Top Artists – The Who

Which Album by The Who Has the Best Sound?

whotommy

We Think It’s This One

I don’t know of another Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end. Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic like you will rarely hear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

What do high grades give you for this album? Silky, sweet vocals; huge weight to the bottom end; “you are there” immediacy; BIG drums, off the charts rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

No other Who album has all these things in such abundance.

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

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The Who – Hooligans (2 LPs) – Reviewed Many Years Ago

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This nearly White Hot Stamper (on two sides) was the CLEAR WINNER in our Hooligans shootout, a pretty big step up from the next best copy, and WORLDS BETTER than the average Hooligans album. I’ve known how good this record can sound for more than twenty five years, but how many have you seen make it to the site in Hot Stamper form? Exactly one copy, with exactly one Hot Stamper side. Here’s a direct quote from the listing about that side one (which has the fabulous early hits with superb sound):

Since it’s almost impossible to find good sounding pressings of those songs, I’m glad it was side one that came out so good. If you’re a fan of the early Who — and who isn’t — you will get a thrill from this album. And of course you get all the music on the other sides; they just don’t sound very good.

This is the problem with the record — the average MCA Crap-for-Vinyl copy is just a grainy, edgy mess. Before we started using our proprietary cleaning techniques — and thanks to the Walker Enzyme cleaning fluids — we just could not get four sides to sound good enough or play quiet enough to satisfy.

Of course now that has all changed. We managed to find some superb sounding sides with fairly quiet vinyl, something that would have been well out of our reach only a year or two ago. So much for the law of diminishing returns, one of the oldest, most wrongheaded and pernicious canards in audio. (See the commentary in the column on the left.)

Triple Plus? Not So Fast

However, not all ills are curable, and we failed to find a single side that we felt truly deserved the vaunted A Triple Plus rating. Two to Three, yes, a few qualified, but with such different sounding tracks cobbled together on the same sides, balancing the mastering would have had to have been a nightmare. Perhaps this is as good as it gets; only time will tell. Not that many of the good copies have survived in clean shape, so finding more is not that easy, but we will get on the stick and start digging around. The few good ones we found make it all worthwhile. (more…)

The Who – Direct Hits – Not Bad on Track, Awful on Classic Heavy Vinyl

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This is a very nice looking original Track Black Label British Import LP. As anyone who knows the Who’s back catalog can attest, most of these songs were poorly recorded. Like all compilations, the sound here varies from track to track. Side two definitely has the better sound.

We guarantee that this pressing sounds better than the Classic reissue, which was so bad we never carried it.

TRACK LISTING

Bucket “t”
I’m a Boy
Pictures of Lily
Doctor! Doctor!
I Can See for Miles
Substitute
Happy Jack
The Last Time
In the City
Call Me Lightning
Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand
Dogs

AMG  Review (more…)

The Who – Quadrophenia – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This may be the best sounding copy to ever hit the site – White Hot on 3 sides, and nearly White on the 4th! The sound is so BIG, rich, and powerful it will surely make you rethink the recording itself. When the sound is this immersive your experience of the music becomes breathtakingly REAL. One of the True Must Own Classics by the band. 

In four words, this is about AS GOOD AS IT GETS!

If you want to hear this music EXPLODE out of the speakers and come to life — the way The Who wanted you to hear it — this practically All White Hot Stamper pair of pressings will take you there. Drop the needle on any song to hear it better than you’ve ever heard it before — guaranteed. We’ve played tons of copies– Imports, Domestics, Reissues — and trust me here, you gotta play a whole lot of copies to come up with one that sounds like this! (more…)

The Who – Tommy – Our First Big Shootout Winner from Way Back in 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.  

This British Track Black Label pressing DEMOLISHED our expectations for this album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard The Who sound this good.

Three out of four sides rate our top grade of A+++, and side three ain’t far behind at A++. What do such high grades give you for this album? Tubey magical guitars, silky vocals with lots of texture, unbelievable weight to the bottom end, “you are there” immediacy, BIG drums sound, OFF THE CHARTS rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

This is only the second $1000 Classic Rock Hot Stamper we’ve ever listed on the site. We know there’s always a rise in trash talk on the vinyl message boards when we throw this kind of record on the site, but we can’t worry about that silly business. Our job is to find you guys the best of the best, and here’s a record that we’re very proud to put at the very top of our top shelf. (more…)

The Who – Live At Leeds – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES! Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. Young Man Blues on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records you’ve ever played. Keith Moon lives on!

Both sides here are absolutely As Good As It Gets! The bass is big and tight, the drums are killer, and the whole thing has the kind of rockin’ energy that this music demands. A+++, White Hot Stamper material all the way!

“Crackling Noises O.K. – Do Not Correct!!”

