best sounding vinyl

Lou Rawls – Live!

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Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Well Recorded Soul. RnB, Blues, Etc. Albums – The Core Collection

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  • Lou Rawls Live! is an amazing recording that really comes to life on the best Hot Stamper pressings
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is superb – Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights, but really, there’s not a bad track here
  • If you could only have one Lou Rawls album, no question it would have to be this one – everything that’s good about the man’s music is fully on display
  • 4 stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Soundtracks and Soundtrack Music

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  • This superb release finally returns to the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • An outstanding recording with a huge three-dimensional stage, open, clear, extended up top and down low — the sound on this pressing is nothing short of amazing
  • 4 stars: “The sound glitters, some of the brightest and richest audio of its period (attested to by the album’s being part of Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo), and the performances have a dignity and intensity that makes the music — drawn from the key parts of Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen-created fantasy films The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts — seem even more serious and profound than it originally did.”

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. Who else but Herrmann could have orchestrated such phantasmagorical goings on?

The Three Worlds Of Gulliver Suite takes up all of side two. The complete score from which the suite is taken can be found on the original Herrmann album The Three Worlds of Gulliver, a long-time and extremely rare member of the TAS Super Disc List.

This vintage London Phase 4 Stereo pressing 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

David Bowie – Scary Monsters

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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  • An outstanding original UK pressing of Scary Monsters with Double Plus (A++) sound from on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • 5 stars: “Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters.”

This original RCA pressing 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

The Beach Boys / Pet Sounds – DCC Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D to C+

Not long ago [2014 or so] we pulled out the three copies we had in our leftover stock of DCC vinyl and gave them a spin. They weren’t awful, but they weren’t very good either. They sounded like most Heavy Vinyl we’ve played over the years: airless, blurry, smeary, two-dimensional, dull and opaque.

Not surprisingly (to us anyway) one copy was quite a bit better than the other two. I would say that the sound of the three copies would plot on a curve from about a D to maybe a C+, so let’s figure the average would be around a C- or so.

I’d be surprised if the DCC Gold CD didn’t sound better. More often than not it does. (Kevin Gray’s lousy cutting system would not be involved and that is almost a guarantee that the sound would improve markedly.)

The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Pet Sounds is how completely they trounce the DCC LP. Folks, it’s really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound decent enough, but it can’t compete with the best “mystery” pressings that we sell. It’s missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we’ve discovered on the better Capitol pressings.

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing. Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.


FURTHER READING

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

Making Audio Progress  (more…)

Bill Connors – Of Mist And Melting

More Jazz guitar

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  • Jazz guitar great Bill Connors makes his debut on the site with this phenomenal sounding copy of Of Mist And Melting
  • This pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and an outstanding Double Plus side one
  • The sound of this vintage ECM pressing is really quite amazing – fans of adventurous jazz, the kind ECM is known for, should get a lot out of this LP
  • “A beautiful session by the ever searching guitarist Bill Connors… intense, lyrical, and introspective… continued to show his great talents as a composer…

(more…)

Peter Frampton – Frampton

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  • An outstanding original A&M pressing of Frampton with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Far too many copies have a problem with dry, edgy, lean vocals, the kind of vocal sound you simply cannot find anywhere on UK pressings of Wind of Change, but the best pressings of Frampton are richer and tubier without crossing into being dark and murky
  • This has long been a personal favorite of mine, it’s a an album I’ve played hundreds of times and never tired of
  • 4 stars: “Frampton exited Humble Pie because that group fell into a loud, hard rock groove that overwhelmed the technical skills he’d spent years working on as a guitarist; he poured a lot of that into this highly melodic mid-tempo rock album.”

A bit of background: Both his first solo album and this, his fourth, were recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who famously worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, fyi) is rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).

Sonically this album tends to be none of those things. However, if you play enough copies you are sure to run into at least some that sound right.

I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. His first album, Wind of Change, has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school in 1972. I’m a Big Production Rock Guy, as you may have guessed from looking at the records we rave about the most, and Frampton’s first album is a classic of Big Production Rock, in the style of Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Songs for Beginners and fifty others I could name. Make that a hundred others. Or two hundred.

