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Commentary Overview

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Commentary Overview

Commentary Overview
Discussions of practically any subject that concerns recordings and their reproduction can be found here. If you want to collect better sounding records and hear them at their best, many of the commentaries in this section should be of interest.

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

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Brahms Violin Concerto

Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

  (Item #: brahmvioli_1903_myth) 

This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good Super Hot stamper sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1S is that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that's just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you've played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not. The 1S pressings do not win all that many shootouts around here. Of course, to avoid being biased the person listening to the record doesn't know the stamper numbers, and that may help explain why the 1S loses so often!

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Van Morrison - Moondance

Rhino / Warners Heavy Vinyl Debunked

  (Item #: morrimoond_debunk_2014) 

Sonic Grade: D

Just listen to how strange Van's voice sounds, so lean, hard and sour. That alone qualifies it for an "F", but considering how bad most pressings of this album are, let's be fair, if not downright generous, and call it a "D".

Where is the Tubey Magic of the originals? The sweetness? The richness? And why is there so little ambience or transparency? You just can't "see" into the studio on this pressing the way you can on the good originals, but that's fairly consistently been the knock on these remastered Heavy Vinyl records. We noted as much when we debunked Blue all the way back in early 2007, so no surprise there.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Van Morrison's albums

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Our Favorite Engineers (A Continuing Series)

Rudy Van Gelder

  (Item #: allrudyvangelder) 

RUDY VAN GELDER is one of our favorite recording and mastering engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Rudy Van Gelder engineered albums, along with plenty of our famous commentary.

The really good RVG pressings (often on the later labels) sound shockingly close to live music -- uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located on a wide and often deep soundstage, surrounded by the natural space and cool air of his New Jersey studio. As our stereo has improved, and we've found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his "you-are-there" live jazz sound has come to impress us more and more.

See more entries in our Favorite Engineers series

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George Benson - Breezin’

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: bensobreez_mfsl) 

Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi reviewed, and surprisingly this one doesn't belong in our Hall of Shame the way most of them do.

It has an excellent side two backed with a pretty good side one. Side two has excellent bass -- for a MoFi -- and lots of energy -- for a MoFi. It’s slightly smooth but overall it’s very musical. The best domestic copies are going to eat its lunch, but try to find one! Most of them are awful.

This MoFi copy, though lacking in many ways, is MUCH BETTER sounding than the other MoFis we played it against, which were really muddy and compressed.

See all of our George Benson albums in stock

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Is the Average Record Really Worthless?

We Do the Math (So You Don’t Have To)

  (Item #: bloodblood_average) 

What follows is an excerpt from a much older letter in which the writer made the case, as best he could, that spending lots of money on records is foolish when for a dollar one can buy a perfectly good record at a thrift store and get exactly the same music and decent enough sound.

We think this is silly and, with a few rough calculations, a heavy dose of self-promotion and not a little bullying, we set out to prove that the average record is worthless. Prepare to confront our sophistic logic. (Yes, we are well aware that our reasoning is specious, but it's no more specious than anybody else's reasoning about records, so there.)

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Blood, Sweat and Tears

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Fleetwood Mac - Bare Trees

A Long Time Coming

  (Item #: fleetbaret_audio) 

Until not that many years ago we simply were not able to successfully shootout Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac's wonderful album from 1972. The pressings we were playing just didn't sound very much like Hot Stampers to us. British, German, Japanese, domestic originals, domestic reissues; all of them left much too much to be desired.

Thankfully we can tell you that the best copies sound a whole lot better now than they did then.

It's always true, and needs to be remembered, that most of the shortcomings you hear in the sound of a record are caused by your equipment (which includes record cleaning equipment), your room, and your electricity.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Fleetwood Mac's albums

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Conversation of the Week (2008)

... they seemed to be incredulous! ...

  (Item #: Schopenhauer) 

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer

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Sergio Mendes - Look Around

Then Listen for the Huge Room on Roda

  (Item #: mendelooka_listen_2014) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

If you have a good copy of Look Around and a high-rez stereo/room and want to have some fun, play the second track on side one, Roda. In the left channel there is some double-tracked clapping (or two people, how could you tell the difference?) in a HUGE room. Actually although it sounds like a huge room it's probably a normal sized room with lots of reverb added. Either way it sounds awesome.

