We Was Wrong

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / Deja Vu – The Joe Gastwirt CD Is a DOA Abomination

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More than a decade ago we wrote:

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. If you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you. We of course want nothing to do with it because we want good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years, just never got around to correcting the record.

And it’s not the fault of digital. There is an earlier CD, not cut by Joe Gastwirt, that sounds amazingly good. I own a few of them and pick them up whenever I see one. And Gastwirt’s version of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album is every bit as bad. If I see Joe Gastwirt’s name on a CD I put it back where I found it.

So there you have it, Live and Learn circa 2016. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – In 2016 We Learned We Were Wrong about their Masterpiece

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There are two areas in which we would like to amend some of the previous comments we’ve made about Deja Vu. The first has to do with early pressings. Many years ago we wrote the following:

As we noted in previous commentary, the originals are uniformly awful. Want some inside info on stampers to avoid, free of charge? C and D are pretty bad news most of the time.

Although that’s still true — Deja Vu is a very difficult album to find with good sound no matter what stampers you have — we now know that there are very good sounding copies, Shootout Winning copies in fact, with early stampers.

That’s area number one. Area number two is part of this old piece of advice.

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. If you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you. We of course want nothing to do with it because we want good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years, just never got around to correcting the record.

(more…)

Rhapsody! – The Story of an Old Fave We Were Wrong About

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A great example of an album We Was Wrong about.

As you can see by the commentary below, I used to think this was a wonderful sounding London “Sleeper” classical recording.

That was many years ago – five, six, seven, I cannot be sure. I ended up acquiring a half dozen copies of the album or so over the course of those years, had them cleaned up and proceeded to do a shootout.

It did not go well. Immediately I noticed that the pressings I was playing were sounding clean, clear and lively, but much too modern, too much like a good CD and not enough like the good Golden Age classical recordings we audition regularly.

Those recordings, on the right pressings, will take your breath away.  Rhapsody! was leaving me asking myself what was wrong. The more I listened the more obvious the faults of the recording became.

The pressings I played lacked warmth, richness, sweetness, space, and a number of other analog qualities I won’t belabor here. Too much of what makes listening to vintage vinyl so involving was just not on these records no matter how much I may have wanted them to be.

The extreme top and bottom were also lacking, giving the sound a “boxy” quality. The presentation was wide but not tall. Of the five levels of sound we discuss on the site in various listings, levels one and five were not as evident as they should have been.

This is, again, what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day.

We cannot rely on our previous judgments. With all the changes we’ve made over the years, we can now clean our records better and play our records better than ever before.

That means that some will rise and some will fall. This one fell, pretty hard in fact. Not a bad record, but not a good one either, and far from as good as I once thought.

Below is our previous commentary.  All of this was true for my old stereo and room, my critical listening skills at the time, my old cleaning regimen. And by old I mean my approach from only about five or six years ago!

Things have changed, dramatically, and nothing in all of audio could make me happier.

DEMO QUALITY SOUND! This is one of the greatest SLEEPER albums of all time.

This London reissue from 1979 of recordings from 1978 in Detroit, the year in which Dorati became director of the Detroit Symphony has the kind of orchestral sound we drool over here at Better Records. Dark and rich strings — the basses growl just like the real thing. Dynamic. Deep solid bass. Fluffy tape hiss, which sounds exactly the way it should. This tells you that the top end is untweaked. (Almost all Classic Records have funny sounding tape hiss as you may or may not know. It”s a dead give away that the top end is boosted. Tape hiss is like pink noise: it always sounds the same, unless somebody has fooled with it. Steve Hoffman taught me to listen for this quality and it was a lesson important to my growth as a critical listener.) (more…)

Jascha Heifetz Plays the 1st Movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Brilliantly)

Amazing! If only the sound of the original records were better!

[Oh but they are, or they certainly can be. We admit we was wrong! We review a killer copy of LSC 1992 right here on our site.]

For more Heifetz, click here.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Bruce Botnick and The Big Bottom End

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What separates Sergio from practically all of his ’60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. The first album was recorded by the legendary BRUCE BOTNICK, the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention. This, in my opinion, is his Masterpiece. The Doors albums Bruce recorded represent some of his best work, but what Doors album sounds as good as Sergio’s debut? I can’t name one. [Actually I can: the first album, when you get the right pressing. It’s out of this world.] 

Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. When you hear one of those copies, you have to give Botnick his due. The man knew what he was doing. (Larry Levine, who recorded the subsequent albums, was no slouch either. Stillness is one of the ten best sounding records I have ever played, and that’s no exaggeration.)

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was close to twenty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the intervening decades.

Judy Collins – Colors of the Day – DCC Discussed

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A classic case of Live and Learn, maybe. Previously we had written:

Superb sonics. Judy has never sounded better. Not a big seller for DCC but it should have been. Those sweet acoustic guitars are hard to beat. No modern recording has sounded like this for over twenty years, so if you’ve forgotten what a real acoustic guitar sounds like, buy this record and get reacquainted with that sound. Tons of breath of life, superb production and mastering so you can clearly hear her hitting those flat notes (!), and some of the best sounding echo ever recorded.

