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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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Donovan - Sunshine Superman

Painting with a Very Broad Brush

  (Item #: donovsunsh_wrong) 

Back in 2009 we wrote: "Donovan’s albums are never well recorded so if you’re looking for audiophile sound this is not the record for you. Although the sounds varies here from track to track, some tracks do sound quite nice."

Although we have yet to play a copy of this particular album that sounds any good to us, we couldn't have been more Wrong about the rest of his catalog. Since 2009 we have certainly found any number of superb sounding Donovan records, the best of which to date is The Hurdy Gurdy Man, surely the man's masterpiece. You can read about some of them in the link below.

See all of our Donovan albums in stock

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Walter Wanderley - Rain Forest

  (Item #: wanderainf_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper copy of Rain Forest has a lot in common with the other Jazzy Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we've listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Martin Denny and others.

It's all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, complete with syncopated percussive arrangements. This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, this is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you'll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to "improve" it. If you like the sound of luxurious organ, accompanied by flutes, guitars and percussion, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of any of them.

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War - Why Can't We Be Friends?

Richness Or Transparency - On This Album You Need Both

  (Item #: war__whyca_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises, wherein we discuss two qualities essential to the sound of the album Why Can't We Be Friends? -- Richness and Transparency.

As usually happens in these shootouts we learned that there's so much more to this album than just big bass. What really makes this music come alive on the best copies was the result of two qualities we found were in fairly short supply.

See all of our War albums in stock

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Kansas - Point of Know Return & Leftoverture

CBS Half-Speeds Debunked

  (Item #: kansapoint_debunk) 

Sonic Grades: F

Hall of Shame pressings and two more Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressings Debunked.

Both this album and Leftoverture are way too bright and thin. What were the engineers thinking -- brighter equals better? In the case of these two titles it most definitely is not.

See all of our Kansas albums in stock

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Donny Hathaway - Live

  (Item #: hathalive_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This live recording has YOU ARE THERE sound! It's so natural, rich and transparent, what is there to fault? The soundstage is wide and deep. Your speakers disappear and the music just flows into the room. It just does not get any better.

I've been playing this record regularly since I first heard it back in the mid-'90s and it never gets old. If I could take only one soul album to my desert island, it would be this one, no doubt about it.

See all of our Donny Hathaway albums in stock

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John Coltrane - John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

Heavy Vinyl Debunked

  (Item #: coltrjohnc_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only marginally impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the '90s. Neither one in our opinion is worth pursuing.

See all of our John Coltrane pressings in stock

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Beethoven / Concerto No. 3 / Hendl / Graffman / CSO

  (Item #: beethpiano_2396_wtlf) 

This rare RCA Shaded Dog has SUPERB SOUND as well as a top performance. Super Hot Stampers for both sides means that this pressing has the real Living Stereo magic in spades. Unlike most of the RCA concerto recordings (Rubinstein's come immediately to mind in this regard), the brilliant soloist featured here is not overly spotlighted, hence the more credible "concert hall" sound. The piano is part of the orchestra, allowing all the contributions of the musicians to be heard clearly, with each of the orchestral sections laid out beautifully across an especially huge and deep Orchestra Hall stage.
See more commentaries as well as our in-stock pressings of Beethoven's music

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Albeniz / Suite Espanola / De Burgos

  (Item #: albensuite_wtlf) 

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

Wow, is this record ever DYNAMIC! I would put it in the top 2 or 3 percent of the most dynamic recordings we have played over the course of the last twenty five years. It also has tons of DEPTH. The brass is at the far back of the stage, just exactly where they would be placed in the concert hall, which greatly adds to the realism of the recording.

See all pressings of Albeniz's music in stock

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Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: simonparsl_depth) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Simon & Garfunkel's groundbreaking third album (from 1966 no less!).
See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Simon and Garfunkel's albums

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Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue

One Customer's Take on the 45

  (Item #: burremidni_letter) 

A good customer had this to say about a recent shootout he did:

"By the way side 2 of Midnight Blue bested every other copy I played including the 45 RPM Blue Note [Analogue Productions] reissue. The 45 RPM is very good. You know that technically it is right, but at the same time it’s missing something. When I listened to the [Hot] stamper copy you dug up for me I found it a little noisy at first and wasn’t sure if I could live with it. However after returning to the 45 RPM there was no enjoyment, so I dropped the needle on the stamper one more time, and then I heard it..."

See all of our Kenny Burrell albums in stock

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Tsuyoshi Yamamoto - Midnight Sugar

Mastering at 33 Vs. 45

  (Item #: yamammidni_33v45) 

The 33 RPM versions were pretty darn amazing but these 45s take the sound of this recording to an entirely new level.
There are a couple of quite obvious benefits to mastering this music at 45 RPM. One is that Yamamoto tends to use his right hand in a percussive manner, which creates tracking problems on most any set up. At 45 RPM the mastering engineer is able to cut those transients, full of difficult to deal with harmonics, much more cleanly and accurately. The result is a sense of "ease" that you don't hear on the 33.

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Thinking About

Bread and Tea for the Tillerman

  (Item #: breadmanna_thoughts) 

In many ways this recording is state-of-the-art. Listening to the acoustic guitars on the best copies brings back memories of my first encounter with an original Pink Label Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic-- that sound knocked me out twenty-odd years ago, and here it is again.

Of course I've always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. If you are too then a Hot Stamper copy of Manna will no doubt become a treasured demo disc in your home as well.

See all of our Bread albums in stock

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Nirvana - Nevermind

This Is How We Used to Sell the Average Copy in 2007

  (Item #: nirvanever_2007) 

This is a Brand New, In Print DGC Import LP that we are selling BELOW OUR COST. Sonically, it’s guaranteed to KILL any domestic copy or Mobile Fidelity pressing. Heck, it’ll slaughter the Gold CD too!

Not only that, but we’ve put this copy through our full cleaning process, including Disc Doctor fluids and a few other proprietary tricks. These pressings tend to be lightly ticky, but you'll hardly notice it when the band is rockin'.

This is not one of the Killer Hot Stamper copies we describe below. This is one of the typical copies, which is still better than average if only because we cleaned it up and improved the sound with Disc Doctor. If you want a Hot One, we can get you one. Just not for twenty bucks.

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The Beatles - Abbey Road

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: beatlabbey_depth) 

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

Those of you who follow the site (or do your own shootouts) know that it’s much tougher to find great copies of Abbey Road than it is for MMT or Please Please Me. Most of the copies we’ve played just aren’t good enough to put on the site. For whatever reasons -- probably because this recording is so complicated and required so many tracks -- Abbey Road is arguably the toughest nut to crack in the Beatles' catalog.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock

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Esquivel and Other Vintage Recordings

What to Listen For

  (Item #: esquiinfin_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your vintage '50s and '60s All Tube recordings.

Folks, I can tell you right now most original LSP pressings, of this or any other Living Stereo Popular title, do not begin to recreate the Studio Wizardry found on this album. The sound rivals the best Chet Atkins albums and Bob and Rays in all their delicious three-dimensional Cinerama staging.

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Linda Ronstadt - Simple Dreams

  (Item #: ronstsimpl_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

I confess to never having taken this album seriously, dismissing it as a commercial collection of pop hits with about as much depth as the L.A. river, but I was wrong wrong WRONG. This is a great album on the right LP, not the compressed piece of grainy cardboard pop we're used to. The typical pressing barely hints at the tremendous energy and top-quality musicianship that characterizes practically every track on this wonderful record.

See all of our Linda Ronstadt albums in stock

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