King of the Mountain Vinyl Results!

fork

Well-Known Member
Aug 3, 2010
196
0
163
Bellevue, WA
#1
For our October meeting we asked our members to bring in the best sounding LP pressings in their collection (that were reasonably available and affordable). We matched up 16 LPs and did a bracket-style, head-to-head shootout. We started with eight pairs going head-to-head for 90 seconds each, then the eight winners went head-to-head for 120 seconds until we had four and so on, until the winner was crowned.

Members did not disappoint. There's great stuff here. We've even listed the pressing info, so you can look them up on Discogs and buy a copy.



Round 1 Entrants

Artist: Erroll Gardner
Album: Live at Monterey: Concert by the Sea
Year: 1956
Country: US
Catalog #: CL 883
Cost: $10

Artist: Beatles
Album: Sgt Pepper (yellow vinyl)
Year: 1967
Country: Netherlands
Catalog #: PCS 7027
Cost: $25

Artist: Bill Cunliffe Trio
Album: Live at Bernies (45rpm direct-to-disc)
Year: 2001
Country: US
Catalog #: GRV1009-1DD
Cost: $160

Artist: Count Basie
Album: The Newport Years VI
Year: 1973
Country: US
Catalog #: Verve v6-8831
Cost: $10

Artist: John Cougar
Album: American Fool
Year: 1982
Country: US
Catalog #: RVL 7501
Cost: $10

Artist: Moondoggies
Album: Audios, I’m a Ghost
Year: 2013
Country: US
Catalog #: NA
Cost: $12

Artist: Various
Album: KEZX
Year: 1986
Country: US
Catalog #: NA
Cost: $10

Artist: Enya
Album: Shepherd Moons
Year: 1991
Country: UK
Catalog #: WX431, 9031-75572-1
Cost: $30


Round 2 Entrants
Artist: Ray Lamontagne
Album: Gossip in the Grain
Year: 2008
Country: US
Catalog #: RCA 88697-32670-1
Cost: $25

Artist: Les Brown and his Band of Renown
Album: Goes Direct to Disc
Year: 1977
Country: US
Catalog #: GADD 1010
Cost: $25

Artist: Melody Gardot
Album: Worrisome Heart (45rpm)
Year: 2006
Country: US
Catalog #: NA
Cost: $20

Artist: Lyle Lovett
Album: Lyle Lovett and his Large Band
Year: 1989
Country: US
Catalog #: MCA-42263
Cost: $10


Round 3 Entrants

Artist: Art Pepper Quintet
Album: Smack Up
Year: NA
Country: US
Catalog #: S7602
Cost: $85

Artist: Paul Simon
Album: Graceland
Year: 2012 reissue
Country: US
Catalog #: 88691914721
Cost: $20


Runner UP
Artist: Holly Cole
Album: Romantically Helpless (45rpm)
Year: 2002
Country: Germany
Catalog #: NA
Cost: $75


Winner
Artist: Sphere
Album: Flight Path
Year: 1983
Country: US
Catalog #: NA
Cost: $20
 
Last edited:
Jul 1, 2010
8,677
3
0
#2
Not being a vinyl guy, I can't respond to pressings, but there are some really good recordings on that list. I'm surprised at Sgt. Pepper's placement there, though. Heavily multi-tracked and bounced in the pre-digital age, on four-track no less, they did well with what they had to work with, for sure, but it still is very...I'm not sure what the word is...but it's not clear and open and clean. There's a "grunge" that used to build up in the early days of multi tracking if you did a lot of layers. Sgt. Pepper has a lot of layers.

Great music, though. The guitar solo on Good Morning, Good Morning is worth the price of admission.

Tim
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
9,483
6
0
#3
Not being a vinyl guy, I can't respond to pressings, but there are some really good recordings on that list. I'm surprised at Sgt. Pepper's placement there, though. Heavily multi-tracked and bounced in the pre-digital age, on four-track no less, they did well with what they had to work with, for sure, but it still is very...I'm not sure what the word is...but it's not clear and open and clean. There's a "grunge" that used to build up in the early days of multi tracking if you did a lot of layers. Sgt. Pepper has a lot of layers.

Great music, though. The guitar solo on Good Morning, Good Morning is worth the price of admission.

