I’ve inherited two copies of DSOM, and am completely torn between them. On the one hand, I have what appears to be a first-run (or certainly close to it!) copy, which has clearly been played to death on older, heavier and less-than-perfectly set up decks than ours. It’s also picked up more than its fair share of scratches through the years. Our new cartridge has just done a wonderful job making this old disc sing, but it’s clear that the detail has now pretty much been scraped out of the grooves.
Despite the crackles and occasional scrapes, this older copy sounds somehow more direct and open than the CD copies I’ve encountered, revealing little details during instrumental sections that I’ve not heard before. Bass is crisp and taught – and there’s an impression of the mix being polished to perfection, of being finished somehow. All the sibilance and crackling distortion on vocals and guitars is gone. Keyboards are clearly well integrated with the mix – adding texture, rhythm and depth, but without taking space used by the guitars. Cymbals are crisp without being overdone. Toms, snare and kick are a little softer in timbre than I would perhaps like. Another evident fault is that the treble in the left side is somewhat reduced in level compared with the right.
And so onto the newer copy, about which all I know is that it’s a Dutch pressing that somehow found its way to a Bristol (UK) record store to be purchased as a replacement for the older and more tired copy. Using “Money” as the reference track, this disc sounds more detailed than the original, but the bass is somewhat lighter, and less detailed in timbre. The soundstage is certainly helped by the fact that treble levels are more balanced between left and right channels. Percussion is certainly tighter, and the mix holds together better in the instrumental section of the track.
The problem is that the extra detail and the subdued bass combine to form a presentation that really does not sound as polished as the earlier pressing. It’s actually quite fatiguing to listen to. More like the CD presentation actually, but not in a good way.
Moving on briefly to “Us and Them”, the newer copy is much tighter both in terms of soundstaging and pitch stability – but it lacks the low-frequency weight and timbre that make the song so intimate in its early stages.
So in conclusion the newer disc is certainly more “hifi”, so is worth keeping for that. But musically I feel that the older copy conveys more of the message – and so it’ll remain in our collection as a great example of how technical superiority doesn’t always help convey the musical message more effectively.