Black Sabbath's Vol. 4: Best sounding version?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Agent of Fortune, Jul 9, 2015.

  1. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    This is an album that has always suffered sonically, from the drug impairment of the recording sessions, to the apparent damage to the US master tapes (some oxide loss is audible on the original Waner CD).

    I been really digging this album lately, but I've grown quite tired of the issues with the Warner CD. The weird EQs make it very hard to crank on a sharp, bright pair of speakers. (And it's not just the sound - I think the orange UK cover works much better than the yellow US version.)

    So I'm wondering: which CD is the best sounding version?

    I've heard some very good things about the 1986 Castle CD, but it's well out of my budget.

    How's the sound on the 2009 Sanctuary Digipak reissue? This one is much more affordable.

    It seems Roland/rjstauber likes both, but thinks the 1986 to be smoother sounding. Is it a big difference?
    I know the packaging is wonderful, but does the 2009 have anything to its advantage, sound-wise?

    And for the record, does anybody know of a better sounding version (any format) than either of these?

    Feel free to hijack this thread for Vol. 4 related discussions.
    Music_dude and ifihadafish like this.
  2. ifihadafish

    ifihadafish Forum Resident

    Good luck on the search. I've the Black Box edition - it's my third copy of the album (had Castle 96? and maybe the 1986 one before - it came in a box set with a book by Mick Wall I think)

    I just wanted to state that bar for FX this album rocks.

    I've never done an A to B on it - just put it in the stereo and crank the living s**t clean out of it.
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  3. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    I usually don't go too crazy searching for the best sounding version of an album - if it sounds good, and doesn't grate on my nerves, then that's usually good enough. But my speakers have horn-loaded tweeters (on top of that, they're very efficient, so there's a lot of bite involved, even at low volumes) - it's really not very pleasant sitting next to 110 DB of screeching treble. And because Black Sabbath is undoubtedly best absorbed at high volumes, therein indeed lies the problem.

    I'm thinking I'll probably end up just going for the 2009 Sanctuary CD, but I wanted to throw this all out there in case anybody else has Vol 4 on their mind (and because we could use a Vol 4 thread, of course).
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
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  4. sons of nothing

    sons of nothing Forum Resident

    I like the the 1996 Castle Remastered version, which was done from the original master tapes. To my ears they don't sound as bright as the WB version. It won't set you back too much (5-10 at the worst) and has a nice booklet, though IIRC some of the lyrics are wrong.
    danielbravo likes this.
  5. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    I had a 'Warehouse Deal' on that one in my cart on Amazon a while back. $2! All that was wrong with it was that there was a small crack on the case. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to put together $35 worth of stuff, so I lost it so someone else.

    I've got Black Sabbath & Mob Rules from that reissue series, I see nothing wrong with them. There's maybe a little compression, but the EQ is very good.

    The 2009 looks very similar in terms of dynamic range. Has anybody heard both?

  6. sons of nothing

    sons of nothing Forum Resident


    Ha! I bought one at the flea market for $2.00. The one I bought in 96 was thrashed from countless playing. The booklet in that one actually had two covers.
  7. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    Well, now all I need is to find one for cheap with no front insert! ;)

    But in all seriousness, I recommend framing the extra. It's smaller than the LP, yes, but it's an iconic cover.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
  8. Vinyl Fan 1973

    Vinyl Fan 1973 "They're like soup, they're like....nothing bad"

    I've had many versions of this album on CD and vinyl, and my go to version is the Japanese SHM-CD. Really fantastic sounding.
  9. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    The 2009 or 2010 SHM-CD? Or are they the same thing?
    razorball likes this.
  10. sons of nothing

    sons of nothing Forum Resident

    I framed the Lp sometime ago. It is on a wall in the hall which has nothing but UK bands. I'm in the processing of hunting down 45 sleeves for another wall. Album jackets are artwork, and some of the original pieces do belong in a museum. I'd love to walk into Chicago's Art Institute and see such a display.
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  11. Erik Tracy

    Erik Tracy Meet me at the Green Dragon for an ale

    San Diego, CA, USA
    What is your target budget for this?

    I was also going to recommend the 86 Castle (I have this one) but you said it was too much....what is the going rate these days?

    If you want the best, you may just have to pay the price.
  12. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    I looked it up on eBay this morning, there are two currently listed. One for $17, the other for $27, IIRC. There are sold listings for anywhere form $6 to $20.

    I'd like to keep it under $15. Ideally under $10, but I doubt that's going to happen.

    I don't necessarily need the best, just something that's not going to hurt my ears (see post #3), that (ideally) has elegant, fairly faithful, vintage presentation. At $12, the 2009 Sanctuary CD seems to fit these criteria. Thoughts?
    joshm2286 likes this.
  13. Jerry c.

