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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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The Beatles - Beatles For Sale

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: beatlforsa_depth) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of For Sale. We note that Words of Love is a tough track to get right:

There are some lively, jangly guitars behind the smooth voices. Many copies seem to sacrifice one for the other, leaving you with either irritating guitars or dull voices. The better copies get them both right.

See all of our Hot Stamper pressings of Beatles For Sale

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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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Rozsa / Music From the Film Ben Hur

  (Item #: rozsabenhu_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Hall of Fame.

This TAS List Super Hot Stamper pressing of one of the greatest and most famous Orchestral Blockbuster Soundtracks ever recorded more than lives up to our expectations for Decca Phase 4. This is Phase 4 done RIGHT.

As with all the best Herrmann releases, the huge size and scope you hear is the sound of orchestral music recorded in glorious ANALOG!

See all of our Phase 4 albums in stock

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Liszt, Enesco, Smetana / Rhapsodies - Stokowski

  (Item #: lisztrhaps_2471) 

This RCA Living Stereo White Dog LP has SUPERB SOUND!

I'm a big fan of this title. The string tone is rich and dark and just wonderful. If you want an exciting record with outstanding Living Stereo sound -- dynamic, with strings to die for, and an energetic performance, this is the one! Don't let the White Dog fool you. I doubt if the average Shaded Dog is any better. This record sounds just right to me. Listen to how clear and correct the triangle is. I wonder if the Shaded Dog copies would be cut that clean. Without one here to compare there's no way to know.

See all of our Living Stereo albums in stock

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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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Morton Gould and His Orchestra - Love Walked In

  (Item #: gouldlovew_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This Super Hot Stamper (or better!) Living Stereo Shaded Dog pressing has SUPERB TUBEY MAGICAL Golden Age sound the likes of which you will not believe. (If you've bought some of our best Hot Stamper Living Stereo recordings then you will have no trouble believing it I'm sure.)

Side two displays some of the richest, most three-dimensional orchestral sound we have heard in quite some time. The fifth track is especially notable for a pizzicato arrangement that makes it a DEMO DISC track to beat them all. Plucked strings simply do not sound any better!

See more of our most Tubey Magical recordings

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Beethoven / Kreutzer and Spring Sonatas / Rubinstein

Shaded Dogs Vs. Red Seals

  (Item #: beethkreut_2377) 

The Shaded Dog original RCA pressings are the best, right?

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

In this listing for one of our Hot Stamper 2-packs we compare the sound of the originals (which tend to be crude, veiled, recessed and a bit smeary) with the reissues, which can be awful or wonderful depending on which side of which copy you are playing.

See more commentaries as well as our in stock recordings featuring the violin

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Ravel / Concerto in G / Munch

  (Item #: ravelconce_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This is a wonderful sounding performance of Ravel's Piano Concerto, originally available on Shaded Dog (LSC 2271) and overflowing with Tubey Magical Living Stereo sound from 1958. The Victrola here is from 1964, and may or may not sound better than the average original RCA pressing. LSC 2271 is not a record we run into every day, so comparisons would be speculative to say the least.

What we can tell you is that our Victrola here is big, spacious, transparent and clear, with dead-on tonality throughout.

See all pressings of Ravel's music in stock

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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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Stephen Stills - Manassas

Classic Records Debunked

  (Item #: stillmanas_debunk_2015) 

Sonic Grade: F

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

This pressing is a disaster. Can you imagine ADDING the kind of grungy, gritty sound that Bernie is famous for to a recording with those problems already? It was a match made in hell. Back in the day when I was selling lots of Classic Heavy Vinyl (the horror, the horror) that was one of the titles I refused to have anything to do with.

See more of our Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young albums in stock

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Dean Martin - Dream With Dean

Skip the Mono

  (Item #: martidream_mono) 

Sonic Grade: F

A great sounding record in stereo, potentially anyway, but in mono the bad sound puts it firmly in our Hall of Shame.

Stick with stereo; the monos aren't worth anybody's time (scratch that: any audiophile's time). In mono Deano sounds hard and honky, in stereo rich and warm. In our experience this is not unusual, which is why so few mono records make it to our site.

See more of our Popular Vocal 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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Jackson Browne - Jackson Browne

What to Listen For

  (Item #: brownjacks_wtlf) 

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Jackson Browne's first (and best) album.

The real trick with this album is in striking the right balance between richness and presence. A White Hot Stamper from years back made me change my mind about this recording. I used to think it was dull, but I was WRONG. I used to think that even the best copies of this recording sounded rolled off on the top end. I no longer believe that to be true. On the best pressings the top end is correct for this music.

See all of our Jackson Browne albums in stock

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The Beatles - Please Please Me

MoFi Reviewed

  (Item #: beatlpleas_mofi) 

Sonic Grade: C

Another Half Speed reviewed.

By the way, if you own the MoFi LP, do yourself a favor and buy one of our Hot Stamper pressings. (Actually any good British import pressing will do.) What's the first thing you will notice other than correct tonality, better bass and a lot more "life" overall?

No spit! As we've commented elsewhere, because of the wacky cutting system they used, MoFis are full of sibilance.

See all of our Beatles albums in stock

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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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Airto - Fingers

Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

  (Item #: airtofinge_wtlf) 

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

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you won't hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing it's as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these.

See all of our Airto albums in stock

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