Top Artists – Neil Young

Neil Young / Harvest – How Does the Heavy Vinyl Pressing Sound?

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harvest

How does the heavy vinyl sound? We have no idea, never played one.

Actually, we do have an idea. Although we’ve never auditioned the heavy vinyl pressing of Harvest, we have played the newly remastered After the Gold Rush. We concluded that this is a reissue series that holds very little appeal for us as audiophiles. Some excerpts from our review for ATGR follow.

We know what the good pressings of the album sound like, we play them regularly, and this newly remastered vinyl is missing almost everything that makes the album essential to any Right Thinking Music Lover’s collection.

We can summarize the sound of this awful record in one word: boring. Since some of you may want to know more than that we’ll be happy to break it down for you a bit further.

What It Does Right

It’s tonally correct.

Can’t think of anything else…

What It Does Wrong

Where to begin?

It has no real space or ambience. When you play this record it sounds as if they must have recorded it in a heavily padded studio. Somehow the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil’s classic albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this audiophile remastering have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn’t recorded in one.

In addition, the record never gets loud. The good pressings get very loud. They rock, they’re overflowing with energy.

And, lastly, there’s no real weight to the bottom end. The Whomp Factor on this new pressing is practically non-existent. The low end of the originals is huge, deep and powerful.

The Bottom Line

This new Heavy Vinyl pressing is boring beyond all understanding. I wouldn’t give you a nickel for it. If Neil Young actually had anything to do with it he should be ashamed of himself.

If you want a good copy of the album we have them on the site from time to time. If you can’t afford our Hot Stampers, please don’t waste your money on this one. I have an old CD from 30 years ago, and it is dramatically better than this LP.

Pass / Fail

We think the Heavy Vinyl pressing of After the Gold Rush is so awful that whatever supporters it may have — and there are surely some who have spoken well of it on audiophile forums somewhere, having seen the most ridiculously bad audiophile records touted again and again — are failing utterly in this hobby in one or both of the following ways.

They either cannot reproduce its shortcomings, or, having reproduced them, they have failed to recognize them.

Either one spells trouble. One or both should act as a wake up call of the most pressing kind. We explain what we mean by this kind of failure in more detail here:

Some records are so wrong, or are so lacking in qualities that are crucial to the reproduction of Hi-Fidelity sound — qualities typically found in abundance on the right vintage pressings — that the supporters of these records are failing fundamentally to judge them correctly. We call these records Pass-Fail.

Tea for the Tillerman on the new 45 may be substandard in almost every way, but it is not a Pass-Fail pressing. It lacks one thing above all others, Tubey Magic, so if your system has an abundance of that quality, the way many vintage tube systems do, the new pressing may be quite listenable and enjoyable. Those whose systems can play the record and not notice this important shortcoming are not exactly failing. They most likely have a system that is heavily colored and not very revealing, but it is not a system that is necessarily hopeless or unmusical.

A system that can play the MoFi of Aja without revealing to the listener how wrong it is must necessarily be at another level of bad entirely. A stereo of such poor quality is clearly a failure, what else could it be?

My system in the ’80s played the MoFi Aja just fine. Looking back on it now, I realize my system was doing more wrong than right. (Having very poorly-developed critical listening skills played a big part in my apparent satisfaction with both the MoFi pressing and the sound of my stereo in general.)

Today’s incarnation of that awful MoFi is the Cisco pressing, and yes, some folks are as clueless these days as I was in 1982.

Like all Self-Taught Audiophiles, I had a lousy teacher. I didn’t know it at the time — how could I? — but I had a very long way to go.

Some of the lessons I learned along the way, lessons you may find helpful in your own personal audio journey, can be found here.

The dramatic audio progress we’ve made in our 35 years in the record business, playing and selling thousands of audiophile quality vinyl LPs, is what has allowed us to recognize just how second- and third-rate most Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings really are.

Head to head with a good vintage LP — those you see pictured below, for example — they are simply not competitive. We think the new Harvest is unlikely to be worth our time, but if you have a copy of the album and like the sound of it, please send it to us so that we can hear it for ourselves We will put it up against the amazing sounding vintage pressings we offer and report our findings, whatever they turn out to be.

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Neil Young / Old Ways – Another Anadisq Disaster

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More Country and Country Rock

Some time in the 2000s we reviewed this pressing from 1996.

