Pressings with Middling Sound Quality

VTA Adjustment on Crosby Stills and Nash – Using the Classic Records Heavy Vinyl LP

More Crosby, Stills and Nash

More VTA Adjustment

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This commentary from way back when (2005!) describes how to go about adjusting your VTA for 200 gram vinyl, using the CSN track Helplessly Hoping from the first album.

Helplessly Hoping is a wonderful song with plenty of energy in the midrange and upper midrange area which is difficult to get right. Just today (4/25/05) I was playing around with VTA, having recently installed a new Dynavector DV-20x on my playgrading table (a real sweetheart, by the way), and this song showed me EXACTLY how to get the VTA right.

VTA is all about balance. The reason this song is so good for adjusting VTA is that the guitar at the opening is a little smooth and the harmony vocals that come in after the intro can be a little bright. Finding the balance between these two elements is key to getting the VTA adjusted properly. (more…)

A Reviewer Liked London CS 6357 a Whole Lot More Than I Did – A Cautionary Tale

While digging around the web I ran into a site called From Miles to Mozart, which purports to be “An exploration of the incredible world of classical and jazz recordings”

Fair enough. Here is what the reviewer had to say about a London we did not think sounded very good, CS 6357. At the time, he was most of the way through a fairly complete survey of London Bluebacks, and when those were done he went on to review a Whiteback pressing of this London, which appears to be the only pressing he had on hand. (We of course had only the one as well.)

I’d run out of blue so next up was CS 6357 with its retro FFSS label, a white back FFSS. Clifford Curzon scores a knockout with the Dvorak Quintet with a very refined late Blueback sound; truly transcendental sound of the highest order. Another white back FFSS followed in CS 6379 Mozart Clarinet Quintet with a magical clarinet but some edginess at times with some of the instruments. Overall the Clarinet Quintet had very strong sound to rival most any Blueback. Unfortunately, the Mozart Divertimenti on side 2 was not as assured with quite a few signs of strain in the highs indicative some early transistor changing the precious Blueback sound. CS 6379 was recorded by Smith and Parry October, 1963 at Sofiensaal, Vienna with the LP coming out in May of 1964. CS 6357 was recorded in Sofiensaal, Vienna by Culshaw and Parry in October 1962 with the LP in October 1963. Overall two strong LP’s without a Blueback! (Well, CS 6357 does exist with a Blueback.)

He has some ideas about “precious Blueback sound” and the half-speed mastering setup used to achieve them. I will leave that for others to discuss, mostly because I could not seriously entertain this fellow’s writing once I found out what he had to say about one of Mobile Fidelity’s earliest half-speed mastered releases:

Zubin Mehta Conducts Music from Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (MFSL 1-008)

Comments: If you want to hear what audiophile vinyl sounds like, this is a great way to start. Whether you like science fiction movies or not, this record is a must hear … and try to turn up the volume if you can. This Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab pressing of Decca SXL 6885 (London ZM 1001) is one of the most incredible sounding orchestral recordings I have ever heard. It may not be the recording used for the movies (John Williams conducted those himself), but it sounds significantly better in terms of recording quality. Talk about lifelike presence, huge dynamic range, bass depth with real visceral impact — this record has DEMONSTRATION written all over it. Even the Cantina Band track gives you the impression of an alien jazz/pop band playing right before you. I was fortunate enough to get my copy for free from a friend, and only recently did I realize that this album sells for some money. Looking for a change from the same old EMI, Decca, RCA, Mercury, DG, or Philips? Try this one.

If this is your idea of an audiophile Demo Disc, you are setting the bar awfully low, about even with the height of the carpeting. I consider it a piece of Audiophile trash, one that I never bothered to discuss on the blog. Were I to grade it today I would probably give it a D for sound and an F for music. I remember playing it back in the late-’70 or early-’80s and wondering what on earth was the appeal of such a cheesy, lowest-common-denominator schlockfest. (more…)

Every Label Made Mediocre Records – London Released this One in 1963

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

More of the music of Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)

Opaque and veiled, much like the Heavy Vinyl reissues that are flooding the market these days. Definitely not our sound!

Looking for pressings with audiophile quality sound and mostly quiet surfaces?

These Decca/London recordings are currently available on our site.

As far as we can tell, based on this single copy, CS 6357 is not an album worthy of a Hot Stamper shootout.

