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Best Buy to Stop Carrying CDs Continues to Carry Vinyl February 04 2018, 0 Comments

As of June 1st Best Buy will no longer carry the CD format but will continue to sell records for at least the next two years.

1 Album, 3 Recordings: Alone Together – Dave Mason April 29 2016, 0 Comments

dave mason turntable mat

Dave Mason, one of the founding members of Traffic, was omnipresent in the late 1960’s.  He played on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.

A quick aside – Mason joined the European tour of Delaney and Bonnie along with Eric Clapton and George Harrison. Rhino Records released a four cd box set of this tour (Amazon $198) that contains some amazing guitar interplay.

It is not surprising then, that when Dave Mason put together his first solo album the record company (Blue Thumb) gave it the deluxe treatment. The cover was a tri fold that was 36” fully opened. I have to admit seeing a rather large picture of Mason in a top hat was a little disconcerting. But the star of the show was the record itself – a swirling multi colored disc upon which the stylus appeared to be floating. It became known as the marble record although there were many other less flattering names as well. To obtain the effect Blue Thumb was forced to use virgin vinyl which was unusual on US pressed albums. It was the quietest record available at the time.

I imagine the parent company, ABC, was disappointed in sales but hopefully they derived some satisfaction from the fact that Alone Together remains the 24th greatest rock album ever. I must note that it failed to be included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Rock Albums list, but what do they know…

So, let’s compare the sound quality of the original marble record with the cd version (converted to apple lossless on my computer) and also with the 180 gram remastered vinyl .

With all the supposed care that was put into the original record, I was surprised to find that the sound of the digital version was superior. The record was thin and two dimensional. It lacked the clarity that was the hallmark of the compact disc copy.

I always forget that what we listen to as music is the result of decisions that are sales and profit based. Fortunately in today’s marketplace, money can be made selling remastered versions of yesterday’s music on 180 gram vinyl. Which brings me to the third copy of Alone Together.(Why did I have to buy this album three times?)

Not all remasters are improvements. The latest Jackson Browne Late for the Sky iteration jumps out as a failed attempt to improve the sound. But Alone Together is done right. Bass seems to go a full octave deeper with each note of the bass guitar delineated. I think imaging and soundstage are more difficult to get right than frequency response and this record images wonderfully. Mason’s vocals are properly spaced within the instrumentation and the music is beautifully balanced.

There is not a weak cut on the album but highlights include Only You Know and I Know, Can’t Stop Worrying, and World in Changes. The haunting guitar solo that closes out the record at the end of Look at You Look at Me floats in space. I think I owned Alone Together for two years before I found out that it was Eric Clapton not Dave Mason playing it.

Even more amazing is that, as of this posting on April 29, 2016 Elusive Disc is selling the remastered vinyl version for $9.99.  If you do not own it yet, stop what you are doing and buy it now.

Ben


What is a Mooo Mat? April 07 2016, 0 Comments

cowhide cork turntable mat

A Mooo Mat is an innovative replacement for your turntable’s rubber or felt mat. It consists of a layer of hair on cowhide bonded to a layer of cork. Every turntable platter, even on a very expensive turntable, introduces vibrations just because it is spinning. By utilizing two different materials, the Mooo Mat does a better job of preventing that vibration from getting to the phono cartridge.

Will a Mooo Mat make my system sound better? – Yes! That is the whole point behind Mooo Mats. Enhanced imaging, more defined bass response and improved depth and clarity are the direct results of adding a Mooo Mat turntable mat to your system. You do not even have to take our word for it. Here is what Stereophile Magazine has said over the last two years:

"The music sounded great - clear, bold and beautiful." May 2014.

"It's a fun, attractive, great sounding tweak." May 2014

“An indispensable accessory” March 2016

What if I do not hear a difference? That's easy. Simply return it to us for a full refund.

Do Mooo Mats shed? All cowhides used are imported from Brazil where they use a superior tanning process, eliminating the possibility of shedding and producing no odor. Due to the cutting process it is possible to have some loose hairs upon opening a new Mooo Mat turntable mat, however we do our best to ensure this does not happen.