The MoFi is a muckfest, as was to be expected from a record mastered by this awful label during the Anadisq era, the darkest chapter in the disgraceful history of Mobile Fidelity.

We guarantee any Hot Stamper LP will make your MoFI pressing sound like the bad joke it was even as far back as 1996, the stone age in audio, or your money back including shipping.

As of 2015, this label may have entered a new and even more disgraceful era, but considering how bad their records have been from the very start, (something that should be obvious to any audiophile with a high quality playback system, the kind of system that should have no difficulty exposing the manifold shortcomings of their remastered pressings), how much lower can they possibly fall?

Only time will tell!


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Here’s a good question:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQs:

More Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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

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Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

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More 5 Star Albums

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  • An outstanding copy of Neil Young’s brilliant sixth studio album – you’ll find excellent Double (A++) grades on both sides of this original (and very cool) Black Label Reprise pressing
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • With no marks that play and minimal signs of use, this copy has surfaces that even picky audiophiles (are there any other kind?) can appreciate
  • 5 stars: “…Young’s musical expression of grief, combined with his rejection of the stardom he had achieved in the late ’60s and early ’70s … was immediately recognized as a unique masterpiece by critics, and it has continued to be ranked as one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made.”

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Buffalo Springfield – Again

  • Buffalo Springfield’s sophomore release is back on the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Tubey Magical Analog sound or close to it from from start to finish – unusually quiet vinyl for an ATCO original as well
  • Consistently brilliant songwriting and production: “Mr. Soul,” “A Child’s Claim To Fame,” “Expecting To Fly,” “Bluebird,” “Hung Upside Down,” “Rock & Roll Woman,” “Broken Arrow” and more!
  • These days it takes us years to find enough clean copies of an album like this with which to do a shootout – nice originals are thin on the ground and getting thinner by the day
  • A true Desert Island Disc – 5 stars: “…this record stands as their greatest triumph… its classic status cannot be denied.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Buffalo Springfield, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This band’s second and third albums are both good examples of records many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Listen to the vocal harmonies — you can separate out all the parts much more clearly on these Hot Stamper pressings. You can really hear precisely who’s in there and what part they are playing in the vocal arrangement. I can’t remember ever hearing it sound so clear. The best copies really let you hear into the music. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around

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  • Relaxed, rich and tubey, yet clear, this is the kind of sound you always wanted from The Buffalo Springfield but had no way to hear, until now
  • Some of the best songs the band ever wrote are right here: I Am A Child, Kind Woman and too many more to list
  • If Buffalo Springfield Again deserves a Five Star rating then Last Time Around does too – it’s equally brilliant, and a real Desert Island Disc for yours truly

These two sides are relaxed, rich and tubey, giving you exactly what you would expect from a Top Quality pressing — without the noise, veiling and distortion that you’re used to hearing on the copies you picked up locally, or the one you mistreated back in the day (didn’t we all?).

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it right, you find that some of these pressings are a damn sight better than the most audiophiles think they are.

The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy. It breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway — the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all.

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Neil Young – Harvest

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Reviews and Commentaries for Harvest

  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this STUNNING vintage copy of Neil’s undeniable classic is guaranteed to be the best you’ve ever heard
  • Apologies for the high price, but it has been years since we found a copy this nice, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying
  • It’s practically impossible to find an early pressing with sound this good and vinyl that plays as quietly as this
  • Scratches are the rule, not the exception, but thankfully this copy has none
  • A Top 100 album and a sublime recording no audiophile should be without
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.”
  • If you’re a Neil Young fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

When you have this kind of open, extended top end, the grit, grain and edge just disappear, leaving you with a clear, Tubey Magical sound that’s way beyond anything you have ever heard (or we give you your money back). Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976.

Just look at these titles:

After The Gold Rush,

Harvest,

On The Beach,

Tonight’s The Night, and

Zuma.

I can’t think of anyone else besides Zeppelin (first six titles) and The Beatles (you pick ’em!) who put out this many killer albums consecutively. We consider each of those albums a work of profound creativity, and we can proudly claim to have found copies of each with the sonic credentials to bring these masterpieces to life.

