Top Engineers – Eddie Offord

Yes, We’re Getting Awfully Close To The Edge…

Hot Stamper Pressings of the Music of Yes Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Close to the Edge

On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of tubey magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems. The kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for thirty years.

If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively. It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

Even our Hottest Stamper copies can sound problematical unless your system is firing on all cylinders. Your electricity has got to be cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and ideally you should be using a demagnetizer such as the Talisman on the record itself, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward you many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process.

We’d started and abandoned this shootout multiple times in the previous decade; the typical sounding copy was just too painful to listen to, and the better pressings weren’t doing what we had hoped they would. Where was the Tubey Magical analog sound with the HUGE whomp factor that we’d been hearing on the best copies of Fragile and The Yes Album? We just could not find that sound on Close to the Edge.

As futile as our previous attempts were, we decided in 2008 that we would take another stab at it. After all, there had been quite a few changes around here that had the stereo working really well —  the addition of the Odyssey Record Cleaning Machine and Walker Enzyme solution to our cleaning process, the Talisman Magnetic Optimizer, the third pair of Hallographs we added years back, tons of smaller tweaks, and a few other tricks that we’re going to have to leave hidden up our sleeves for now.

The Planets Align

Think about it: This is a highly COMPLEX recording, with HUGE organs, light-speed changes, lots of multi-tracking, and what amounts to an OVERLOAD of musical information. Can you imagine how irritating that would sound on a third-rate copy? We didn’t have to imagine it — we lived through it!

But that’s exactly what made the shootout so rewarding. We had finally gotten the sound we were searching for from Close To The Edge, although it was anything but easy. The toughest peaks to climb are the ones you feel the best standing at the top of, and I have no doubt that many of you will be able to get there, just as we did, as long as you’re willing to work for it. (We humbly suggest you follow our lead. As we like to say, what works for us can work for you.)

If It Doesn’t Blow You Away…

Send it back, we’ll return all your money. We understand that it’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to unlock the magic in the grooves that we were able to hear. (We failed too, remember? More than once in fact.)

We put a lot of time and energy into getting everything just right for our shootouts, and to hear the album sound amazing you’re going to have to do the same. If it doesn’t all come together and our Hot Stamper Close to the Edge leaves you cold, feel free to send it back for a full refund. That’s always our policy, but we wanted to stress it in regards to this album, because it is VERY difficult to reproduce. (Big speakers are pretty much a must on this one as well.)

And it should be noted that there is distortion on the tape. It’s on every LP copy and it’s on the CD too. There are cacophonous passages that have what sounds like board overload, mic preamp overload, tape saturation or some combination of all three.

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other copy of Tarkus you’ve heard
  • This early British pressing with the Island Pink Rim label is guaranteed to rock like no other copy you’ve ever played
  • Eddie Offord’s trademark Tubey Magic, energy, resolution, whomp factor and dynamics are all over this phenomenal recording
  • “More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.”

This killer copy features some of the more intense prog rock sound to hit our table in quite some time. This is a true Demo Disc LP, one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world.

Unlike most British pressings of the first album, the Brits here really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl. This music needs real whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic. These Brits are super-low distortion, with an open, sweet sound, especially up top, but they still manage to convey the awesome power of the music, no mean feat.

Folks, This Is Why We Love Analog

This is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but digital media are evidently incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway. If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along in order to save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again.

This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average one in your collection, or mine; the less said the better.) This is the kind of record that somebody might hear in a stereo store and realize that the digital road he’s been going down for so many years is nothing but a sonic dead end.

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Folks, This Is Why We Love Analog

More of the Music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Hot Stamper Pressings of Prog Rock Albums Available Now

This is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but digital media are evidently incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway.

If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along in order to save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again.

This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average one in your collection, or mine; the less said the better.)

This is the kind of record that somebody might hear in a stereo store and realize that the digital road he’s been going down for so many years is nothing but a sonic dead end.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world.

Unlike most British pressings of the first album, the Brits here really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl. This music needs real whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic. These Brits are super-low distortion, with an open, sweet sound, especially up top, but they still manage to convey the awesome power of the music, no mean feat.

This record sounds best to us this way:

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

On the Right Early Pressing 

On the Right Import Pressing

For more modestly helpful title-specific advice, click here.

The Yes Album – What a Recording!

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

At its best, this album is a Big Speaker Prog-Rock opus with tremendous power and dynamic range, but it takes a special pressing like this one to really bring it to life. 

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers!

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

This Copy Prog Rocks

Both sides have MASTER TAPE SOUND or something close to it! They’re rich and full-bodied with lots of punch and plenty of WHOMP. The guitars are Tubey Magical with a fluid sound that takes the brilliant solos of Mr Steve Howe to a whole new level.

The transparency is also mindblowing — you can easily pick out each multi-tracked voice and follow it throughout the course of a song.

The cymbal crashes are BIG and POWERFUL with correct extension. The tonality on both sides is Right On The Money.

The organ and synths sound amazingly real. Starship Troopers will blow your mind on this copy!

The Yes Album – What to Listen For

Here are the main qualities we listen for when we shootout Yes records:

1. Dynamics – The best copies have amazing dynamics. Some parts of this album should be STARTLING in their power. There is a fair amount of compression on this recording in places, don’t get me wrong, but on the right copies many passages of this music will have tremendous life and energy.

2. Smoothness – This album can be very harsh and unpleasant if the upper midrange is boosted at all, or lacks a full lower midrange to balance it out. The last thing in the world you want is a bright, harsh Yes record.

3. Bass – Bass definition and weight are CRUCIAL to the sound of this record. The thin-sounding copies rob this music of much of its POWER and are downgraded severely for it.

