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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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Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland

  (Item #: hendrelect_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

Sides three and four of this bad boy are OFF THE CHARTS, earning our top grade of A+++. Side three manages to combine superb transparency and presence with rich Tubey Magic and a strong, rockin' low end -- not an easy balance to strike! The guitars here, obviously one of the main draws on a Hendrix album, sound JUST RIGHT. Side four is every bit as good, with tons of rockin' energy and serious immediacy coupled with smooth, natural tonality -- again, most copies fail miserably at finding that balance. A+++, White Hot Stamper material all the way. Whew!

See all of our Jimi Hendrix albums in stock

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Linda Ronstadt - Don’t Cry Now

What to Listen For

  (Item #: ronstdontc_wtlf) 

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

Her vocals on both sides can be very DYNAMIC, but only the best copies will present them with no hint of STRAIN or GRAIN, two problems that make most pressings positively painful to listen to at the loud volumes we prefer.

Linda really belts it out on this album -- face it, it's what she does best -- and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing.

See all of our Linda Ronstadt albums in stock

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Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

Turn Up the Volume

  (Item #: blackblack_2015) 

Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

We played the album very loud, as loud as we could, and still we wanted more volume! That's what a good record is all about -- the louder you play it the better it sounds.

AUDIOPHILE-APPROVED HEAVY METAL THUNDER! If you like the raw, rockin’ sound of the early Zep albums, you should have a blast with this album. It's a shockingly good recording, and the music of course is as heavy as it gets for 1970.

See all of our Black Sabbath albums in stock

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Jackson Browne - The Pretender

A Hall of Fame Copy

  (Item #: brownprete_fame) 

Amazing Four Plus sound, so good we rated it beyond our usual top grade of Triple Plus. Without a doubt it's the best sounding Jackson Browne record ever made, and this copy backs up everything we say and more.

Side one was super transparent, with breathy, present vocals. What really blew us away on this one is the sheer size and openness of the soundfield. We were so impressed that we went beyond our usual top grade of A+++, something we rarely do. But when a copy like this comes along and sets a new standard for an album's sonic potential, there's nothing else we CAN do!

See all of our Jackson Browne albums in stock

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Crack The Sky - Animal Notes

What To Listen For

  (Item #: crackanima_wtlf) 

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

To my mind, speaking as both a fan and an audiophile, both the first two Crack the Sky albums succeed brilliantly on every level: production, originality, songwriting, technical virtuosity, musical consistency and, perhaps most importantly for those of you who have managed to make it this far, Top Quality Audiophile Sound.

See all of our Crack the Sky albums in stock

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AC/DC - Back In Black

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: acdc_backi_fame) 

If you love HUGE drums, meaty guitars, and monster riffs as much as we do, you’re going to freak out over the MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES. Moments after dropping the needle we heard a prominent low octave to the intro bells that we hadn’t noticed on other copies. We kept our fingers crossed and waited for the band to kick in, hoping for some serious bottom end power. And man oh man, it was there all right! I am pleased to report that the whomp factor on this copy was nothing short of MASSIVE.
See all our AC/DC albums in stock

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Muddy Waters - Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live

  (Item #: watermuddy_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

If you've got the system to play a record like this (hint: the bigger the better), you can have Muddy Waters perform live in your listening room -- eyes closed of course, you won't be able to see him, but you sure will be able to hear him, and in shockingly realistic sound.

His earlier records on Chess may be better; can't say, haven't found too many that were in playable condition. But they sure won't sound like this, or be pressed on quiet Blue Sky vinyl like this.

See all of our Muddy Waters albums in stock

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Grover Washington - Winelight

A Demo Disc for Bass (on the Right Copy)

  (Item #: washiwinel_bass) 

Another in our series of Demo Discs for Bass.

What's unusual about this album -- shocking really -- is how MEATY the bottom end is. I don't know of a pop jazz recording with beefier, more articulate or weightier bass. The only record I can think of in this genre of jazz with comparable bass is Mangione's Children of Sanchez. We played some copies of that album recently and were just knocked out with how well recorded the bass is, just the way we were knocked out by the best copies of Grover Washington's Winelight from a recent shootout. Both of these albums really set the standard for recording this kind of music.

See all of our Grover Washington albums in stock

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Paul Simon - Graceland

When Clarity Is King

  (Item #: simongrace_wtlf) 

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

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we know precisely what qualities the premier copy must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It has many other good qualities as well: It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals.

