At various points in their careers the Rolling Stones intentionally went for a lo-fi sound. It's part of their thing.
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The best sound quality for their early recordings are the original Decca monos. When you get to "Between The Buttons", the original Decca stereos sound the best. These aren't audiophile by any means, but revelatory when compared to subsequent later pressings and re-issues. Unfortunately finding one is good condition can take some digging and will be expensive.
On RSR, I prefer the UK original pressing of "Sticky Fingers" and "Some Girls". I slightly prefer American release of "Tattoo You" over the UK counterpart. IMO, the American pressing of "Emotional Rescue" is sonically their best LP (and underrated musically).
As an aside, Keith Richards' "Main Offender" is a terrific LP with very good sonics.
I gave up. I really like their music, after Reissues I went for Decca Originals,
Stereo, Mono. It is true, they are better (in a way, a step above awful), but when
I am honest, the only way to enjoy them is, when the listener
- is stoned
- has a defect 4-way System with shot Tweeters
- uses is super simple turntable with wrong speed
- all together + a MM cartridge
'Main Offender' from K. Richards is top
I think the only Stones album with even halfway decent sound is "Some Girls" and that one is tipped up hot on top among other issues. Another rocker I love who also records crappy is Bruce Springsteen. Love his music but sonically his collection sucks. Sadly, his magnum opus Born to Run may be the worst offender--flat, lifeless, muddy. Wild, Innocent....and Darkness are really the only two that even get a grade of sligtly above lousy. Bruce and the Stones are just two examples of many pop/rock bands who didn't pay enough attention to the sound quality of their releases. Isn't that why those of us who get deeper into audiophildum are listening to jazz and classical?
It is disappointing to me that they recorded it this way. Surely they must have known at the time of release it sounded like ****. Why they wanted this type of sound, I'm not sure. Obviously, it worked well for them and was successful. I was just hoping that really good quality stones albums existed. The funny thing to me is that, the cheaper your system is, the better the stones sound. They sound good in my car or on my computer speakers. They don't sound as good on a nice, revealing system.
Let it Bleed. Get the UK boxed blue Decca, or the unboxed if you can find and afford one.
Beggars Banquet. There's a boxed blue Decca reissue on white vinyl that sounds good. Can be had for about $20
Sticky Fingers. The USA copies can sound good if you get the right one but most don't.
After Sticky Fingers, good USA copies can be found of all their titles. Look for copies pressed at Monarch in LA.
The caveat is you may need to get a few copies of each before you get good one due to variances in pressing quality.
I have some nice muddy waters albums. One in particular is the folk singer 45rpm album from analogue productions. I only wish my rolling stones could sound half as good as that muddy waters pressing. I also have a regular weight cbs pressing of muddy waters king bee. The stones sound is somewhat similar to muddy waters and other various blues artist like robert johnson. I'm not denying the blues influence, I am only saying that the stones albums, at the ones I own, do not sound good.
I will agree with this to a certain point but, there is alot of other music I love besides the stones. I don't want to sacrifice my setup that sounds great for all my other albums. I was just hoping that someone could point me in the right direction of some stones albums that are known to sound good. After reading the responses here and other websites it appears that the majority of stones albums were recorded to intentionally sound "lo-fi". I just didn't want to waste any more money on stones albums only to be dissatisfied with them in the end. I guess that is part of the game though. I might try to track down some of the mono pressings and see how I like those. Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
Just invite 20-30 people over for a party and BYOB. Move the speakers until you get that good midbass bump which helps muddy the mids. Then everything will sound good, because of all the people singing off key to the songs.
Not everything was meant to be just listened to.
BTW, If the music you are waiting for is the London Green Shoed Cowboys concert at Will Rodgers in Ft. Worth, It was a very sloppy set live. I don't think it can be real good sounding. A very raw, but great snapshot of them at time. Amazing but not pretty.
I should say that the only way they can sound best is LOUD. You also have to have a system that can deliver the goods accordingly. Rolling Stones records sound largely average to poor on many systems. They can be very nice and involving on a good setup however, especially at louder volume. If most RS material sounds very good in a more "organic" sense and gets your foot tapping (they might never or rarely be considered reference type recordings)that is probably a good indicator that your system is up to snuff to bring out the best in many less than reference quality recordings as well.
I remember when I first listened to many older stones records as a kid, I too thought many that sound fantastic to me today were some of the worst recordings out there on the grand scale of things.
"The play as if they are just in a drunken/drug induced haze while pissing on their listeners..
Not to my liking.."
Liz, seriously, it may not help, but I found Maggies are not the best speakers for getting the best out of most stones recordings because of macro-dynamics. At least that was the case with my 80's vintage Maggies. Maggies may be better with macro dynamics these days, from what I have heard at the dealers, which is a big part of enjoying the stones for me. You gotta be able to feel the rhythm section......