Does the hair cause static electricity? No. Mooo Mats cause no static electricity. Actually it is quite the opposite. Cowhides have natural anti-static properties that eliminate unwanted static on your vinyl. You will see a reduction, not an increase of static. Here is the experience of one of our dealers:

"Happy to report my customer Bill's static problem disappeared when he switched to the Mooo Mat plus he thought sound was even better - good news!" - Jay Kaufman, Audio Revelation, Carlsbad, CA

Isn’t $75 a lot for a turntable mat? A Mooo Mat will improve the sound of every record you own. We do not think you can find another way to invest only $75 and get better results. The guys at Zorin Turntables did a comparison of a Mooo Mat versus a $400 carbon fiber mat and found that the Mooo Mat sounded better. You can read the full report on our Review page.

Are all Mooo Mats different? Every Mooo Mat is unique – no two are identical. Just pick the one you like best and we will send you that exact one. If by some chance you do not like the cowhide look on your table but still want the sound improvement, just buy a solid black one. We promise not to tell.

Do Mooo Mats make good gifts? Assuming the audiophile in your life owns a turntable, a Mooo Mat makes a perfect gift. If he or she would prefer a different pattern we will be happy to exchange it.

Mooo Mats? Our name may be a little goofy and our spelling may be off. But we think it is ok to have a little fun while searching for better sound. Isn’t that what music is all about?


Keb' Mo': Can the Blues Sound Happy? April 01 2016, 0 Comments

keb mo turntable mat

BluesAmericana – Keb’ Mo’

With his 12th album in the last 20 years, Keb’ Mo’ continues to demonstrate his direct musical connection to Mississippi delta blues. Yet he avoids being trapped in the blues with the music still sounding fresh, new and exciting. His voice has never sounded better – always center stage, sonorous and crystal clear. Even in the blues he sounds optimistic and, dare I say it, happy.  Surrounded by an eclectic group of musicians that varies by song, the BluesAmericana somehow remains cohesive throughout. This is certainly testimony that Keb’ Mo’ has a definite vision of what his music is all about.

Recording quality is superb. Depth of field is amazing and combines with an extremely wide soundstage to reveal one of the best engineered albums in the last few years.

Listen to Move, Somebody Hurt You and Do It Right to hear modern blues done right.

And while you are at it, check out Keb’ Mo’’s self titled first album which available as a Mobile Fidelity ½ speed master lp. Both that album and BluesAmericana are available at Elusive Disc and your local record shop.

Pair either album with your favorite cowhide and cork turntable mat from Mooo Mats. Always free shipping to the continental US and just $10 everywhere else. 


Smoke Gets in Her Voice: Holly Cole March 23 2016, 0 Comments

holly cole lpCanadian jazz vocalist Holly Cole always creates albums that combine her distinctive stylings with impeccable musicianship and gorgeous engineering.  Night is almost 4 years old but remains her latest record and in terms of sound quality it is her best yet. Considering that all her albums are immaculately recorded that is saying something.

Covers of Love Lies (Captain Beefheart), If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot) and especially Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues (Danny O’Keefe) stand out. Your stereo system will rarely sound this good. But, as usual, the best cuts are Cole’s covers of Tom Wait songs –Walk Away and Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard.

Holly Cole remains the best interpreter of Tom Waits songs (including Tom Waits. In fact, her best album from a musical perspective – Temptation – completely consists of 16 Tom Waits songs. The problem is that it is out of print on vinyl, along with the fabulous Don’t Smoke in Bed.  You can find both on Ebay for about $200 each or you have to settle for the cd versions.  Let’s hope that changes soon.

Night is available on lp from Elusive Disc or from your local record shop.

 


My Morning Jacket on Vinyl: Sound or Sound Quality? March 07 2016, 0 Comments

 my morning jacket turntable mat

Confusion.  How does one include My Morning Jacket in an ongoing discussion of sound quality on vinyl records?

Indecision. Can one encapsulate My Morning Jacket by looking at just one of their albums?

MMJ has consistently released the best, imaginative and varied rock music since 2003’s It Still Moves –their third studio record. If leader and songwriter Jim James is not related to Neil Young, he is certainly a direct musical descendant. While the quality of the music has been consistent, the songs might bounce from their rock base to country to psychedelic to acoustic folk. As a result, each album is an interesting journey.

