audiophile vinyl

Eric Dolphy – Caribé

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  • KILLER sound on both sides of this later Prestige pressing with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Not knowing much about the album, we were shocked at how well recorded Caribé is – RVG in 1960 is hard to beat for ENERGY and the sense of immediacy you get from being right in the room with these exciting musicians
  • “This record is the equivalent of throwing a stick of dynamite into a sedate, well-ordered dinner party, having the dynamite go off with a bang, and somehow leaving everything in its place. Such is the volatile Eric Dolphy, a serious wailer on the alto sax and even more idiosyncratic and radical on the bass clarinet, who barges into the lair of Juan Amalbert’s Latin Jazz Quintet and doesn’t perturb them in the least… fascinating without a doubt.”

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The Weavers – The Weavers’ Almanac

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

White Hot stamper sound on side two – a Demo Disc for acoustic folk music. Better than Super Hot on side one – sound that’s sweeter than wine. This copy is stereo, and for good reason: the mono pressings are full of vocal distortion. Reasonably quiet vinyl for an early Vanguard pressing.

This early pressing on the early Black and Silver Vanguard label has glorious sound! It’s right up there with the best we have ever heard The Weavers.

Side One

Superb air and space, with a very extended top. Sweet vocals. Big, rich, tubey and clear, this side will be hard to beat. Play track three to hear the kind of guitar harmonics and vocal intimacy that are simply no longer possible on modern vinyl.

Side Two

The huge reverb sounds just right – very rich and tubey and smooth.

Listen to how rich the bass is on the third track. It’s not perfect but it’s right for this era and right for this music. (more…)

Master Tape? Yeah, Right

mastertapebox

Master Tape? Yeah, Right

Let me ask you one question. If so many of the current labels making 180 gram reissues are using the real master tapes — the real two-track stereo masters, not dubs, not cutting masters, not high-resolution digital copies, but the real thing — then why do so many of their records sound so bad?

If you’re honest you’ll say “I Don’t Know…” because, and here I want you to trust me on this, you don’t know. I don’t know either. Nobody does.

Records are mysterious. Their mysteries are many and deep. If you don’t know that you clearly haven’t spent much time with them, or don’t have a very revealing stereo, or don’t listen critically, or something else, god knows what.

They’re mysterious; that’s just a fact.
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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Loves Cole

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  • Ella’s superb 1972 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • This copy is balanced and natural, with the kind of rich, full-bodied sound that no one seems to know how to record anymore
  • Fitzgerald’s second artful collection of Cole Porter masterpieces, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time favorite albums on Verve and Pablo

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Dionne Warwick – Make Way for Dionne Warwick – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

AMAZINGLY GOOD White Hot Stamper sound on side two – WOW! I cannot recall ever hearing Dionne sound better than she does on this side two. Her voice is so clear and present, so natural and real, the truest way to describe the sound here is simply to say that the sound is natural, natural in a way that not three out of a hundred female vocal recordings sound. 

But side one is a DISASTER — veiled, smeary and murky, with noisy vinyl thrown in for good measure.

Thank goodness we are the kind of record dealers / audiophiles who know that the two sides of a record often sound vastly different, otherwise why would we ever have bothered to play side two?

We recently reviewed a Dionne Warwick record for the site and had this to say, comments that apply equally well to this album.

Just played a Linda Ronstadt album that she did with Nelson Riddle earlier today and I can tell you one thing, the sound of that album and this one are on opposite sides of the recording spectrum in terms of naturalness. On a scale of one to a hundred, Linda scores about a two, and Dionne scores 90, maybe more. It’s a JOY to hear a record with this kind of sound.

Play this one for your audiophile friends who own and respect the recordings of Dianna Krall, Patricia Barber and the like. Be sure to repeat the phrase “boy, they don’t make ’em like they used to” whenever there is a pause in the music or conversation.

You might also want to ask them if they think the invention of digital reverb was such a good idea after all.