Tim
My EMI Parlaphone LP copies of Sgt. Pepper are outstanding.
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,677
3
0
#4
My EMI Parlaphone LP copies of Sgt. Pepper are outstanding.
I'm sure they are outstanding examples of Sgt. Pepper. What I'm saying is that the masters for Sgt. Pepper are not outstanding. Not in my opinion. Really, given the way they were made, there are too many generations on some of those tracks for anyone to expect them to be outstanding by modern multi-track standards, or even by the standards of albums recorded 10 years earlier using much simpler methods that don't build up generations of degradation before they're ever even mixed to stereo. Don't get me wrong, I love the music. But I can't think of any way that the pressing process could raise it up to audiophile quality.

Tim
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
9,483
6
0
#5
I'm sure they are outstanding examples of Sgt. Pepper. What I'm saying is that the masters for Sgt. Pepper are not outstanding. Not in my opinion. Really, given the way they were made, there are too many generations on some of those tracks for anyone to expect them to be outstanding by modern multi-track standards, or even by the standards of albums recorded 10 years earlier using much simpler methods that don't build up generations of degradation before they're ever even mixed to stereo. Don't get me wrong, I love the music. But I can't think of any way that the pressing process could raise it up to audiophile quality.

Tim
Really?? How would you know what the master tapes sound like Tim? Very few people have ever heard the real, no kidding, honest to god master tapes of any of the Beatles albums. For 1960s rock music, they are head and shoulders above many albums recorded at the time. Do I have 1950s jazz albums recorded to two track using an all tube recording chain that sound better? Yes, I do. Do I have many/any rock LPs from the 1960s that smoke Sgt. Pepper? No, I don't. I think Sgt. Pepper sounds far better than many people have had a chance to hear it. I have lots of copies on both LP and digital. I have the original CD, the remastered mono and stereo copies that came in the box sets, and I have the 24/44.1 green apple USB version. I'm sure you are listening to one of those digital versions. I don't want to start another analog/digital food fight, but all of them pale in comparison to my EMI Parlaphone LP versions.

My brother has a copy of Sgt. Pepper on 7 1/2 ips tape that he bought sealed and that tape sounds fantastic even given the commercial 4 track warts. My brother called me up a few weeks ago to tell me a friend of his wanted to hear his system because he knew my brother had many of the Beatles tapes. The reason my brother called me was to tell me that when he played his copy of Sgt. Pepper on tape that his friend started crying. I think that is pretty powerful when you can elicit that type of emotion from someone. My brother plays his tapes over a Tascam 32B deck which go into a pair of Ampex 350s which go into a Counterpoint SA-5.1 with an upgraded line stage which go into a pair of Counterpoint Natural Progression monoblock amps which feed a pair of the Def Tech BP7000SC speakers.

My point to all of this is that those who want to sell Sgt. Peppers short because it was recorded on what is arguably one of the world's finest 4 track professional decks and/or the way it sounds on their gear have never really heard what this album is capable of.
 
May 30, 2010
16,885
1,686
720
Portugal
#6
(...) But I can't think of any way that the pressing process could raise it up to audiophile quality.

Tim
Tim,
Why do you insist on using adjectives you do not respect or even understand and will surely start a fight?
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,677
3
0
#7
Really?? How would you know what the master tapes sound like Tim? Very few people have ever heard the real, no kidding, honest to god master tapes of any of the Beatles albums. For 1960s rock music, they are head and shoulders above many albums recorded at the time. Do I have 1950s jazz albums recorded to two track using an all tube recording chain that sound better? Yes, I do. Do I have many/any rock LPs from the 1960s that smoke Sgt. Pepper? No, I don't. I think Sgt. Pepper sounds far better than many people have had a chance to hear it. I have lots of copies on both LP and digital. I have the original CD, the remastered mono and stereo copies that came in the box sets, and I have the 24/44.1 green apple USB version. I'm sure you are listening to one of those digital versions. I don't want to start another analog/digital food fight, but all of them pale in comparison to my EMI Parlaphone LP versions.

My brother has a copy of Sgt. Pepper on 7 1/2 ips tape that he bought sealed and that tape sounds fantastic even given the commercial 4 track warts. My brother called me up a few weeks ago to tell me a friend of his wanted to hear his system because he knew my brother had many of the Beatles tapes. The reason my brother called me was to tell me that when he played his copy of Sgt. Pepper on tape that his friend started crying. I think that is pretty powerful when you can elicit that type of emotion from someone. My brother plays his tapes over a Tascam 32B deck which go into a pair of Ampex 350s which go into a Counterpoint SA-5.1 with an upgraded line stage which go into a pair of Counterpoint Natural Progression monoblock amps which feed a pair of the Def Tech BP7000SC speakers.

