801 Live ranks near the top of the list of my All Time Favorite Albums -- a Desert Island Disc if ever there was such a thing. I stumbled across it more thirty years ago and I've loved it ever since. (It started when a college buddy played me the wildly original Tomorrow Never Knows from the album and asked me to name the tune. Eno's take is so different from The Beatles version that I confess it took me an embarrassingly long while to catch on.)
So BIG, RICH and Tubey Magical you will have a hard time finding fault with the sound. Lots of space and top end too.
Top End Extension plays a crucial role in determining which copies truly soar above the others. The typically good-sounding imports have very little tape hiss. The Hot Stampers have clearly audible hiss that sounds just right. On some tracks, as soon as you drop the needle and hear the tape hiss sound right, you know you have a pretty darn good copy. The soundstage opens up, complete with huge amounts of depth, see-through transparency, and wall to wall sound floating free from the speakers.
If the bass is there, and it's not sloppy or congested, you, my friend, have what we call a Hot Stamper. All you have to do now is sit back and let the cinerama sound wrap itself around you. You are in for a treat!.
We rarely find copies of this album that play any quieter than Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus. There are quiet passages at the beginning of both sides that always seem to have noise behind the quiet music. When the band is rockin' surfaces aren't a problem.
Major Audiophile Pitfall Number One
Sometime in 2006 I noted on the site that I had finally figured out how to tell the good pressings from the not-so-good ones. I had been focussing on the wrong things in the shootouts I had done over the last few years, and in that I have the feeling I was not alone. This seems to be a fairly common Major Audiophile Pitfall that we all get stuck in on occasion.
In this case I was trying to find a more transparent copy, one with more shimmer to the cymbals and air around the instruments. The first track is a little opaque and I wanted to be able to hear into the music better. I had tried many import and domestic copies, but none of them seemed to have the qualities I was looking for. They all sounded different, but I could not for the life of me find one that clearly sounded right.
That was my mistake. This album isn't about clarity. It's about the POWER OF ROCK AND ROLL. It's about the sound of a live band in concert, a band with one of the most phenomenal rhythm sections ever captured on tape. The most phenomenal one I've ever heard, that's for sure.
T.N.K (Tomorrow Never Knows)
East of Asteroid
Baby's on Fire
You Really Got Me
Baby's on Fire
You Really Got Me
This album marks probably one of the last times that Eno rocked out in such an unself-consciously fun fashion, but that's not the only reason to buy it: 801 Live is a cohesive document of an unlikely crew who had fun and took chances. Listeners will never know what else they might have done if their schedules had been less crowded, but this album's a good reminder.
Doing the shootout I realized what separates the men from the boys on this LP: bass. The copies with the most powerful, deepest bass, the stuff under 50 cycles, most often get everything else right too. The bass is the foundation to the sound, and without it the guitars and voices don't sound right. They're just too thin. They need body, and body comes from bass.
The "bassy" copies are more dynamic too. They communicate the power of the music in a way that the leaner copies simply do not. With the leaner copies it's a good album. With the bassy copies YOU ARE THERE.
(Assuming you play this record at the levels necessary for the suspension of disbelief to take hold, i.e., LOUD. The Legacy Focus' speakers I currently use to audition records have three 12" woofers that really pump it out at the low end, at high levels, with no audible distortion. It's one of the reasons they're used in recording studios for monitors.)
I went down the wrong road because I got caught up in the details and missed the essence of the sound. Are you a detail freak? Is that where the music is -- in the details? For audiophiles that's Pitfall Number One. Brighter ain't necessarily better; most of the time it's just brighter, and, truth be told, worse. (Played an XRCD lately?)
An Amendment to the Comments Above
Of course there's more to the story than just good bass or dynamics, although for this album they are sine qua non as discussed above. Our Super Tweeters as well as new and improved room treatments, in concert with our three pairs of Hallographs, have made a huge difference in the area of top end extension.
So now I would like to amend my previous comments in order to say that Top End Extension plays a crucial role in determining which copies truly soar above the others. The typically good-sounding imports have very little tape hiss. The Hot Stampers have clearly audible hiss that sounds just right. On some tracks, as soon as you drop the needle and hear the tape hiss sound right, you know you have a pretty darn good copy. The soundstage opens up, complete with tons of depth, transparency, and wall to wall sound floating free from the speakers. If the bass is there, and it's not sloppy or congested, you, my friend, have what we call a Hot Stamper. All you have to do now is sit back and let the cinerama sound wrap itself around you. You are in for a treat!