If they’re good analog buddies that you want to keep being your buddies you might not want to say anything at all. Just keep quiet and let their own ears shame them. This is the record that can do it. (more…)

Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

We paired together our best sounding side one with an equally impressive side two from a different copy to make this White Hot Stamper 2-pack for Roger Waters debut. That gives you A+++ sound and quiet vinyl for both sides! Let me tell you, it is DIFFICULT to find copies of this album that sound as good and plays as quietly as the two White Hot sides in this set. Those of you who like Floyd’s The Final Cut will probably get a lot out of this one.

This is the first solo Roger Waters album, though apparently these songs date back to the Pink Floyd album. Waters was writing this material at the same time he was composing The Wall and even gave the band the choice of which project they wanted to tackle. The Wall obviously became one of the most famous albums in rock history, while this album didn’t get nearly as much attention. Eric Clapton and David Sanborn help fill out Waters’ band here.

This album has an interesting concept — the songs happen in “real time”, which is to say the story takes place completely within the playing time of the record. Each track is subtitled with the time that the events are supposed to take place, and there’s even an extra minute between the A side and the B side to allow you to flip the record.

Let’s talk about the sound, though. Most of the copies we played were too dry, grainy, and flat to get excited about. The two strong sides from this 2-pack do a much better job communicating Waters’ music and vision. You get amazing presence, more body to the sax, more energy and a bigger soundfield on the Hot Stamper sides than on the typical copy by a mile. The overall sound is super clean, clear and transparent with the kind of size and power music like this demands. (more…)

Overtures in Hi-Fi – Wolff – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. 

This is a very early stereo recording, which means it is spacious and open, with little spotlighting. But what is especially memorable is the choice of material, with a few of the more obscure overtures really brought to life here, such as the opening piece by Adam on side one: Si j’etais roi. Although not long, every second is packed with color and energy, exactly what a good overture needs. And it even has a glockenspiel! How can you go wrong?

The Everly Brothers – The Hit Sound Of The Everly Brothers

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  • You’ll find outstanding sound on this WB Gold Label Stereo original with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • The engineering team of Eddie Brackett and Lee Herschberg provide the exceptional recording fidelity – they would go on to win the Best Engineering Grammy for Strangers in the Night the same year
  • “Snow’s I’m Movin’ On rocks, and Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly clearly provided the blueprint for CCR’s cover several years later. While they may not make you forget the Animal’s version of the House of the Rising Sun, they do a fine version themselves. They were still struggling to find where they belonged on this LP, but they take us on enough highs through the trip to make it a worthwhile 37 minutes.

For those who may not know the man’s work, Eddie Brackett is the engineer behind the best sounding Dean Martin record ever made, Dream With Dean. His credits run for days.

This Gold Label Stereo original pressing (skip the mono by the way) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Moving

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  • An incredible sounding original WB Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – this is as good as it gets!
  • The overall sound is clean, clear and present with more Tubey Magic than makes their recordings such a joy to play
  • The vocals (obviously the main draw here) sound wonderful — breathy, natural and present 
  • PP&M’s second studio album, featuring Puff The Magic Dragon and This Land Is Your Land

This original stereo pressing of Peter Paul & Mary’s 1963 followup to their smash debut absolutely DESTROYED the competition. The warmth and presence of the vocals on this copy are OFF THE CHARTS!

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange reproduction. These are not big-budget, high-concept multi-track recordings. They’re simple, innocent folk songs featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, backed by straightforward guitar accompaniment. If the voices aren’t silky sweet and delicate, as well as full-bodied and present, let’s face it, you might as well put on another record.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here — we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If P, P & M don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing right between your speakers (and to either side), toss your LP and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the MIDRANGE is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you almost can’t really even imagine it. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest. (more…)

Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

A tough record to find good sound for! The ’80s have not been so good for us audiophiles. This copy with a Super Hot side two is doing a helluva lot better than most of what we played. Quiet vinyl too. (more…)