Top Artists – Crosby, Still, Nash and (sometimes) Young

Deja Vu – This Classic Records Knockoff Is Not the Answer, But We Have One

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Rock LP badly mastered for the benefit of audiophiles looking for easy answers and quick fixes.

If you bought the Classic Record Heavy Vinyl pressing of Deja Vu, you should know by now how badly Classic Records ripped you off. If you feel disrespected, you should. They took your money and gave you practically nothing of value for it. The right CD (not the current one, that’s for damn sure) is dramatically better sounding than their vinyl reissue.

On the other hand, if you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you.

We of course want nothing to do with records like those remastered by Classic Records. We only want to play good sounding records, and most Classic Records, including this title, are definitely not good sounding, not by our standards anyway.

Records Are in a Sorry State – Here’s What You Can Do About It

It’s a sad state that we currently find ourselves in, but is it really any different than it used to be? Audiophiles used to like half-speeds, they used to like Japanese pressings, they used to like direct to disc recordings with questionable sound and even more questionable music.

Now they like SACDs, Heavy Vinyl and 45s. If you ask me it’s the same old wine in a different bottle.

The path out of that morass is exactly the path we have taken and charted for everyone, free of charge.

With our approach to finding the best sounding records, cleaning them the way we do, playing them against each other the way we do, using the sound improving devices and equipment we recommend, we know you can succeed. If we can do it you can do it.

Letters and Commentaries for Deja Vu

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

(more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

More Crosby

More Stills

More Nash

More Young

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – hard to find this one quiet nowadays, so fans should take note than not many unscratched copies are going to make it to the site
  • The “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four! (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / Deja Vu – The Joe Gastwirt CD Is a Dead-On-Arrival Abomination

A classic case of Live and Learn. More than a decade ago we wrote:

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. If you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you.

We of course want nothing to do with it because we want to play good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years [since the early 2000s in fact], we just never got around to correcting the record.

And it’s not the fault of digital. There is an earlier CD, not cut by Joe Gastwirt, that sounds amazingly good. I own a few of them and pick them up whenever I see them. And Gastwirt’s version of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album is every bit as bad. If I see Joe Gastwirt’s name on a CD I put it back where I found it.

(more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Listening in Depth to So Far

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Records in Stock

More Commentaries and Letters for So Far

This is a very difficult record to find with proper mastering (and good vinyl, ouch!). It seems that all of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s albums are that way. The average domestic pressing rarely even hints at how well recorded this band really was (and the imports are even worse — we’ve never heard one that didn’t sound dubby, veiled and compressed).

In my experience not even one out of ten LPs sounds right; I put the figure at one out of twenty. Most of them are shrill, dull, grainy, flat, opaque, harsh and in varying degrees suffer from every other mastering and pressing malady known to man.

But the best ones have some tracks in superb sound. When you hear the Hot Stampers for records like this you will simply be AMAZED. If you’ve ever heard a really good If Only I Could Remember My Name, an album that CAN be found with proper mastering, that should give you some idea of how good the first two albums can sound.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Déjà Vu

When you get a good copy of this album, this song sounds like it was lifted right off of a Hot Stamper copy of Deja Vu itself. It’s so rich and Tubey Magical you’d swear it couldn’t get any better. Huge amounts of deep bass. Acoustic guitars that ring for days. Midrange magic to die for. Not many of them sound this way, unfortunately.

If I could indulge in some more MoFi and Half-Speed bashing for a moment, the bass “solo” at the end of this song is a great test for bass definition. The notes are relatively high, and it’s easy for them to sound blurred and wooly. The MoFi, like virtually all Half-Speed mastered records, has a problem with bass definition. If you own the MoFi, listen for how clearly defined the notes are at the end of this track. Then play any other copy, either of So Far or Deja Vu. It’s a pretty safe bet that the bass will be much more articulate. I know how bad the MOFI is in this respect. Rarely do “normal” records have bass that bad.

