Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular, Part Tres:
Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie
[Cover image courtesy of Acoustic Sounds]
The enormous clang of giant brass knockers on foot thick Honduran mahogany lumber announced the arrival once again of Bob the Diver Duchan to collaborate on my scientific, albeit crazed, investigations into, Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie, an Ella Fitzgerald classic. My tame butler, Igor, showed him into the cavernous foyer so ominously dank and dark, illumined only by a single sconce, and proceeded to serve the refreshments: aged Stilton with a flacon of vintage wine. After flinging our empty glasses into the fireplace, we proceeded to listen to the following editions of Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie.
A Hot Stamper rated A+ from Better Records. Original issue Verve V/V6-4053. Analogue Productions 45 rpm re-issue V/V6-4053. Classic Records 33 rpm re-issue V/V6-4053 (180 gram edition with the legend Manufactured under license from Polygram Special Markets on the bottom of the back cover.). Speakers Corner 33 rpm re-issue V/V6-4053
Although the rankings below appear jumbled, there was a clear gap between the top pair of Hot Stamper and Analogue 45 and the bottom pair of Classic and Speakers Corner. The top pair had an airy spacious sound that the bottom pair of 33 rpm re-issues could not match. Then it came down to Ray's personal preference for a less aggressive treble on female vocals. You will have to listen through our comments to identify your own personal preference.
When the needle hits the groove on the Hot Stamper, it just sounds so right to me. I had previously owned the Classic only, and had been puzzled at the great reputation enjoyed by Clap Hands. The Hot Stamper showed me why. It draws you in with its naturalness. Don't look for whiz-bang effects. The greatest effect of all is to sound natural. There is real emotional impact at the end of "‘Round Midnite." "Feelin' sad" really feels sad. I simply enjoyed this edition more than the others. It has swing. It has rhythm. It has drive.
The Analogue 45 has a delicate airy quality while still delivering punch on the drums. However, there's a glare to the top end that I find off-putting, especially on Ella's vocals. The 33 rpm re-issues both lacked the big airy sound of the top two editions and had noticeably compressed dynamics. You lose dynamics, you lose emotional impact. I gave the nod to the Classic over the Speakers Corner because it has less glare on the top end.
The Analogue 45 had the best versions of "Stella by Starlight" and "‘Round Midnite," with clear vocals and strong bass. The piano on "Night in Tunisia" really stands out. In a word, the dynamics are outstanding, to the point where sometimes I felt the vocals were overloading the room on "You're My Thrill." However, we had measured the sound level carefully to ensure we were listening at the same loudness for all editions, so it was simply that the Analogue 45 had tremendous dynamics. At the same time, there are fine nuances on Ella's vocals on "Jersey Bounce," so the album delivers finesse combined with power.
The Hot Stamper had the same overall sound as the Analogue 45, but I couldn't get past the surface noise. There are a lot of loud tics and pops. I agree with Ray that the sound is very natural, especially the piano. On "My Reverie" the bells sound clear and hang in the air. "Stella by Starlight" had strong bass and the snare drum had snap. The vocals are clean throughout.
The Speakers Corner and Classic editions were good as far as they went, but lacked the involvement of the other two editions. I found myself making fewer notes as the music simply did not inspire.
We set the volume to get a peak reading of 100 db on the first cut, "Night in Tunisia," for all four editions as measured by a Radio Shack sound meter set to C weighting. All three re-issues were mastered at similar levels, whereas we estimate the original issue Hot Stamper was mastered about 3 dB lower.
All editions were bought through regular retail channels, same as you, gentle reader.
The System That Time Forgot ®
Cartridge: Benz LP
Arm: VPI 9 inch JPW
Turntable: VPI TNT 1 with aluminum platter
Pre-pre Amp: MFA Luminescence B1C
Pre-Amp: Manley Wave
Power Amps: Manley 440's and 500's
Speakers: Eminent Technology 8B's
Subs: Hsu 12"
Igor, did you reset the speed to 33?
(Deeply nasal, albeit high pitched voice): Yes, Masters. That is very, Very, VERY important.