Top Producers – Jimmy Miller

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

Another HUGE double album conquered! This shootout was a MAJOR struggle, an uphill battle all the way. Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to flip out over this one — here’s the Exile On Main Street you’ve been waiting for. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that would come even close to the sound here.

Of course, Hot Stampers can only give 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. This is no Demo Disc by any means; it may have some of The Rolling Stones best music on it, but those looking for the best sounding Stones album should look in the direction of Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re better recordings.

But this album is no slouch. It can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that’s kind of the sound the Stones heard in the booth. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup

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

The impossible has happened – we found a good sounding copy of Goats Head Soup, only 53 years after it was first released. 

Why did it take us so long to find a killer copy? Let’s just say the pressing is somewhat “off the beaten path” and leave it at that. We ran into it by accident during an attempted shootout not long ago, and it was so much better than the other records we were playing at the time that we had to postpone the shootout until we could find more of these specific pressings. It took some months but we managed to get a big pile of “happy accidents” together and the result was a gamechanging White Hot copy. (more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

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

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

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

AN AMAZING, SHOOTOUT-WINNING A+++ SIDE TWO backed with an excellent A++ side one. It is not easy to find good copies of this album — 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 the typical pressing! This is an amazing batch of songs, and a copy like this gives it the kind of sound it deserves.

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. Beggars may have some of The Rolling Stones best music on it, but those looking for the best sounding Stones album should look in the direction of Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re clearly better recordings, which is why they are both on our Top 100 list.

But this album is no slouch. It can be a bit midrangy in places: to name just a couple, Sympathy For The Devil seems to have that quality on every copy I’ve heard, and Street Fighting Man never sounds all that amazing. 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.

Two other qualities that the best copies have are 1): more Transparency, so the ambience and subtle musical qualities are more audible, and 2): less Smearing of the sound, which is especially noticeable as a lack of bass definition and a blurring or softening of the transients elsewhere. 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 won’t hear on most of the vinyl that’s been pressed over the 49+ years since this album was released.

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 less upper midrange. Those are the copies that sound tonally correct to us, and you should have no trouble appreciating the difference. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – Worst Version Ever!

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Sticky Fingers

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

This RTI 180g copy (with the zipper cover) is one of a series of five titles Bob Ludwig cut in the ’90s. According to the man, after cutting the record he chanced upon a consumer copy and was shocked to hear how bad it sounded.   

It sounded, according to him, nothing like the record he had cut. Somehow they had botched the pressings and ruined the sound. How this could happen I can’t imagine.

Bob says that’s what they did and we’ll take him at his word, out of respect for one of the all-time great mastering engineers, RL himself. He promptly sold off all his analog mastering equipment and got out of the game.

Can you blame him? According to him they put his name all over a record the sound of which they had ruined. Guess I would stop making records too if that were the case.

By the way, the sound was dismal on every title from that series we played except for Heart’s, which was okay, certainly better than the average pressing out there, but no Hot Stamper by any stretch of the imagination. (For actual Hot Stampers please come to us.)

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

If you click on the heading you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl. When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

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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 – 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 – 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 Goats Head Soup – Live and Learn, A Lesson from 2011

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This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We would agree with very little of what we had to say about Goat’s Head Soup as a recording when we wrote about it back in 2011 — and for the previous 35+ years since I first played a domestic original.

Having done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are great sounding pressings to be found, because we found some. The data are in, and now we know just how wrong we were. In our defense, let me just ask one question: Did anybody else know this record was well recorded? I can find no evidence to support anyone having ever taken such a contrarian position.

But we’re taking that position now. All it takes is one great sounding copy to show you the error of your ways, and we had more than one! (more…)