Live - Throwing Copper
Album Comparisons: Throwing Copper
Although not their first album, Live's Throwing Copper was the band's breakthrough release. The album took a while to really pick up steam, at least in my social circles, not really making any impact that I remember until the song "I Alone" went into heavy rotation on local radio. The album was Live's big moment in the sun, the one seminal, influential release that rocketed them to fame quickly, but one which ultimately proved to be the band's high water mark as nothing that came after was more than moderately successful in the U.S. Throwing Copper was released in 1994, during a transitional period in the industry when major labels had begun to go all in on the Loudness War but levels had not yet reached the catastrophic extremes they would hit by the end of the decade. Back in high school I owned the cassette version of this album, which I later mostly retired in favor of the compact disc. How do these two compare from a dynamics standpoint?

Note: Since the cassette format is much more limited in terms of potential dynamics and sound quality, this comparison is mostly intended to contrast the different philosophies employed in the mastering of these two different formats. The digital transfer was made using playback with Dolby B noise reduction, and the overall volume of the cassette version has been normalized, with dynamics between songs retained.

The Dam at Otter Creek

1994 original CD release

The Dam at Otter Creek

1994 original cassette release

The Dam at Otter Creek

Selling the Drama

1994 original CD release

Selling the Drama

1994 original cassette release

Selling the Drama

I Alone

1994 original CD release

I Alone

1994 original cassette release

I Alone

Iris

1994 original CD release

Iris

1994 original cassette release

Iris

Lightning Crashes

1994 original CD release

Lightning Crashes

1994 original cassette release

Lightning Crashes

Top

1994 original CD release

Top

1994 original cassette release

Top

All Over You

1994 original CD release

All Over You

1994 original cassette release

All Over You

Shit Towne

1994 original CD release

Shit Towne

1994 original cassette release

Shit Towne

T.B.D.

1994 original CD release

T.B.D.

1994 original cassette release

T.B.D.

Stage

1994 original CD release

Stage

1994 original cassette release

Stage

Waitress

1994 original CD release

Waitress

1994 original cassette release

Waitress

Pillar of Davidson

1994 original CD release

Pillar of Davidson

1994 original cassette release

Pillar of Davidson

White, Discussion

1994 original CD release

White, Discussion

1994 original cassette release

White, Discussion

Horse*

1994 original CD release

Horse

1994 original cassette release

Horse * hidden track

Comparison of "Waitress"

A comparison of the cassette and compact disc versions using volume matched samples. Click or tap the image to toggle.
And the winner is: Compact disc release. Live was one of the very first bands I ever saw in concert, all the way back in August of 1995 at the Coca-Cola Starplex (now Gexa Energy Pavilion) during the third of four "big" shows I attended during that year. Listening to this again brings back memories of evenings not long after high school graduation spent running down the road of my old hometown with the cassette of this album playing on the stereo of my very first car. That very same cassette tape from my teenage years is the one I used for this comparison, played back now on equipment that's a tad better than what I had back then. So how does it hold up twenty-one years later? Quite well, as it turns out. And how does its content hold up, sonically speaking, to the compact disc that I've also had since my teenage years? As expected, the mastering does appear to reveal less (or no) effort at mastering for loudness, while the levels on the CD have clearly been pushed well past what is reasonable. That being said, given that this album was released in 1994, the mix still sounds very good and lacks the extremely compressed and dynamically flat sound of releases with a more recent pedigree (see No Exit or pretty much anything by Weezer other than Pinkerton, or for that matter almost any popular recording released since 1999). Ultimately, despite its lack of brickwall peak limiting, the cassette is still a cassette, and the compact disc is leaps and bounds ahead with a much richer, fuller, more robust sound, and much better high and low end. The can be heard quite clearly in the drums, particularly in the snare and hi hat. Go with the CD for this one.