Stephen Barncard Does It Again

Listen to this song and compare it to anything on the Barncard-engineered first solo LP by David Crosby. That is the sound of Barncard’s engineering — open, spacious, rich, sweet; tons of deep bass; absolutely no trace of phony eq on vocals; acoustic guitars that ring for days — the man is a GENIUS. Thank god he was involved with music of this quality. If only more of the LP pressings did a better job of revealing the exquisite beauty of the recordings themselves. (I suppose that burden must be carried by the few Hot Stamper copies we can dig up.) (more…)

Music Does the Driving

More Crosby, Stills and Nash

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young

csny

Of course it’s easy to argue that finding good sound on an album with two or more members of Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young, in any configuration, has never been easy.

It’s the rare copy of either of the first two albums that’s even listenable, and the CSN album from 1977 doesn’t sound nearly as good as any of the first three Crosby/Nash albums. Which simply means that the “good” sound of our Hot Stamper copies is far better than what most audiophiles own of any of these guys in combination.

Their solo albums are a different story altogether. The first solo albums by David Crosby (1971), Stephen Stills (1970) and Graham Nash (1971) are three of my favorite records of all time; each is a brilliant recording, each contains powerful, compelling music (the Nash album especially). Two made our Top 100. (more…)

Crosby, Stills & Nash on Nautilus – The Most Bloated, Ill-Defined, Overblown Bass in the Sad, Sordid History of Half-Speed Mastering

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Half-Speed Mastered Disaster if there ever was one.

An audiophile record dealer (of course; who else?) once raved to me about Crosby Stills and Nash on Nautilus. I said “What are you talking about? That version sucks!” He replied “No, it’s great. Helplessly Hoping sounds amazing.” 

Now one thing I know about the Nautilus is that although it is wonderfully transparent in the midrange, it may very well take the cake for the most bloated, out of control bass in the history of Half Speed mastering. What song on that album has almost no bass, just lovely voices in the midrange? You guessed it. Helplessly Hoping.

The Nautilus got one track right, and ruined the rest. Using that track for comparison will fool you, and when it comes time to play a side of the album, you will quickly hear what a disaster it is.

Or maybe you won’t. Who else harps on bad Half-Speed Mastered bass outside of those of us who write for this blog? I don’t recall ever reading a word about it. This does not reflect well on the bass response of the modern audiophile stereo.

More Crosby, Stills and Nash

More CrosbyMore Stills / More Nash / More Young


Some Relevant Commentaries

A Technological Fix for a Non-Existent Problem (more…)

Money Can Buy You Happiness, You Just Have to Spend It Right

A testimonial from a customer for his Hot Stamper Deja Vu discusses what it takes to get good sound from your stereo. (Hint: it’s a good sounding record.) An excerpt.

Tom:

I received my Deja Vu 2 Pack yesterday. Even though I have not yet listened to all of the mother load that I got on Marathon week – I had to take a listen to this tonight.

Whew – Mother of God!

I have never heard even a semi-decent copy of this album before on either LP or CD – although the music is outstanding and chock full of memories for anyone my age. This white hot stamper is transcendental nirvana. Tom was not kidding when he said master tape sound. The vocals and instrumentals were so alive it was unbelievable. Some of the songs were so good that I just tilted my head back and opened my mouth real wide and just zoned out. Crosby’s vocal on Almost Cut My Hair is masterful. I took your advice and played it twice at even louder volumes. Yikes – better than acapulco gold. Neil Young’s Country Girl was so huge – a vast wall of sound with every single voice and instrument standing out.

This album is even better than I ever thought it was. I was just not prepared to hear how it really sounds after all that crap I had been listening to for 30 years.

I have come to a conclusion – no matter whether I had the best $50,000 amps in the world or a $29,000 phono supply or the $150,000 Wilson Alexandria speakers or all that other incredible stuff that audiophiles lust for – not one of those items can make a shit record sound anything but like a shit record. There is no overcoming the original source material that you play on your stereo system.

Buying a hot stamper for what can seem like a lot of money – especially if you want a whole lot of them – is really a bargain for those who have invested in a super audio system (with analog capability of course). It is true that the better your system is the more you will get out of hot stampers – but at some point in the process it is more effective to spend available resources on the LPs rather than on more better mega equipment. I just don’t believe an additional $20,000 spent on a better amplifier can deliver as much as $20,000 spent on Super or White Hot Stampers played with my current amplifier. Additionally, I do believe that even a modest analogue system will sound fabulous when you have master tape sound coming out of it.

