Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Review: The Who - Tommy - Classics re-issue
Tommy is a double LP and the fourth full album from The Who. It loosely tells the story of a blind, dumb and blind child who plays pinball and goes on to lead a religious movement. Confused? Well for all its strangeness, Tommy is unique in being the first rock opera (this is debatable) and the music is also extremely worthwhile. The 1969 record easily surpasses the later movie soundtrack for listening pleasure which segues into my review of the 140g vinyl Classic Records re-issue.
For comparison, I borrowed a German Polydor original version from a friend.
The packaging on the Classic Records version is extraordinary. The fold out tri-panel sleeve is replicated almost perfectly. The booklet also matches the original to the tee. In these days of quick-n-dirty vinyl releases, this is an amazing accomplishment. One downside is the generic paper inner sleeves. For the price of the re-issue, it sure would be nice to have some HDPE sleeves.
Vinyl quality is a touch subpar. I found a few hairs, a fingerprint and lots of mold release material. A quick clean on the KAB EV-1 improved the situation, but on quiet parts one could hear some noise. The records were relatively flat and punched on center.
In terms of sound quality, the mastering is extremely good. No gritty or dirty midrange caused by inferior electronics. Bass went down a hair deeper than the original, while detail retrieval was even better. In comparison to the original, the treble seemed goosed up a bit. This led to a touch of splash in the vocals and made for a more slightly aggressive sound overall. Soundstaging and depth is where I hear the biggest differences. The original has presence outside the edges of the speakers and the drums 'sit behind' the vocals, adding immensely to the stereo experience. The re-issue sounds flatter as if all the musicians exist on the same plane. The original also has a more organic 'whole' sound which is worth the price if you can find one to buy!
I don't want to come off like I'm bashing the Classic Record re-issue as it does a great job capturing most of the magic of the original pressing. It certainly surpasses the MCA copies I've heard and unlike the originals, is affordable.
preamp: Threshold FET-10/HL
phono preamp: Audio Sector Phono Stage
amplifier: Threshold S/500
analog: VPI HW19 MkIII - Rega RB300 with Incognito wiring - Denon DL-103R modified
speakers: Magnepan 1.6/QR
speaker cable: Kimber 4PR/8PR Bi-wire with banana jacks
Interconnects: Cardas Cross and Cardas Quadlink 5C