Addendum to the above comments, posted 11/07

I wrote the above review many many years ago. As you may have read countless times on the site by now, it is my opinion that all such dated judgments are suspect. The major REVOLUTIONS in vinyl playback that have occurred over the last dozen years have turned many of these old comments on their heads.

Hot Stamper pressings again and again have revealed magic in the mass-produced copies that is simply nowhere to be found in their audiophile counterparts.

Whether this is true for this particular title I can honestly say I don’t know.  We are going to play some copies of the album and will report our findings down the road, so Judy Collins fans, stay tuned.

Led Zeppelin / III – Bright and Harsh on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Ridiculously bright and harsh, nothing like the good pressings we sell (German don’t you know).

We are proud to say this was one of the Classic Zep releases that we never carried on the site (along with II and Houses, both of which stink).

You will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts. 

Since then we’ve made it a point to create debunking commentaries for some of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is by far the best of the bunch.

We Was Wrong About The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour (Circa 1985-90)

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This is a VERY old and somewhat embarrassing commentary about how We Was Wrong

This German pressing has dramatically different sound than that found on other Hot Stamper pressings of MMT we’ve had on the site. I used to be convinced that its sound was clearly superior to the regular German MMT LPs.

Back in the late ’80s and into the ’90s this was the pressing that I was certain blew them all out of the water.

We know better now. We call this version the “Too Hot” Stamper pressing — the upper mids and top end are much too boosted to be enjoyable on top quality equipment.

It does have some positive qualities though. It has substantially deeper bass than any other version; in fact, it has some of the deepest bass you will ever hear on a pop recording. It can literally rattle the room when Paul goes down deep on Baby You’re A Rich Man.

It also uses a slightly different mix on some tracks and is mastered differently in terms of levels. The level change is most obvious at the beginning of Strawberry Fields, where it starts out very quietly and gets louder after a short while, unlike all other versions which start out pretty much at the same level. The effect is pleasing, you can even say powerful, but probably not what The Beatles intended, as no other copy I’ve ever heard utilizes the same quiet opening. An unknown mastering engineer made the choice, probably because he didn’t like all the tape hiss at the opening when few instruments were playing loud enough to mask it.

With this mix the record is now more of a hi-fi spectacular — great for demonstrations but not the last word in natural sound.

Nirvana / Nevermind – Live and Learn

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently: 

Hey Tom, 

I have purchased about 85 LPs from you in the past 10 years, many of the various types of hot stampers. I was looking at an 11/18/06 article of yours, which said you would verify if my Nirvana/Nevermind LP “is the good one” if I would send you the runout information of side 2. Well here it is: A339124425S2 320. Hoping you could help me wit this. Thanks!

Kind Regards,

Alex 

Alex,

That is not the pressing we like anymore I’m afraid. The imports can be good but they can’t win a shootout. We have no info about that stamper still around either, sorry!

TP

That’s a drag as this is the exact pressing that I purchased from you on 11/18/06 due to an article where you said the following: “The perfect recording, the best of it’s kind, ever. The bass is perfect, the guitars are perfect. The vocals are perfect. Now how in the world could that be you ask?! This import is the first and only version that sounds the way it should: Perfect”. What is the deal here, have things changed so dramatically since then.. Your comments please.

Regards,

Alex

Alex,

It would be great to always be right about which are the best sounding records, but that is simply not possible. We discover new and better pressings for famous albums all the time, once every month or two on average I would say, which means that since 2006 we have found newer, better pressings than our former reference pressings at least a hundred times.

We write about it here:

We Was Wrong

An excerpt: (more…)

The Four Seasons – Tubes Versus Transistors

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In 2007 we did a shootout for this album and noted the following:

For those with better tube gear, the string tone on this record is sublime, with that rosin-on-the-bow quality that tubes seem to bring out in a way virtually nothing else can, at least in my experience.

Our experience since 2007 has changed our view concerning the magical power of tubes relative to transistors to bring out the rosiny texture of bowed stringed instruments. We have in fact changed our minds completely with respect to that common belief.

Our transistor equipment — and by ours we mean the mysterious low-powered ’70s integrated amp we use, mated with the EAR 324P phono, making no claims whatsoever for any other transistor equipment of any kind — is dramatically faster, more transparent, dynamic and resolving than any tube equipment we have ever heard.

It is, simply put, much more TRUTHFUL. It is precisely this quality that is hardest to find in all of audio. It is also the one quality of our system that, more than any other, allows us to do our job accurately and efficiently.

Our equipment lets us hear the sound of the record being played, uncolored and unadorned. It also has the added benefit of sounding to us more like live music. 

Yes, we know, we haven’t heard every piece of tube gear in the world. There may indeed be something out there with even more of the qualities we recognize in live music than we are currently capable of reproducing with our transistor equipment.

We remain open-minded as always, but intensely skeptical — a combination that has certainly served us well over the 33 years we have been in the business of selling records to audiophiles.

Yes, for a while I actually owned a pair of Mac 30 amps from circa 1954!

They were not 99.60% perfect by any stretch of the imagination. To this day they are the most Tubey Magical, most colored and inaccurate amp I have ever heard in my life, and I have heard more than my share.

If this is your idea of good sound, you are wasting your time reading this blog. Get better equipment, learn to listen to it critically, and then come back so that you can discover for yourself that what you are reading here is true.