if anyone's seriously into vinyl and doesn't have a gaggle of Sheffield recordings (direct to disc) go and get some. They're startling! Anyone else value their old Sheffield LPs as I do?
Most amazing Sheffield buy- I was in an FYE store a few years ago that had a small used LP section. All LPs were either $1 or $2. I wound up buying a bunch of records- spent about$20, including LAB-5, Discovered Again by Dave Grusin- it was $2. Coincidentally, My first Sheffield LP, back in the day, was LAB-5. So now I have 2 copies?
Agree, Sheffield Lab made some amazing direct to disc LPs. Who can forget, Thelma Houston I've Got The Music In Me. I remember hearing this LP 30 plus years ago to demonstrate a QUAD system (ELS 53 I believe) and realized, this is it, this is what HiFi is all about.
I have about a half dozen of them, purchased back in the day, and they are indeed sonic "tours de force."
The one caveat I would cite, though, is that the Leinsdorf/LA Philharmonic classical recordings, while utterly spectacular and perhaps unparalleled with respect to dynamic range, clean transient response, powerful and accurate bass, and inner detail, were mic'd and recorded in an acoustic environment such that on some systems and to some listeners the string sound in particular will be objectionably dry, bright, and perhaps even harsh. Those expecting warm, lush acoustics may be disappointed, especially if their system tends toward brightness to begin with, and/or tends to homogenize and lose detail on massed strings.
That said, IMO both the classical and popular Sheffield D-to-D's are sonic treasures.
I have most of them that I bought back in the day, but musically, the 'pop' records aren't of great interest to me. Like a lot of 'audiophile' speciality recordings, many of them sounded 'good' for demo purposes but weren't something I'd choose to listen to for musical enjoyment. Not trying to rain on your parade, though. If it is a new discovery for you, enjoy. I remember hearing The Missing Linc endlessly at Opus One in Pittsburgh -then probably the best hi-fi dealer in the area where I lived- back in the early 70's. I have piles of these things, along with M &K's, old MoFi's, the old Mark Levinson records, Dave Wilson's records, Keith Johnson's records, Nautilus, and a few other labels, the names of which escape me. Last year, I sold a pristine copy of Flamenco Direct to Disc Fever for a handsome sum- used it to fund more records, of course. (Been buying old UK Vertigos, Island, Harvest and other records from the early psych-folk-progressive era). One of my personal favs- and you may dismiss this as silly or banal, is the third Alice Cooper record "Love it to Death" on the original Zappa 'Straight' label. These early pressings- made before the album was re-pressed on Warner's 'green label' sound absolutely spectacular- whether you like Alice Cooper is of course another matter. (I dismissed him for years but that record, at least to me, is crazy good musically and sonically- very immediate sounding).
I'm especially fond of the Dave Grusin and Harry James LPs. I constantly refer back to them whenever I need a touchstone after making a system change or listening to something I think might approach that level. I also find the Drum Disk and Track Record useful, mostly for finding resonances in my listening area after moving tchotchkes and/or furniture around.
My only quibble with Sheffield Lab disks is they weren't pressed on JVC Super Vinyl. I have a few Japanese pressings of Genesis and Pink Floyd as well as a few Barking Pumpkin Zappa pressings that were, and like the early MFSLs, they are simply outstanding. Silent and resilient.
The vinyl quality made a bigger difference than the half-speed remastering in several instances, IMO. My Sheffields are still sonically superior, but have worn some with play. The Super Vinyl disks sound just as good as when they were new.
A (possibly) comparable new pressing I've heard is Chick Corea's The Vigil. My hearing may not be as acute as it once was, but I thought that record was excellent. If you like that kind of music, check it out and see if you agree.
Mr. Whart-AC's "Love it to Death" better than Sheffield Labs? Really? You sure? Guess we finally added a guy with great musical taste here on the Agon. Well done. Great sounding record, with Alice's best tunes ever. He never came close, IMHO. How about how tight his band was? Extraordinary. I do not have the "Straight" label press but will seek same out at your suggestion.
In general, the above comments are all true. However, one of my favorite recordings is Lincoln Mayorga and Amanda McBroom's "Growing up in Hollywood Town." Their "West of Oz" is also a classic, IMO. I thought Lincoln Mayorga's "Missing Linc" LP was also a first-rate recording, but not really my style. I can't think of better recordings for showing off your system.
I totally agree with Liz. I mostly don't give about recording, I need music. Harry James or Dave Grusin who really cares except audiophiles on how good it sounds? I'm off that list for sure. Spinning now Julie Cruise "Floating Into the Night"... Did Sheffeld labe ever produced that? Not even MoFi has the music I listen to...
