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Random Thoughts

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Random Thoughts

 

Thoughts and observations on issues that relate to recordings, LP pressings, and practically anything to do with playing records. If you want to collect better sounding records and hear them on better sounding equipment, many of the commentaries contained herein should be of interest.
 

 

 

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The Seventies

We Didn't Know How Good We Had It

  (Item #: matthsteal_70s_2016) 



Produced in 1979, the best copies of Stealin' Home are rich, smooth and sweet in the best tradition of the ANALOG record.

It would only be a few years until this sound was out of style, replaced by the edgy, hard, digital sound preferred by synthpop bands like Tears for Fears and Simple Minds. This would turn out to be a bad time for audiophiles (like me) who liked the pop music of the day but not the pop sound of the day. Heavy-handed processing as well as the overuse of synthesizers and drum effects, with the whole of the production slathered in digital reverb, have resulted in most of the albums from the early to mid-'80s being all but impossible to enjoy on a modern high-end system. Believe me, we've tried.

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Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth

Who Masters Better Than The Master?

  (Item #: nelsoblues_rvg) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts concerning the sound of old records.

For those of you who are still holding on to the idea that the original pressings are better, our Hot Stamper LPs may come as quite a surprise. Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn't he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what needs fixing and what needs to be left alone?

See all of our Oliver Nelson albums in stock


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Gino Vannelli - Storm At Sunup

and The Amazing ARC SP3A-1

  (Item #: vannestorm_stereo) 



Storm at Sunup used to be my favorite Gino Vannelli album. I played it all the time back in the ’70s. It was one of a handful of recordings that made me want to pursue audiophile equipment in the hopes that higher quality playback would allow it to sound even bigger and more exciting. It was pretty damn big and exciting already, but I wanted more.

Right around that time I got my first audiophile tube preamp, the Audio Research SP3A-1, which replaced a Crown IC-150. As you can no doubt imagine, especially if you know the IC-150 at all well, playing this album through that state-of-the-art tube preamp was a revelation. From then on there was no looking back. I started spending all my money on better and better equipment and more and more records. That was forty plus years ago and I haven't stopped yet.

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Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

  (Item #: mussopictu_6177) 



The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not recreate the full weight of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like no other. It's also tonally correct. It's not agressive. It's not irritating. It's just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That's what really caught my ear when I first played Ansermet's recording.

See more of the music of Modest Moussorgsky in stock


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Gino Vannelli - Powerful People

The Most You Can Hope For

  (Item #: vannepower_summation) 



Like most of the better audiophile records -- from long ago as well as those being produced today -- the most you can hope for from these reissues is that they can fix a few problems you might be saddled with on the particular pressing you own.

But if you work at it, the "right" plain old record, properly cleaned and played, will show you sound that the audiophile edition can barely begin to reproduce. Having auditioned by the thousands the kinds of records you see on the site, the reality of this truth is irrefutable to us now, and has been for a very long time. Our customers know exactly what we are talking about; they've heard it for themselves. That's why they keep coming back.

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Chicago - Chicago II

360 Original or Red Label Reissue

  (Item #: chicachicaII_360_vs_red) 



Both can be good. I did the shootout (TP) and often tried to guess the label for the copy I was hearing, for fun more than anything else. I have to admit that my batting average was not much better than chance.

The 360s tend to be a little fuller and smearier, but plenty of red label copies sound that way and some 360s don't, so trying to match the sound to the label was even more pointless than usual.

When comparing pressings in a shootout it's too late for the label to have any predictive value. We've already bought the records, cleaned them all up and now just want to know what they actually sound like -- not which ones might be the best, but which ones are the best.

See all of our Chicago albums in stock


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Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills - Super Session

All Things Are Never Equal

  (Item #: bloomsuper_equal) 



Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

Can the Red Label reissues sound any good?

Why yes, they can, and here's why. Every once in a while, when it comes time to stamp out some more copies of slow but still-selling records, "back catalog" as they are known in the trade, someone has to go into the vault and find a tape with which to master. Maybe that person finds a real master tape. Or maybe that person finds a master tape and makes a really high quality dub of it to master from. Either one of those possibilities might produce a great sounding final product relative to the sub-generation, EQ'd, compressed cutting tape used to make most copies, including the originals.

See all pressings of Super Session in stock


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The Beatles - Rubber Soul

Twin Track for Me but Not for Thee

  (Item #: beatlrubbe_twin_track) 



How is it that none of the critics of "twin track stereo" -- the two-track recording approach used on the first two albums, with the elements hard-panned left and right -- has ever come clean about the obvious twin track sound of Rubber Soul? We used tracks four, five and six to test side two with, and in all three the vocals are hard-panned right with most of the instruments hard-panned left. Why is it wrong for Please Please Me to sound that way -- the mono mix being the critic's choice -- but fine for Rubber Soul to be heard that way?
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