09. September 2022 · Comments Off on Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced UHQR · Categories: Album Reviews, Classic Albums, Hifi News, Music News · Tags: ,

JIMI HENDRIX – ARE YOU EXPERIENCED UHQR

A roundabout look and listen to the UHQR production of Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced?

Given the furore around the whole MoFi pressings, it would be remiss of me not to mention my thoughts on this kind of, let’s be honest, expensive way of enjoying vinyl, though this UHQR pressing is nothing to do with MoFi. My thoughts, if I gave it very much thought at all, was that these remastered and repackaged versions of well-loved albums were a bit of a waste of your hard earned money and that you’d be better served busing a whole load of bog-standard vinyl. There’s nothing like a bit of controversy to concentrate the mind and I have given this topic a good deal of thought over the last few weeks since the MoFi story broke, though I’m not going to make a direct comment on that issue here. I may well be coming round to these more expensive pressings and I’ll tell you why.

I have what many would consider being a lot of records, though when I look on the internet at folks’ collections I realise my collection is small-fry in comparison to some. I was looking at my collection and trying to work out what proportion of the records I play regularly – and the truth of the matter is that I have maybe 50 to 100 records that get played, and probably a lot less than this number get played regularly. However, I have invested a good deal of money and space into copies of vinyl that I will have played once or twice and then get (mostly) forgotten about. So here’s the rub and why I may think that I have wasted my money and would have been (potentially) better off spending larger amounts of money (individually) on a smaller number of records that sound better than the standard offerings and actually got played more regularly. It’s been a bit of a Eureka moment for me in some respects and one that I think, if they are honest, will resonate with other vinyl lovers.

Be honest, how many of the records in your collection do you play regularly?

On this point, there was a guy who seems now to have mostly disappeared banging on about the 500 (whatever the number was) records that he favoured. Quite rightly a number of people did the math and worked out that to listen to the number of records he was claiming to have listened to would have taken an inordinate amount of time. He later admitted that he skip-listened to a good number and this is something I did back in the 90s when labels were sending records out for me to play. The point I’m making here is that the vast majority of people don’t have the time to listen to their record collection in its entirety and regularly. Let’s say that you listen for a couple of hours a day That’s about five albums. Seven days a week, that’s 35 albums. Over the course of a year at this rate you would just about get through listening to a collection of 2000 records…but not quite – and you’d not be able to play your favourite records more than one. So, this begs the question I asked earlier, would I be best off spending a hundred quid or so a pop on a specially remastered and pressed copy of a record but have 200 records I could enjoy regularly, or would my current buying habits be a more sensible option – I’m now erring in favour of fewer records but better quality and (of course) more expensive. 2000 records at a fifteen quid a pop average spend gives a total of thirty grand. Some “specially done” vinyl represses are more expensive than others and the  Abbey Road Half Speed Masters I have a good few of are 25 quid (or thereabouts) a pop whilst the UHQR by Analogue Productions version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Are You Experienced” was just shy of £200 from David Brook at Vinyl Adventure. Speakers Corner records are about 35 quid and there are other specialists releasing these special editions at various price points. Looking at Analogue Productions website the price for this record in the US is $125.

The problem arises with these specialist recordings in that they are only ever going to produce a limited number of albums from artists that are well known and they know will sell. This naturally limits your choice and so you are (if you want to have the latest records from your favourite current bands) back to the situation of buying lots of records and having limited time to listen to them all.

Whoever said the life of an audiophile was an easy one?

Anyway, all that preamble was by way of introducing the record that I have here: The Analogue Productions UHQR  Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix.

Are You Experienced was released a couple of months before I entered this world back in 1967 and spent 33 weeks in the charts in the  UK hitting its hightide at number 2. The record was an immediate critical success and Hendrix was lauded as a guitar God. The record was hard and psychedelic in its make up, and Hendrix had a unique style to his playing and managed to fuse soul, rock, and psychedelia into one coherent musical style – listen to any Hendrix record and you know who is playing immediately. The production (backwards guitar) and playing were innovative and changed the face of rock music forever.

This is the American version of the record that differs from the European and UK release in the tracks it has on there. On the American (and this) version you get Purple Haze, Hey Joe, and The Wind Cries Mary, but you don’t get Remember which was the fourth track on the UK/European release.

