Written by 5:00 am Audiophile Music

Colossal Head: Cool on Vinyl, but Not Necessarily Better Than CD

Mark Smotroff tries to justify how a ’90s-era CD sounds better than a new LP reissue

I’ve wondered when I would experience this: I invest in a sweet 180-gram LP reissue of a favorite album by a favorite band issued by a company that I like and respect, and am disappointed by it. Despite a lovely pressing that is on nice, dark, blemish-free, mostly dead quiet* 180-gram vinyl, my original 1996-era CD of Los Lobos’ Colossal Head sounds better. The bass is bigger and tighter. The high end ever-so-slightly crisper. Overall presentation of the album is stronger.

CHsmall.jpgThat is not to say the LP sounds “bad.” And for those of you who simply must do all your listening on vinyl, this is a good thing. It is not unlistenable or anything like that. The CD has just a little bit more something.

To borrow a phrase from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, the LP is lacking in “muchness.”

Why is this? My first guess is simple and two-fold and perhaps wrong (yeah, I’m CYA-ing things here folks as this is pure speculation):
(A) This album may have been recorded (and/or at least mixed) in the digital domain of the ’90s, which might have capped off at 16-bit / 44.1 kHz (after all, vinyl was dead by then so no one was really thinking about it as a viable format at that time)
(B) There is a lot of deep, borderline hip-hop flavored bass anCollosalHeadLabelSmall.jpgd midrange tonality on this album, so it is possible that the LP mastering people had to dial back this musical enthusiasm to keep sensitive turntable styli from jumping the grooves.

But really, this is just an “edjumacated” guess, folks. I really have no idea and am just going on my gut here. Looking at some comments made on audiophile forums, perhaps the new “tighter” sound of the vinyl is an attempt to appease and appeal to audiophiles who didn’t like the “murky” mix some heard on the CD.

I never found it murky.

And I never found the music any sort of a let down after Kiko. In fact, this is one of Los Lobos’ most rocking affairs, and it sounds great when you turn it up loud.

Which reminds me, when you turn up the volume on your amp while playing the new vinyl version of Colossal Head, it sounds really quite nice, allowing you to push your tubes (if you have ’em) without any pain to the ears.

So who knows that the deal is? And perhaps, who cares? I mean, ultimately it’s about the music and this album has some killer tunes on it and is much more of a party record than their prior — masterpiece — Kiko.

And if you, like me, want to “play records” for and with your friends at a party or whatever, now you can break out some Los Lobos Colossal Head.

CollosalHeadLPsmall.jpgI wouldn’t play Kiko at a party (for the most part) as its much too introspective end to end. Colossal Head, however, I would play without reservation start to finish (and plan to!)

So maybe you should too? This fine, fine band deserves our support and maybe someday we’ll get a somewhat spiffier remix of some sort.

Más y Más

* Yes, I heard some swooshing towards the end of side two

(Visited 413 times, 1 visits today)