Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

Intervention IR-008
Format: LP

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

When guitarist Mick Jones was asked to leave the Clash in 1983, he formed Top Risk Action Company (T.R.A.C.), a band that soon folded. He then cofounded Big Audio Dynamite with filmmaker and musician Don Letts, who had directed a number of music videos for the Clash. The group’s debut album, This Is Big Audio Dynamite (1985), expanded on the sonic experimentation of the Clash’s Sandinista! (1980) and Combat Rock (1982), and continued Jones’s flirtations with disco, house, electronic pop, and other forms of music beyond punk rock.

Intervention Records has now reissued This Is Big Audio Dynamite on 180gm vinyl, pressed by RTI. Ryan K. Smith of Sterling Sound mastered the new edition, using what Intervention says is “the best analog tape currently available, a beautiful 1/4" 15-ips ‘cutting copy’ from 1985. This tape was used for the expanded Sony Legacy 2010 CD reissue, and as it’s either the only remaining or the best usable analog tape . . .”

This Is Big Audio Dynamite

I compared the new pressing with the 1990 CD edition. The CD, less aggressively bright than the earliest pop CDs tended to be, is quite listenable overall, but remarkably flat compared to the new vinyl -- the music seems to stop at the speakers. Smith has revealed the width and depth of the original music, which brings the many elements of the recording more out in the open.

In “Medicine Show,” it’s easier to hear, and place on the soundstage, the electronic and live drums and keyboards, and Jones’s guitar tone is more fully fleshed out. Subtle keyboard accents come through the layered sound with more clarity, and the samples from various Sergio Leone films and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which seem to flatten against the wall on CD, now extend into the room. And the bottom end really blooms -- low-end drums, keyboard lines, and bass have much more impact and clarity.

The ear-grabbing keyboard riff that runs through “Sony” is more forceful on the new LP, with a slightly metallic tone that makes it even more compelling. The new pressing reveals even more percussion, which reaches farther into the room, to spread out and snap harder. The vocal samples from Nicolas Roeg films that Letts integrates into “E=MC2” also jump farther out of the speakers to pull me in, and the keyboard washes sound fuller and more complex.

I’m not sure I’d ever taken particular note of the delay Jones uses on his guitar on “A Party” until I’d heard this pressing, in which it’s revealed as an important part of the track’s overall sound. Throughout this remastering, percussion pops from the speakers with more force, bass reaches out to thump harder, keyboards have more texture and life, and the music widens and deepens to become more envelopingly three-dimensional.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite

I hadn’t heard This Is Big Audio Dynamite in a while. Although its themes of corporatism and economic dislocation are still current, I’d assumed that the music is time bound -- very 1985. The big surprise, even when listening to the CD, is how fresh and startling it still is. Mick Jones could have easily formed another band like the Clash, but the sonic experiments he and Letts ushered in soon showed up on rock records by the Beastie Boys and Beck.

I’m glad Intervention is forthcoming about the source of the tape they used, but with results this good, the listener needn’t be concerned. Ryan K. Smith’s remastering brings to light so much detail from This Is Big Audio Dynamite that it’s as if we can now hear the album for the first time, and makes it clearer than ever how visionary this band was.

. . . Joseph Taylor