here you get a good helping of all three
  • If you’ve played the MoFi or Sundazed LP, on the CD, the Tubey Magic here might just blow your mind
  • “These are beautifully crafted, tightly focused mini-masterpieces. And they have a radical edge, a political toughness, that one rarely finds in the folk music of the period. …the songs are uncompromising in their anger and unsparing in their analysis.”
  • If you’re a fan of the man, this title from 1964 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1964 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Just about everything you could want in the sound is here: wonderful clarity, mindblowing transparency, clearly audible transients on the guitar, breathy texture to the vocals, full-bodied acoustic guitars, and more. If you’ve played other copies of the album — on MoFi, Sundazed or Columbia LP, on the CD, on whatever — the immediacy of the vocals and the Tubey Magic of the midrange are going to blow your mind. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I almost cried when I heard Girl From North Country.”

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I just got my Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Super Hot Stamper. This may be the best record I have bought from you. Magical. I almost cried when I heard Girl From North Country. How you could give Side 1 only an A+ is shocking and a real testament to how hard you judge, but I think it was a Double Plus for sure. Side two blew me away. You guys are the best, I love this record.

I have to say I have totally changed my record collecting since I discovered your site. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Otherwise it might as well be streamed.

I think you’re the only people that really understand.

Jamie

Jamie,

Thanks for your letter!


Mono, Stereo, Reprocessed Stereo, We’ve Played Them All!

On this Dylan album, the mono and stereo pressings both have potential.

Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Other records that sound their best one way or the other can be found using the links below.

Stick with Mono

Stick with Stereo

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Bob Dylan – Planet Waves

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing of Dylan’s 1974 release 
  • With wonderfully rich, natural tonality, these early pressings are by far the best way to hear the album sound the way it should
  • Lots of great material on this one, not sure why it doesn’t get more respect: On A Night Like This, Going Going Gone, Forever Young, You Angel You… these are seriously good, very well-recorded songs
  • “Reteaming with the Band, Bob Dylan winds up with an album that recalls New Morning more than The Basement Tapes, since Planet Waves is given to a relaxed intimate tone…”

This is an excellent recording, boasting not only great Bob Dylan sound, but some of the best sound for The Band that you’ll ever hear. That’s right, Dylan is backed by Messrs. Robertson, Danko, Helm, Manuel and Hudson on this album, and I don’t know when we’ve ever heard such audiophile quality sound from that crew. It’s a real treat to hear their signature styles without the cardboard-y, compressed quality we usually find on their albums. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque

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  • A truly KILLER pressing of Empire Burlesque, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too – folks, this one is As Good As It Gets!
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Say what you want about Empire Burlesque — at the very least, it’s the most consistent record Bob Dylan has made since Blood on the Tracks, even if it isn’t quite as interesting as Desire. However, it is a better set of songs, all deriving from the same place and filled with subtle gems… this is as good as Dylan gets in his latter days.”

This is one of the better-sounding Dylan records from the ’80s. It’s not exactly Blood on the Tracks, the only Dylan album we think is qualified to be on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, but it sounds good for a record from this era. (more…)

Bob Dylan / The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – Our Favorite from His Early Days

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More Folk Music

  • This vintage Columbia 360 2 Eye Stereo pressing has stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • Both of these sides are amazingly spacious, full-bodied, natural and clear with great presence
  • It’s clear these classic songs have stood the test of time: Blowin’ in the Wind; Girl from the North Country; Masters of War; A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall; Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and many more
  • 5 stars: “This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America… Dylan, in many ways, recorded music that equaled this, but he never topped it.”
  • A Folk Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of early Dylan
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is clearly our favorite of the early Dylan albums for both music and sound. We’re picking up both mono and stereo copies when we see them clean (which is rare) and both the mono mix and the stereo mix can sound out of this world.

Hearing these great songs sound so intimate and lifelike on a top-quality pressing can be a sublime experience. We should know; we enjoyed the hell out of this very copy.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Bob Dylan singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

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The Traveling Wilburys – Learning the Record, Any Record

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More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Many of the pressings we played of Volume One suffered from too much compression and a phony hi-fi-ish quality on the vocals. We knew there had to be great copies out there somewhere, so we kept dropping the needle until we found a few good men. Here is what we had to say about a killer copy we ran into during that process.

We heard a lot of copies with a spitty, gritty top end, but this one is smooth like butter and sweet like candy. Side two is nearly as good but doesn’t have quiet the same energy factor. It’s still dramatically better than most copies out there.

Now that we’ve discovered these Hot Stampers, the sound is finally where we want it to be. Until this week, we were convinced that these songs sounded better on the radio. (That’s what tons of compression and FM bass boost will do for you.)

Learning the Record

For our recent shootout we had at our disposal a variety of pressings we thought would have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that other pressings do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given copy reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle — or fail — to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

It may be a lot of work but it sure ain’t rocket science, and we never pretended it was. Just the opposite: from day one we’ve explained how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection.

The problem is that unless your a crazy person who bought multiple copies of the same album there is no way to know if any given copy is truly Hot Stamper. Hot Stampers are not merely good sounding records. They are the copies that win shootouts. This is a fact that cannot be emphasized too strongly.

As your stereo and room improve, as you take advantage of new cleaning technologies, as you find new and interesting pressings to evaluate, you may even be inclined to start the shootout process all over again, to find the hidden gem, the killer copy that blows away what you thought was the best.

You can’t find it by looking at it. You have to clean it and play it, and always against other pressings of the same album. There is no other way.

For the more popular records on the site such as the Beatles titles we have easily done more than twenty, maybe even as many as thirty to forty shootouts.

And very likely learned something new from every one.