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Random Thoughts

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Thoughts and observations on issues that relate to recordings, LP pressings, and practically anything to do with playing records. If you want to collect better sounding records and hear them on better sounding equipment, many of the commentaries contained herein should be of interest.



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Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: mahavbirds_rocks_harder) 

What do you hear on the best Hot Stampers of Birds of Fire?

They just plain ROCK HARDER than the other copies we played.

But what really sets them apart is the tremendous ENERGY they contain in their grooves. The music EXPLODES out of the speakers and comes to life on the best copies of Birds of Fire like nothing you have ever heard.

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Frank Sinatra - Sings Days of Wine and Roses & more

Judging Books and Covers

  (Item #: sinatdayso_fame) 

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Presented with the less-than-captivating cover and title of Days of Wine and Roses, we were put off by our first impression; that of a budget thrown-together compilation, brought even lower by the fairly generic shot of Old Blue Eyes on the cover. We didn't think an album that looked like this could possibly contain the swinging (or deeply emotional, both are fine with us) Sinatra music we've grown to love from his best Capitol- and Reprise-era releases.

More Frank Sinatra

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The Seventies

We Didn't Know How Good We Had It

  (Item #: matthsteal_70s_2016) 

Produced in 1979, the best copies of Stealin' Home are rich, smooth and sweet in the best tradition of the ANALOG record.

It would only be a few years until this sound was out of style, replaced by the edgy, hard, digital sound preferred by synthpop bands like Tears for Fears and Simple Minds. This would turn out to be a bad time for audiophiles (like me) who liked the pop music of the day but not the pop sound of the day. Heavy-handed processing as well as the overuse of synthesizers and drum effects, with the whole of the production slathered in digital reverb, have resulted in most of the albums from the early to mid-'80s being all but impossible to enjoy on a modern high-end system. Believe me, we've tried.

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Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth

Who Masters Better Than The Master?

  (Item #: nelsoblues_rvg) 

Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts concerning the sound of old records.

For those of you who are still holding on to the idea that the original pressings are better, our Hot Stamper LPs may come as quite a surprise. Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn't he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what needs fixing and what needs to be left alone?

See all of our Oliver Nelson albums in stock

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Gino Vannelli - Storm At Sunup

and The Amazing ARC SP3A-1

  (Item #: vannestorm_stereo) 

Storm at Sunup used to be my favorite Gino Vannelli album. I played it all the time back in the ’70s. It was one of a handful of recordings that made me want to pursue audiophile equipment in the hopes that higher quality playback would allow it to sound even bigger and more exciting. It was pretty damn big and exciting already, but I wanted more.

Right around that time I got my first audiophile tube preamp, the Audio Research SP3A-1, which replaced a Crown IC-150. As you can no doubt imagine, especially if you know the IC-150 at all well, playing this album through that state-of-the-art tube preamp was a revelation. From then on there was no looking back. I started spending all my money on better and better equipment and more and more records. That was forty plus years ago and I haven't stopped yet.

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Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

  (Item #: mussopictu_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 recreate the full weight 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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Gino Vannelli - Powerful People

The Most You Can Hope For

  (Item #: vannepower_summation) 

Like most of the better audiophile records -- from long ago as well as those being produced today -- the most you can hope for from these reissues is that they can fix a few problems you might be saddled with on the particular pressing you own.

But if you work at it, the "right" plain old record, properly cleaned and played, will show you sound that the audiophile edition can barely begin to reproduce. Having auditioned by the thousands the kinds of records you see on the site, the reality of this truth is irrefutable to us now, and has been for a very long time. Our customers know exactly what we are talking about; they've heard it for themselves. That's why they keep coming back.

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Chicago - Chicago II

360 Original or Red Label Reissue

  (Item #: chicachicaII_360_vs_red) 

Both can be good. I did the shootout (TP) and often tried to guess the label for the copy I was hearing, for fun more than anything else. I have to admit that my batting average was not much better than chance.

The 360s tend to be a little fuller and smearier, but plenty of red label copies sound that way and some 360s don't, so trying to match the sound to the label was even more pointless than usual.

When comparing pressings in a shootout it's too late for the label to have any predictive value. We've already bought the records, cleaned them all up and now just want to know what they actually sound like -- not which ones might be the best, but which ones are the best.

See all of our Chicago albums in stock

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