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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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Son Seals - The Son Seals Blues Band

  (Item #: sealssonse_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

This 1973 debut album has the kind of Live-in-the-Studio sound that most Blues albums (and every other kind of album) strive for but practically never achieve. If you turn this one up good and loud, the Son Seals Band will be right there in the room with you. If there's any overdubbing on this record you sure can't hear it.

If you've been suffering with one bad sounding Stevie Ray Vaughan album after another -- is there any other kind? -- this record should come as a godsend. This album will show you just how dynamic and energetic recordings can be, but so rarely are. Not more than one or two out of 100 records we play in a given year are as exciting sounding as this very record.

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Hall and Oates - Abandoned Luncheonette

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: hallaaband_depth) 

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

If you have a copy or two laying around, there is a very good chance that side two will be noticeably thinner and brighter than side one. That has been our experience anyway, and we've been playing batches of this album for well over a decade. To find a copy with a rich side two is rare indeed.

See all of our Hall and Oates albums in stock

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Mobile Fidelity's Approach to Mastering

I Have a Theory

  (Item #: mofi_theory) 

This particular MoFi pressing -- the best of three copies we played -- is actually a pretty good sounding record, considering who mastered it. I have a theory about why MoFi's mastering approach here tended to work for the album when it failed so miserably for so many others. It goes a little something like this.

MoFi tended to add bass and treble to practically every record they mastered back in their early days, pretty much regardless of whether or not the master tape they were using needed any such boost. A little extra sparkle up top and a little extra slam down below was what the audiophile public seemed to prefer. I was one of those guys and I know I did.

See all of our Little Feat albums in stock

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Ten Years After - A Space In Time

Ranking the Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings

  (Item #: tenyeaspac_tubeymagic) 

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the '70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted. (Of course, as it turns out, recording technology only got worse as the decade wore on, and during the '80s the sound of most records went off a cliff.)

Big Production British Rock & Roll just doesn't get much better than A Space in Time.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Ten Years After's albums

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Linda Ronstadt - Heart Like A Wheel

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: ronstheart_depth) 

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

A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Heart Like a Wheel.

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The Association - Insight Out

  (Item #: associnsig_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

The sound of the sixties will fill your room like never before -- wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with layers upon layers of depth. You would be very hard pressed to find a pop rock recording from 1967 that sounds as good as a Hot Stamper Insight Out. (Sgt. Pepper comes to mind, but what else?) Can you imagine the Mamas and the Papas or The Jefferson Airplane with this kind of rich, sweet, open, textured, natural, tonally correct recording quality?

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Paul Simon - Graceland

What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

  (Item #: simongrace_180) 

Sonic Grade: F

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

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can't say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

See all of our copies of Graceland in stock

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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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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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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 do shootouts for 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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