Lindis- I don't know that the Alice record is 'better' sonically than the Sheffields, but I guess my point (as others have said) is that choosing music over sonics, you can still find killer sounding 'regular' pressings and that pressing of "Love it to Death" is fabulous. It is the pink colored Straight label pressed in the U.S.- I've compared probably a dozen different early pressings of that record and it is really a marvel. Finding one that isn't trashed isn't easy, and the record has collector value, apart from sonics, because it had the infamous 'thumb' cover (which was quickly changed due to 'indecency' concerns). Another spectacular hard rock record is May Blitz's self-titled album on UK Vertigo Swirl but those early pressings fetch pretty big money.
I can't believe all the dissing of Sheffield. You need to understand that back in the day, Sheffield was a VERY small label and didn't have the budgets of Mobile Fidelity or Nautilus, so they couldn't attract the big boys.
Some of my best recordings are on Sheffield. One of the BEST records ever done on vinyl is Clair Marlo "Let It Go". How about The Blazing Redheads or the aforementioned "Growing Up In Hollywood Town" and "West Of Oz"? Tower Of Power, Thelma Houston, James Newton Howard? Come on guys.
Sheffield put out some very, very good titles and should be held in high regards for what they did at the time.
I agree with Mofi, notwithstanding the caveat I stated earlier about the sonics of the Leinsdorf recordings (which despite that caveat are perhaps unequaled among classical recordings in several important positive respects, as I indicated).
It would certainly be reasonable to maintain that most or all of the Sheffields are not to one's taste, or that they are not among the best performances of the best music ever recorded. But to categorically reject all or most of them as musical dreck, that one (and apparently by implication others) should avoid listening to even if one were paid to do so, is simply ridiculous IMO.
The CEO of a company where I spent 25 years was invited to give a kickoff speech for an internal training course on Process Improvement. He was brief.
"I'm sure you're all very good at what you do... or I wouldn't have hired you. [audience laughs] After you complete this course I expect you to be even better. I have just one request: before you spend 1,000 hours worth of our shareholder's money improving any process, please be very certain that it's a process we need to do at all."
Exit, stage right... invitation to a paradigm shift.
'Blazing Redheads' was a Reference Recordings release. For me being an absolute Latin Jazz fanatic, this record is the 'Jazz At The Pawnshop' of the genre (I own it!), a spectacular recording of a very pedestrian band, more of a collector's item for me than anything else. As far as Sheffield's concerned, I own a few, but rarely re-visit them. Their Tower Of Power release (I'm also a TOP fanatic, and still love me some hard-chargin' horn based funk!) is probably my least favorite recording by this band. The Harry James records stand up. Sheffield does have what I consider seminal records in a sub-genre that I still enthusiastically listen to, what I affectionately call Rock Jazz. Instrumental records by primarily Rock/studio (for lack of a better term) musicians. The James Newton Howard & Friends is a favorite due to it featuring many members of Toto and being a primo recording of one of the great drummers; the late Jeff Porcaro. Coincidentally, I recently re-visited the Sheffield Track/Drum record after not hearing it for many, many years. This record was one of the 1st things that made me think Harry Pearson wasn't the end-all/be-all guru of Audio back in the day as he referred to this as "Absolutely the best sounding Rock & Roll recording ever made!" Really!? It's good, but the best? Even back in the day, I didn't even consider it R&R. Anyhow, I didn't realize it than but the record features a current favorite of mine, the amazing Michael Landau on guitar. The instrumental recordings on 'The Usual Suspects' still hold up also.
I have just a couple of Sheffield Lab on vinyl and a few CDs. I also have a couple of Cheskey records that I enjoy very much. The one Cheskey Jazz album is toe tapping good plus has the largest soundstage of any record in my collection- even more than Fresh Aire III. I'm not at home right now and I cannot recall the title. I got it back in the 80s and I just pull it out and play it.
Sheffield, a main reason for jokes about 'phile recordings?
Come on...nothing could be more underwhelming than the work of Wilson in the day of poor taste or poorly performed music. I have a recording by VandenHul that explains the sound of his gear, no musical taste. The worst. There are many, many audiophile cds that are horrible performances or pure sugar sweet corny female vocals.
Most dyed in the wool audiophiles have bad musical taste. Go to shows. Go ahead. Shower me with hate mail.
Omsed: Ouch! Such generalizations are dangerous. Might as well just say that people who post on the internet are lonely computer geeks with no friends. It's just not true. I have friends. Well, I had a friend once...
Yeah, ok, I'll admit that I have picked up one or two "hifi" records over the years. I hear about it though from my wife if I try to play them. Of course, one record has a 3150Hz test tone. That record drives her up the wall.