(But I didn't play the same copy they did, just the same album. Maybe the copy they reviewed sounded better than the one we played. Since we could go around in circles like this for days with theories such as these, perhaps it's best to just move on.)
Do you think any of them would even notice that different copies of the same album sound different? I rather doubt it.
The reality of this situation was brought home to us in dramatic fashion back in 2007, and the story goes something like this:
Identical Stampers + New Vinyl = Very Different Sound?
A while back a customer had returned a copy of Nirvana Nevermind for noise, so we cleaned it up and gave it a listen. Bear in mind this is an album I had not played much since I wrote my review in 2001. (I love the music but we have an awful lot of records to evaluate every week so at some point we have to move on, no matter how good the album.)
Was We Wrong?
Yes, the LP was a little ticky, but no more so than the average copy. (Nobody seems to be able to press a quiet record these days and we all have to get used to it.)
More to the point, the sound coming out of the speakers was less than thrilling. It was murky and congested, lacking presence in the vocals and drums. Was this the perfect recording I had written about in 2001, or was it now in hindsight fodder for a commentary headed for the We Was Wrong section?
I had to know, so I pulled out my own personal copy, one of the half-dozen or so records I keep on hand for Demo purposes, all Disc Doctored and ready to rock. Sure enough it KICKED ASS. Dynamics, presence, energy, power -- it was all there and more. I turned it up as loud as I could and heard it rock like never before. (The EAR 324 and three pairs of Hallographs are exactly what this record needs to play LOUD and CLEAN. All that incredibly powerful deep bass excites the hell out of a room and the only way to get those vibrations and reflections under control is through serious room treatments like the Hallos.)
As We All Know, But Sometimes Forget: No Two Records Sound the Same
Pressing variations exist for new records as well as old of course. That obviously audible fact had sneaked up behind us and was now biting us hard on the butt. How could we guarantee that our commentary would have anything to do with the actual copy we were selling if we hadn't played it? Clearly we couldn't.
This was a problem, but it was also an opportunity. With our advanced cleaning techniques (mostly the Walker fluids and a $7500 record cleaning machine, plus a few tricks we are keeping up ours sleeves for now), we can take any record and make it sound better. We quickly formulated a plan to buy a pile of Nirvana Neverminds, clean them up and shoot them out. The winners would be more expensive, the losers less expensive, with the winners paying for the time spent culling the losers, not to mention the time and trouble of cleanng and playing so many copies.
Now don't get me wrong: the average copy is still a pretty darn good sounding record. I might even go so far as to say it's better than practically anything recorded during the entire decade of the '90s.
The Big One Rocks!
But man, when you've heard this record at its best, there is NOTHING like it. For the true Rock and Roll Audiophile Connoisseur, the man who will settle for nothing but the very best, we humbly offer our first Nevermind Verified White Hot Stamper, the ultimate head-banging experience.
This is our old commentary, which obviously now applies to only the better copies.
A PERFECT recording, the best of its kind, ever. The drums are perfect. The bass is perfect. The guitars are perfect. The vocals are perfect. Now how in the world could that be, you ask?!
Allow me to explain.
Of course I'm not using perfect in the idealized sense that there is no possibility of improvement. No human creation outside of a mathematical construct can be perfect. What I mean is that this mastering of this recording sounds so right that upon hearing it my critical faculties immediately shut down and are bypassed, allowing the pleasure center of my brain to experience the music directly, just as I would if the band were right in front of me. It's perfect in the sense that while I'm listening to it I don't want anything to change and I especially don't want it to stop. That's the kind of perfection I strive for on this earthly plane.
As Kurt Would Say, De Riguer Mon Ami!
At the levels at which this record was playing it became a total immersion experience. Who needs four channels when two can sound like this!? After a while I left the room and I had to laugh: my ears were ringing! I told you it was loud! When you feel the need to play your music louder that's a GOOD thing. It's your brain saying "That's working. I like it. Give me more!" Listening at low levels is like kissing through a screen.
Everything Else Sucks
The MoFi gold CD sucks. The Simply Vinyl LP sucks. The original domestic LP sucks. They are all thin, bright and consequently harsh -- utterly inappropriate for music like this that requires prodigious amounts of bass. This import is the first and only version that sounds the way it should: PERFECT. (I don't own an Anadisq to audition. The chances of MoFi mastering this record properly are pretty small in my admittedly prejudiced opinion.)
And don't you find it curious that the best of the rock bunch from 2001 is on thin vinyl?