gabriso

What We Think We Know about Peter Gabriel’s Brilliant So Album from 1986

More of the Music of Peter Gabriel

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Peter Gabriel

Here is a copy of So with the Big and Bold Peter Gabriel sound we love. If you want your Art Rock to actually rock (as well as be arty), this is the copy for you.

It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but when it sounds this good you can just forget its shortcomings and marvel at how consistently good the material and the production are.

No Mean Feat

It’s exceptionally hard to find good sounding copies of this album, as you can read about below. With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin.

We did a shootout years ago that taught us a few things. The most surprising finding? The Brit copy I had in my own collection sucked — how about that! As a rule, I like the Brit pressings best for PG, but that rule got broken after playing all these domestic copies, some of which really sound good, clearly better than the average Brit.

Recording Issues

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s shortcomings. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high-quality mastering doing exactly that.

Mass Produced Plastic Problems

But of course the mastering is only one part of the puzzle. I have multiple copies with the same stampers. Some of them are terrible, some of them are wonderful — you just can’t rely on the numbers to guide you with a piece of mass-produced plastic like this. You have no choice but to play the record to know what it sounds like. (And that’s a good thing. Keeps you honest. There’s no “cheating” when you have nothing to go by but the sound.)

This album sold in the millions. They stamped it out until the metalwork was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Those badly pressed copies are not going to have any high-frequency extension, which leaves them with all the harsh upper mids sticking out of the mix to peel the paint in your living room and make your ears bleed.

(more…)

Peter Gabriel / So – Bright, Spitty and Grainy? Not on the Best Pressings It’s Not

More of the Music of Peter Gabriel

Hot Stamper Pressings of So Available Now

{This listing was written well over a decade ago after a Shootout Winning copy blew our minds.}

TWO A+++ SIDES give you AMAZINGLY ANALOG SOUND for this digital recording. I don’t think you could find another copy of this album that sounds this good no matter what you do! We recently finished another big shootout for So, and we can tell you that the majority of copies — even the ones with the right stamper numbers — tend to be fairly harsh, edgy, and altogether unpleasant. When you find a copy like this, though, it’s worth all the trouble.    

With grades of A Triple Plus for both sides, this copy is SUPERB — punchy down low, sweet up top, full-bodied, lively, and above all, not too bright, spitty, or grainy. The vocals are present and clear and the bottom end is less opaque, blurry and bloated than on any copy you are ever likely to play.

It’s exceptionally hard to find good sounding copies of this album, as you can read about below. With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin. We love this music and we know there are great copies out there, so we keep picking these up. More often than not, we’re left cold.

We did a shootout years ago that taught us a few things. The most surprising finding? The Brit copy I had in my own collection sucked — how about that! As a rule I like the Brit pressings best for PG, but that rule got broken after playing all these domestic copies, some of which really sound good, clearly better than the average Brit.

Listening in Depth to Peter Gabriel – So

More of the Music of Peter Gabriel

Hot Stamper Pressings of So Available Now

With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin. We love this music and we know there are great copies out there, so we keep picking these up. More often than not, we’re left cold.

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where the logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s sins. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high quality mastering doing exactly that.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Red Rain

Peter Gabriel’s soaring vocals here are a great test for transparency, especially during the last minute of the song when they really become more intimate, present, delicate and breathy.

Sledgehammer

Not unlike “Red Rain”, the flute intro here is a solid test for transparency and texture. But this moment passes quickly to make room for the huge horns that fire up the biggest hit on this album. The trumpets should have weight, dynamics, and texture. If they are smeary, blary or lifeless, you probably are listening to a typically compressed, low-resolution copy. (Side note: listen for the chatter before the singing begins – is someone talking on the phone? Last minute instructions from Peter? If you can figure out what they are saying we’ll give you this record for free!)

Don’t be alarmed at the veiled sound of the first two bars of vocals – it’s just the recording talking. When the verse comes in full swing, you’ll probably notice a little bit of spit, which is unavoidable here, especially on the super-sibilant “steam train” or “blue sky back”. However, the good copies make this problem non-offensive, and actually beneficial to the life of the music. The spit should not sound gritty or grainy; if it has a somewhat silky quality that’s a very good sign. But it has to be there if your copy is to have any life or presence in the midrange.

The backup singers that come in at the end of the first chorus should be subtle yet still present and clear. Also, pay attention to the reintroduction of the horns at the beginning of the second verse. The dynamic here is extremely important. The last note of their phrases should really swell up and make you appreciate what those guys are doing. (Maybe it’s Peter talking in the background, reminding the horn players not to forget to do that little dynamic trick.) (more…)