Some musicians make music. Others, like Neil Young and Jim James make art. The sound in their heads gets translated to recorded form for us to hear. My Morning Jacket’s music may not translate well in audiophile sound quality discussions but the sound is gorgeous especially in vinyl based systems. Isn’t the purpose of a good stereo system to allow us to hear as accurately as possible the artist’s vision of his/her work? With My Morning Jacket immerse yourself in the music – what an experience.

It Still Moves – If you would like an easy entrance to My Morning Jacket try fan favorite Golden or even better I Will Sing You Songs - an absolutely beautiful song with a really wide soundstage. If you are feeling adventurous start with One Big Holiday (one of my favorites) or Run Thru which is on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Top 100 Greatest Guitar Songs. Of course you could just start at the beginning of the record. There is not a weak song on the album. For many artists this would have been their masterpiece. My Morning Jacket was just getting started.

Z – This album from 2005 advances the MMJ sound even further. Layered beautifully, this is immersion music. Starting with Wordless Chorus, through Gideon (another fan favorite) and Off the Record, Z culminates in the surreal Dondante.

Evil Urges –My Morning Jacket has always been a great live band and this album is their attempt to capture their live sound. The soundstage is even wider than usual, particularly on the title cut, Thank You Too and Aluminum Park.

Circuital – OK, now we move into My Morning Jacket masterpiece territory. An amazing album, this record is available as a 2 disc lp at 45 rpm and it really pays off. Three dimensional imaging and clarity abound. The music is even more adventurous with songs like Victory Dance, Circuital and Holding onto Black Metal making you understand why that eye is on the cover. Consider this either a spoiler alert or an early warning – as the first song on the album dissolves there is a very distinct series of pops and ticks. There is nothing wrong with your record.

The Waterfall –The mood of this album remains the focus throughout. Also available as a 45 rpm two disc set, imaging and soundstage befit the dream like tone. When I first heard The Band’s Music from the Big Pink, I thought, what good music, it’s a shame it is all the same. With every listen though, the real variety became apparent. This is how The Waterfall plays out. Great music for a specific mood.

I guess by now you have figured out that I like My Morning Jacket’s music a lot. Each song appears to be crafted to be a sonic experience that can be both beautiful and challenging.

The MMJ catalogue can be found at Elusive Disc or at your local record store.

Ben


Origin of the Species: The Evolution of the Beatles on Vinyl March 03 2016, 0 Comments

Dating myself a bit here, but sitting at my desk on a Saturday morning in early January 1964  listening to AM radio a song transformed my life. WCAO, the rock station in Baltimore, played for the first time I Want to Hold Your Hand. I was hooked…

The next stop was my first day of college at Penn State a few years later and getting invited into a senior’s dorm room across the hall. He had a real stereo system revolving around an AR turntable – it was completely manual and only played one record at a time! But he was playing Rubber Soul. I had listened to the album plenty of times on my GE portable record player, but this was the first time I actually heard it. When I returned for my sophomore year I had my own AR turntable…

With the savings from my summer job, I could buy two records a week and still survive the entire school year. There was a record shop on College Avenue where I could actually listen to records before purchasing them. One day the owner said to me – “ I have the Beatles on British import…”

It turns out that Capitol Records, by putting fewer songs on each record, could create more Beatle albums to sell. But to me that was not the real difference. The British records sounded better due mostly to the better quality of the vinyl itself. The surfaces were quieter, the music more vibrant to an astonishing level. Could life with the Beatles get any better…?