There are some crackling noises throughout that sound like noisy vinyl, but they are part of the recording, as indicated on the labels. This is raw and brutal rock and roll, so a little bit of crackle doesn’t really spoil the party. (more…)

The Who – Who’s Next – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

TWO AMAZING sides on QUIET vinyl — a stunning A+++ Off the Charts, Hard To Beat, Shootout Winning side two mated to a superb A++ to A+++ side one! This week we sat down for an all day MASSIVE shootout for Who’s Next, a true Glyn Johns Classic and undeniably one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

This Decca Colorband Original pressing BLEW OUR MINDS with phenomenal sound from start to finish — check out the BIG, BOLD, Rock ’em Sock ’em bottom end energy! No other pressing we played had this kind of POWER down below. If you’re ready to really rock out with The Who, this White Hot Stamper is your ticket to ride.

The sound is WONDERFUL from start to finish. There’s no grain to speak of and dramatically less smearing and veiling than most of the copies we played it against. The presence is startling — turn it up good and loud and The Who will be right there thrashing around in your listening room! The bottom end, on both sides, has the kind of weight that’s absolutely essential to this music.

We’re talking BIG ROCK SOUND and quiet vinyl, a rare combination in our experience, our experience of course coming from dozens and dozens of British Tracks and Polydors, German Polydors, Decca originals, MCA reissues, a few imports from other countries (Japan, thin and bright), and last but far from least, The Classic 200 gram pressing. (More about that later.)

Sides One and Two

The best Track copy we found to be ever so slightly better on side one; this Decca had more whomp but the Track had clarity and transparency that was impossible to beat. It was a close call but in the end we had to award this side one the silver, not the gold. It’s a common trade-off with Who’s Next — the copies with the most going on down low often get a little murky in the midrange.

But who are we kidding? Most copies of the album are murky in the midrange, whether they have any low end or not. It’s a murky sounding recording. Some copies clean up the murk — the Japanese pressings we’ve played come to mind — and that just ruins everything. What you want is the most transparency and clarity in the midrange coupled with the most low end weight and energy; it’s a simple as that.

Side two here gives you exactly that, the best of both worlds — all the whomp, all the clarity, and all the ENERGY. Wait until you hear it. When we say it rocks we ain’t kidding. The louder you play it the better it sounds. (more…)

The Who – Who Are You – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

A nearly White Hot side two (with an incredibly dynamic Who Are You to close out the album) backed with a Super Hot side one make this by far the best copy we have ever offered on the site. Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper British pressing is the only way to go. 

This copy has the Glyn Johns / The Who BIG and BOLD Rock Sound we demand from one of the most famous producer/artist collaborations in the history of rock music. (Johns’ work with the Stones is even more legendary I should think.) This is certainly not the equal of the beyond brilliant Who’s Next, but the best songs here are certainly comparable. The title track is one I used to demo my system with twenty years ago and, with a copy like this, would be happy to again.

Side One

A++. Big, spacious, with lovely three-dimensional depth, the sound has that patented Live in the Studio sound Johns is known for. Breathy vocals and great life and presence to every instrument, this is the way to hear it! Our shootout winner was a bit bigger and clearer, but you will have to go through on awful lot of copies of Who Are You to find one that beats this pressing, and they aren’t cheap (or easy to find).

Side Two

A++ to A+++, even better! Big and tubey and rockin’, this has The Who sound we know from Who’s Next so well. Solid weight helps a lot, especially when it comes time for the band to explode after the amazingly quiet middle section of the title track comes to an end. Some copies get very quiet in that passage, with the guitar right at the noise floor. Other do not. I’m glad to say this is one of those dynamic ones that can show you just how powerful analog can be. (more…)

Making Audio Progress – Step One: Weed Out the Heavy Vinyl

 

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In his latest letter Dan tells us of his disappointment with the new reissues he’s been trying:

… And thanks again for that amazing “Who’s Next” record. It was startling to hear the difference between that and the Classic – and that was one of the better modern audiophile records!I can’t tell you how many modern reissues I’ve bought over the past couple months that have lost, and lost badly, to just my one single original or early pressing of an album. Reissues by AC/DC, The Who, ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones, and Patti Smith have all failed miserably against my merely average sounding originals.
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The Who By Numbers – More Bass or More Detail, Which Is Right?

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Who by Numbers.

With Doug Sax mastering from the real tape, you get a Rock Solid Bottom End like you will not believe. Talk about punchy, well-defined and deep, man, this record has BASS that you sure don’t hear too often on rock records. 

And it’s not just bass that separates the Men from the Boys, or the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue for that matter. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles. It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern. It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended. The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played.

But not the Classic. Oh no, so much of what gives Who By Numbers its Classic Rock sound has been equalized right out of the Heavy Vinyl reissue by Chris Bellman at BG’s mastering house. Some have said the originals are warmer but not as detailed. I would have to agree, but that misses the point entirely: take out the warmth — the fullness that makes the original pressings sound so right — and you of course hear more detail, as the detail region is no longer masked by all the stuff going on below it. Want to hear detail? Disconnect your woofers — you’ll hear plenty of detail all right! (more…)