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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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Moussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz

  (Item #: mousspower_fame) 

This Shaded Dog pressing of the famous TAS List Super Disc title has TWO AMAZING SIDES! We have rarely heard a copy with such a huge hall sound and so much weight down low. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.

We used to think that Night on Bare Mountain, which starts off side one, had substandard sound, but on this copy it actually sounds surprisingly good. (There is a Fiedler performance on DG that we love but we rarely find them with good sound and have none to offer.)

See more of the music of Modest Moussorgsky in stock

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The Dixie Dregs - Dregs of the Earth

  (Item #: dixiedregs_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

If you want to hear what happens when five virtuoso instrumentalists manage to combine their talent for Jazz, Rock, Classical and Country (thanks god there aren't any vocals) into a potent mix that defies classification and breaks all the rules, this is the one. It reminds me of Ellington's famous line that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. This is the kind of music you may have trouble describing, but one thing's for sure -- it's good. In fact it's really good.

See all of our Dixie Dregs albums in stock

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Neil Young - After the Gold Rush

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: youngafter_depth) 

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

Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy this album, that’s why it's been a Better Records All Time Top Ten Rock Title right from the start. We built our reputation on finding Demo Disc Quality recordings like this. Who else can offer you a copy of the album that delivers this kind of ANALOG MAGIC?

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Neil Young's albums

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Roxy Music - Stranded

  (Item #: roxymstran_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

Stranded is one of the better recordings by the band, coming in second for sonics only to the first album, which is really saying something considering that the first album is a Top 100 title. The Tubey Magic on the early albums has to be heard to be believed.

In our experience the right British original Sunray Island pressing is always the King. (There are some bad sounding Island LPs out there, so don’t assume the Sunray is the answer. It’s potentially the right answer. Without at least five copies in hand you won't know whether the copy you like is a true Hot Stamper or a not-that-hot-Hot Stamper.)

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

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Peter Gabriel - So

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: gabriso_depth) 

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

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.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Peter Gabriel's albums

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Jethro Tull - Aqualung

British Band, British Pressing... Right?

  (Item #: jethraqual_myth_2014) 

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

As we’ve noted so many times before, this British band, like many of their brethren, had their master tapes sent to America to make our much-maligned domestic pressings. I maligned them myself, wrongly I now realize.

It takes an amazing stereo and a top quality Hot Stamper pressing to get this music to work its magic. If you are lucky enough to have those two things, you will not believe how good this album sounds on domestic vinyl, so much better than you ever thought possible. It’s not perfect, but with the right pressing you can hear why Anderson, his bandmates, the engineer and producer all thought they had put a real winner down on tape.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Jethro Tull's albums

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James Taylor - JT

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: taylojt_depth) 

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

The good copies REALLY ROCK on a song like Honey Don't Leave L.A. or I Was Only Telling A Lie, yet have lovely, sweet transparency and delicacy on the ballads such as Another Grey Morning or There We Are.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of James Taylor's albums

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The Band - The Band

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: band_band_depth) 

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

The best copies have no trace of phony sound from top to bottom. They're raw and real in a way that makes most pop records sound processed and wrong. Our best Hot Stampers have plenty of the qualities we look for in The Band. Energy, presence, transparency, Tubey Magic... you name it -- you will find it there. The biggest strength of this recording is its wonderful, natural midrange. And tons of bass.

See all of our albums by The Band in stock

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Philips Classical Recordings

Must They All Be So Thick, Dull and Opaque?

  (Item #: phillips) 

Most Philips records are much too thick, dull and opaque to be taken seriously, by us anyway. In this respect they have many sonic attributes in common with Londons from the '70s and '80s.

Dropping the needle on the Ravel Piano Concertos with Haas, however, was a wonderful surprise. It's big and spacious throughout, with no trace of smear on a piano that is solid and clear. This is a difficult combination to achieve in our experience, the kind of sound we tend to rave about. It sounds right, and when the sound is as right as it is here, the wonderful piano music of Ravel can truly work its magic.

See more entries in our Classical Commentary series

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Ravel / Rachmaninoff / The Reiner Sound / Reiner

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: ravelreine_2183_debunk) 

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

There is simply an amazing amount of TOP END on this original pressing. Rarely do I hear Golden Age recordings with this kind of ENERGY and extension up top. This is of course one of the reasons the Classic reissue is such a disaster. With all that top end energy, Bernie's gritty cutting system and penchant for boosted upper midrange frequencies...

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock pressings of Ravel's music

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Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: steelpretz_depth) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

It’s positively criminal the way this amazingly well-recorded music sounds on the typical LP. And how can you possibly be expected to appreciate the music when it sounds like that?

The reason we audiophiles go through the trouble of owning and tweaking our temperamental equipment is we know how hard it is to appreciate good music which sounds bad. Bad sound is a barrier to understanding and enjoyment, to us audiophiles anyway.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Steely Dan's albums

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Our DOR (Difficulty of Reproduction) Scale

  (Item #: brewedowni_dors) 

We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously seen as impossible -- until now.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

See more records that rank high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

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The Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead

Watch for Strain in Jerry's Voice

  (Item #: grateworki_depth) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

High Time tells you the most about the sound of side one on any given copy. If the pressing in question is lean, bright, grainy, transistory or aggressive in any way, Jerry Garcia's voice will sound strained. Far from a professionally trained singer, he's already straining to some degree on even the best copies.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of The Grateful Dead's albums

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Joni Mitchell Blue

Play The Game, Not the Album

  (Item #: mitchblue_game_2007) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises, one we created all the way back in 2007. If you want to learn more about doing your own shootouts this listing has lots of good advice.

In 2007 we mentioned to our customers that we would not be carrying the new 180 gram Rhino pressing of Blue. We noted:

Since Kevin and Steve are friends of mine I won't belabor its shortcomings. Let's just say I think you can do better.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Joni Mitchell's albums

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Brewer & Shipley - Tarkio

Do All the Robert Ludwig Mastered Copies Have Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: brewetarki_fame) 

Even though all the original Pink Label pressings are mastered by Robert Ludwig, they have a marked tendency to be dull, thick and opaque. The sound is just too smooth. The best copies however have the top end and the transparency to let you hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

This time around we discovered something new: one specific stamper that seemed to be the only one with the potential for an extended top end. This special stamper did not always fare well; some copies with it were mediocre. We have always found this to be the way with the "right" stampers; they often let us down and sometimes they really let us down hard.

See more entries in our Thinking About Hot Stampers series

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Record Cleaning Advice

  (Item #: cleaning_2014) 

Disc Doctor and Walker Audio Prelude are the only fluids we recommend for serious SOUND ENHANCEMENT and cleaning of your LPs. You have never heard what's really in the grooves of your records until you've cleaned them using one of these systems. There is nothing in our experience that works as well.

We've tried many fluids over the years and a not insignificant portion of them actually made our records sound worse (most often by rolling off the high end). It's not a good idea to assume the record cleaning fluid you use is doing its job properly. Many do not, including some that are very popular.

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