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Commentary Overview

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Commentary Overview


Commentary Overview
We discuss practically anything that concerns recordings or their reproduction here.

If you want to collect better sounding records and hear them at their best, many of the commentaries in this section will be of interest.

And be sure to check out our new blog, On The Record!


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Buckingham Nicks - Buckingham Nicks

Watch Out for Too Fat and Too Rich

  (Item #: buckibucki_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

The biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well. You want to be able to hear PAST her all the way back to him and hear exactly what he's doing. Most copies don't let you do that.

See all of our Buckingham-Nicks and Fleetwood Mac albums in stock

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Bllind Faith - Blind Faith

  (Item #: blindblind_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This early British pressing SLAUGHTERED all the other pressings we played it against! It's the Blind Faith you’ve been waiting for: Tubey Magical, Transparent, full of Life and Energy -- dear friends, it’s all here! And the vinyl is some of the quietest we've ever heard for this album.

Sick of buying one harsh, thin, distorted, murky LP after another in a vain attempt to find a copy that reminds you of why you LOVED this record so much when it came out back in 1969?

See all of our Eric Clapton albums in stock

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Testing New Paradigms and Old

  (Item #: paradigms) 

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified audio expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms -- original is better, money buys good sound -- may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn't just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Rubber Soul

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Rossini / Overtures / Maag / PCO

  (Item #: rossiovert_fame) 

The London and Decca original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that's just another Record Myth.

This Stereo Treasury pressing of Maag's 1958 recording is shockingly good in many ways. It sure doesn't sound like a budget reissue. If anything it sounds more original than the originals we played against it!

See all of our in-stock pressings of Rossini's music

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Carole King - Tapestry

The Piano Stylings of Carole King

  (Item #: king_tapes_wtlf_1) 

One quality that we had no trouble recognizing on the better copies was transparency. The more transparent copies made it possible to hear through the mix to Carole's piano, which is usually placed toward the back of the mix. There it serves to underpin the music, playing more of a supporting role than a leading one, very unlike the piano on a Joni Mitchell album for example.

The best copies let you easily follow Carole's playing all the way through every song, from start to finish, no matter how quiet her part or how far back in the mix she may be placed.

See all of our Carole King LPs in stock

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Amazing Demo Discs for Bass

Peter Cetera and Chicago

  (Item #: chicachica_bass) 

First in a series of Demo Discs for Bass.

Talk about beefy bass; this album is the poster boy for rock solid bottom end. When you have a copy of Chicago's first album with a hot side three you have a Bass Demo Disc LP that's going to rock your world, not to mention the foundation of your house. (How they managed to get the bass so right and screw up so many other things I will never know.)

See more of our in-stock copies of Chicago's albums

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes

  (Item #: pettydamnt_2015) 

Damn the Torpedoes is the best sounding Tom Petty album we have ever played.

Credit must go to SHELLY YAKUS, someone who we freely admit, now with a sense of embarrassment, has never been one of our favorite engineers. After hearing this beyond-White Hot Stamper side two and a killer copy of Animal Notes we realize that we have seriously underestimated the man, and for that we deeply apologize.

If your Damn the Torpedoes doesn't sound good (and it probably doesn't), you sure can't blame him -- the master tape is mind-boggling in its size, weight, power and rock n' roll energy.

See all of our Tom Petty pressings in stock

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Roxy Music - Siren

British Band, British Pressing, Right?

  (Item #: roxymsiren_2015) 

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way "in" to the band's music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven -- Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Roxy Music's and Bryan Ferry's albums

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Wes Montgomery - Bumpin’

  (Item #: montgbumpi_mofi) 

This Minty looking Verve LP really sounds GOOD on side one! It’s transparent, as well as tonally correct from top to bottom. This is THE copy to have -- we guarantee it will CRUSH the MoFi pressing, but only on side one. Say what?

We played both back to back and it was no contest -- on side one. We’re sorry to report that side two on this original copy was not as good, and in fact -- it pains me to say it but I must tell the truth -- the MoFi was clearly better than this copy on side two. We have a good MoFi side two on our copy, because side one sucked badly. But our side two original is not what it should be, and we are honest enough to own up to that fact.

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Tell Us More About "Hot Stampers"

Straight Answers to Your Questions

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq_2015_4) 

Many of the basic questions concerning Hot Stampers, including our grading system, 2-packs, coupons, the mailing list, as well as more general ordering and payment information, can be found in the original FAQ.

We recommend that you read it before continuing on with this one. The Hot Stamper FAQ below deals specifically with the kinds of issues that potential customers, as well as skeptics and forum posters (god bless 'em!), have raised with us over the years.

We think sitting down to listen to a Hot Stamper pressing is the best way to appreciate its superior sound, in the same way that hearing a vintage LP played back on a top quality system is the best way to appreciate the superiority of analog. Short of getting you to try one of our records -- 100% guaranteed, no questions asked -- we hope these comments will be of value.