These hand claps drive the energy and rhythm of the song, and they are so well recorded you will think the back wall of your listening room just collapsed behind the left speaker. On the truly transparent copies the echo goes WAY back.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Sergio Mendes's albums

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Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The Earliest Stampers Sound the Best, Right?

  (Item #: john_goodb_myth) 

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We had a White Hot stamper listing a while back with these comments featured prominently in the description:

This is BY FAR the best sounding Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to ever hit the site, and BY FAR the best sounding copy we have ever played here at Better Records. And for those of you who think that the early stampers must be the best, note that this killer copy had no side with a stamper under three. How about them apples? As we like to say, screw all that Platonic thinking; we find the empirical approach of playing the records works a whole lot better, thank you very much.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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The Band - The Band

Capitol Records Debunked

  (Item #: band_band_capitol_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Flat, compressed, no top end, no Tubey Magic, this is Ron McMaster’s work at its worst, helped along by the fact that he does not have the original master tape or even a copy of it to work with, but instead the new remix that was made a few years back because the original tape had been lost. And somehow reviewers like it!

See all of our The Band albums in stock

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Cat Stevens - Teaser & The Firecat

Overview of the Reissues

  (Item #: stevetease_reissues_2014) 

It is my contention that there is no audiophile pressing on the face of the Earth that can compete with the best sounding originals of Teaser and the Firecat. Of ANY music. The best copies of Teaser have a sound I have never experienced with any modern-mastered record. There is a magic in its grooves that may simply be impossible to capture with the cutting equipment currently in use. Perhaps one day I'll be proven wrong, but that day is clearly not yet upon us.
See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Teaser and the Firecat

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Sonny Rollins Plus 4

Hello Hello Hello...

Is There Anybody Out There?

  (Item #: rolliplus4_2014) 

We recently awarded the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing of this album a Sonic Grade of F . But that's not enough -- I'm not letting it off that easy!

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record in my life, and I've heard a ton of them. It reminds me of the turgid muck that Doug Sax was cutting for Analogue Productions back in the '90s. The CD of this album has to sound better than this. There's no way it could sound worse.

See all of our Sonny Rollins albums in stock

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Dirty Little Secrets of the Record Biz, Part 2

Master Tape? Yeah, Right

  (Item #: nevermind_2_tapes) 

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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The Beatles Heavy Vinyl Sgt. Pepper’s

Well, I Guess If You Don't Know Any Better...

  (Item #: beatlsgtpe_180_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: D

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

You might agree with some reviewers that EMI's engineers did a pretty good job with the new Pepper. In the March 2013 issue of Stereophile Art Dudley weighed in, finding little to fault on this title but being less impressed with most of the others in the new box set. His reference disc? The MoFi UHQR! Oh, and he also has some old mono pressings and a domestic Let It Be. Now there's a man who knows his Beatles. Fanatical? Who wouldn't be? We're talkin' The Beatles for Christ's sake.

See other commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Sgt. Pepper

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The Beatles - Let It Be

Heavy Vinyl Debunked

  (Item #: beatlletit_180_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

At the end of a recent shootout for Let It Be (June 2014) we decided to see how the 2012 Digitally Remastered Heavy Vinyl pressing would acquit itself up against the 12 (yes, twelve!) British copies we had just spent hours critically auditioning.

See other commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Let It Be

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Turning Skeptics into Believers

One Record at a Time

  (Item #: skeptic_2014) 

We recently received this letter from a fellow on our email list who finds our prices for vinyl curious, and which he considers a bygone technology at this point in time. Can’t say I agree with that assessment. It sure would be nice to demonstrate for him how much better records sound than the supposedly superior technologies that have -- for most people, perhaps even for this gentleman -- replaced them.

Wait, there is a way! A Hot Stamper, 100% Guaranteed to Satisfy or Your Money Back. One click is all it takes. Which is pretty much what I said in my reply to his letter below.

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