Which Is the "Better" Record? Question Unanswerable

As you can see by the results there is no clear answer to the question "which is the "better" record?" The results are really too close to call.

The comments confirm what I've long thought: analogplanet readers are the most thoughtful and dedicated readers of any of the TEN sites. The number of comments posted here generally exceed those on the other sites but more importantly, the comments tend to me more thoughtful and well thought out. Fewer snarky ones too.

"Flie 1" is the "Better Records" original pressing and "File 2" is the Analog Productions reissue. I purposely used the Transfiguration Proteus, which has an 'exuberant' and wide open top end rather than one of the cartridges better known for a "burnished" top end, including the Miyajima Labs Madake a really extraordinary one that uses a bamboo cantilever that I just reviewed for Stereophile.

I chose that one because I think that whichever one you preferred it's clear at the AP reissue is not "bright" or "hard" or any of the pejoratives applied to many reissues.

That is why the vote was so close. Both of these records have their strengths and weaknesses. The original has a lush, well-textured "melt in your ears" presentation the reissue lacks but the reissue paints a far more transparent picture with obviously cleaner transients all drawn against a far blacker background.

There's no contest in terms macro dynamics: the reissue is far more dynamic. The original was probably limited to be playable on the turntables and cartridges of that time. The reissue producer and mastering engineer were under no such restraints and it can be heard. Arguably the original has more finely drawn micro dynamics—the small dynamic shifts that give recorded music the 'breath of life'.

There's no doubt that a modern cutting system like the Neumann used for the reissue produces far less distortion than what RCA used for the original, though to this day some prefer the Westrex.

However, what is simply not in doubt is that the Analog Productions reissue was cut using the original master tape. Few if any original shaded dogs, especially 3 track originals, were cut from the master tapes. All were cut from mix downs, or second generation mix downs.

That in part accounts for why the reissue sounds "more in your face" and the original pressing somewhat more distant and ethereal, which is a quality many admire.

When I did the comparison I played the original first and it does have a magical quality. When I played the reissue I didn't hear it as "in your face" or "hard". It definitely didn't have the original's lushness or delicacy but I think some of that was due to generation loss not because it was so recorded. Sometimes these things work out well to produce something that sounds more "real" than does the actual recording!

Overall while I enjoyed both versions I preferred the reissue, which I felt was far better focused, more dynamic, lower in distortion and more transparent as I define the word. The original sounded the way a photo looks with vaseline on the lens. But of course everyone is entitled their own opinion and every opinion is equally valid.

As you can see the votes were essentially evenly divided producing a toss-up. Interestingly the early voting way favored the Analog Productions reissue. As time passed the reissue almost caught up. I think it's a testament to the reissue's quality that the results were so close considering that the reissue is considered one of the "Living Stereo" greats.

Thanks to all who participated.

Todd - Better Records's picture

Hi Everyone, Todd from Better Records here. We wanted to thank Michael for the posts and for putting up this test, and also thank everyone who played the files and commented. We enjoyed reading all the responses and appreciate the consideration. If you ever want to run your own "Hot Stamper test", you know where to find us!

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I have an even 'better' idea, why doesn't someone open up a 'Better Records Better Price shop'! With all the obvious knowledge readers of this website have, it would be no problem!

James, Dublin, Ireland

ViciAudio's picture

... the true Hot Stamper of this particular LP (for me and 51% of listeners) is very easy to find new and sealed online, and with all sides playable, from several stores carrying Analogue Productions LP's. And that's a great thing for all of us music lovers who want the best sounding records. I suppose that anyone who prefers the original pressing can also find one without much trouble... I'd say, get both! :D

Dpoggenburg's picture

I really enjoyed 1) that you wanted to conduct some research on Mr. Port's Better Records, and 2) your even-handedness. I've purchased a few titles from the site, and while I find some of the pricing laughably audacious, value (like beauty) is in the eyes of the beholder. However, anecdotally, I come away with the sense that Mr. Port CONSISTENTLY favors the used LPs he sells compared to re-issues. The weakness in his analysis is that in those instances, he generally summarily dismisses the reissues. But if "hot stampers" actually exist, I don't see how he can categorically dismiss reissues without sampling a wide variety of them. It would seem a "hot stamper" with "tubey" "master tape" sound could exist on a reissue also, but I'm not aware of him making that kind of discovery. Draw your own conclusions as to where the economic incentive and conflicts of interest might lay in his recommendations (and pricing!)

