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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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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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Gordon Lightfoot - If You Could Read My Mind

  (Item #: lightifyou_fame) 



A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

Exceptionally good sound -- the best we have yet to hear on a Lightfoot album. We were certainly surprised and quite pleased with the sound of the better copies, so watch for more of Gordon Lightfoot's music coming to the site as we work through his classic catalog from the '70s.

One of the top guys at Warners, LEE HERSCHBERG recorded (with Gary Brandt) and mixed the album, along with a number of others by Gordon Lightfoot.

See all of our Gordon Lightfoot albums 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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Spirit - Spirit

The Mono Rocks

  (Item #: spirispiri_mono_fame) 



A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame, not for the best Hot Stamper stereo copies, but for this amazing mono.

This killer pressing from 2010 has almost EVERYTHING you want from this '60s Psych Pop Masterpiece -- the energy, presence and sheer rock and roll POWER put every stereo copy we played to shame.

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on Fresh Garbage, the opening track of this amazing mono pressing, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you never imagined you'd ever hear them.

See all of our Spirit albums 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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Lincoln Mayorga - The Missing Linc

  (Item #: mayormissi_fame) 



A distinguished member of our Hall of Fame.

Super Hot, and definitely not your typical Sheffield pressing. Some of them are aggressive, many of them are dull and lack the spark of live music, some of them have wonky bass or are lacking in the lowest octave -- they are prey to every fault that befalls other pressings.

Which should not be too surprising. Records are records. Pressing variations exist for every album ever made. If you haven't noticed that yet, start playing multiple copies of the same album, while listening carefully and critically.

See all of our Lincoln Mayorga albums in stock


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Carly Simon - Hotcakes

What to Listen For

  (Item #: simonhotca_wtlf) 



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

Many copies of this album suffer from (at least) one of two problems: unnatural hi-fi sound or considerable grit and grain. Both are in large part due to the processing-intensive production of Richard Perry. On the best copies, it's easy to understand his choices as the sound is lovely; unfortunately, that rich, sweet sound he obviously got on to the master tape didn't quite make it to the average vinyl pressing of this album.

See all of our Carly Simon albums in stock


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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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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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Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

  (Item #: mousspictu_6177) 



The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like no other. It's also tonally correct. It's not agressive. It's not irritating. It's just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That's what really caught my ear when I first played Ansermet's recording.

See more of the music of Modest Moussorgsky 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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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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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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