What follows is some advice on What to Listen For.
If you are interested in digging deeper, our Listening in Depth commentaries have extensive track by track breakdowns for some of the better-known albums for which we’ve done multiple shootouts.
On to Alone Together.
Some records are consistently too noisy to keep in stock no matter how good they sound.
This is one of them. We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.
We struggled for years with the bad vinyl (on the original vomit-colored vinyl pressings, those are the ones that have the potential to win shootouts) and the murky sound of this album.
Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now [circa 2012] managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording.
I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.
You want to keep what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Rock while avoiding the pitfalls so common to them:
- poor resolution,
- heavy compression,
- compromised frequency extremes,
- lack of space and
- lack of presence.
How’s that for a laundry list of all the problems we hear on old rock records, old classical records, and old jazz records?
All records when you stop to think about it.
What record doesn’t have at least some of these faults? Not many in our experience. A copy with few or none of these problems would do very well in our Hot Stamper shootouts indeed.
This is, of course, a list of all the faults we hear just as often in the Heavy Vinyl pressings we audition.
Records are records. Thick ones have the same problems as thin ones. Why wouldn’t they?