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Letter of the Week – “The instruments fill my room like they would in a live performance.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

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

Hey Tom, 

I have really been enjoying the Neil Young “After The Gold Rush” and CSN&Y “So Far.” They are like the “Workingman’s Dead” LP. Just a thrill to hear. The instruments on “After The Gold Rush” fill my room like they would in a live performance. Addictive.

AJ

Addiction is the name of the game!

If you’re an audiophile who is not addicted to good sound and good music, you won’t be one for long.

And if you have been in this game for a very long time like I have, you have no doubt met self-identified audiophiles with systems that haven’t been improved in twenty years, and appear to be rarely used.

I like to think those are the audiophiles who own lots of audiophile records, the ones that are designed to show off stereo equipment and typically hold little interest from a musical standpoint.

The TAS Super Disc List is full of these records. We have no use for most of them and we suspect our customers don’t either.

Audiophiles with vintage pressings of real music rarely abandon the hobby in my experience.

And if you have Hot Stamper pressings, why would you ever give up on hearing music that sounds as good as our records sound?

Thanks for your letter.

TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Neil Young – Vintage Analog Transparency, and that Wonderful Feeling of Being There

More of the Music of Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for After the Gold Rush

For our review of the new Heavy Vinyl After the Gold Rush we wrote:

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this remaster have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn’t recorded in one. 

This pressing has no real space or ambience. Now the album sounds like it was recorded in a heavily baffled studio, but we know that’s not what happened, because the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil’s other albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

In other words, they are transparent.

Modern records, like the new [now not so new] After the Gold Rush, are just so damn opaque. We can’t stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a group — including those that pass themselves off as champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

Once you hear a top quality Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly-cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the newer ones.

This allows the faults of the current reissues to become much more recognizable, to the point of actually being quite obvious. When you can hear different pressings that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.


FURTHER READING

There is an abundance of audiophile collector hype surrounding the hundreds of Heavy Vinyl pressings currently in print. I read a lot about how wonderful their sound is, but when I actually play them, I rarely find them to be any better than mediocre, and many of them are awful.

Music Matters made this garbage remaster. Did anyone notice how awful it sounded? I could list a hundred more that range from bad to worse — and I have! Take your pick: there are more than 150 entries in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section, each one worse sounding than the next.

Audiophiles seem to have approached these records naively instead of skeptically.

(But wait a minute. Who am I to talk? I did the same thing when I first got into audio and record collecting in the Seventies.)

How could so many be fooled so badly? Surely some of these people have good enough equipment to allow them to hear the limitations of these modern pressings.

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Letter of the Week – “I TRULY ENJOY THE SOUND of all those Hot Stampers.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

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

Hey Tom, 

Just to let you know my response on Neil Young records (and others) I purchased from Better Records. I just read your comment:

“Which brings up a sore subject: the Classic Records 2 LP set of the Greatest Hits on Heavy Vinyl. The song Comes a Time is on it. Do you think it sounds even remotely as good as it does here? If you do, you don’t need Better Records, you need better equipment.”

I do have that record, sent it back twice as I thought I got a mispressing in view of the terrible sound quality. No luck. Now the only purpose it serves is that the cover is on the wall — I think I can still further upgrade my equipment, but already for several years I TRULY ENJOY THE SOUND of all those Hot Stampers I got through your company.

Yes they cost something but they do deliver also true joy!

Rens J.

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

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One of Our Favorite Titles from 1969


  • This outstanding copy of Neil’s second studio album boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality Neil is famous for (of which Zuma is the best example), with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY
  • Includes some of Neil Young’s most beloved classics: “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River” just to name three
  • 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes….”

Although not quite in the league with the best of the best — the likes of Gold Rush, Harvest, or Zuma, all titles we have a devil of a time keeping in stock — the best sounding tracks here are a rough guide to what was to come as Neil and his producer, David Briggs, got better and better until they were As Good As It Gets by the time they got around to After the Gold Rush in 1970 (for which they seem to get no credit, outside of Better Records’ raves for the album of course).

We absolutely love the Live-in-the-Studio quality that only the best pressings of this album can give, with minimal processing and maximum energy. Man, with a good copy played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of “Down by the River”? A ten minute long version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”? “Cinnamon Girl”? We are so there!

This kind of musical, natural sound is not easy to come by. If you own any copy of the album you know what we mean. (more…)