audiophile records

Styx – Pieces Of Eight

More Styx

  • Here is the kind of sound we want on our ELP, Yes and Queen-like multi-layered Proggy Pop Rock – big, full-bodied and lively
  • 4 stars: “Styx’s feisty, straightforward brand of album rock is represented best by ‘Blue Collar Man,’ an invigorating keyboard and guitar rush… reaching number 21, with the frolicking romp of ‘Renegade’ edging in at number 16 only six months later… the rest of the album includes tracks that rekindle some of Styx’s early progressive rock sound, only cleaner. Tracks like ‘Sing for the Day,’ ‘Lords of the Ring,’ and ‘Aku-Aku’ all contain slightly more complex instrumental foundations…”

Who likes their Wall of Sound small and closed-in? Certainly not Big Speaker guys like us. By all accounts this band wanted their records to sound good, or at least as good as their contemporaries (and the bands that inspired them, name-checked above). There’s no shortage of production polish here and on the best pressings, the sound really works. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “There is an airiness to the recording where the instruments seem to float in a 3D space in the soundstage.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. My responses are shown as well.

Hey Tom, 

I wanted to give you my impressions of the hot stamper (vs. the Speakers Corner Decca reissue) before going out of town for a bit.

Crank it up. Sounds really good turned up loud so I knew I was going to be in for a treat. There is an airiness to the recording where the instruments seem to float in a 3D space in the soundstage. I also noticed an improved clarity of the instruments themselves; in particular, the triangles, flute, and strings.

Yes, these differences are obvious to us, because we already have the best pressings, so the heavy vinyl stuff is always wrong or worse in some way that is not hard to hear. Back to back it does not take a pair of golden ears to hear these kinds of differences.

Funny, we discussed this yesterday and as you said, until you compare multiple pressings you might think you already have a great recording. Another big difference I noticed was the tightness and solidity of the bottom end. The Decca seemed to smear the low frequency content compared to the London.

This happens a lot, the smear is everywhere on these newly remastered records but sometimes you can hear it most clearly in one area or another. In this case you heard it most clearly in the bass, but it’s everywhere.

The ONLY thing I miss is the flow of the full ballet. The ballet seems to tell a nice complete story where the suite just gives me the reader’s digest version — sort of a greatest hits if you will, and does not allow one to immerse themselves in the whole experience. Ideally, a hot stamper of the full ballet would be pretty amazing I am guessing.

We can definitely get you the complete ballet at some point, but these shootouts take years to get going.

I would say your best bet is to return the record since it doesn’t seem to be the way you want to hear the music and we can put you on the want list for the next complete version we find.

Do you know if the Suites were recorded separately or were they extracted from the ballet?

Rob

The suites are recorded separately as they have their own program and sheet music to match.

Thanks for your letter!

Best, TP

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts


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Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas

More Ry Cooder

  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • 4 stars: “Suggestive of both the imagery of Wim Wenders’ movie Paris, Texas and the desert itself, Ry Cooder’s score is a peaceful, poetic journey into the soul of an acoustic guitar… a powerful and immensely evocative journey for those whose experience with the material is the album alone.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Letter of the Week – “I never thought I’d spend $600 on ‘it’s only a record.’ But it is worth every goosebump.”

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

  Hey Tom, 

You bastard! You did it again. GREAT pressing of AJA steely dan – promo album.

This is by far the best recording I’ve heard. I am a freak listener. Everything has to sound perfect, I hear everything.

I savor every note, every instrument, every vocal. The separation and presence of each sound is amazing.

Well done. I wish you continued success. I never thought I’d spend $600 and more on “it’s only a record”. But it is worth every goosebump.

Rocco

Rocco,

So glad you liked the record as much as we did. We heard 600 bucks worth of sound and so did you.

Goosebumps are indeed expensive, but you could spend $1,000 or $10,000 on Heavy Vinyl and not even get a single one, so, money well spent!

Thanks for your letter,

Tom

More Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

More Letters


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Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

More Arlo Guthrie


xxxxx

  • These rare, original Tri-Color Reprise pressings are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but we found this one, don’t ask me how
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing, especially one with Lee Herschberg handling the engineering duties
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

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Willie Nelson / Stardust – A Copy This Good Deserves to Be on the TAS List

More Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

  • From the first few moments of the title track you’ll be blown away by the in-the-room immediacy of The Man himself
  • This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album…”
  • If you’re a fan of The Great American Songbook, this is a killer recording from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience on this copy. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate.

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound.”

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

  Hey Tom, 

I am taking my time going through all my hot stampers one by one. Still waiting for my cartridge to break in so I know things will only get better!

This album is amazing. I forgot how good it was. Only had the cassette back in the day and loved playing it in the car. The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound. Jackson’s voice is just so well centered in the mix. I think your rating may have been a bit conservative. Hard to believe it can sound much better. Side 2 is probably my favorite and sounds even better than side 1 to my ears–but it is close. Another winner for sure!

Thanks!

Rob

Rob,

Glad you liked it!

As for the notes about the grades, we don’t keep them around, but we liked two copies better than that one, which just goes to show you can never know how good it can get until it gets that good. That is the only way to know: to hear it for yourself. That is what shootouts are for.

This is something the forum posters cannot understand. They think they have a Hot Stamper when what they actually have (maybe!) is a Good Sounding Record. They don’t know how amazing the record can sound — so much more amazing than the one they own, probably — so they assume they have the best. They probably do not, but who really knows? The shootout is the evidence, and they never bothered to conduct one.

The “probably” you see in two of the sentences is there for a good reason. We make a point of being clear about what we can know and we cannot know, and we cannot know what a record sounds like if we have not played it.

This is obviously true for those of us who try to listen as critically as possible, but we also know that it is important to think about records the right way. Bad Thinking keeps audiophiles from making progress in this hobby just as much as bad equipment and bad records do. We are trying to help, we’re doing the best we can, one Better Record at a time

Like I said, glad you are enjoying yours.

Best, TP

More Jackson Browne

More Letters


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The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great presence and energy
  • Fairly quiet vinyl for this Stones album – here is a copy that plays very close to Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on all four sides
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, this Must Own Classic from 1972 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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. (more…)

Bartok / Concerto for Orchestra / Solti

More of the music of Bela Bartok (1881-1945)

More Must Own Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • Huge hall, weight and energy, this is DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND by any standard
  • The sound here is glorious, full of all of the qualities that make listening to classical music in analog so involving
  • There are many great recordings of the work, and we had plenty to choose from, but for sonics and performance combined, Solti’s Decca recording from 1965 could not be beat
  • “Solti’s Concerto for Orchestra with the LSO was one of the finest of its day and remains so. Highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of Bartok’s orchestral masterpiece, this London from 1965 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • Watch out for Solti’s later recordings for Decca – they usually have an obvious shortcoming which we cannot abide when playing classical records

Solti breathes life into these works as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

“Solti was regarded as, above all, a superb Wagnerian. His performances and countless recordings of other nineteenth century German and Austrian music were also well-regarded, as were his Verdi and his frequent forays into such twentieth century repertory as Bartók, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky.”

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Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors

More Aerosmith

  • Big and solid guitars, with great bass, full vocals, and tons of Tubey Magic – this the way to hear the band
  • 4 stars: “Unlike the records that preceded it, Done with Mirrors is powered by the same smart-assed lyrics and filthy guitars that formed the core of Aerosmith’s best songs… it marks the beginning of their remarkable comeback.”

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