Top Engineers – Alan Parsons

Ambrosia – Self-Titled


  • Spectacular Prog Rock sound explodes on this copy of the band’s phenomenally well-recorded debut album, mixed by none other than Alan Parsons – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big Whomp Factor here – the bottom end is huge and punchy on this copy, like nothing you’ve heard
  • “Its songs skillfully blend strong melodic hooks and smooth vocal harmonies with music of an almost symphonic density.”
  • A permanent member of our Rock and Pop Top 100 and, on big speakers at loud levels, a Rock Demo Disc of the Highest Order
  • 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. Ambrosia’s debut is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this classic from 1975 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Folks, this LP is nothing short of a Sonic Spectacular. For that reason alone it would get a strong recommendation, but the music is so good that the brilliant sound is best seen as a bonus, not the sole reason to own the album.

These sides have the kind of energy that few titles can lay claim to. Put this one up against your best Dark Side of the Moon. Unless you bought a High Dollar copy from us, I’d say there’s almost no chance that this album won’t reduce it to vinyl rubble. (We talk about how similar the recordings are below.) (more…)

Ambrosia – Obsession Is the Best Predictor of Audio Evolution

AMBROSIA is an album we admit to being obsessed with.

It is our contention that to reach the most advanced levels of audio, you have to do two things.

Firstly, you must become obsessed with getting your favorite albums to sound their best, and,

Secondly, you must then turn your obsession with those albums into concrete action.

What kind of action? Finding better sounding pressings and improving your stereo and room.

We wrote about it here. An excerpt:

As a budding audiophile, I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year.

As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some of them will no doubt become more apparent. For the most part, however, with continual refinements and improvements to your system and room, vintage pressings will sound better and better the longer you stay active in the hobby.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: The sound just keeps getting better!

Ambrosia Checks Off Three Big Boxes for Us

It’s a Must Own record.

It’s a Rock and Pop Masterpiece.

And it’s a Personal Favorite of mine.

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Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat

More Al Stewart

  • Boasting Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this pressing is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other copy of Year of the Cat you’ve heard
  • With engineering by Alan Parsons, the top pressings are every bit the Audiophile Demo Discs you remember
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A tremendous example of how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and songwriter — and if you’re a fan of either prog or pop and haven’t given Al Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted.”

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To Find the Most Elusive Hot Stamper Pressings, “Press On!”

ambrosiasomewhereMore of the Music of Ambrosia

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ambrosia

Sage Advice from Calvin Coolidge

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

If you substitute “finding Hot Stamper pressings” for the words “the human race” you will surely appreciate the point of this commentary.

Our story today revolves around the first Hot Stamper listing we have ever done for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. It took us a long time to find the right pressing.

Do you, or any of the other audiophiles you know, keep buying the same album over and over again year after year in hopes of finding a better sounding copy?

We do — have been for more than twenty years as a matter of fact — and here’s why.

Around 2007 I stumbled upon the Hot Stampers for this record — purely by accident of course, there’s almost no other way to do it — and was shocked — shocked — to actually hear INTO the soundfield of the recording for the first time in my life, this after having played copy after frustratingly opaque copy for roughly thirty years.

Yes, the stereo got better and that helped a lot. Everything else we talk about helped too. But ultimately it came down to this: I had to find the right copy of the record. Without the right record it doesn’t matter how good your stereo is, you still won’t have good sound. Either the playback source has it or it doesn’t.

It’s not what’s on the master tape that matters; it’s what’s on the record. (more…)

The Hollies – Hollies

More of The Hollies

  • A superb pressing of The Hollies’ 1974 release, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The sound of this early UK pressing is big, full-bodied and dynamic with Tubey Magic to die for – forget the dry, edgy sound of the domestic LPs, this is the real master tape, baby!
  • The Air That I Breathe is the monster track here, and on these killer British Polydor pressings it’s out of this world thanks to the engineering prowess of none other than Alan Parsons

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Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish, this mind-blowing recording is guaranteed to rock your world
  • The transparency, the clarity, the energy, the power – it’s all here on these very special import pressings
  • Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the powerful finish
  • A Top 100 album (Top Ten actually) and Demo Disc to rival the most amazing sounding records of all time
  • 5 stars: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music… no other record defines [Pink Floyd] quite as well as this one.”

This vintage import pressing has the presence, the richness, the size and the energy you always wanted to hear on Dark Side — AND NOW YOU CAN! (more…)

The Pareto Effect in Audio – The 80/20 Rule Is Real

More of the Music of Ambrosia

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ambrosia

Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better audio tweakers.

You cannot buy equipment that will give you the best sound. You can only tweak your equipment to get it.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought. At least 80% is what you’ve done with it. (Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%.)

