The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
- Unsurprisingly big, lively, open, rich and present - the producing/engineering team of Ted Templeman and Donn Landee deliver the goods once again
- The band puts its hard-rocking spin on a number of inspired choices for covers, including "(Oh) Pretty Woman," "Dancing in the Street," and Where Have All The Good Times Gone!"
- "...this is undoubtedly the work of a finely honed band who has only grown tighter and heavier since their debut... it's one of Van Halen's best records, one that's just pure joy to hear. Like the debut, it's a great showcase for all the group's strengths..."
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Most copies in our experience just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom and lower mids that this music needs to work. Put simply, if your Van Halen LP doesn't rock, then what exactly is the point of playing it?
Richness is also key -- every instrument should be full-bodied and solid, never thin and squawky. The copies with the most resolving power are easy to spot -- they display plenty of lovely analog reverb trailing the guitars and vocals.
This vintage Warner Bros pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of Diver Down Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes as late as in 1982
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The other qualities to look for on the best pressings are, firstly, space -- the best pressings are huge and three-dimensional, with large, lively, exceptionally dynamic choruses.
And lastly (although we could go on for days with this kind of stuff), listen for spit on the vocals. Even the best copies have some sibilance, but the bad copies have much too much and make the sibilance sound gritty to boot.
Donn Landee and Ted Templeman
Credit Donn Landee (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He's recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.
Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George's wonderful Thanks I'll Eat It Here; Little Feat's Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon's Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart's mindblowing Clear Spot.
What We're Listening For on Diver Down
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
- Where Have All The Good Times Gone!
- Hang 'Em High
- (Oh) Pretty Woman
- Dancing In The Street
- Little Guitars (Intro)
- Little Guitars
- Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)
- The Full Bug
- Happy Trails
1982's Diver Down is indeed much lighter than its predecessor. In many ways, it's a return to the early albums, heavy on covers and party anthems, but where those records were rough and exuberant -- they felt like the work of the world's best bar band just made good, which is, of course, kind of what they were -- this is undoubtedly the work of a finely honed band who has only grown tighter and heavier since their debut.
...it's one of Van Halen's best records, one that's just pure joy to hear. Like the debut, it's a great showcase for all the group's strengths, from Eddie Van Halen's always thrilling guitar to the bedrock foundation of Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony's throbbing pulse to, of course, David Lee Roth's strut
Each member gets places to shine and, in a way, covers showcase their skills in a way none of the originals does, since they get to twist "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Dancing in the Street," and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" inside out, all the better to make them their own. But this isn't complacent; Van Halen is stretching out in different ways, funneling the menace of Fair Warning into the ominous instrumental "Intruder," playing with the whiplash fury of a punk band on "Hang 'Em High," and honing their pop skills on the bright, new wavey rock of "Little Guitars" and the sweet "Secrets," which displays the lightest touch they've ever had on record.
Combine that with the full-throttle attack on the covers, along with Dave's vaudevillian song and dance on "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" -- a shtick that's electrified on the equally fun "The Full Bug" -- and the result is a record that's nothing but fun, the polar opposite of its predecessor.