Top Artists – Dire Straits

Letter of the Week – “Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.”

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

One of our erstwhile customers asked me a question not long ago:

Hey Tom, 

Some audiophile guy professes to me that he prefers his Japan and German pressings of Dire Straits’ 1st LP over the UK press. How can I tell him in a kind way that he is wrong?

Dear Sir,

You can’t, in a kind way or any other way.

You have to play the two pressings for him, on his stereo or yours, and that’s simply not possible unless he lives near you, which is rarely the case, audiophiles being fairly thin on the ground as far as I know.

Explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

All forums — whatever their benefits — cannot overcome this problem.

Next time someone posts an opinion about a record, ask yourself “What does his system sound like?”

If you don’t know the answer, why on earth would you put any stock in his opinion? For all you know his system sucks and his critical listening skills are non-existent. He might have a pair of JBL 100s in the basement and a Dual turntable (or the modern equivalent of same).

He may hate the records whose sound you love and love the records whose sound you hate.

I Look Forward to Being Proven Wrong

Along those lines, I had a new customer tell me that this record was one of the better Heavy Vinyl reissues he had heard recently. Rather than just paint every Heavy Vinyl pressing with the broad brush of disgust I normally reach for when doing reviews for them, I thought maybe I should actually give this one a listen.

It might change my mind. It might help me see the light. Maybe I could even learn a thing or two instead of being so relentlessly negative about modern reissues. They can’t all be as bad as I say, can they?

So I took his advice and ordered one right then and there.

For thirty bucks, I learned a lesson worth a great deal more than the money I sunk into such a worthless piece of vinyl on the say-so of someone whose stereo I had never heard, which is this: never believe a word you read about audio or records, no matter who says it, or where you read it, except under certain circumstances.

What circumstances, exactly?

To my mind there is only one circumstance when it makes sense to believe what somebody — anybody — tells you about the sound of a record: If that advice comes with a 100% money back guarantee of the purchase price if you are not happy with the sound.

It can’t get any more simple than that, now can it?

Do any of these guys ever put their money where their mouths are? Not a one of them ever has to the best of my knowledge, and why would they? Plenty of downside, but not a trace of upside. To quote Don Felder, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther from Victim of Love, “I could be wrong, but I’m not.”

Of course we do things very differently here at Better Records. Yes, we have strong opinions. Lots of them.

But we back those opinions up with a full money back guarantee. The upside for us is huge — a satisfied customer, our favorite kind — and the downside is practically nil — whatever record someone returns just goes back up on the site, sells to someone else and we never see it again.

Voila, another satisfied customer!

I don’t know how Chad Kassem would react to you trying to return his awful Stand Up or his mediocre-at-best Tea for the Tillerman, but I doubt he would take too kindly to the idea.

And speaking of not being wrong, we actually go out of way to point out when we are.

Better to be a scout rather than a warrior.

There are way too many warriors on audiophile forums as it is. (more…)

Dire Straits – Piano and Snare Testing

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Love Over Gold

Telegraph Road does something on this copy that you won’t hear on one out of twenty pressings: It ROCKS. It’s got ENERGY and DRIVE.

Listen to how hard Allan Clark bangs on the piano on side one — he’s pounding that piano with all his might. No other copy managed to get the piano to pop the way it does here, clear and solid.

Wow, who knew? Maybe this is the reason HP put the record on the TAS Super Disc List. (I rather doubt he’s ever heard a copy this good, but who’s to say?)

More records that are good for testing the sound of the piano.

Best test for side two?

The snare drum on Industrial Disease. Play five copies of the album and listen for how much snap there is to the snare on each of them. It will be obvious which ones get the transient attack right and which ones don’t. (If none of them do try five more copies!)

More records that are good for testing the sound of the snare drum.

(more…)

Dire Straits – Self-Titled

More Dire Straits

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this UK pressing of the band’s brilliant debut
  • One of the best sounding rock records ever made, with rich, sweet, smooth mids; prodigious amounts of bass; superb transparency and clarity; and a freedom from hi-fi-ishness and a lack of distortion like very few rock records we have ever heard
  • Rhett Davies knocked this one out of the park – it’s a Top 100 title, a member of the Tubey Magical Top Ten, and our favorite by the band for both sound and music
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Knopfler also shows an inclination toward Dylanesque imagery, which enhances the smoky, low-key atmosphere of the album… the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career.”

Rhett Davies is one of our favorite engineers. He’s the man behind Taking Tiger Mountain, 801 Live and Avalon to name just a few of his most famous recordings, all favorites of ours of course.