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Led Zeppelin

on Prestigious Japanese Limited Edition Vinyl

  (Item #: ledze_japanese) 

This is a classic We Was Wrong listing from 2006.

I used to sell the German Import reissues of the Zep catalog in the '90s. At the time I thought they we’re pretty good, but then the Japanese AMJY Series came out and I thought those were clearly better.

I couldn't have been more wrong. I now realize those Japanese pressings are bright as hell. Now, not-too-surprisingly, the German pressings sound more or less right (on most titles). They tend to be tonally correct, which is more than you can say for most Zep records.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock Led Zeppelin albums

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Delibes / Coppelia & Sylvia / Ansermet

Original Versus Reissue

  (Item #: delibcoppe_original) 

The sound of the Blueback we auditioned was not impressive, certainly not on the one copy we had on hand to play. We'll probably never buy another, not while there are wonderful Decca reissues pressed on quiet vinyl to be had.

We have a number of entries in our original equals better series, in which we debunk the conventional wisdom as to which pressings are the best sounding for specific artists and titles.

See more music conducted by Ernst Ansermet in stock

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Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Obvious Differences Don't Seem to Register

  (Item #: rimskscheh_reviews) 

There is a newly remastered 33 RPM pressing of the album which has garnered rave reviews in the audiophile press. We have played it and will report our findings at the appropriate time.

Have you noticed that in many of the reviews for the new pressing, the original used for comparison is a Shaded Dog? In our experience almost no Shaded Dog pressings are competitive with the better White Dog pressings, and many of them are just plain awful, as we have mentioned previously on the site. At best one out of three would qualify to be offered as a Hot Stamper; most simply would not make the cut.

See all the music of Rimsky-Korsakov in stock

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Richard & Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights

The Best Sounding Record of the Decade?

  (Item #: thompshoot_2015) 

Without a doubt this is the best record Richard and Linda Thompson ever made together, possibly the best record Thompson was ever involved with, but it also holds one other important distinction, one of great interest to us audiophiles: it's the BEST SOUNDING record he (they) ever made as well.

As I was playing the finalists for side two (at ear-splitting levels I might add) an odd thought crossed my mind. Where had I heard this kind of monstrous, punchy bass and these soaring, perfectly distorted guitars, so big and so powerful, before? There was something about the sound - the awesome energy, the freedom from compression or spatial restraint of any kind - that was strangely familiar from another shootout.

See all of our Richard Thompson albums in stock

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Sergio Mendes - Equinox

Botnick and Levine Knocked This One Out of the Park

  (Item #: mendeequin_botnick) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

The music is of course wonderful, but what separates Sergio from practically all of his '60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. Like their debut, this one was engineered by the team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine. Botnick is of course the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention.

See all of our Sergio Mendes albums in stock

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2-Packs - They Make Our Case For Us

  (Item #: eagleeagle_2-pack) 

Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles' First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets.

What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy -- on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer -- was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say "CD sound. " When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of the Eagles' albums

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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: ledzeII_loud) 

It's official: we're inaugurating a Top Ten Best Sounding Rock / Pop Album List, and the first member to be inducted is none other than our old favorite, Led Zeppelin II.

It's also yet another in a very long line of records that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. We're convinced Zep II has to be the hardest rocking album of all time. The best copies -- often with the same stampers as the not-as-good copies by the way -- have a LIFE and a POWER to them that simply cannot be found on other records.

See all of our Led Zeppelin albums in stock

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Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

White Hot on the '70s Red Label? Can You Really Be Serious?

  (Item #: daviskindo_wtlf) 

When it comes to Miles Davis' jazz classic Kind of Blue, the 6-eye originals are of course the best sounding, right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth. Based on scores of pressings it has been our experience that the best sound for this album is found on standard domestic Red Label pressings from the '70s. I'm fully aware of how outrageous a statement that may seem to those who believe that original pressings are always superior, but we've long known of top of the heap, can't be beat Kind Of Blue reissues, going on more than twenty years now.

See all of our Miles Davis albums in stock

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Mobile Fidelity and the Limited Edition Pressing

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_limited) 

Many audiophiles are still under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, what with their strict ’quality control’, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site.

Such is simply not the case, and it's child's play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears (I guess that's actually five things, my bad). With all five the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock

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The Byrds in Mono

How Do They Sound?

  (Item #: byrdsmono) 

Practically none of the MONO pressings of The Byrds' albums that we've played in shootouts over the course of the last few years or so has impressed us much, none that I can recall anyway.

Congested and compressed, with no real top, who in his right mind could possibly tolerate that kind of sound on modern equipment?

Although, to be fair, we've stopped buying them, so there may actually be a good copy or two out there in used record land that we haven't heard. In our defense, who really has the time to play records with so little potential for good sound?

See all of our Byrds albums in stock

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