Previn Plays Up a Storm for Contemporary

 

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Bells Are Ringing

More Contemporary Records

 

I have a very long history with this album, dating back close to twenty years. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak all the stereos in my friends’ systems.

Playing the original stereo record, which I assumed must never have been reissued due to its rarity (I have since learned otherwise), all I could hear on my ’90s all tube system was blurred mids, lack of transient attack, sloppy bass, lack of space and transparency, and other shortcomings too numerous to mention that I simply attributed at the time to vintage jazz vinyl.

Well, things have certainly changed. I have virtually none of the equipment I had back then, and I hear none of the problems with this copy that I heard back then on pressing I owned. This is clearly a different LP, I sold the old one off years ago, but I have to think that much of the change in the sound was a change in cleaning, equipment, tweaks and room treatments, all the stuff we prattle on about endlessly on the site.

In other words, if you have a highly-resolving modern system and a good room, you are should be knocked out by the sound of this record. I sure was. (more…)

Another Audio Myth Exploded – Large Tulips, Small Tulips – What Do Tulips Have to Do with Anything?

Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan
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The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?

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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience.

To pull off this kind of Mind Boggling sound from start to finish we combined an amazing side one on the Large Tulips label with an amazing side two on the Small Tulips label. And what a finish — side two earned a grade of A+++, being a full step above even our hottest other side two, and we played a lot of copies, more than a dozen in fact. (more…)

Bizet’s Carmen Fantaisie on Speakers Corner Vinyl

More Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More Carmen Fantaisie, etc. – Ricci / Gamba

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Sonic Grade: C

Speakers Corner remastered this title back in the ’90s and did a decent enough job; I would guess my grade would be about a “C.” We carried it and recommended it at the time. I doubt if I would have very many kind things to say about it now. We’ve played an enormous number of superb classical records in the last ten years or so, raising the bar dramatically higher than it used to be.  (more…)

Sinatra At The Sands – My Introduction to Audiophile Sound

More Frank Sinatra

More Sinatra At The Sands

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  • This superb 2 LP set boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides! 
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime – quiet vinyl too
  • “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.” – AMG

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. (more…)

More Evidence of Ron McMaster’s Incompetence

More Gaucho

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Sonic Grade: D

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers. When such records are clearly inferior to their mass-produced counterparts (Heavy Vinyl pressings are mass-produced too by the way), we put them in our Hall of Shame.

Reasonably good bass, we’ll give it that, but no top end and no Tubey Magic. More of Ron McMaster’s handiwork and the result is a record that simply has no reason to exist. The AVERAGE original pressing sitting in your local record store bin right now for probably all of five bucks will MURDER this piece of crap.  (more…)

The Old 80/20 Rule in Action (But It’s Actually More Like 90/10)

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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 tweakers. You cannot buy equipment that will give you the best sound. You can only tweak the right 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%. (more…)

Milt Jackson & John Coltrane on Killer ’70s Reissue Vinyl

More Milt Jackson / More John Coltrane

More Bags & Trane

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  • Stunning sound on this stereo pressing with both sides rating close to our Shootout Winner, just shy of Triple Plus (A++ to A+++)
  • One of Tom Dowd’s many outstanding recordings of John Coltrane at the height of his powers – the sound is to die for
  • Exceptionally quiet on both sides for a vintage jazz album such as this – it actually plays a true Mint Minus
  • 5 stars: “Vibraphonist Milt Jackson and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane make for a surprisingly complementary team on this 1959 studio session, their only joint recording.”

If all you have ever played is an original pressing or a modern reissue, you are in for a treat — this copy is going to murder them.

We found all of this out the hard way, by having some originals and some of the “wrong” reissues in our shootout. Of course, we didn’t know they were not going to be especially good sounding until we played them, but it didn’t take long to recognize there was one stamper and one stamper only that had the sonic goods. It was simply no contest. And it was not an original pressing.

Needless to say, this record has that stamper. (more…)

From Elvis in Memphis on Speakers Corner Vinyl

More Elvis Presley

More From Elvis in Memphis

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl remasters. (Probably. It’s been a very long time since I played it.)

Speakers Corner did the album in 2003 and if memory serves I liked it and recommended it at the time. I rather doubt I could stand it now. I have much less tolerance now for the vague imaging, lack of ambience and overall lifeless quality their records invariably suffer from than I did then. (more…)

Cognitive Dissonance, or, I Just Paid $600 for This LP – Is That Too Much?

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Don, who wrote us the following letter, applauds us for being able to convince our customers to pay forty times the going rate for some of the records we sell — and like it!

The subject line of Don’s letter is Music.

What a great example of free market capitalism at it’s [sic] finest. Your web site is truly a unique example of marketing. You’ve taken a medium that [sic] completely relative and you can convince someone to pay upwards of 40X the going rate because….well, you said so. That doesn’t mean that the record will sound the same to them or that their experience of music is the same as yours as a reviewer. I guess if someone decides to spend $600 on a record they damn well better find a reason why it’s worth it even if they’re not completely convinced. (I took the time to read some of the other comments on your site.)

Don’t understand why someone would be upset about that or how they could argue that the records aren’t worth the price. They’re worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them as I see it. Maybe because they didn’t think of it first or they have some misplaced sense of ethics….who knows. I know it’s not worth it to me and thankfully there are plenty of other resources available for buying music. Another great example of capitalism…..

Sincerely,

Don L.

 

Don, honestly, I’m positively blushing at the thought that my “say so” is what gets people to pay the ridiculously high prices we charge for what appear to be fairly common rock records, the kind that might be worth roughly, oh, I don’t know, 1/40th of what we are asking? (Truth be told, probably even less.)

Ah, but here’s the kicker: there’s actually a scientific explanation for it!

(more…)

Talking Heads – Remain In Light on Ridiculously Bad Rhino Vinyl

More Talking Heads

More Remain In Light

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

The Rhino Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album was Dead On Arrival the minute it hit my turntable. No top, way too much bottom, dramatically less ambience than the average copy — this one is a disaster on every level.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.