Sarah McLachlan on Vinyl.. Why?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Adagio, Sep 14, 2021.

  1. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Love vinyl. Without a doubt my preferred media.

    Occasionally, just for fun, I'll compare my vinyl to the CD counterpart (if I have it). Vinyl typically wins. But my latest head to head was a shock:

    • Sarah McLachlan Afterglow, 200 g Classic Records (purchased for $30 in 2005 now going for avg $140 on Discogs)
    • Sarah McLachlan Afterglow, $2.99 bargain bin CD

    and the winner is...... CD by a significant margin.

    Why are these Classic Records vinyl re-issues of Sarah M. so highly sought after? i.e. Why would anyone pay $100+ dollars for this LP when a $3 CD sounds so much better ?

    (Similar result when comparing Mirrorball CD to the Classic Records vinyl version)
    uzn007 likes this.
  2. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter


    If this was a blind test I would have been convinced that the CD was the analog media and the Vinyl was the digital media. That's how dramatic the difference was for me.
    BrokenByAudio, Fruff76 and c-eling like this.
  3. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    LOVE your avatar! I have that CD, bought it when it was released, it's lovely!

    Frankly, I think the vinyl is sought after because it's vinyl and because it's Classic. Generally a great label, their products are trusted. However, that doesn't mean that any recording is necessarily going to sound better on vinyl. Afterglow was probably recorded all-digital, mixed and mastered competently and the CD is probably one of the better examples of what that medium can offer. I wonder about this with artists like Loreena McKennitt as well - her CDs have always sounded ace. I have several re-released vinyl LPs of her albums and I've never compared them head to head, but I suspect that LPs of her music aren't a great improvement on her CDs.
    c-eling likes this.
  4. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks. One of my all time favourite JMT albums. Introduced me to the writings of Thomas Merton and Thomas a' Kempis
    dkmonroe likes this.
  5. SoundAdvice

    SoundAdvice Forum Resident

    Before the reissues, PJ Harvey also had some old "cd on wax" albums on vinyl going for $100+.
    Chrome_Head likes this.
  6. walrus

    walrus Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I mean, streaming Afterglow is even cheaper. But it’s a peak loudness war-era release, so of course an LP of it would be of some value for anyone who enjoys the album. (Which IMO is every bit as good as Surfacing as a whole despite lacking a massive breakout single)
  7. Lovealego

    Lovealego Forum Resident

    Danville, CA
    The vinyl might not be worth it but the AP SACDs certainly are. Afterglow sounds amazing. Never understood why we didn’t get more albums like Ecstasy, Surfacing and Laws of Illusion in that Analogue Productions SACD series.

    Solace and Mirrorball SACDs are ok but I’d much prefer the later studio albums instead.
    DBMethos and c-eling like this.
  8. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    Package and design can be a draw.
    I prefer the old stock CD mastering of Solace compared to the AP 2x45.
  9. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    I don't know what to say as I don't have Afterglow or Mirrorball from Classic. I do have the Mirrorball CD and was never impressed by it. But I have Touch, Surfacing and Fumbling Through Ecstasy/Freedom Session from Classic. Touch, I've never been impressed with. But Surfacing and the two-fer of Fumbling and Freedom sound amazing on Classic vinyl. Bernie Grundman cut the two-fer and it has the bonus song I Will Remember You. The crown jewel of them is the tw0-fer.
    audiotom likes this.
  10. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Good to know about the Fumbling and Freedom two-fer. I picked it up years ago but never gave it a serious listen / compared it to my CD copies.
  11. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter


    It seems these Classic 200g needs a higher than average VTA. With that adjustment made "Afterglow" sounds great. More spacious and pleasant than the CD. But the improvement is nowhere near as big as I get when comparing Vinyl to CD for other recordings. I guess the CD was mastered really well
    dkmonroe likes this.
  12. audiotom

    audiotom Ground Control to Major Tom

    New Orleans La USA
    all the Sara McLachlan lps I have are stunning

    A few of them are Classic, the rest AP
  13. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    SF Peninsula
    Well I'v never tried to compare a CD with a Record, it's apples and oranges and there is no reason to.

    That said I have all her titles on Classic Records that they did in Test Pressings and Standard issues.
    Touch Classic Records Test Pressing & Original US pressing, and Some 12" Singles
    Solace Classic Records Test Pressing and 2 Standard 200g issues
    Fumbling and Freedom Sessions Classic Records 200g two copies (My Main go to)
    Surfacing Classic Records Test Pressings and 2 Standard 200g copies.
    Mirrorball Classic Records Clarity 45 RPM Test pressing, 33.3 RPM Test Pressing, and a standard 200g copy.

    Analogue Productions 45 RPM 200g copies of : Solace, Surfacing, Mirrorball, Afterglow.

    Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Nettwerk 45 RPM copy 2016
    Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Music On Vinyl – MOVLP1744 copy 2016

    I have many copies of all these titles on standard CDs as well as special singles and DVDs

    Never once had I thought of comparing a CD to a record for one thing they are EQed differently.
    They all sound good IMHO but a little different and depending on the system you might find you like CDs / Digital better.
    As far as the comments saying the masters are digital? since when does Classic Records & AP used digital masters for their records? They don't..........

    Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstasy And The Freedom Sessions

    Possession, the piano version hidden on Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

    Last edited: Sep 20, 2021 at 9:26 AM
    mikedifr0923 and Johnny Vinyl like this.
  14. I have never heard the Classic Records LP, but the Analogue Productions LP from 2014 blows away my original CD. Much more natural sounding vocals. I love that one.
    4-2-7 likes this.
  15. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I would be surprised if a label like Nettwerk Recordings wasn't using an all digital recording chain. Especially after 1997 when Surfacing and Afterglow were released.