The man may be famous for some fairly artificial sounding recordings — Eno’s, Roxy Music’s and The Talking Heads’ albums come to mind — but it’s obvious to us now, if it wasn’t before, that those are entirely artistic choices, not engineering shortcomings.

Rhett Davies, by virtue of the existence of this album alone, has proven that he belongs in the company of the greatest engineers of all time, right up there with the likes of Bill Porter, Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Geoff Emerick, Glyn Johns and others we could mention. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “The differences between all the copies was even far more obvious the second time I did the shootout.”

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. (Bolding added by us.)

Hey Tom, 

I’ve got to admit that I was skeptical when I purchased your Hot Stamper Dire Straits album. I told my brother I just paid $400 CAD (shipping and duties included) for a used record. Of course he thought I was nuts! I have an original Mercury copy that I bought in 1978 plus an audiophile copy mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analogue tapes and plated and pressed at Pallas, Germany.

I finally got the chance to do the shootout between all copies. The original totally sounded like shit. It was bright sounding, noisy and lacked bottom end and dynamics. The Grundman mastered copy was much quieter, it was much smoother and more dynamic but it didn’t sound great. When I put on the Hot Stamper, within a few notes I knew it was far superior. It was far more dynamic as if I turned up the volume. It was also quiet and far more transparent but had that great bottom end.

My brother came to visit me a few days ago and I did the shootout between all the copies again. The differences between all the copies was even far more obvious the second time I did the shootout. I can tell you that my brother doesn’t think I’m nuts any more. I hope I can purchase more albums from you in the future.

Tasi

Tasi,

We love it when our customers take the time and make the effort to do their own shootouts, especially when we win, which is what happens about 99% of the time.

It is not the least bit unusual for our customers to take another listen and become more aware of the superior sound of the Hot Stamper pressings the second time around.

When we do lose a shootout, we promptly refund the buyer’s money and wish him or her a nice day.

What do we do with the record, assuming the customer had no problem with its playing condition?

We put it right back up on the site to sell to the next customer who orders it. In only two or three cases that I can recall did it ever come back to us again. Two or three out of thousand and thousands of Hot Stampers sold. Not bad.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Letter of the Week – “The best one from you guys that I’ve bought is easily Wish You Were Here.”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

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

Hey Tom, 

I’ve bought several LPs from you guys and have been exceptionally impressed. The eponymous Dire Straits plus Breakfast in America arrived yesterday, and are excellent.

The best one from you guys that I’ve bought is easily Wish You Were Here. That is an album meant to be played at full volume from start to finish, loving every minute. 

Keep up the good work! 

Anyway, thanks from a very satisfied customer.

Thanks, glad to see you liked it as much as we did.

We love pointing out that our Shootout Winning copies are not originals, and not pressed in the U.K.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

To see more Tubey Magical Guitar Demo Discs, click here.

(more…)

Dire Straits – How Good Are the Robert Ludwig Pressings?

More of the Music of Dire Straits

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice

The best domestic pressings we heard, the ones cut by Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk, were simply not competitive with any of the early British LPs.

The evidence is pretty clear that the master tapes stayed in England and that only the British pressings are made from them.

If you’ve played as many records as we have, it’s not hard to recognize dubby sound when you hear it.

(more…)

Dire Straits – Communique

More Dire Straits

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • This vintage UK pressing of the band’s sophomore album boasts outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Communique
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s debut release, you’ll find much to like on this underappreciated follow up
  • “…an album full of the delicate subtleties that make Mark Knopfler shimmer — that deep tobacco-soaked voice, the quick, fluid guitar, and the wit behind many of his lyrics… a rich, abundant source of beauty.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, a killer copy of their album from 1979 surely belongs in your collection

(more…)

In Defense of Simply Vinyl – Are Their LPs Really Worse Than Anybody Else’s?

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dire Straits

This commentary was written many years ago.

Making Movies on Simply Vinyl had been out of print for quite a while, so when it was repressed recently [in the mid-2000s I would guess] we took the opportunity to give it a fresh spin and were SHOCKED — that’s right, SHOCKED — to hear how good it sounded, every bit as good as we remember it from years ago.

It sounded like a good British import, not some 180 gram remastered airless, opaque wannabe.

Most 180 gram records don’t do anything for us these days [circa 2008] — they leave a lot to be desired as we point out left and right in our commentaries — but here’s a wonderful exception to the dismal heavy vinyl rule.