Later, while working in a stereo store, the manager of the record store down the street asked if we would lend him a stereo system so his customers could hear good sound. He offered to sell us records at cost. Was this heaven? Then David stated – “ Ben, I have the Beatles on Japanese import…”

The Japanese are wonderfully obsessed with music’s recorded sound quality. Their discs are heavier and hence flatter, the vinyl purer. The Beatles sounded even better – better imaging, better separation, better bass response. Certainly this was the best the Beatles could be…

At our stereo store, we decided to carry records from a new audiophile label called Mobile Fidelity. They mastered at ½ speed and used only virgin vinyl. Albums from Steely Dan and of course Pink Floyd were significantly better sounding than the normal commercial releases. Then the Mo Fi rep said, “The Beatles are coming out on Mobile Fidelity in a box set…”

It is hard to overstate the value of silence in music on vinyl. The lack of noise behind the music allows a clarity to come through that truly enhances the listening experience. Yes, the dynamics of the ½ speed mastering were better (and appreciated) but the silence behind the Beatles is truly what made the experience transcendental…

Now in the 21st century the Beatles have been remastered in both stereo and mono box sets and on 180 gram vinyl. To some, the mono recordings represent the ultimate in original fidelity but somehow I always find myself listening to the stereo versions. They both can be purchased at Elusive Disc or at your local record shop.

It is time for a short Mooo Mat ad. The Mooo Mat, a cowhide + cork turntable mat, was created as part of our pursuit of better sound. By isolating the phono cartridge from the spinning platter’s vibration the Mooo Mat enhances the silence behind the music that I talked about earlier on every record you own. Browse our Mooo Mats now.

Please go and listen to some Beatles music for me…


So, Why Is There Only One Joshua Redman Album Available On Vinyl? March 01 2016, 0 Comments

cowhide cork turntable mat

MoodSwing – Joshua Redman Quartet

 

Joshua Redman is my favorite active saxophone player. Lyrical, sophisticated yet always interesting, his style is captivating. His 2015 album with the Bad Plus was one of the best jazz albums of the year.

Yet only one of his releases has appeared on vinyl. Consider this a formal complaint.

Fortunately, that one is MoodSwing from 1994 with his quartet including Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride (only 22 at the time) on bass and Brian Blade on drums.

The record opens with Sweet Sorrow as Redman’s plaintiff saxophone enters on top the other three instruments floating in space yet drawing you deep inside the music. This is best listened to in complete darkness.

Chili continues the mood but in a more playful fashion. The group sounds like they have been playing together forever.

Balance and instrument placement is superb on this record. If you like jazz at all you need to buy this album.

MoodSwing is available on a 2 LP 180 gram set from Elusive Disc or at your local record store.


The Cure's Entreat Plus: Second Best Sounding Live Rock Recording of All Time? February 25 2016, 0 Comments

Rock concerts can be totally exhilarating musically but it is rare when the sound quality matches the performance. I think we can all say that there is no contest for the best ever. That obviously is Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus. But this Cure album is my nominee for second best.

Performed in July 1989 at Wembley Stadium, it was for years only available on a promo disc or an import. But recently the great folks at Rhino Records have released it as a 12 track double lp (hence the title Entreat Plus) on 180 gram vinyl with the remix done by Robert Smith himself. 

It is a complete run through of the Cure’s best studio album – Disintegration. The sound quality and imaging are jaw dropping, especially for a live album. While the best known tracks are superb two lesser known songs actually steal the show. These are Closedown and The Same Deep Water as You.There is a sense of space and beauty that is lacking on most live albums.

Entreat Plus is available from our friends at Elusive Disc or hopefully at your local record shop. For the best sound experience, play it with a cowhide + cork turntable mat from MoooMats.


"Indispensable" - Stereophile March 2016 February 23 2016, 0 Comments

stereophile review

Check out the March issue of Stereophile for MoooMat's latest review. Here's a sneak preview:

"In reviewing the Spec, I found the hirsute Mooo Mat an indispensable  accessory for my Kuzma Stabi turntable. When I laid LP’s on my usual record mat – Music Hall’s Aztec Blue – the Spec’s sound could be small, and lack the low end fundamentals it had with the Mooo Mat atop my Kuzma pipe bomb." 

 

Purchase your own cowhide + cork turntable mat now!

And remember, shipping is always free in the U.S. and only $10 international.

 


How to Improve Your Turntable Sound February 15 2016, 0 Comments

turntable mat

No matter what kind of turntable you have, taking proper care of it ensures lasting sound quality. We've broken down a few simple steps you can take to improve your turntable sound quality. Some are free and some are reasonably priced fixes, but all of them are sure to make a noticeable difference in your vinyl sound.