AnalogJ's picture

I knew that the first one was an original. It's more open and airier, but lacks as much depth and macro-dynamics. When the second one musically swells, it really swells outward and you feel the lower soundswaves swell outward. In the same passage, the first one just never opens up outwardly with spatial volume the way the second one does. The orchestral layers are also more specific with the second one. In spite of that, I certainly enjoy the top end openness and air of the first one and wish the second one had a bit of that. Musically speaking, however, the second one gets more of the intention of the music across.

my new username's picture

On noise alone it's unsurprising to learn file 1 was the old disk, not because old disks "must" be noisy but we all surely hope new disks ... aren't.

But I still say that the old disk sounds more dynamic. This is especially so, since I normalized both files and yet File 1 seemed to reach crescendo more. What was interesting is that each seemed to possess details the other sometimes lacked, so I'm good with assuming they simply share a different response characteristic that presents itself at various points along the sample.

Overall, I'm pretty sure I responded more to what AnalogJ describes as file 1's openness and air (also, these ears thought they heard more separation) -- and if I'd listened more on a more resolving system likely would have preferred #2 more clearly.

AnalogJ's picture

I think Michael and I are both referring to the reissues superior macro-dynamics, the ability to expand on the bigger fortes. Listen again on the orchestral tutti when the lower strings lean into a passage and sound gets bigger and expands outward in the reissue. On the original, the orchestra lacks the weight and never really expands outward.

BillHart's picture

pressing comparisons- not limited to this example- is differences in loudness, assuming that the louder sounding record usually has an 'edge.' Compensating for this can be tricky, since a db measurement taken at particular places in two (or more) copies may not reflect how loud the record is cut throughout (or so it seems to me).
I like good remasters for quiet surfaces and price. But, I tend to favor the 'right' early pressing as well, which usually means multiple copies. In some cases, you have little choice, e.g. a record that hasn't been redone or has been remastered from a questionable source.
The records I have the most copies of tend to be ones which weren't great recordings to begin with, but have music I care about.
I do find it interesting that the 'originals' in this case were mastered from tape copies.

elliotdrum's picture

I did purchase the AP vinyl and I did like it but, I found it to be a little bright. The SACD which I can remember cost me $11.99
at Tower years ago is smoother and still very very dynamic.
My cd player is a Modwright modded tube Sony XA5400ES.
My TT is a VPI Classic 1 w/ Shelter 501mk2 cart.
Sorry vinyl fans but there are great sounding vinyl records
and great sounding cds. I just won't get hung up in formats
whatever sounds great is all I care about.

PeterPani's picture

I wonder whether AP uses a tubed chain in remastering and cutting. Similar to the Beatles reissue. As great as these reissues sound. A tubed record sounds always more human. Going for "feeling" and listened to the records several times you will always take the original LP, if that one was cut with a tubed chain.

doddsainoz's picture

Personally I liked file #1, so obviously the original it had more detail more air around the instruments seemed so much more realistic, but I dare not say I thought file #2 was without merit perhaps a more modern presentation would be more than fair. We have to think about what they knew about microphone placement that we seem think we are now to clever for. Thank you again Analogue Planet for providing an insight into recorded music and a wonderfull forum to participate in. Mr Fremmer I really hope you enjoy your visit down here to oz.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I think that it proves the point when the scores are this close that the one that each of us prefers is probably a better match to the systems that we listen to each of the tracks on. That has always been my contention on this reissue wagon we are so firmly on at $30 and up for a new release. The nuances that may be revealed on your system may be masked or not so apparent on mine. It doesn't mean that one should not be a customer, but I am learning to live and enjoy copies of works I now own even if it is not the latest and greatest. Thinks that our host hears on his system will be totally lost on any of the gear I own. This is all still great fun and a great exercise for audiophiles to participate in.