But it is a good British (or Dutch, same thing) import, because Simply Vinyl is not in the remastering business.

Addendum 2012 

We played another copy on SV a year or so later, 2009 or 2010 as I recall, and it did not sound nearly as good as the one we describe above, for what that’s worth.

Also SV has “newer” remasterings of many of their records, which in our experience are uniformly inferior to the earlier ones. I would not buy any SV if I were you unless I heard it first or could return it.

Dires Straits / Brothers In Arms – Our Take on the MoFi 45

More of the Music of Dire Straits

Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

We have never bothered to play their remaster, along with some other Heavy Vinyl reissues we think have very little chance of actually sounding good to us.

NEWSFLASH: I just found out today that the MoFi is now on the TAS Super Disc list. You can find it along with the domestic — yes, you read that right — domestic pressing of the first album.

Now just how hard of hearing do you have to be to think that the domestic pressing of Dire Straits’ first album is a Super Disc? A nice record, sure, but nice records aren’t really Super Discs, are they?

Not when there are UK pressings that trounce it. We should know, we’ve played them by the dozens. How the writers for The Absolute Sound can be this far off the mark is a question we cannot begin to answer. More Reviewer Malpractice? What else could it be?

We have written quite a number of reviews and commentaries for the first album and we encourage you to read some of them.

Speaking of Super Discs, the good British pressings are so good we put them on our Top Ten Most Tubey Magical Rock and Pop Recordings List. No domestic pressing we have ever played would qualify as a Hot Stamper, not when even the average British copy is better.


A few years ago we received this email from a customer.

“How would you compare the Brothers in Arms SHS to the Mobile Fidelity 45 rpm copy?”

Dear Sir,

We have never bothered to play their remaster, and why would we? Every MoFi pressing made by the current regime has had major sound problems when compared head to head with the “real” records we sell, and it’s simply not worth our time to find out exactly what is wrong with the sound of any of these new reissues, theirs included.

[I will be reviewing their unbelievably awful Dire Straits first album on 45 one of these days. Rarely have I heard such a good recording, a brilliant recording, turned into such a piece of crap.]

However, we have been known to make an exception to that rule from time to time. Recently we did so in the case of the Tea for the Tillerman George Marino cut at 45 RPM for Analogue Productions.

As long as Analogue Productions is around, at least no one can say that Mobile Fidelity makes the worst sounding audiophile records in the history of the world. They are certainly some of the worst, but, to be fair, they are not so bad that they have never made a single good sounding record, which is the title that Chad Kassem holds. (To the best of our knowledge. Obviously we have only played a small fraction of the records released by him. In our defense let me say that that small fraction was all we could take.)

Why not give the new Brothers in Arms a listen to see how it stacks up to your Hot Stampers?

Because Half-Speed Mastering is a bad approach to mastering, one that almost never produces good sounding records.

Even when it’s done right, it results in sloppy bass. This is very obvious to us but it seems most audiophiles and reviewers don’t notice this shortcoming. (I try not to reflect too much on systems that hide from their owners the problems in the low end that MoFi records are prone to, practically without exception. I once borrowed a $5000 Dynavector cartridge to audition. Although it had a wonderfully extended and sweet top end, clearly better than my 17D3, the bass was so sloppy I could not wait to take it out and get it back to its owner. I never said a word about it and he never complained about the bass.)

You don’t have to make the mistake of mastering your records at Half-Speed to end up with sloppy bass. You just have to be bad at mastering records, like this label, Music Matters.

We find listening to the sound of these veiled, compressed, strangely-eq’d remastered records painful, so we avoid playing them unless one comes our way for free, which does happen from time to time.

We played their Sinatra at the Sands record a few years back after someone gave us a free copy.

And it was pretty good. It might earn a sonic grade of “B.” That’s about the most you can hope for. We’ve reviewed a lot of their albums over the years, and you can read about them here: Mobile Fidelity

(more…)

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live

More Dire Straits

 More Live Albums

  • An outstanding early UK pressing of Dire Straits’ live album from 1984 with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR SIDES
  • Stick with the imports on this title, even though the domestic pressings were originally mastered by Robert Ludwig – he didn’t have the real tapes, and that makes all the difference in the world
  • “The arena-size crowd cheers wildly, and claps and sings along when given half a chance, as though each song were an up-tempo rocker… That Dire Straits’ introspective music loses much of its detail in a live setting matters less than that it gains presence and a sense of anticipation.”

(more…)