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Turntable Sound for Free (or close)

Level your turntable – Probably the most important adjustment that you can make without spending any money. Use a bubble level if you have one to make sure your table is level front to back and side to side. Most turntables have adjustable feet to make this easy but if yours does not simple shimming will do the trick.

Clean your stylus – A dirty stylus will degrade sound quality significantly. If you do not have a stylus cleaning device just use a small soft paint brush with some isopropyl alcohol. It is critical to clean by brushing from back to front. If you do it in the opposite direction you can break the cantilever.

Clean your records – Even a brand new record should be cleaned before you play it for the first time. The best way is with a commercially available vacuum system or a mechanical one but these can be expensive. Washing with warm distilled water, a mild detergent and a microfiber cloth does the trick inexpensively with great sounding results. Tamp lightly with terry cloth and let the record air dry. You will be surprised how much quieter a clean record is.

Isolate your turntable – Vibration is another of quality sound’s natural enemies. It can be introduced into your system from floor coupling to your shelf by bass energy or even walking on a soft floor. Mounting the turntable shelf to studs on the wall is the best way to start. Inserting another material between the shelf and the turntable will also work. The only issue here is that different turntables respond better with different materials. You may have to experiment with wood (hardwood is better than soft), rubber, sorbothane. Many turntables respond well to corian while others prefer granite or quartz.

Slightly reduce the anti-skating force – The natural tendency for a tonearm is to want to move to the center of the turntable. Unabated this would put more pressure on the inner part of the record grooves. That is why turntables have an anti-skating adjustment to exert a force in the opposite direction keeping the pressure equal on both sides. Generally, the tracking force and anti-skating are matched. In practice however, the anti-skating should be set slightly lower than the tracking force. For example, if your recommended tracking force is set at 1 ½ grams you should set the anti-skating should be set at 1 ¼ .

 

4 Reasonably Priced Tweaks to Improve Your Turntable Sound

Mooo Mat Turntable Platter ($75 + free shipping) – It should probably come as no surprise that the Mooo Mat blog would recommend replacing your rubber or felt mat with one made of cowhide and cork. We talked above about external vibration being the enemy. Another source of vibration is from the turntable itself. No matter how expensive the turntable the spinning platter has some degree of vibration. The job of the turntable mat is to prevent it from getting to the phono cartridge. We believe the Mooo Mat accomplishes this better than any other mat through the use of 2 dissimilar materials. This translates into better imaging, greater detail and better bass response. Mooo Mats also reduce static electricity, improving the sound of every record .

Audioquest Carbon Fiber Record Brush ($15) – Once you have washed your records, this brush does a great job of keeping them clean for right around $15.

Pro-Ject Puck It Record Clamp ($85) –Tightens the grip of the record to the mat eliminating slippage. Also reduces minor warping.

AudioquestSorboGel Isolation System ($98) – Set of 4 feet to help isolate your turntable.


Vinyl Review: Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges February 10 2016, 0 Comments

Is this really only Michael Hedges playing solo acoustic guitar?

 

Michael Hedges – Aerial Boundaries

 On 6 of the 9 tracks, yes it is. But frankly I do not think you will believe it. Hedges got more out of an acoustic guitar than any human before or since. Trained at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, he developed a style of playing that some have called percussive guitar. He appears to actually attack his instrument yet stay beautifully  musical at the same time.

Aerial Boundaries is an astounding album that defies categorization. Hedges recorded on the Windham Hill label but his music was like nothing else they released. His records were nominated for Grammys in the New Age category but they did not really fit there. So listen with an open mind, especially Rickover’s Dream and Ragamuffin. The album is surprisingly varied including a touch of electronica in Spare Change and there is even a cover of Neil Young’s After the Goldrush with bass accompaniment.

Needless to say, it is also extremely well recorded and actually won a Grammy for best engineered album. The space and depth of the sound combined with the musicality make this one of the best listens ever.

A 180 gram lp is available at Elusive Disc (www.elusivedisc.com).

Hedges included vocals in subsequent albums and released one live album – Live on a Double Planet in 1987. Unfortunately he died in an automobile accident in 1997, leaving a notable absence in the music world.