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Trilogy

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

More Prog Rock

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage UK Island pressing
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • An excellent recording that really shines on a good pressing like this, courtesy the engineering brilliance of Eddie Offord
  • 4 stars: “Every track on this album has been carefully thought, arranged, and performed to perfection…”

It’s not easy to find great copies of this album. This kind of prog rock demands big, bold sound, and not all copies have the size or low end weight to pull it off. Keith Emerson’s organ needs to extend all the way down, or it just doesn’t work. Both sides here have a great bottom end, and some real texture and space up top.

“From The Beginning” has the kind of analog magic that made it a staple in practically every stereo store I walked into back in the ’70s.

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Yes – Time And A Word

More Yes

More Prog Rock

  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this outstanding UK pressing of Time And A Word – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best High Production Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s, thanks to the band and a Mr. Eddie Offord
  • If you’ve ever heard one of our Yes Album or Fragile Hot Stampers, you’ll know what to expect here – huge and powerful sound
  • “[T]he group was developing a much tauter ensemble than was evident on their first LP, so there’s no lack of visceral excitement. “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” was a bold opening [and] “Everydays” is highlighted by Anderson’s ethereal vocals and Kaye’s dueting with the orchestra.”

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Yes / Fragile – Listening in Depth

yes__fragi_depth_1392743863More of the Music of Yes

Reviews and Commentaries for Fragile

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

Eddie Offord took charge of Yes’s engineering starting with Time and a Word (1970) and we are very lucky that he did.

Although his masterpiece is surely ELP’s first album, both The Yes Album and Fragile are so amazingly well recorded they clearly belong at the top of any list of All Time Great Sounding Rock Albums.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Roundabout

You can tell by the sound of the opening guitar whether you have a copy that is tonally correct, has its ambience intact, as well as the proper leading edge transients to the strings plucks. Most of the reissues will sound either thin and edgy, or dull and blunted. On the best copies, that guitar will just sound out of this world.

Cans and Brahms
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky

What really separates the amazing copies from the merely good copies is the WEIGHT of the sound. The lower midrange is key in this regard. When you hear the piano on this track, it should have tremendous body and sustain to the notes. If the piano comes across at all anemic, the sound will be unbearably harsh.

Side Two

Five Per Cent for Nothing
Long Distance Runaround

This is one of the best sounding Yes tracks of all time. Jon Anderson’s voice is so present; he sounds as if he’s standing right between the speakers.

Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood for a Day

The top pressings exhibit amazing transparency and sweetness on this track. We would rate this one of the best rock acoustic guitar recordings on the planet. I’ve recently come to realize that this is actually a key track for side two. The guitar can sound midrangy and hard; too fat; blunted; and I’m sure lots of other ways.

And I’m talking about ONLY the best early pressings (the four digit ones). None of the later pressings sound any good to me at all.

This is where the surface noise will be most audible. After playing a number of copies, I noticed that there was always surface noise on this track, but not necessarily others. And then it dawned on me: the surface noise has to be spread evenly throughout the record; it’s on this track that you can actually hear it. The other tracks tend to be loud and little surface noise will ever be audible.

Heart of the Sunrise

My second favorite track on the album. All those aggressive guitar parts can be very irritating if you do not have a copy that’s cut properly, which in this case means smooth and full-bodied. Any thinness or edginess will be all but unbearable on this track.

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Self-Titled on Cotillion

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

More Prog Rock

  • This vintage Cotillion pressing boasts outstanding sound on both sides
  • Our Hot Stamper pressing makes the case that ELP’s debut is clearly one of the most POWERFUL rock records ever made
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with big bass and tremendous energy – these are just some of the things we love about Eddie Offord’s engineering work on this band’s albums
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • “Lucky Man” and “Take A Pebble” on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with such good music and sound, we hope to get another shootout going again soon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This Cotillion pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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.
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Yes – Close To The Edge

  • An outstanding pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound throughout and pressed on fairly quiet vinyl to boot
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts – these early pressings are the only ones that can make sense of this challenging music
  • On such a dynamic recording, with so many quiet passages, finding surfaces as quiet as these is a dubious proposition for even the most committed audiophile
  • 5 Stars: “Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic ‘And You and I’ and ‘Siberian Khatru,’ plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.”

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Yes / Fragile – Roundabout Vs. South Side of the Sky

yes__fragiMore of the Music of Yes

Reviews and Commentaries for Fragile

Fragile is yet another record the deserves some of the credit for helping me become a better listener.

This shootout taught us that track one is not as well recorded as the rest of side one. On copy after copy, and there were well over a dozen, it was the other big track on side one, South Side of the Sky, that had consistently better sound.

You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are especially full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track. A lesser amount of these qualities can be heard on the first.

We play both songs, but we play them in reverse order, knowing that the mind-boggling sound is really going to be on South Side, not so much Roundabout.

This record should give any record you own a run for its money. It’s as BIG and as BOLD a statement about raising the bar for rock recordings as any I know. Without a doubt one of the Best Rock Recordings of all time.

A well known audiophile record reviewer opined on his website that Fragile “was never a very good recording to begin with… cardboardy, compressed and somewhat cloudy and distant.”

Perhaps his old copy sounded like that, or maybe it sounded like that on his stereo, but I can assure you that if you have the system designed to play a  for iour Hot Stampers sure don’t. The typical pressing of Fragile can be painful — smeary and dull with plenty of distortion. If you know the magic stamper numbers and you spend the time to clean and play enough copies, you’re bound to hear some serious magic.

Of course, that’s a lot of work, and some people are probably too busy typing out lists of their pricey equipment to be bothered with such things.

Evolution

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by Yes and other groups in the ’70s. You could say that the albums of Yes informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on.

I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records like this, the kind of music I fell in love with fifty years ago.

Hot Stamper Pressings with Big, Clear Choruses Available Now

Testing for Big, Clear and Lively Choruses