With more dynamic speakers they might sound more like they are more suitably pounding on their listeners rather than merely excreting although the drunken/drug induced part may require further tweaking on the listeners part to remedy. :-)
in his autobiography, keef states that at least early on the stones were going for the chicago chess records sound--big, dense, thick--as opposed, i suppose, to the more nuanced recordings of their peers. that said, i don't think the stones were especially well served by their producers--exile is a notoriously murky record, and their original producer, andrew loog oldhman, was more of an impressario than a musician. i do think their classic late 60s stuff (sticky fingers, beggars banquet, let it bleed), which i think we're done by jimmy miller and glyn johns, sound really good.
Most of their 70's + later studio recordings I have heard (I've heard most but not all) are decent to quite good I would say. Exile is a unique case, more like those early Chess Records like recordings, which BTW have a unique sonic charm of their own when done right, like many blues recordings of that era.
One doesnt listen to the Stones to fulfill you audiophile desires...that being said...Tatoo/Emo rescue...which I believe were recorded partly at Compass Studios sound pretty good...not classic era...but solid nevertheless...there are moments from Exile that actually sound better than its reputation would indicate...but by and large...it is a deliberately muddy sounding affair...I have a an early, very clean copy that is the best sounding version I have owned...and there have been several...I also like Sticky Fingers...I have an 80s reissue that sounds amazing....go figure....
I love the Stones music. The truth is they have not been well recorded over the years, but there are some good pressings.
I've always liked the sound of Exile (great album too). I bought the big box set reissue and it's not good. Very dry, it just doesn't work. The best pressing I found was an original US pressing (although the Australian pressing is surprisingly close).
Sticky Fingers was a hard nut to crack. I have an Australian pressing, it isn't good, quite muddy. The MFSL pressing I also have just sounds anemic and from memory lacks bass. However, I got a 70s Japanese pressing which is good, it rocks and also has detail without either muddiness or anemia.
For their early records I tend to go for the mono pressings, they are fine. Not the best recorded albums out there but they sound good.
My advice is to avoid the digital re-issues and go for early mono pressings and Japanese pressings. I also have a Japanese pressing of Let it Bleed which is my best copy.
Emotional Rescue ( I have both vinyl and CD) has a lot of good mainstream type sound on it.
Sticky Fingers and Exile are the two most problematic soundwise as I recall.
The older more blues-centric stuff can sound quite nice. The original master "Hot ROcks" and "More Hot ROcks" collections on CD are not bad. I never cared much for my vinyl copies of these back in the day. There may even be more recently digitally remastered versions of those collections or other albums that could be better. I have not done enough comparison to say, other than most Stones stuff I listen to these days sounds quite good enough for me.
"Undercover" from 1983 just might edge out any other Stones lp that I have on the over all sound quality. It is not their best stuff but it is a clean recording that I enjoy. Used, one might find this cheap.
While checking my other RS lps I saw that my Emotional Rescue lp is a canadian pressing. Pretty good sound but I wonder if a US pressing could have a cleaner top end?
I got a few new stones albums today. The first one is some girls live in texas '78. It is a double LP with an included DVD pressed on red vinyl. This is a new release on the eagle rock label. It is a remaster from the original multi channel tapes done by Bob Clearmountain. I have to say this is the best sounding stones pressing I have personally listened to. Mick's voice is front and center and not in the background. He doesn't sound like he is underwater. All the instruments are well defined and the soundstage is WIDE. Good dynamics. Some may say this is not the stones "sound". All I know is that I am really enjoying this pressing.
The second record isn't really a stones album. It is Muddy Waters and Rolling stones live from the checkerboard lounge, which was Muddy's club in chicago. This was recorded in 1981 while the stones were on their U.S. some girls tour. It is all Muddy's songs with mick singing alongside Muddy and Keith playing guitar. For fans of muddy and stones, you will really like this one. It is also on the eagle rock label and is a great pressing. All voices are clear and distinct. Kieth's guitar sounds really good. I am finally impressed with a stones album. I would highly recommend these two new pressings from eagle rock.
Thanks for the heads up on the "Live in Texas". I will pick that up.
I was lucky enough to be there that night and I thought at the time they were sloppy, so I am glad it sounds good. My expectations were really high for that show. I will have to listen and perhaps watch their performance in the hindsight of 35 years. Sometimes when we are young we think moments like that happen all the time, but it is a once in a lifetime experience. Seeing the Stones in a 3000 seat arena at their peak, when they mainly played stadiums, and being arrogant enough to criticize the music.
I do remember I was a little sloppy myself.