Top Artists – Dire Straits

Dire Straits – How Good Are the Robert Ludwig Pressings?

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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.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Dire Straits – Communique

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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

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

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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

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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. 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

Keep in mind that we are not saying their version is bad.

We do not judge records we have never played.

However, we would be very surprised if it were better than mediocre.

So that’s why we cannot answer your question!

Best, TP

PS

The version Chris Bellman cut for Rhino at 45 RPM in 2021 is actually quite good. I will be writing a review for it one of these days.


Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, guaranteed. And if for some reason you disagree with us about how good they sound, we will be happy to give you your money back.

Here are some others that we do not think qualify as Super Discs.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities

Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List

New to the site? Start here.

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live

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 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.”

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Dire Straits / Love Over Gold – Testing with Piano and Snare

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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?)

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…)

Mark Knopfler – Local Hero

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  • A KILLER Vertigo import pressing of Knopfler’s 1983 soundtrack album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • This one is doing everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than anything else we played
  • As good as the Warner Brothers pressings might be, we think these Vertigo originals are a step up in class
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler’s intricate, introspective finger-picked guitar stylings make a perfect musical complement to the wistful tone of Bill Forsyth’s comedy film, Local Hero… The low-key music picks up traces of Scottish music, but most of it just sounds like Dire Straits doing instrumentals, especially the recurring theme, one of Knopfler’s more memorable melodies.”

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Dire Straits – We Knew This Was a Tour de Force by Rhett Davies Back in 2007

More Recordings Engineered by Rhett Davies

Reviews and Commentaries for Dire Straits’ Debut

More of the Music of Dire Straits

This Vertigo British pressing of Dire Straits’ wonderful debut has ABSOLUTELY THE BEST SOUND for this album we have ever heard. Folks, this one just can’t be beat. AGAIG is our shorthand for As Good As It Gets, and that’s an understatement when it comes to the sound of this copy. It blew the doors off every record we put up against it; every Vertigo pressing, regardless of country of manufacture or era. If you’re looking for The World Champion, this copy holds the title and is very unlikely to be giving it up any time soon.

Rhett Davies is one of our favorite recording engineers, 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.

His Masterpiece Discovered

Well, we just have to say that until something better comes along, THIS IS HIS MASTERPIECE. It has to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, with Tubey Magic mids, prodigious bass, transparency to beat the band, and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard.

This album is every bit as good and may in fact be even a bit better in some areas, principally in the areas of dynamics and energy. It is a very special recording of incredible size and power.

Still, we’re pretty sure most people would rather have a good copy of Dire Straits’ debut.

So, to be fair, let’s say the man is responsible for two of the best sounding records we know of. Two masterpieces in other words.

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 pressing alone, has proven that he belongs in the company of the greatest engineers of all time, along with the likes of Bill Porter, Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Geoff Emerick and others too numerous to mention.

We Want To Rock

What separates the best Brits from the merely good ones? In a word, ENERGY. The best copies make this band sound like they are on fire, ready to go head to head with the world, fiercely proud of the new sound they’ve created. The not-so-good copies make Dire Straits sound the way Dire Straits usually does — laid back and well under control, perhaps even a bit bored with the whole affair. The best copies show you a band that wants to rock with the best of them, and can.

Demo Disc Sound

Both sides here are OFF THE CHARTS — no copy came close, and none may ever! It’s got all of the punch, all of the energy, and all of the tubey magic that you could ever ask for. The vocals, the bass, the guitars — all PERFECTION. The overall sound is rich, full, smooth, sweet, super transparent, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The presence and immediacy on this copy are UNCANNY and UNMATCHED.

Water Of Love and Sultans of Swing have the kind of Demo Disc sound that will have your audiophile friends drooling and turning green with envy. We can’t all afford $100,000 turntables, but when you have a record that sounds this good, you don’t need one! This record makes it sound like you have 100k in your rig, whether you do or not.

A Big Speaker Record

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended if you play it at moderate levels.

This is the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less is just not for me. (more…)

Dire Straits / Making Movies – Forget the Dubby Domestic Pressings

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, punchy, and full-bodied with excellent presence – Mark Knopfler’s leads really soar
  • Romeo and Juliet comes to life the way you want it to here, and the song Solid Rock lives up to its title
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Making Movies is helped by a new wave-tinged pop production, which actually helps Knopfler’s jazzy inclinations take hold … ranks among the band’s finest work.”

The music really comes together, especially if you’ve been playing a sub-generation domestic pressing, which is the only kind Warners made as far as we know. (The first album is the same way of course.) Here you will find richer mids, sweeter highs, more energy and some real punch down low. (more…)

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

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Reviews and Commentaries for Brothers in Arms

  • Tonally correct from start to finish, with a solid bottom and fairly natural vocals (for this particular recording of course), HERE is the sound they were going for in the studio
  • Drop the needle on So Far Away – it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet still rich and full-bodied
  • 4 stars: “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.”

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is the sound you need for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this.

Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of tight, deep bass. (more…)