We certainly can’t say that there aren’t good sounding pressings of the album though. If we hear a better one down the road, we would certainly be open to the possibility of doing a shootout and offering the best copies to our customers. (more…)

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto – Japanese Pressing

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Audiophile Pressing reviewed.

This is a Minty looking Verve Japanese Import LP. It’s not competitive with the best domestic pressings but you could definitely do worse. Trying to find domestic copies that aren’t trashed is virtually impossible, so if you’re a click and pop counter, this copy may be the ticket! Stan Getz is a truly great tenor saxophonist, the cool school’s most popular player. This LP is all the evidence you need. Side 1 has those wonderfully relaxed Brazilian tempos and the smooth sax stylings of Stan Getz.

Side two for me is even more magical. Getz fires up and lets loose some of his most emotionally intense playing. These sad, poetic songs are about feeling more than anything else and Getz communicates that so completely you don’t have to speak Portugese to know what Jobim is saying. Call it cool jazz with feeling.

Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle – Decent at Best on Mobile Fidelity

More Steve Miller

The top end of this album is a problem on most pressings — dry and somewhat brittle — but on the best pressings the highs are extended, sweet and fairly natural. The soundfield is open and transparent with three-dimensional space that brings out the “trippy” sound the band threw in all over this album.

The MOFI has a bit more going on up top than most dometic pressings (forget the dubby imports) but the combination of blurry bass and compressed, lifeless sound fail to make this album sound the way you remember it in your head from back in the day.

Finding a good sounding copy of this record is not easy. Most of them sound like they’re playing underwater. (more…)

Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign on Mediocre Sundazed Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: C

Commenting about the first Hot Stamper pressing of this album ever to come our way, we noted:

This original Stax LP has AMAZING sound. You could not make this record sound any better. We really liked the  Sundazed copy of this record until we heard this bad boy. It MURDERS their pressing! It has far more life, energy and presence than the Heavy Vinyl pressing. We always suspected that a good original would be better but we had no way of knowing since all the copies we saw were beat to death.

Mobile Fidelity’s Approach to Mastering – I Have a Theory

More Little Feat

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I have a theory about why MoFi’s mastering approach here tended to work for the album when it failed so miserably for so many others. It goes a little something like this. 

Back in their early days MoFi tended to add bass and treble to practically every record they mastered, regardless of whether or not the master tape they were using needed any such boost. A little extra sparkle up top and a little extra slam down below was what the audiophile public seemed to want. Truth be told, I was a member of that group and I know I did.

Fortunately for them Waiting for Columbus is an album that can really use a little at both ends. Rarely did The Mastering Lab supply it, making the original domestic pressings somewhat bass-shy and dull up top. The MoFi clearly corrected the poor EQ choices The Mastering Lab had made for the most part.

The Bottom

But at what cost? At a very high one, revealed to us during our shootout by the killer pressings we uncovered. On the MoFi the bass, although there is more of it, just the right amount in fact, is BLUBBER. The lack of definition is positively painful, once you’ve heard how well-recorded it is, which is what the best copies can show you. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C

We were fairly impressed with the Speakers Corner pressing of this album when it came out on Heavy Vinyl in 2001.

Since then we have learned a thing or two. Their version is decent, not bad, but by no stretch of the imagination can it compete with any Hot Stamper pressing found on our site.

As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and their layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the critically important piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself. (more…)

Judy Collins – Judith – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

More Judy Collins

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White Hot A+++ sound on side two of this 2-pack, with Shootout Winning sound. Great material including The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. Another 2-pack that proves our case – the good sides here are wonderful, the bad sides plainly awful. The engineer for Judith is Phil Ramone, who went on to win the Grammy the following year for Still Crazy After All These Years. (more…)

Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie Cleanhead Vinson

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UPDATE 10/2020

The last time I played this album in preparation for the shootout, sometime in early 2020, I was not thrilled with either the sound or the music.

I found the lack of ambience and overall artificiality of the recording not to my liking. In the old days — the review below was probably from the early 2000s — my system was not remotely as good as it is now. Now I can play the space in a recording much better than I could then, and the lack of natural space now bothers me when before it did not.

Live and Learn we say!

Take the following with a very large grain of salt and don’t pay too much for this album if you see one around.

This is a long out of print Pablo LP with AMAZING sound and music. It’s one of those superb Allan Sides engineered recordings at Ocean Way, like Basie 88 Street. Demo disc quality sound is the result! With players like these, the music is every bit as good as any jazz record I know of. In other words, I really like this album.