Which also explains why I’ve had very large dynamic speakers since about 1975, when I was first able to scrape together enough money to buy a pair of the well-regarded RTR 280-DR. (My mother had to co-sign the loan I took out shortly thereafter to buy an Audio Research SP3A-1 preamp and D-75 amp to power them, if that tells you anything. And ARC was reasonably priced back then; neither piece was even a grand!)

This fourth Frampton album may not boast the sound of his first, but it can have reasonably good sound, and musically it’s his strongest album after his debut, providing as it does much of the material for the blockbuster double live album that was to follow in less than a year, the one that broke the all time sales record set by Tapestry (and would be be bested itself soon enough by a little number known as the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever). (more…)

Carly Simon – Self-Titled

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  • An outstanding original Elektra LP with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Can you believe that the producer and engineer of Carly’s debut is none other than Eddie Kramer!?
  • That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be is the killer track here and it sounds wonderful on this copy
  • This pressing really brought this Big Production to life and allowed so many elements to work in harmony.
  • It’s a good example of what a truly Hot Stamper is supposed to do – let the music work as music

The richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies are exactly what you’d be looking for on this heavily-produced pop album, and this copy gives you that sound like no other copy you’ve ever heard.

Credit must go to Eddie Kramer, legendary producer and engineer for the likes of Hendrix and Zeppelin. He knows how to get good sound all right, although Female Singer Songwriter albums in his catalog are fairly light on the ground. (Richard Perry became the go-to guy for those productions as the ’70s wore on.) This may in fact be the only one Eddie ever did. But he knows Big Production Rock, and that’s what most of this album is about. (more…)

Elvis Costello / My Aim Is True – More Heavy Vinyl Trash from Rhino

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

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Sonic Grade: D

I’m embarrassed to say we used to like the Rhino Heavy Vinyl version, and in our defense let me tell you why: it was (for the most part) tonally correct, fairly low distortion, and had tight punchy bass.

Boy, Was We Ever Wrong. Now it sounds positively CRUDE and UNPLEASANT next to the real thing — if by “the real thing” you mean an honest to goodness properly mastered, properly pressed copy (also known as a Hot Stamper). Kevin Gray’s crude cutting system did this album no favors.

The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant.  The British pressings are mud.

You either have to work very hard to find a good domestic pressing (which means buying, cleaning and playing lots and lots of them), or you have to luck into a good one by accident.

Or just buy one from us and save yourself all the trouble.


FURTHER READING

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners 

and we can’t forget this one

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

The Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1

More John Sebastian

More Sixties Pop Recordings

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, the sound quality of the tracks on this compilation is impressive
  • Both sides are rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, and natural with a solid bottom end – no sign of radio EQ to be found
  • Features most of the band’s best songs, including Do You Believe In Magic, You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Six O’clock and Nashville Cats (a personal fave)
  • The Allmusic critic is not too crazy about this album, but the User Rating is 4 1/2 stars, which we think is about right

Great sound for some the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is. This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection.

Actually, the mastering engineer for this compilation and the Best of from the same year is a person well known to us record collecting audiophiles — the person that ends up with this record can look in the dead wax for his info and the rest of you are welcome to guess — so it’s really no surprise that this compilation sounds as good as the Best of that we rave about.

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Bridge Over Troubled Water Needs Big Speakers to Play Right

More Simon and Garfunkel

Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

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

Hey Tom,   

That latest S&G album — BOTW — is absofuckinglutely blowing my mind tonight. Wow. Those deep horns (?) blasting at times (end of Keep the Customer Satisfied, chorus of Why Don’t You Write Me, end of The Boxer… whole thing is hopping and dancing with huge beautiful sound. Hard to sit down!!
Conrad

The weight of those horns is exactly what I was telling you about –  they cannot be reproduced until you have speakers with enough large dynamic drivers to play the weight of the brass

This is something not many audiophiles seem to understand, no matter how much we write about it.

TP


We discuss the idea of Big Speakers in this boilerplate commentary all over the site:

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER record. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at fairly loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It’s the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers for as long as I can remember. You need a lot of piston area to bring this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so and I have never looked back.) (more…)