The Washington Post article that Geoff Edgers wrote includes a video of a little shootout we did for Tapestry, using, without my knowledge, the MoFi One-Step, a Hot Stamper pressing, and a current, modern, standard reissue of the album. Could I spot the Hot Stamper without knowing what record was playing?
First up (and of course unbeknownst to me), the MoFi. My impressions from the video:
That’s probably tonally correct for this record. It’s just missing everything that’s good about this record, which is a meaty, rich piano. And the vocal sounds very dry. There’s no Tubey Magic. It’s tonally correct. If you were playing me a CD right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you weren’t.
Next up, the cheap ($20?), current reissue:
Voice is better!
Richer and smoother.
That’s what this is supposed to sound like.
Her voice sounds mostly correct.
This might not be a particularly good record. If I played a real one for you, you might just say, oh, my God, there’s so much more.
But this is not a wrong record. It’s not awful. It’s doing something… I don’t know if I would say most things right. I’ll just say something right.
At least the person understands what she’s supposed to sound like.
Then the Hot Stamper (a Super Hot copy I’ve been told):
She sounds pretty right on this copy.
I think there’s more space.
You hear more space, more three-dimensional space.
The piano: there’s more richness to the tone of the various notes that she’s playing.
I would probably pick this one.
Jeff sums it all up as follows:
So we have a winner, and I couldn’t fool the Hot Stamper king.
Without knowing what he was listening to, he chose the hot stamper of Tapestry.
If he still had it, that copy would be sold for about $400 on the Better Records website.
When we went back and played each of the pressings again, the differences were much more pronounced. The MoFi still sounded like a CD, the current Columbia reissue was still no better than passable, and the Hot Stamper became even better sounding than it had been earlier, with sound the other two could not begin to offer.
Our grades for the three pressings would have been F, C and A, in that order.
In the video, you can see that it took me a few minutes to get deep into the sound, but once I was there, it turned out to be no contest. The Hot Stamper was the only one capable of showing us just how good Tapestry can sound.
Colorations Are Bad Now?
The MoFi was by far the worst sounding of the three. As I said, it sounded to me like a CD.
How shocking is it that the most colored label in the history of audio produced a record with no colorations, one that sounds like a bad CD. I would not have predicted the possibility!
I would have thought just the opposite, that they would monkey with the sound and make it richer and smoother, maybe boost the shit out of the top end, but instead they apparently just took a CD and transferred it flat.
The worst of all possible worlds, and at a premium price no less.
Chad may make awful sounding records, but they are recognizable as records, just not very good ones.
Mobile Fidelity, at least in this case, made a record that doesn’t even sound like a record. That is quite a feat.