The packaging on the  Analogue Productions version is, it has to be said, lavish. You get a hard case box that has a wooden spine that pulls out to reveal a tray containing the record (more on this in a bit), the cover, a 20-page 12” booklet, and a Technical Specifications Manual from which I’ll garner the techy gubbins about this record. Oh, and you get a certificate to let you know that you are the proud owner of one of only 20,000 Limited-Edition Custom Pressings that were pressed in February 2022 at Quality Record Pressings, Salina, Kansas. 20,000 seems a big number for a “limited-edition” but I guess the demand is going to be high for a record like this.

So, this is an Ultra High Quality Record (UHQR) from Analogue Productions/Quality Record Pressings and the pamphlet tells me that this record “incorporates the most innovative and ear-approved ideas ever applied to a vinyl LP manufacturing”. This is a bold claim but the pamphlet also tells me that there has been a huge investment in setting new benchmarks with regard to the production of “the best records in the world”.  This record is a Flat Profile Record and I’m told that its profile is “flat from the lead-in groove to the run-out groove” and that normal records go uphill for the first half of a side and downhill for the second – ie. they have a hump. Now, this is something I didn’t know, cannot corroborate and have never lost any sleep over, but then how do you lose sleep over something you weren’t aware of existing?  Anyway, the idea here is that the stylus runs perpendicular consistently throughout playback and this has to be a good thing…right?

You can read all about this on the company’s website but there are other processes that Analogue Productions claim to make these pressings superior to the common or garden pressings and these include: Lacquers using a plating process that uses a “much lower than usual maximum DC voltage using a customised plating head” that is designed to deposit a layer of fine-grain nickel on the lacquer which is said to give a quieter pressing when stamped by the “industry’s most consistent stampers”. Plus a whole host of quality control interventions are in place and the latest punching and finishing machines from Sibert are used.

The vinyl used for the records here is called Clarity Vinyl and the record is indeed clear…or rather off-white. It’s off-white because the  viny they use does not contain carbon-black which they tell us “lowers the surface noise and reduces physical interference with the  stylus produced by particles of carbon black pigment.” Their own tests suggest that Clarity V2 vinyl has at least 2dB lower noise in the 4-20kHZ band.

So, what you have here is luxurious packaging and a product that claims to offer sonic benefits over and above the standard packaging with the company’s website stating that “ True to its name, Analogue Productions works with the original analogue master tapes – more than any other reissue label! The result is superior sound – richer, warmer and more lifelike, than digital.”

LISTENING TO THE RECORD

So that’s background but does it sound any good?

I don’t have the first press to compare it to but they go for an average price of €37.28 and a high of €198 on Discogs. (Stereo US press on Reprise) and the Mono press going for a bit more and the chances of ever getting a truly minty copy are going to be few and far between, if not impossible. On this point, apart from the inherent collectability factor of the original, I know where my money would be going given the mastering on this record is excellent and it is exceptional sounding, being hugely dynamic and remarkably clear sounding across the frequency spectrum.

It’s a new record and I would be hugely disappointed if any record had a surfeit of surface noise, but this press is devoid of surface noise and that all adds to making listening to this record a very enjoyable experience in that it has detail you may well miss out on other versions.

Listening on what I would consider to be a very good vinyl playback system there is a sense of this being an “occasion” and there is a holographic sense to the listening experience that is hard to ignore with Hendrix’ guitar and effects cutting through the mix with crystal-like clarity. Now I don’t know if this holographic-type thing I mention is down to the actual mastering (it must be to a good degree) or to the stylus sitting true in the groove because of the “Flat Profile”, but it is pretty impressive.

OVERALL COMMENTS

This is an excellent production and one that I think any Hendrix fan will want to own. Yes, it is expensive but rather than playing “Ratings Roulette” on Discogs you know you are going to be getting a pristine copy that has been expertly mastered from the original master tapes that will put a smile on your face every time you take it out of the sleeve and drop the needle on the record.

There’s a version of Mies Davis Kind of Blue coming out on UHQR ad despite already having a double 45RPM press of this, I am sorely tempted to send for this too.

Will I get shut of my collection and condense it into a smaller number of high-quality pressings such as this – that’s doubtful as I’m a bit of a “hoarder next door” but my eyes have, to a degree, been opened.

FROM THE VINYL ADVENTURE

Fonica International Isodynamic Speakers
Black Rhodium Minuet Mains Power Cable

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