It’s common for pressings of Stand Up to lack bass or highs, and more often than not the copies that we play in our shootouts, strictly limited to import pressings on Island or Chrysalis, lack both.
The bass-shy ones tend to be more transparent and open sounding — of course, that’s the sound you get when you take out the bass.
90 plus percent of all the audiophile stereos I’ve ever heard were bass shy, no doubt for precisely that very reason: less bass equals more detail, more openness and more transparency. Go to any stereo store or audiophile show and notice how bright the sound is. Which of course is yet another good reason not to go to those shows. We stopped going decades ago.
Just what good is a British Classic Rock Record that lacks bass? It won’t rock, and if it don’t rock, who needs it? You might as well be playing the CD. (The average CD of Stand Up — I have a couple of them — is terrible, but the MoFi Gold CD is superb in all respects.)
The copies that lack extreme highs are often dull and thick, and usually have a smeary, blurry quality to their sound. When you can’t hear into the music, the music itself quickly becomes boring. Most Island pressings suffer from these shortcomings.
If I had to choose, I would take a copy that’s a little dull on top as long as it had a meaty, powerful, full-bodied sound over something that’s thinner and more leaned out. There are many audiophiles who can put up with that sound — I might go so far as to say the vast majority can — but I am not one of them.
Of course one of the key elements to any Jethro Tull record is the quality of the flute. You want it to be airy and breathy — like a real flute — and some copies will give you that, but keep in mind there are always trade-offs at work on old rock records like this. It’s a full-bodied, rich sounding recording with the volume up good and high. Make sure your system is playing it that way before you start to focus on the flute, otherwise you are very likely to be led astray.
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 good and 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 also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Systems driving Big Dynamic 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 I enjoy. Anything less is just not for me.
As of 2022, this record sounds best this way:
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