    In other words Classic and AP can't use an analog master if it doesn't exist, which is probably the case for these albums (but I would be happy to be corrected on this).
    rfkavanagh and c-eling like this.
  16. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    DAT's more than likely.
    The AP even for Solace caps at 22 -flat lined
  17. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    SF Peninsula
    This title they went through the trouble to even tell you they used tapes.
    Sarah McLachlan-Surfacing-45 RPM Vinyl Record|Acoustic Sounds
    180-gram gatefold double LP cut at 45 RPM
    Mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes

    If a master tape didn't exist they wouldn't have produced the title period.
    Again I don't know of any title Classic or AP put out that wasn't on Tape. Chad is a stickler for Analog recordings to be used for AP titles it's a given if it's an AP record it's all analog. For me it doesn't really matter as long as all the work was done great, the record will be great.
    Bernie mastered all these AP titles and QRP did the Pressing and Plating work, a win win.
  18. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    SF Peninsula
    The thing people don't understand today is converting a studio to doing digital recording and mixing wasn't cheap back in the day, nor was converting a mastering lab.

    Tape equipment and the tapes where the cheap rout for small labels that didn't have deep pockets to change everything over. Just because Digital was more common into the 90s doesn't mean the recording studio used it. Many new artist in the 90s where recording to tape as it was cheaper, or maybe many felt it was better, the debate is nothing new.
    c-eling likes this.
  19. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    Solace was digital or mixed to digital by Greg.
    At least this is what the AP is showing me.
    I think they transferred from the tapes to DSD/Digital Hi-rez, Bernie remastered them in the digital domain then laid them to wax.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021 at 11:30 AM
  20. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I guess it depends on the timeframe and/or the age of the multi-track tape machines that a recording studio had at the time. Some of the low budget labels that I listened to in the early 90's switched completely over to all digital very quickly. I had always assumed because it was ultimately cheaper; all the complex moving parts in a multi-track analog recording rig being more expensive to operate and maintain than a digital recording system.

    One thing I do remember was the outrage in the 90's that labels were charging $20+ dollars for a CD even though it was far cheaper to "press" CD's than Vinyl LP's.

    I guess each label / studio had a different business case for up-front conversion cost against lower long term operating costs.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021 at 9:52 PM
  21. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Good to know.
    Given that my "Classic" pressings of Afterglow, Mirrorball and Surfacing are therefore "all analog" and sound only somewhat better than the CD is a testament to the mastering job done for the CD. Most of the time vinyl is dramatically better than digital (in my experience).
  22. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    It's interesting to note that on the Acoustic Sounds website the product description for Surfacing 2X45 RPM specifies "..from the original analog tapes"

    180-gram gatefold double LP cut at 45 RPM

    Mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes

    Award-winning album includes the hits "Angel," "Adia" and "Building A Mystery"

    However "...from the original analog tapes..." is conspicuoulsy missing from the product description for "Afterglow"

    200-gram double LP 45 RPM gatefold reissue from Analogue Productions

    Mastered by Bernie Grundman

    Plated and pressed at Quality Record Pressings!

    Features "Fallen", "Stupid" and "World on Fire"
  23. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Forum Resident

    SF Peninsula
    Well just like anything if it's new and SOTA, it's more expensive. Conversely at the same time yesterdays technology is being sold for pennies on the dollar, even the new tapes would be cheaper to buy.

    Yes I know, it's not like they always put that description in the listing.

    Look at these two

    Norah Jones-Come Away With Me-180 Gram Vinyl Record|Acoustic Sounds
    Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio from the original source recordings!

    Norah Jones-Come Away With Me-14 Inch - 15 IPS Tape|Acoustic Sounds
    Analogue Productions Ultra Tape reel-to-reel reissues!
    Sourced from original master tapes
    Transferred using ATR-modified Ampex Tape Machine with flux magnetic heads

    From Analogue Productions comes another classic title in our Ultra Tape reel-to-reel album reissue series. Each is a 15 ips, ¼-inch analog tape copy (IEC equalization) sourced from a copy of the original analog master tape. Transferred real-time, using an ATR-modified Ampex Tape Machine with flux magnetic heads. Custom slipcase cover.

    Ok on the record they didn't bother to tell us if the original source was digital or analog, tape or high res files. But with their Ultra Tape reel-to-reel reissues the let us know that in fact the master is tape and analog tape to boot.

    And for her box set
    Norah Jones-Norah Jones-200 Gram Vinyl Record|Acoustic Sounds
    Five individual titles plus exclusive bonus album of cover classics, all on 33 1/3 LP
    All mastered from the original sources by Kevin Gray
    LPs pressed on 200-gram vinyl at Quality Record Pressings
    Box set is wrapped in a textured paper that feels like linen.

    Really these are older titles from AP, it's really only in resent years people are getting so fixated on all AAA. It sells records if you add it in your listing but I'v also never seen a AP title use a call out sticker saying Mastered from the Original Analog Tapes. I also don't know of any Classic Records or AP titles that where digitally sourced masters. They have both always been all analog records.

    Norah didn't get her first album out till 2002. With your theory and this time frame, she should have been recorded digitally, but clearly wasn't.

    Chad / AP is an analog guy, he want's tapes to make records, the same goes for Classic Records.
    He's gone as far as not having a master tape for a Jazz title he wanted to do, the tape was lost or destroyed. He could have used a high res file to cut it but didn't, he got a mint first pressing and did a needle drop to master this title. Now this is a rare case of him not being able to get a master tape, but also shows how he will go all AAA one way or another.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021 at 11:01 PM

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