This is known as the Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, The Law of the Vital Few and The Principle of Factor Sparsity, illustrates that 80% of effects arise from 20% of the causes – or in laymens terms – 20% of your actions/activities will account for 80% of your results/outcomes.

The Pareto Principle gets its name from the Italian-born economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who observed that a relative few people held the majority of the wealth (20%) – back in 1895. Pareto developed logarithmic mathematical models to describe this non-uniform distribution of wealth and the mathematician M.O. Lorenz developed graphs to illustrate it.

Dr. Joseph Juran was the first to point out that what Pareto and others had observed was a “universal” principle—one that applied in an astounding variety of situations, not just economic activity, and appeared to hold without exception in problems of quality.

In the early 1950s, Juran noted the “universal” phenomenon that he has called the Pareto Principle: that in any group of factors contributing to a common effect, a relative few account for the bulk of the effect. Juran has also coined the terms “vital few” and “useful many” or “trivial many” to refer to those few contributions, which account for the bulk of the effect and to those many others which account for a smaller proportion of the effect. — Juran

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Expanding Space Itself on The Dark Side of the Moon

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

A few years back we played a copy with all the presence, all the richness, all the size and all the energy we ever hoped to hear from a top quality pressing of Dark Side of the Moon. It did it ALL and then some.

The raging guitar solos (there are three of them) on Money seemed to somehow expand the system itself, making it bigger and more powerful than I had ever heard.

Even our best copies of Blood Sweat and Tears have never managed to create such a huge space with that kind of raw power. This copy broke through all the barriers, taking the system to an entirely new level of sound.

Take the clocks on Time. There are whirring mechanisms that can be heard deep in the soundstage on this copy that I’ve never heard as clearly before. On most copies you can’t even tell they are there. Talk about transparency — I bet you’ve NEVER heard so many chimes so clearly and cleanly, with such little distortion on this track.

One thing that separates the best copies from the merely good ones is super-low-distortion, extended high frequencies. How some copies manage to correctly capture the overtones of all the clocks, while others, often with the same stamper numbers, do no more than hint at them, is something no one can explain. But the records do not lie. Believe your own two ears. If you hear it, it’s there. When you don’t — the reason we do shootouts in a nutshell — it’s not.

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The Alan Parsons Project – I Robot

More Alan Parsons

  • An outstanding early UK pressing of I Robot with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The overall sound is clean, clear and transparent – many copies tend to be overly smooth, but this one has the kind of clarity that allows the natural textures of the instruments to come through
  • 4 1/2 stars: “. . . that sense of melody when married to the artistic restlessness and geeky sensibility makes for a unique, compelling album and the one record that truly captures mind and spirit of the Alan Parsons Project.”

If you’re a fan of this album who has been playing a typical copy, or — even worse — one of the MoFi versions, you are sure to be impressed with the kind of sound this superb copy delivers. You get a strong, solid bottom end setting the foundation, which is exactly what you need to make a funky tune like I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You come to life. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Why can’t all records sound this good…?”

More of the Music of Ambrosia

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ambrosia

One of our good customers wrote to tell me about a Hot Stamper pressing he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

Question: Does Tom Port have any clue as to what the hell he’s doing or selling to the public? That is my question.

Hello Tom, I’m the idiot who spent $399 on your White Hot Stamper of Ambrosia’s first album a few weeks ago. I did an A/B listening test with an A++/A++ copy I bought from you a few years ago. Your website waxes lyrical about the exceptional qualities of this recording; I always thought it was very, very good but not quite the recording you make it out to be!

To perform my listing test, I listened to my A++/A++ side one first. Then listened to the newly purchased A+++/A+++ next. The results? I almost had to call 911 because my jaw hit the floor! THIS was the recording you had written about in the records descriptive comments. This pressing is so holographic I swear I could have stepped into the recording.

Dare I say this is a better recording than Dark Side of the Moon; and yes, I can make such a claim, I purchased an A++/A+++ – A++/A+++ copy from you guys a few years ago. This is what I refer to as Master Tape sound quality. A Holy Grail for audiophiles.

It’s pressings like this that pose the questions: Why can’t all records sound this good and why can’t all recording engineers be as great as Alan Parsons?

So, back to my original question. Does Tom Port know what the hell he is doing or selling to the public?

Yes Tom, I’d say absolutely, 100% you know what you are doing and I’m the happiest idiot on this Earth. Keep up the great work, Tom, and thank you and your staff for the incredible service you provide.

Todd N.

Dear Todd,

Thanks for your letter. I’m positively blushing!

Seriously, the right vintage pressing, on the right stereo, can take the enjoyment of music to a level far beyond that of anything experienced by the audiophile of today stuck in the rut of the Heavy Vinyl Reissue. (more…)