Vinyl and CD Review: I’ve Got The Music In Me – Sheffield Lab 2 – Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker – Released 1975
Surface noise: 4
Dynamic Range: 5
Stereo Imaging: 4+
Image depth/perspective: 4
Overall frequency response: 5
Plastic – CD
Surface noise: N/A
Dynamic Range: 4+
Stereo Imaging: 5-
Image depth/perspective: 4
Overall frequency response: 4+
- I’ve Got The Music In Me
- Reggae Tune
- To Know You Is To Love You
- Pressure Cooker
- Don’t Misunderstand
- Step In Time
- Dish Rag
- Got To Get You Into My Life/I’ve Got The Music In Me (Reprise)
This is one of four albums in the Lab series that I also own in CD version. Each CD was produced from a digital copy of the original recording session. I also own four other Sheffield Lab CD’s; three compilations, and Kodo – Heartbeat Drummers of Japan, produced from a stereo point source digital recording of the performance. All will be reviewed at a later date.
The CD version of this album is from the Audiophile Reference Series and was created using the last playable U-Matic digital session copy. The original analog tape and U-Matic copy had become damaged and unplayable as the album had been out of print for almost fifteen years when it was decided to release this CD version . So which did I prefer?
Both versions are outstanding examples of the musicians, engineers and each mediums abilities.
Having only four tracks on each side there seems to be little to no restriction on the dynamic range. Vinyl surface noise on both sides of the pressing was acceptably quiet, only becoming evident on the lead in and between tracks. Being a studio recording the musicians all appeared up front with the drum kit and backing singers providing some depth to the stereo image. There was a real sense that the musicians and Thelma were enjoying their art and at all times provided a very tight musical performance with lots of high end sparkle.
Stereo imaging was good but not as rock solid as I have heard on other Sheffield Lab vinyl recordings. Thelma was actually in the room with me, providing me with my own private performance, she sounded outstanding and stood there looking at me! The kit and kick drum were well recorded together with a solid bass line. Most of the tracks had outstanding dynamics and singling any one is really a matter of preference; but Pressure Cooker, Side1 Track4, certainly pushed the envelope.
The Plastic (CD)
The first thing that hit me on hearing this CD immediately after playing the vinyl was the lack off surface noise, obviously! This seemed to make the tracks a little more “open”, even though I was not aware of any intrusive noise when listening to a vinyl track. Also noted was the occasional 120Hz hum from the RH channel but this was extremely low level and could only be detected between tracks. The most apparent differences were that Thelma’s vocals were a little more recessed, the bass seemed to be more extended but at the same time a little thicker or less defined, the dynamics were a little reduced, while the top end didn’t have the same ‘sparkle’ as vinyl. Most interestingly there did not seem to be a digital “hard edge” to the sound. All tracks sounded excellent but didn’t quiet rise to the impact of the vinyl.
There are obviously significant differences to the signal chains between analog Vinyl and Digital CD. While some of the differences in frequency balance could be attributed to the differences in my signal chain processing the differences in dynamic range cannot.
Each medium has its strengths, weaknesses and trade offs, but overall the vinyl won out. This is despite the CD providing a complete lack of surface noise, a little more openness, more stable stereo imaging and a slightly more extended bass response. It was also very pleasing that the CD did not seem to exhibit what I call a ‘digital hard edge’. However, it was more compressed and somehow warmer with a slightly recessed mid range causing Thelma to retreat a little. The top end was clean being a little less bright and having a little less ‘sparkle’ and presence than the vinyl.
On a lighter note, if I go to sleep during the CD it stops after all tracks have played! Not so with vinyl, it keeps on turning, and I have to change sides half way through!
I love them both, and would not hesitate to use either to show what vinyl and direct to disc recording can achieve!
If you can’t get a vinyl copy of this outstanding recording the CD isn’t second best, its just a different rendition of the session.