See all of our copies of Graceland in stock

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Fleetwood Mac - Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac

  (Item #: fleetpeter_fame) 

A distinguished member of our Unconventional Hall of Fame.

We won't be surprised if you don't have this one in your collection. Let's face it, who in his right mind would keep throwing good money after bad, buying up one bad sounding copy after another in the hopes that someday one of them would sound good?

We would! Why shouldn't we? We get paid good money to do that kind of dirty work, and beyond the money, we get the THRILL of being the first to play these wonderful records, full of the music we love. (Not too many Hot Stamper shootouts get done for bands and albums we don't like. Who could get motivated enough to sit through copy after copy of some Audiophile Bullshit LP?)

See all of our Fleetwood Mac albums in stock

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Gershwin / An American In Paris & Rhapsody In Blue / Bernstein

What To Listen For

  (Item #: gershrhaps_6091_wtlf) 

This original Six Eye LP has the smooth brass and full-bodied strings that let this music astound.

Smooth and solid, not brash or blary, what really impressed about the sound here was how full it was, yet it was never thick or murky. Instead it was transparent in the lower mids and below, and that sound was just glorious after listening to too many thin and brash pressings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and very percussive -- there is no tubey Old School smear to be heard, and that too was a surprise.

See all of our Gershwin albums in stock

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Tell Us More About "Hot Stampers"

Straight Answers to Your Questions

  (Item #: hot_stampers_faq) 

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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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers

Mistakes, Part Three

  (Item #: mistakes_part_3) 

"The essence of success is that it is never necessary to think of a new idea oneself. It is far better to wait until somebody else does it, and then to copy him in every detail, except his mistakes."
~Aubrey Menen

Indeed, if only that were practical. Our approach to Hot Stampers and How to Find Them is certainly a revolutionary new idea, and undoubtedly the only way of discovering records with superior sound quality.

But even if we were to publish all of our secrets, the stamper numbers and labels and countries of origin of all the best pressings we've ever played, every last one, that would still not be the answer, for the simple reason that no two records sound the same.

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Dopey Record Theories

  (Item #: mitchcourt_theory) 

In a recent listing for one of our Hot Stamper 2-packs we noted that side two of record one has Joni sounding thin, hard and veiled. If you look at the stampers you can see it's obviously cut by the same guy (no names please!), and we're pretty sure both sides were stamped out at the same time of day since it's impossible to do it any other way. What accounts for the amazing sound of one side and the mediocre sound of its reverse?

If your theory can't account for these huge differences in sound, your theory must be seen for what it is: hopelessly, fundamentally flawed.

See all of our Joni Mitchell albums in stock

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Bill Evans - Moonbeams

OJC versus Riverside

  (Item #: evansmoonb_wtlf) 

The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

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

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding -- I can't recall ever hearing a good one -- so we are not the least bit worried that this OJC won't beat the pants off of the original, any other reissue you may have, and even the new Analogue Productions 45.

See all of our Bill Evans albums in stock

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Buckingham Nicks - Buckingham Nicks

Watch Out for Too Fat and Too Rich

  (Item #: buckibucki_wtlf) 

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

The biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well. You want to be able to hear PAST her all the way back to him and hear exactly what he's doing. Most copies don't let you do that.

See all of our Buckingham-Nicks and Fleetwood Mac albums in stock

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Testing New Paradigms and Old

  (Item #: paradigms) 

It is our strongly held belief that if your equipment (regardless of cost) or your critical listening skills do not allow you to hear the kinds of sonic differences among pressings we describe, then whether you are just getting started in audio or are a self-identified audio expert writing for the most prestigious magazines and websites, you still have a very long way to go in this hobby.

Purveyors of the old paradigms -- original is better, money buys good sound -- may eventually find their approach to records and equipment unsatisfactory (when it isn't just plain wrong), but they will only do so if they start to rely more on empirical findings and less on convenient theories and received wisdom.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock copies of Rubber Soul

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Rossini / Overtures / Maag / PCO

  (Item #: rossiovert_fame) 

The London and Decca original pressings are the best, right?

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

This Stereo Treasury pressing of Maag's 1958 recording is shockingly good in many ways. It sure doesn't sound like a budget reissue. If anything it sounds more original than the originals we played against it!

See more of Rossini's music

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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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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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