I am still really enjoying the Alan Rouse engineered Beatles stereo remasters from 2008? even though I know that the new vinyl ones are excellent.I am very happy with the 9 I own.Too much other new music to buy.

mem916's picture

Sorry if this has been answered before but how close are you getting with your transcriptions to the sound of the record?

If you play back the record and the 24/96 file (or 24/192) back to back with levels matched can you tell the difference? How close is it if you hear a difference, roughly?


thomoz's picture

I own a70s Red Seal repress of this title and the SACD. I never ever play that SACD. I'll have to compare Michael's rips to my Red Seal lp!

mem916's picture

Admittedly I might be a little biased but even after swapping the channels of your recordings mine sounds better to me. :)


eddieB's picture

Any thoughts on the Chesky reissue (from the '90s, I think)? IMO the Chesky Living Stereo reissues are closest to the originals in terms of "atmosphere" (which characteristic is what I think distinguishes the Living Stereo's in general from the Merc Living Presence "in your face" recordings). BTW though an opera singer (and 20-year member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus), my favorite piece, and the one that probably steered me toward classical, is Scheherazade. My dad, an ardent Depression-era blue-collar socialist, would only play the Russian warhorses. When I was probably two years old (would've been 1950-51), in an attempt to become a Living Mono recording no doubt, I attempted to take a spin on the turntable and broke the machine. I don't recall having another hi-fi in the house until I was about 10, but Rimsky-Korsakov's strong, very Russian opening chords, a love for the classics, (as well as a red mark on my behind) stayed with me.

Michael Fremer's picture
Those were produced by Tim DeParavicini, which is good but they were pressed by Europadisc at a time when vinyl was difficult to properly produce. I have those and they are mostly noisy. I think they sound warmer, softer and more distant than even originals. Very romantic sound that many really like. These are all just opinions after all.
Audiobill's picture

In the following article

http://www.analogplanet.com/content/scheherazade-living-stereo- reissue-sounds-best-analogue-productions-goes-dogs

you said, "As for the sound, well I get into arguments all to (sic) often with people who insist originals are always better. If after comparing this reissue to the original they still think so, they are hopelessly prejudiced. This reissue easily beats the original I have in every category.p> Of course the original can't begin to approach the 200g QRP pressing quality, especially in terms of velvet-black backgrounds and perfect surfaces. The reissue is far more dynamic, the low frequency extension complete, and most importantly the instrumental textures and tonalities are rich, full and spectacularly transparent. All of the delicacy, three-dimensionality and transparency promised but only partly delivered by the original is fully communicated on this Analogue Productions reissue."

Has your opinion changed, or were you just trying to validate your opinion?

I happen to agree with you. I also believe that the only reason the results ended in a virtual tie was because the votes for the original pressing picked up after the identities of the files were revealed in several posts. The fanatics (or friends of Better Records) jumped on the bandwagon once they were sure which file was which.

Audiobill's picture

In this same article


you said, "Both will be separately reviewed [referring to LSC-2201 & LSC-2463]. All twenty five will be, in fact."

I don't find any of those promised reviews on this site. I believe eleven Living Stereo re-masterings have now been released by Analogue Productions. Some are now also available as hybrid 3-channel SACD's sourced from the original analog tape recordings before they were mixed down to 2-channel.

Toolzoon's picture

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makerimmature's picture

While it's true that Tim DeParavicini produced those, Europadisc pressed them during a period when vinyl super mario bros production was challenging.