Top Engineers – Roy Halee

Blood Sweat and Tears – The 30 Second Spinning Wheel Test

More Blood, Sweat & Tears

More The 30 Second Spinning Wheel Test

xxxxx

This test is found in the track commentary for side two of our Hot Stamper listings for the album. If you think you have a hot copy, see if yours does what our best copies can.

We also think that a record like this — a dynamic, full-spectrum recording, not overly concerned with detail — makes a much better Test Disc than the kind most audiophiles seem to prefer. Patricia Barber it is not. If you’re in the market for new speakers, take this record — or one like it — with you to the audition. Any speaker that can play this record properly deserves your consideration, or at the very least your respect. In my experience not many speakers have what it takes to do this album justice.

The Blood, Sweat and Tears Spinning Wheel Test  (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland – What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

More Paul Simon

More Graceland

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can’t say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Well, in favor of that proposition I guess you could say it sounds less like a CD now. On the other side of the ledger, it now sounds a great deal more like a bad LP.

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know what the album generally sounds like, the range from bad to good, and we know what qualities the very best copies must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the one thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals. The best of the best copies have all these qualities, but the one quality any good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s good about the sound of the record. Without clarity the music doesn’t even work.

The new version has been “fixed”. It got rid of all that pesky grit and grain and CD-like sound from the original digital mix by heavy-handedly equalizing them away.

Cut the top, cut the upper mids, boost the lower mids and upper bass and voila – now it’s what Graceland would have sounded like had it been all analog from the start, AAA baby!

Or at least analog for those who don’t know what good analog sounds like. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Muddy MoFi Water

 

More Simon and Garfunkel

More Bridge Over Troubled Water

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Pure mud. One of the worst versions ever made. (The CBS Half-Speed is actually quite good by the way.)

Roy Halee Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

More of Our Favorite Engineers

xxxxx

xxxxx
xxxxx

ROY HALEE is one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. Check out our supply of Roy Halee engineered or produced albums, along with some of our famous commentaries.  

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).

What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

simongrace_180_1263556119

Paul Simon – Graceland on Heavy Vinyl

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can’t say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Well, in favor of that proposition I guess you could say it sounds less like a CD now. On the other side of the ledger, it now sounds a great deal more like a bad LP.
(more…)

Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound

Thinking About Hot Stampers

More Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound

xxxxx

xxxxx

A while back we did a monster-sized shootout for Blood, Sweat and Tears’ second release, an album we consider THE Best Sounding Rock Record of All Time. In the midst of the discussion of a particular pressing that completely blew our minds — a copy we gave a Hot Stamper grade of A with Four Pluses , the highest honor we can bestow upon it — various issues arose, issues such as: How did this copy get to be so good? and What does it take to find such a copy? and, to paraphrase David Byrne, How did it get here?

Which brings us to this commentary, which centers around the concept of outliers.

Wikipedia defines an outlier this way: “In statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data.” In other words, it’s something that is very far from normal. In the standard bell curve distribution pictured below, the outliers are at the far left and far right, far from the vast majority of the data which is in the middle.

(more…)

Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water – Classic Records Reviewed

More Simon and Garfunkel

More Bridge Over Troubled Water

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: C

Not Bad, But Hot Stampers Rule 

What do the best copies give you? They’re the ones with textured strings in the orchestral arrangements. The string tone on the average copy is hard and steely. (The Classic 200 gram pressing suffers from a case of slightly steely strings. Play it yourself and see.) When the strings are blasting away at the end of the title song, you want to be able to hear the texture without the strings sounding shrill and edgy. This is no mean feat, for the record or the stereo. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years

More Paul Simon

More Still Crazy After All These Years

Listening in Depth

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Still Crazy After All These Years.

As well-produced, well-engineered Pop Albums from the ’70s, the very best copies can proudly hold their heads high. Wait a minute. Our last commentary noted what a mess most of the pressings of this album sound like, with so much spit and grain. Have we changed our minds? Well, yes and no, and as usual we make no excuses for having changed our minds. We call it progress. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

More Simon and Garfunkel

More Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

Listening in Depth

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Simon & Garfunkel’s groundbreaking third album (from 1966 no less!).

TRACK COMMENTARY

Side One

Scarborough Fair/Canticle

Listen carefully to the voices on this track, one of our favorites to test with. On the best copies they sound exceptionally delicate yet full-bodied. (more…)

An Audio Exercise that You Can Do at Home with Bookends

A Killer Copy

Musically side two is one of the strongest in the entire Simon and Garfunkel oeuvre (if you’ll pardon my French). Each of the five songs could hold its own as a potential hit on the radio, and no filler to be found whatsoever. How many albums from 1968 can make that claim?

The estimable ROY HALEE handled the engineering duties. Not the most ‘natural” sounding record he ever made, but that’s clearly not what he or the duo were going for. The three of them would obviously take their sound much farther in that direction with the Grammy winning Bridge Over Troubled Water from 1970.

The bigger production songs on this album have a tendency to get congested on even the best pressings, which is not uncommon for Four Track recordings from the ’60s. Those of you with properly set up high-dollar front ends should have less of a problem than some. $3000 cartridges can usually deal with this kind of complex information better than $300 ones.

But not always. Expensive does not always mean better, since painstaking and exacting set up is so essential to proper playback.

The Wrecking Crew provided top quality backup, with Hal Blaine on drums and percussion, Joe Osborn on bass and Larry Knechtel on piano and keyboards.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Bookends Theme
Save the Life of My Child
(more…)