My point to all of this is that those who want to sell Sgt. Peppers short because it was recorded on what is arguably one of the world's finest 4 track professional decks and/or the way it sounds on their gear have never really heard what this album is capable of.
I wouldn't, mep. But I know the process that was used to create the tapes the masters were made from. What I'm saying is very simple, and has nothing to do with digital vs. analog. This is an album that created many tracks on a 4 track machine by mixing 4 tracks down to two, then bouncing them back to one or two tracks on the 4 track machine, recording 2 or 3 more tracks, then mixing and bouncing again. It's not a clean process; it's a process that builds up generations of tape noise and signal loss. For a recording made through that process, Sgt. Pepper is quite good. But I was surprised to see it an audiophile list. It's wonderful music. It is artfully recorded for what it is. But I can't imagine how it could be "audiophile quality," regardless of the pressing, because I can't imagine how the process with which it was made could possibly create an "audiophile quality" mix, then master. And I don't have to obtain a copy of the master to know that.

The technology was developing rapidly then, and multi-track machines expanded to 8, 16, 24 and even 32 tracks before digital came along. By the mid 70s, there was no bouncing going on, the machines were much better and multi track recording was much cleaner. The best of the albums from that time period are much better sonically. I'd throw in a MHO, but it's really not my opinion, it's the history of the recording of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's all well-documented in print and on the net.

Tim
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,677
3
0
#8
Tim,
Why do you insist on using adjectives you do not respect or even understand and will surely start a fight?
I couldn't think of another appropriate adjective at the moment, micro. How about excellent sonic quality? Better?

Tim
 
Aug 21, 2011
98
0
0
Mississauga, On
#9
I gave a spin to a few the discs that I own that were on your list of sixteen LPs and liked your choice of king on this particular mountain. The missing info for the Sphere "Flight Path" album. Electra Records (USA) 60313-1. It was mastered by Bill Kipper at Masterdisk. The A1/B1 pressing I have has "ST-EM-60313-1-A-SP" beneath the track and publishing credits on the label.
 

fork

Well-Known Member
Aug 3, 2010
196
0
163
Bellevue, WA
#10
I don't have the Parlaphone pressing of Sgt Pepper and no question that transfering masters to multiple tapes is going to to cause some loss, but I find Parlaphone manufacture to be a big bonus. I had the US reissue of Radiohead's OK Computer, then got an original Parlaphone pressing and was really impressed by how much better it was. Then I ordered Radiohead's Kid A on Parlaphone and received the original Europe pressing (not Parlaphone); I sent it back and got the Parlaphone, because it just didn't have the same magic and when I got the Parlaphone copy my expectation was confirmed. I don't know whether these versions both used the same master tape, but they were both pressed at the same time and in Europe, but the Parlaphone was substantially better.

I'm sure much of the material from Parlaphone's heyday is pretty good. Obviously the master quality is essential, because you're not going to make something out of nothing, but I've come to the conclusion that the pressing plant quality is a surprisingly crucial factor.
 

curbfeeler

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2012
21
1
78
#11
Thanks for the report, fork. Real gems there taking pride of place in collections. However, I am astounded that there are no recordings of music created before the Twentieth Century among the honorees. A perusal of nearly any list of best LPs on the web will show many recordings of the classics and early music on labels such as EMI, Decca, Lyrita, Harmonia Mundi, Accent, DG, Seon, RCA, Mercury, CRI, Reference, Telarc, Chandos, et al.
 

audioarcher

Well-Known Member
May 7, 2012
1,341
6
395
Seattle area
#12
Thanks for the report, fork. Real gems there taking pride of place in collections. However, I am astounded that there are no recordings of music created before the Twentieth Century among the honorees. A perusal of nearly any list of best LPs on the web will show many recordings of the classics and early music on labels such as EMI, Decca, Lyrita, Harmonia Mundi, Accent, DG, Seon, RCA, Mercury, CRI, Reference, Telarc, Chandos, et al.
We had a limit of $50 so that had something to do with it. Also it took place a day before RMAF so many could not attend.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing