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Commentary Overview

Audio Commentary  >  Start Here  >  Commentary Overview

We discuss practically anything that concerns recordings or their reproduction here for those who  want to collect better sounding records and hear them at their best.

For further reading, be sure to check out our On The Record blog.

 

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The Byrds - Fifth Dimension

The Red Labels Can Rock

(More Accurately, Some of Them Can)

  (Item #: byrdsfifth_2014) 
by Columbia Records



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

There was not another Red Label that could hold a candle to this copy in our recent shootout, and no 360 label copy could either. It's the exception that proves the rule.

Does it have 100% of the Tubey Magic of the best 360 Label copies? Maybe not, but it has quite a healthy dose, and it does so many things so much better than any of the tube-mastered originals we played that it was simply no contest. There was nothing that communicated the music remotely as well as this Red Label copy did.

More of The Byrds


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Turntable Set Up Advice Using Joni's Court and Spark Album

  (Item #: mitchcourt_setup) 
by Asylum Records



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

There are loud vocal choruses on many tracks, and more often than not at their loudest they sound like they are either breaking up or threatening to do so. I always assumed it was compressor or board overload, which is easily heard on Down to You. On the best copies there is no breakup -- the voices get loud and they sound clean throughout.

More Joni Mitchell


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Led Zeppelin - IV

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: ledze4_depth) 
by Atlantic LP



Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

We always have a great time doing Zep IV shootouts. It's one of those all-too-rare cases where amazing music and amazing sonics coexist on the same slab of vinyl. You just need to find the right slab, a proposition that turns out to be much harder than it sounds.

You probably know by now just how tough it is to find audiophile quality sonics on this album. Far too many copies just leave us cold, but the best pressings, whether British or domestic, are so good, and so much fun at the loud volumes we employ, that it ends up being worth all the time, trouble and expense it takes to wade through the vinyl dreck to find them.

More Led Zeppelin


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Henry Mancini - Our Man In Hollywood

Making More Progress in Audio

  (Item #: manciourma_vta) 
by RCA LP



The story of our recent shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

In our previous listings we noted:

This is one of those odd records in which the variation in sound quality from track to track is dramatic. Take the first two tracks on side one -- they suck. They sound like your average LSP Mancini album, the kind I have suffered through far too many times. And that means bad bad bad.

See all of our Henry Mancini albums in stock


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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.

See all of our Santana albums in stock


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Richard & Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights

A Four Men with Beards Heavy Vinyl Winner

  (Item #: thompshoot_heavy_vinyl) 
by Fantasy LP



Sonic Grade: B

Hey, this is a surprisingly good sounding pressing! Our Hot Stampers are clearly bigger and more lively, but for a Heavy Vinyl reissue this pressing is quite respectable.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

More Richard Thompson


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Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four

Congestion? What Congestion?

  (Item #: stevecatch_progress) 
by A&M LP



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.

More Catch Bull at Four


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1960

A Great Year for Top Quality Recordings of Timeless Music

  (Item #: 1960) 



When you look closely at all the great records that were released that year -- some of which can even be purchased in Hot Stamper form on this very site -- you may come to agree with us that 1960 was a wonderful year for music.

Click HERE to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1960.

And HERE to see the records from 1960 that we've reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, more than 80 at the time of this writing.


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1959

A Great Year for Top Quality Recordings of Timeless Music

  (Item #: 1959) 



When you look closely at all the great records that were released that year -- some of which can even be purchased as Hot Stampers on this very site -- you may come to agree with us that 1959 was a wonderful year for music.

Click HERE to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1959.

And HERE to see the records from 1959 that we've reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, over 100 in fact.


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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...

More Chicago


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Chicago - Chicago II

360 Original or Red Label Reissue

  (Item #: chicachica2_360_vs_red) 
by Columbia Records



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.

More Chicago


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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu

Listening in Depth

  (Item #: crosbdejav_listen) 
by Atlantic LP



DEJA VU is an album we admit to being obsessed with -- just look at the number of commentaries we've written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands -- maybe a bit too much time on your hands -- please feel free to check out our commentaries.

This link will take you to all of our other Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young albums.


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Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

What to Listen For

  (Item #: dylanblood_wtlf_1) 
by Columbia Records



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Many copies have no bass, while other copies are bright, a combination which ruins the sound of the acoustic guitars that dominate the album. On the better Hot Stamper pressings the bass will be deep and well-defined and the tonal balance will be correct.

The copies that fared the best in our shootouts were rich, warm, tubey and full-bodied -- in other words, analog sounding.

More Bob Dylan


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Janis Joplin - I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

What to Listen For

  (Item #: jopliigotd_wtlf) 
by Columbia Records



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

ENERGY is the key element missing from the average copy, but not on this bad boy (or girl if you prefer). The electric guitars are super Tubey Magical and the bass is solid and punchy.

On many copies -- too many copies -- the vocals are pinched and edgy. Here they're breathy and full -- a much better way for Janis to sound. There's a slight amount of grit to the vocals at times and the brass as well, but the life force on these sides is so strong that we much preferred it to the smoother, duller, deader copies we heard that didn't have that issue.

See all of our Janis Joplin albums in stock


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Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

None Rocks Harder

  (Item #: ledze2_loud) 
by Atlantic LP


It's official: we're inaugurating a Top Ten Best Sounding Rock / Pop Album List, and the first member to be inducted is none other than our old favorite, Led Zeppelin II.

It's also yet another in a very long line of records that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. We're convinced Zep II has to be the hardest rocking album of all time. The best copies -- often with the same stampers as the not-as-good copies by the way -- have a LIFE and a POWER to them that simply cannot be found on other records.

More Led Zeppelin


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Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic

An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

  (Item #: steelpretz_obsess) 
by ABC LP



PRETZEL LOGIC is an album we admit to being obsessed with -- just look at the number of commentaries we've written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands -- maybe too much time on your hands -- please feel free to check out our commentaries.

This link will take you to all of our other STEELY DAN albums.


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Today's Frequently Asked Question

Are Hot Stamper pressings quiet?

  (Item #: faq_1) 



They're as quiet as vintage pressings ever are. Some surface noise is always going to be audible on an LP. We believe we sell the quietest vintage records in the world, but they are certainly not silent. We've lately been adding this to many listings to help clarify our position on surface noise:

Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any original pressing will play, and since only the right originals have any hope of sounding amazing 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.)

More Straight Answers to Your "Hot Stamper" Questions


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British Band Classics Vol. 2

The First Classical Record I Bought as an Audiophile

  (Item #: holstbriti_golden_import) 
by Mercury LP



British Band Classics Volume Two was the first Mercury classical LP I ever bought. After hearing it at an audiophile friend's house I went down to Tower Records and found one in the bin. I think the price was $3.99 for the Golden Import pressing, which of course was the only one available. That was what I had heard, so I had no idea that the original even existed, let alone sounded better and would one day sell for many hundreds of dollars. This was the '70s, when you could walk into a record store and buy new records, and long before HP created a feeding frenzy for vintage Mercs.
More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)


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Henry Mancini - Our Man In Hollywood

Making More Progress in Audio

  (Item #: manciourma_wtlf) 
by RCA LP



The story of our recent shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

In our previous listings we noted:

This is one of those odd records in which the variation in sound quality from track to track is dramatic. Take the first two tracks on side one -- they suck. They sound like your average LSP Mancini album, the kind I have suffered through far too many times. And that means bad bad bad.

See all of our Henry Mancini albums in stock


  more Info











Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

What to Listen For

  (Item #: londojulieis_clone) 
by Liberty LP



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is on Barney Kessel's guitar. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies can be dry, but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

More Julie London


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