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<br>The Moody Blues<p>Commentary and Overview</p>




The Moody Blues

Commentary and Overview


A public service brought to you by Better Records.

Moody Blues records have a tendency to sound murky and muddy; that’s obviously the sound they were going for because you hear it on every album they released (at least you hear it on the ones they released in the '60s and '70s; we've never bothered to play their later albums).

Compound their "sound" with bad mastering, bad pressing or bad vinyl -- not to mention vinyl that hasn’t been cleaned properly -- and you may find yourself wading through an impassable sonic swamp. With anything but a Hot Stamper the result is going to be sound so fat, thick, and opaque that it will confound any attempt you might make to hear into it.


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Only with the best of the best Hot Stamper pressings can you begin to understand what this band achieved in the studio. The truly stellar pressings of their albums have the power to show you MOODY BLUES MAGIC that others only hint at. Oh, it's there all right, and every bit as glorious as you'd hoped.

The Revolutionary Changes in Audio of the last five or ten years we allude to constantly have worked wonders for the sound of the Moody Blues' albums. Stone Age Stereos will make their albums sound pretty much the way they always have -- bloated, murky, compressed and just plain boring. And those are the imports! The domestic copies, mastered from dubs, are smeary and full of transistory grain, a deadly combination. You'll notice we rarely bother to list a domestic Moody Blues record on the site. What would be the point? They almost never sound good.

Three Qualities to Listen For

Achieving just the right balance of Tubey Magical, rich but not too rich "Moody Blues Sound" and transparency is no mean feat. You had better be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need a pressing with actual extension at the top, a quality rarely found on most imports. Finally, good bass definition is essential; it keeps the bottom end from blurring the midrange. No domestic copy in our experience has ever had these three qualities, and only the best of the imports manages to combine all three on the same LP.

2007 -- The Moodies Come to Life

All the way back in 2007 we started to notice that many of the vintage Moody Blues import pressings we had stumbled upon lately were sounding a whole lot better than expected, based on our past experiences with the band's muddy-sounding albums. We noted as much in some of our shootouts from that year.

No Sacrifice Necessary -- You Can Have It All

All the clarity and resolution comes WITHOUT SACRIFICING the tubey-magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous. I'm not kidding -- this pressing presents this music in a way that no previous LP of it that we've ever played could. It's so correct from top to bottom, so present and alive, while still retaining all the richness and sweetness we expect from British Moody Blues records, that I find it hard to believe you can do any better, in this life anyway. This copy managed to take the Moodies' wonderful music to another level. It's the very definition of a Hot Stamper.

We heard huge improvements in Days of Future Passed as well, so many and so much that we had to reassess the Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl reissue we had raved about previously. It was clearly not in the league with the best imports we were playing anymore. We amended our listing as follows:

Speakers Corner did a good job, but there is evidence of modern mastering EVERYWHERE on their pressing, and for those of you who are not familiar with our approach here at Better Records, modern mastering is a bad thing, not a good one.


Hot Stamper Commentary from Days of Future Passed


Cutting Through the Moody Muck

Improvements in the stereo and room made quite a difference in the reproduction of Days of Future Passed as well. Little by little over the course of the last year things began to change. We came up with a number of much more sophisticated and advanced cleaning techniques (which we will talk about at a later date so stay tuned). The ruler-flat, super-clean and clear Dynavector 17d replaced the more forgiving, less accurate 20x. The EAR 324 we acquired at the beginning of 2007 was a BIG step up over the 834p in terms of resolution and freedom from distortion slash coloration. And the third pair of Hallographs had much the same effect, taking out the room distortions that compromise transparency and three-dimensionality. With the implementation of a number of other seemingly insignificant tweaks, each of which made a subtle but recognizable improvement, the cumulative effect of all of the above was now clearly making a difference. The combination of so many improvements was nothing less than dramatic. We saw the Moody Blues, not through a glass darkly, but clearly for the first time, and we loved what we were hearing.


Older Hot Stamper Commentary from A Question of Balance

Hard to say if we even still think this is true. We'll have to wait for the next shootout to see what the stereo has to show us on this title now.


This British original pressing has the tubey magic missing from the reissues and the domestic pressings. When you hear the acoustic guitars strumming on a song like Question, the strongest song on the album, you would think you had a pair of 1954 McIntosh MC-30 vintage tube amps hooked up to your speakers. (I know that sound well; I owned those amps and they are hard to beat for midrange magic.)

Of course the problem with these vintage Moody Blues records (and the problem with vintage McIntosh amps too) is that transparency and clarity are not their strong suits. In other words, there's a certain "murky" quality to the sound that some may find less than appealing.

However, this is the sound the Moody Blues wanted. (There's a long story behind that but I won't go into it now.) Trying to "fix it" can only result in one outcome -- a disaster. This is what modern recording engineers don't understand. Brightening up a record like this adds nothing to its sound. The richness and the sweetness are what's good about these recordings, and making them brighter causes them to lose a great deal in those two areas. (A judicious bit of boost in the extreme highs, one or two DB at 10 or 12K might have some benefit. The problem is that anyone messing with the sound is going to want to add some below that, in that dangerous 3 to 5K range, and that's the last thing in the world that should be done.)

You can EQ this all you want. It is what it is and nothing you are likely to do will make it any better.


Hot Stamper Commentary from In Search Of The Lost Chord

This early Deram British Import LP has the BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD for this album. It has higher resolution, is more dynamic, sweeter and clearer than any other copy we played, WITHOUT SACRIFICING the tubey-magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous. I'm not kidding -- this pressing presents this music in a way that no previous LP of it that I've ever played could. It's so correct from top to bottom, so present and alive, while still retaining all the richness and sweetness we expect from British Moody Blues records, that I find it hard to believe you can do any better, in this life anyway.


Domestic Moody Blues LPs

If you've ever done a shootout between domestic pressings of the Moody Blues and good import pressings, you know that the imports just kill the American LPs. Domestic pressings are cut from subgeneration tapes, tend to sound brighter and more transistory, and overall have half the magic the good imports have, which includes even very late Dutch pressings.


Mobile Fidelity Days of Future Passed Debunked

The Mobile Fidelity pressing has a boosted top end, making everything "sparkle" and causing the string tone for the orchestra to come across as exceedingly "hi-fi-ish".

For those of you who still think Mobile Fidelity is the king on this one, a Hot Stamper pressing will quickly disabuse you of that notiion. Only a Hot Stamper can show you what truly natural highs really sound like on DOFP. The Moodies used Decca's classical engineers, not their pop ones, and those guys know what actual acoustic instruments -- the kind they play in orchestras -- are supposed to sound like. The strings of the orchestra sound as sweet as they would on any top Golden Age Decca, the soundstage wide and deep as a real Decca-engineered symphonic recording.


Mobile Fidelity Anadisq Moody Blues LPs

The muddiest, tubbiest, most worthless records in the world.

Well...

Worthless to those of us who play records and want to hear them sound good. But, worth money to those who collect that sort of audiophile trash. Folks, seriously, you really would have to work at it to find worse sounding pressings of the Moody Blues albums than the ones MoFi did in the '90s.


Discography

(Titles in green have had Hot Stampers in the past.)

Go Now! (a.k.a. The Magnificent Moodies) (1965)

Days of Future Passed (1967)

In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)

On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)

To Our Children's Children's Children (1969)

A Question of Balance (1970)

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)

Seventh Sojourn (1972)

Caught Live + 5 (1977)

Octave (1978)

Long Distance Voyager (1981)

The Present (1983)

The Other Side Of Life (1986)

Prelude (1987)

Sur La Mer (1988)

Keys Of The Kingdom (1991)

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