Top Engineers – Glyn Johns

The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink

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  • Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one backed with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on side two, this copy is a MONSTER!
  • Rich and solid, yet open, spacious, and transparent — nothing like the muddy, congested sound we heard all day
  • 5 stars: it “doesn’t feel cobbled together and it serves up tremendous song after tremendous song.”

This Warner Bros. Green Label LP has MASTER TAPE sound on the first side and not far from it on the second! If you like your hard rock dirty and bluesy, you can’t do much better than this record. You’re going to freak out over the meaty guitars, the HUGE bass, and the live-in-the-studio vocals. We played a ton of copies and none of them could hold a candle to this one. 

You won’t be a minute into this record before you’re blown away by all the ambience and echo. You can really hear the sound of the big room around these guys as they rock out. The vocals sound Right On The Money — smooth, but with all of the raspiness that Rod Stewart is famous for.

The drums are big and punchy and the guitars sound grungy and  right. (more…)

The Beatles Let It Be – Listening In Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about the business of critically evaluating copies of Let It Be.

This is the first time we’ve discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout, in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose. 

(These also happen to be ones that we can stand to hear over and over, dozens of times in fact, which becomes an important consideration when doing shootouts as we do for hours on end). (more…)

The Who – Who’s Next – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B-

At one time we did not recommend this record but now we do! Without going into the sordid details, let”s just say this record sounds pretty good. The acoustic guitars are especially sweet and silky for a modern reissue. The sound is better than most of the pressings of Who’s Next I’ve ever played. Clearly this is is one of the better Classic Records rock records. (It’s the only Who record they’ve done that we carried. The others are awful.) 

The Best Bass Ever!

In our Hot Stamper commentary for Who’s Next we noted this about the sound of the Classic pressing:

It’s actually shockingly good, better than it has any right to be coming from Classic Records. The bass is PHENOMENAL; no British Track pressing had the bass punch and note-like clarity of the Classic. It shows you the kind of bass you had no idea could possibly be on the tape. It reminds me a bit of the Classic pressing of the first Zep album: in the case of the Zep, it has dynamics that simply are not to be found anywhere else. The Classic Who LP has that kind of bass — it can’t be found elsewhere so don’t bother looking. (Don’t get me wrong; we’ll keep looking, but after thirty plus years of Track Who LPs, we kinda know when we’re beaten.)

Hot Stampers Ain’t Cheap

We’ve found Hot Stampers of Who’s Next in the past, and they are still the ultimate versions. This goes without saying.

But Hot Stamper copies are not particularly quiet, and they are never cheap, which is in marked contrast to Classic Records’ heavy vinyl pressings, which are fairly quiet and also fairly cheap. Some of you may think $30 is a lot of money for a record, but we do not. It’s a fair price.

When you buy Crosby Stills and Nash’s first album or Tapestry or Bridge Over Troubled Water on Classic for $30, you are getting your money’s worth.

Don’t Kid Yourself

But don’t kid yourself. You are not getting anywhere near the best copy available, because the best copies are hard to find. We do find them, and we do charge a lot of money for them, because they sound absolutely AMAZING compared to the Classic version and anything else you’ve ever heard.

A Benchmark

We recommend you use the Classic version as a benchmark. When you find something that beats it, you have yourself a very good record. Until then, you still have a good, quiet record to enjoy. You win either way.

Eagles – Desperado

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  • Wonderfully rich and smooth throughout – both sides earned Double Plus (A++) grades for their crazy good Tubey Magical sound
  • Clean, clear and dynamic, this copy has huge amounts of bass and tremendous space around the guitars and voices
  • Play this pressing against the average copy for a good laugh – the differences will be anything but subtle 
  • An outstanding Glyn Johns recording (with TAS List credentials) that is nothing less than jaw-dropping on a copy as good as this one

This early pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!). What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.

 

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain’t rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

It can be done, but you could spend a lifetime meeting audiophiles of the vinyl persuasion and never run into a single one who has made the effort more than a handful of times.

To be honest, shootouts are a bitch. If you aren’t getting paid to do them the way we are, finding the motivation to devote the time and energy required to do them right — not to mention the piles of copies of each record you will need — is daunting to say the least.

So, back to the question: what to listen for? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers – Listening in Depth

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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 Sticky Fingers.

A QUICK TEST: The best copies have texture and real dynamics in the brass. The bad copies are smeared, grainy and unpleasant when the brass comes in. Toss those bad ones and start shooting out the good ones. Believe me, if you find a good one it will be worth all the work.

And don’t forget to Turn Up Your Volume. (more…)

The Who Letter of the Week – No Record I Own Ever Did That!

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This week’s letter came from a long time customer of ours, Dan. When he ordered this album he left the following note in his order comments – This is one of my favorite albums of all time!! One of my personal desert island discs. Can’t wait to hear it!. I’m not sure his ears were prepared for what was about to happen though. Read on to see what Dan thought of his Very Hot Who’s Next.(We have added the headings you see between the paragraphs.)

Hey Tom,

Just listened to the Very Hot Stamper of “Who’s Next” and thought I’d drop a little note: Holy FUCK that was POWERFUL!!!

No record I own ever did that

And I’m talking bone-rattling, earth-shaking, sock-you-in-the-gut POWERFUL. I’ve always known that The Who were one of the most intense bands in the history of rock n’ roll. Hell, everybody knows that and it’s part of the reason we love ’em so much. But with this record, I experienced the sheer physical force of their music like I NEVER have before. I couldn’t believe I heard bass notes hang in the air and resonate for long stretches. Bass notes never just hang like that! No record I own ever did that. (more…)

Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album Badly? Our Audiophile LP Overview

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The following was written in the early 2000s.

Who’s Next has been remastered for audiophiles many, many times, more often than not quite badly in our opinion. To be fair we should point out that our opinion has changed quite a few times over the course of the last twenty years.

This then is our story.

MCA MASTERPHILE
Back in the days when I was foolishly in the thrall of half-speed mastered audiophile pressings, I thought that the MCA Masterphile was king. That was probably the mid to late ’80s.

BRITISH TRACK LABEL ORIGINALS
By the early ’90s I had discovered how good the Black Label Original British Track pressings could be and started preferring those. A bit murky but tubey-magical, full and rich, precisely the way a good British rock recording (Faces, Jethro Tull) should be.

JAPANESE AND GERMAN
Of course by then I had played numerous Japanese and German pressings, none of which sounded right to my ears, then or now.

MCA HEAVY VINYL
In 1995 the MCA Heavy Vinyl version came out, mastered by Kevin Gray. I quite liked it at the time but no longer do; it’s brightened up and much of the fine detail of the recording is missing. It’s also notoriously badly pressed, resulting in stitches in the vinyl that are quite audible on practically every copy.
(more…)