Bless Tom and all the folks at Better Records. My system enjoyment quotient has increased dramatically this year since I have been buying the good stuff to play on it. Keep up the good work.

Regards,
John

John,

So glad to hear you loved that Deja Vu as much as your enthusiastic letter indicates you did. When we come across a copy as good as the one we sent you it is indeed a cause for celebration here at Better Records: We know someone is very likely going to have their mind blown, and soon. Obviously in this case it was you!

As far as megabuck equipment is concerned, we discussed the subject in a commentary entitled Money Can’t Buy You (Audio) Happiness in which we noted that a certain reviewer’s very, very expensive equipment does not seem to be helping him tell the difference between good sounding records and bad. From our perspective, there’s little difference in the sound of the Heavy Vinyl pressings he seems to like so much from Classic, Sundazed, Speakers Corner and the like. To us almost all of them leave a lot to be desired.

Play Them? Why?

We actually created a section called the Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to point out the many shortcomings — and, to be fair, the occasional strengths — of these pressings. It’s hard for us to get motivated to play any of these records. The vast majority are barely even mediocre and oftentimes they’re downright awful, so what’s the point?

John brings up a related point: No matter how expensive your equipment, you just can’t make your stereo sound good unless you are playing a good sounding record. Placing a Sundazed or Classic record on a $100,000 turntable is — to our way of thinking — audio insanity. If that turntable is any good, it’s simply going to make even more obvious the shortcomings that exist in the mastering of these two famously badly-mastered label’s records.

If, on the other hand, it’s hiding those flaws, that’s strong evidence that someone may very well have figuratively flushed a hundred grand down the toilet. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash / More Young

  • This stunning copy offers exceptionally good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • The two tracks exclusive to this album, Ohio and Find the Cost of Freedom, are amazingly well recorded – both have Demo Disc quality sound on this killer side one
  • Huge, rich and energetic, this pressing brings the gorgeous harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to life like nothing you have ever heard
  • If you’ve made the mistake of buying any Heavy Vinyl pressing containing any of these songs, this record will show you just exactly what you’ve been missing

When you get hold of a pressing as good as this one, the sound is so correct it makes a mockery of the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering and pressing of the Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered versions.

The MoFi and the Classic 200g LP are both clearly wrong in important ways. This record will make it clear exactly what’s wrong with them, assuming you have the critical listening skills to recognize the differences. If you are on this site chances are very good you do.

Once you hear this copy you will never be able to enjoy those audiophile pressings again, of that we are quite confident. (more…)

Crosby, Stills and Nash – CSN

More Crosby

More Stills

More Nash

  • This vintage pressing of CSN’s “comeback” album earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for its sound
  • The sound is big and rich, the vocals breathy and immediate, and you will not believe all the space and ambience – which of course are all qualities that Heavy Vinyl records have far too little of, and the main reason we have lost all respect for them
  • Includes CSN classics Dark Star, Just A Song Before I Go and Fair Game
  • 4 stars: “It has held up remarkably well, both as a memento of its time, and as a thoroughly enjoyable musical work.”

(more…)

Crosby Stills & Nash / Self-Titled – Classic Records Reviewed

More Crosby, Stills and Nash

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B-

Nice enough I suppose, but where’s the Midrange Magic?

The Classic 180g version was a revelation when it came out years ago. Bernie actually cut it pretty darn right. However, his mastering chain cannot compete with the one used on the best original pressings.

The evidence for this is overwhelming. There simply is no Bernie-Grundman-cut record that is the equal of the best pressings not cut on his current chain that I have heard over the years. (His old cutting system, the one that cut Stardust and Blue and much of the Contemporary catalog, was KILLER. Wonder what happened to it?)

Having said that, the Classic version gets you 70-75% of the way there and gives you quiet vinyl to boot, so it must be appreciated for what it is: a very good reissue, maybe even the best one Classic ever made. But not the real thing. Not even close. (more…)