    Jerry c. Forum Resident

    if you have exceedingly bright speakers the 2009 sanctuary is exactly what you are looking for.
    joshm2286 likes this.
  14. Vinyl Fan 1973

    Vinyl Fan 1973 "They're like soup, they're like....nothing bad"

    2010 UICY-20107, not sure if they are the same, but it sounds great.
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  15. Scott222C

    Scott222C Loner, Rebel & Family Man

    Original UK Vertigo Porky/Pecko vinyl.
  16. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    They're 1972 Sansui SP-50s. I wouldn't exactly call them exceedingly bright, just a little 'sharp', largely due to their tremendous efficiency.
    I love them to death for their looks and clarity, but I tell ya, sometimes they're a tad on the pushy side. That's often good for heavy music, though.
    joshm2286 likes this.
  17. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    How does it lean tonally? Warmer, brighter, just right?
    joshm2286 likes this.
  18. sathvyre

    sathvyre formerly known as ABBAmaniac

    I really enjoy my Holland first pressing (Vertigo swirl labels). I've never heard a Porky UK pressing, but there is still no need to get one for the price they sell on Discogs and Co...
  19. Vinyl Fan 1973

    Vinyl Fan 1973 "They're like soup, they're like....nothing bad"

    Well I don't find it as muddy sounding as lets say the Rhino reissue, and I don't find it as bright sounding as the Black Box CD set, or even the NEMS vinyl reissues. I think it strikes a nice balance of the two, at least that's the first thing that struck me once I played it.

    At the end of the day, it's not the greatest production to begin with, so you need to find something that will give an enjoyable listen.

    I read what your budget is, but I'd save up a bit and either try to get the original Castle or the SHM CD. Anything else would not be worth it IMO.

    I had a mint Australian Vertigo Swirl LP and to be honest I didn't care for it at all. I ended up selling it a few months back. I never heard a Porky swirl, but I can't see it being any better. I think the Rhino LP reissue is a nice listen but compared to the SHM, there would be no reason to spin it really.

    I was able to find an original Castle CD of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and I thought it sounded incredible, it's my go to for that album. Vol 4 might be great as well.
    razorball likes this.
  20. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    I have been through every incarnation listed in the thread and sold most of them including the 86 Castle. The 2009 Sanctuary is really all you need IMO. Wish I had saved my money.
    danielbravo likes this.
  21. You Better You Bet

    You Better You Bet Forum Resident

    I like the 1986 Castle CLACD 199. This is probably the version Roland references in his thread. The Castle NELCD 6005 is the same, it just has a live version of Children Of The Grave tacked on the end as a bonus track.
    joshm2286 likes this.
  22. danielbravo

    danielbravo Forum Resident

    Caracas. DC
    Yes. Andy Pearce remaster for both versions.
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  23. danielbravo

    danielbravo Forum Resident

    Caracas. DC
    Although it may now be more expensive, the english edition of Vol. 4 in vinyl by Vertigo Records is fantastic. (Uk Vertigo 6360 071) "The best way to hear Black Sabbath is on Vinyl"

    DR: 12 DR min: 11 DR max: 15

    In the cd format ?
    I like a lot the remaster of Andy Pearce (Universal / Vertigo Uk 2009) which is the same you can hear in the Japanese Shm-Cd (uicy-20107) or the european version on digipack (Sanctuary Records - 2716857) both have the same quality sound (I have all these shm-cd releases and I compared it with its european counterparts and have the same sound quality)

    DR: 10 DR min: 09 DR max: 13

    The remaster of Ray Staff for Castel Records UK 1996 ((ESM CD 304) is my second choice.

    DR: 11 DR min: 09 DR max: 14

    With all due respect: avoid to the maximum the Black Box!
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
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  24. Neilson77

    Neilson77 Forum Resident

    Nottingham UK
    I think the 2009 Andy Pearce remaster sounds like crap! The black box mastering although a bit bright and loud as people seem to moan about on here is very close sonically to my UK Porky Vinyl, the best mastering you can get. All US versions I've heard sound muddy!
  25. Agent of Fortune

    Agent of Fortune Däncing Barefoot Thread Starter

    These albums are meant to sound murky! Everything I've heard from The Black Box has been not only overly bright, but brickwalled to hell & back.
    Your speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 5000s, seem to have a reputation for being on the bass-heavy side. Could this be altering the presentation of the mastering? If you can provide me with a DR log readout of the Black Box Vol. 4 that shows dynamic mastering, maybe I'll reconsider. Till then, I have one eye on the 2009, and the other one out for the 1986 Castle. ;)

    Anyway, as I said above, my speakers (Sansui SP50s) are fairly bright. My major complaint with the original Warner US CD is actually that due to a peak around 2kHz, it's a bit earbleeding on several songs when played loud (in particular Supernaut). It does have a distinct muddy tinge to it, but I have a feeling that that's due to tape issues/damage. To paraphrase Jill Taylor, "I just want something simple that I can turn up" (Home Improvement S1 E24 'Stereo-Typical').
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