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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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Led Zeppelin III

Proof that Jimmy Page Was a Brilliant Producer

  (Item #: ledze3_page) 

The startling resolution and transparency found on the best copies of Zep III let you hear every element in the huge soundfield that Jimmy Page designed for his recordings. They allow you to appreciate every carefully placed instrument and the remarkable sonic detail to be discovered as each track unfolds.

The size, space, energy and clarity of the hottest Hot Stamper copies are surely what make possible a more profound appreciation of the singular effort that went into these recordings. Along with the kind of Master Tape Sound found on the best pressings comes a deeper appreciation of the remarkable skills of one of rock's true production geniuses, Jimmy Page.

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Frank Sinatra - Sings Days of Wine and Roses & more

Judging Books and Covers

  (Item #: sinatdayso_2016) 

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.

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Judy Collins - Wildflowers

Hits That Are Made from Dub Tapes

  (Item #: colliwildf_dubby_hits) 

Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings.

Both Sides Now, the Top Ten hit that finally put Judy on the map, is clearly made from a dub tape and doesn't sound as good as the songs that follow it on side two. Hey, it happens. Maybe it sounds right on the Greatest Hits? You could try one. We have trouble selling greatest hits albums so you'll have to do your own digging on that one.

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Why Didn't Those @!#&/?% Record Companies Produce More Hot Stampers?

  (Item #: santasanta_press) 

A while back we received a letter from a good customer of ours lamenting how rare Hot Stamper pressings are.

Why were so many copies produced without HOT STAMPER sound when it was obviously possible is beyond me and quite frankly upsets me. But that is the way it is.

Our answer can be found below.

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Thelonious Monk - Big Band and Quartet

The Glorious Sound of Tubes - 1963 Tubes, That Is

  (Item #: monk_bigba_tubes) 

Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings.

On this record, more than most, the tubes potentially make all the difference.

Keep in mind that we are referring specifically to 1963 tubes, not the stuff that engineers are using today to make "tube-mastered" records. Today's modern records barely hint at the Tubey Magical sound of a record like this, if our experience with hundreds of them is any guide. We, unlike so many of the audiophile reviewers of today, have a very hard time taking any of the new pressings seriously. We think our position is pretty clear, and we have yet to hear more than a stray record or two that would make us want to change our minds.

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Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four

Congestion? What Congestion?

  (Item #: stevecatch_progress) 

The story of our latest shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about. Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best -- we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these.

Speaking of congestion, it had previously been our experience that every copy of the record had at least some congestion in the loudest parts, typically the later parts of songs where Cat is singing at the top of his lungs, the acoustic guitars are strumming like crazy, and big drums are pounding away are jumping out of both speakers.

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Chicago and The Hottest Stampers

Are You a Thrillseeker Too?

  (Item #: chicachica7_thrill) 

When it comes to sound, I'm a Thrillseeker. I want to hear it LOUDER and BETTER, with more ENERGY and EXCITEMENT, and the reason I spent so many hundreds, even thousands, of hours working on my stereo is that that kind of sound doesn't happen by accident. You have to work your ass off to get it. And spend a lot of money. And dig through a lot of dusty record bins buying LPs until you find one that sounds the way you want it to.

I don't play records to drink wine and smoke cigars. I play records to ROCK. Whether the music is rock, jazz or classical, I want to feel the power of the music just as you would feel it at the live event. To me that means big speakers and loud levels. We played Chicago VII as loud as we could...

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Chicago - Chicago II

360 Original or Red Label Reissue

  (Item #: chicachica2_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.

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