A blog post

Hugg’s Neon Dream – and a sound check

Posted on the 22 February, 2011 at 10:14 pm Written by in Music

As many, eventually, have noticed, Mike Hugg’s Neon Dream (1975) is a remarkable and overlooked record. Cf http://prognotfrog.blogspot.com/2010/04/mike-hugg-hug-neon-dream-1975.html

Broadly speaking it sums up a substantial part of the 1960s pop revolution experience, centred on the Mannfred Mann band case, and perhaps more intelligently, or at least as interestingly, reworked in Hugg’s case as in the case of Mannfred’s Earth Band. Hugg was more jazz-oriented, but perhaps also more true to the band’s prog roots. As on his two first albums, the cuts are often long and involved, yet less bleak, they often rock seriously, and deliver their pop message too.

I am in the unique position of having a master tape copy of this record, copied directly to tape.  I got this copy tape in the late 1970s, often enjoying it played back on my Revox A77.  What does a digital version of the analog master tape sound like, compared to digital version of vinyl records?

The  object of this test is a digital SDS recording from the analog copy played back on the (possibly somewhat rusty) Revox analog tape recorder, using the Korg Mr-1 recorder, compared to vinyl digital recordings.

Not to surprise you – it sounds glorious. The limitations are interesting too. It sounds great within a more narrow soundscape than the one attempted by later technology. I have to overlook a certain amount of missing bass, and tune in on the middle tone. Some treble is missing too, but this is not as noticeable, since the sound coherence on the mid level is so good that it mainly makes up for it. The sound is more free and natural than what I often associate with digital and even SACD sound, more dimensional, even if it is in a limited sound envelope.

On my test player (Cowon D2) I have Passport: Looking Through (1974) after Hugg. It is a better but also more slick recording. It is hard to evaluate sound differences across recordings, but my main impression is, as many times before, that the “going through vinyl” method works remarkably well – considering that it should not work so well. It should clearly detract from the sound, but it doesn’t. Instead it creates a somewhat different kind of sound, not clearly inferior to the master tape copy, in my case. Some of it may be “being used to it”. The vinyl sort of “prolongs the case”, while the master tape has it “right there”. With a somewhat inferior master tape case, and a good vinyl reproducer, it is hard to decide, but this remains an impression.