Are you a fan of the classic Doolittle album by the Pixies and wondering which version is the best to add to your collection? If so, you are in luck as today we are doing a Pixies Doolittle vinyl shootout to find which release of this classic album you should invest in.
About the Pixies
If you are here reading this you most likely already know about who the Pixies are as a band. The original lineup which is featured on Doolittle and the first 5 Pixies studio albums include Black Francis (vocals, rhythm guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), Kim Deal (bass, vocals), and David Lovering (drums).
The band is known for their loud-quiet loud style of alternative rock, which was a big influence on many other bands that came after them. The Pixies formed in 1986 and released their first EP, Come On Pilgrim in 1987. The follow-up album, Surfer Rosa, released in 1988 through the English label 4AD, was a critical success. The band’s next two albums, Doolittle (1989) and Bossanova (1990), both reached the top 50 in the UK Albums Chart.
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The band then went on to release five studio albums before the Pixies disbanded acrimoniously in 1993. After the breakup, each member going on to pursue successful solo careers. Two notable solo acts included Black Francis (who changed his name to Frank Black) starting Frank Black and the Catholics and Kim Deal with her new band The Breeders.
In 2005, the Pixies reunited for a tour across Europe and North America. Since then, the band has released three new studio albums: Indie Cindy (2014), Head Carrier (2016), and Beneath the Eyrie (2019).
The Pixies were one of the most important and influential bands of the late 80s/early 90s and are credited with helping shape what would become known as the “alternative rock” genre. Although they were popular in the underground scene, they never achieved mainstream success in their active years. However, in the years since their breakup, their influence has grown exponentially and they are now considered to be one of the most influential bands of all time.
Many modern day bands have cited the Pixies as an influence. Some of the bands that have referenced the Pixies as an influence include Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Smashing Pumpkins and Modest Mouse.
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In 2004, the Pixies reformed and have been touring and releasing new music ever since.
About the Doolittle Album
The original vinyl release of Doolittle was released back in 1989 on 4AD (Elektra distribution in the US), and it quickly rose to become one of the most highly-regarded albums by the Pixies. Over the years, however, different reissues and remasters have been released, so fans are now wondering which version is truly the best one to own.
To help answer this question, we are going to take a close look at the sound quality and overall value of each release, so you can make an informed decision on which one to buy.
The recording took place at Downtown Recorders in Boston, MA and mixing was done at Carriage House Studios. Due to the success of Surfer Rosa, the label floated the idea to have Steve Albini produce Doolittle but in the end the band went a different direction and choose producer Gil Norton. It was a great call as Norton was able to help the band achieve a clear sound without sacrificing the raw energy of their live shows. Recording was quick and finished in under a month (October 31 – November 23, 1988) with the Doolittle album being released the following year (April 17, 1989 in the UK and April 18th in the US).
Pixies Doolittle Vinyl Shootout
Below I have ranked the different versions of the Doolittle album in order of sound quality and overall value.
2004 4AD Pixies Doolittle Reissue
Starting off my list is the 2004 4AD reissue of Doolittle. This version was not remastered from the original analog tapes to my knowledge. With that said, it is a solid sounding reissue. The listing above is for the ’06 repress of this and should have a similar sound quality.
The sound quality on this reissue is really good, with all the instruments sounding clear and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl. The pressing I have is flat but not the quietest vinyl by any means. When comparing this directly with the Mobile Fidelity issue, you would quickly notice how quiet the MoFi is and how it allows the instruments to really shine through.
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The packaging on this 4AD issue is also really nice. The album comes in a thick cardboard sleeve with the original artwork printed on the front and back. The inner sleeve is also made of thick cardboard and has the lyrics printed on it.
For comparison of sound quality, I will use the original UK vinyl. When testing, this release does not have the dynamic or the low end of Kim’s bass like the original. Still a solid reissue and is a lot cheaper and easier to find than hunting down a mint copy of the original.
– Solid sound quality
– Includes a digital download version of the album
– Not remastered from original analog tapes
Bottom Line: If you are looking for an affordable option that has good sound quality and includes a digital download of the album, this is it.
30th Anniversary Vinyl – Newbury Comics Exclusive
I can honestly say unless you are into collecting colored vinyl or are a completist, save your money and buy the 4AD reissue. I do not notice any improvement or change in the sonics of this version compared to the 4AD reissue. The packaging is also the exact same as the 4AD release.
The only positive I can really say about this version is that it comes on cool looking colored vinyl. If you are a fan of the band and just want a copy of Doolittle for your collection, then this might be the version for you. If you are looking for the best sounding copy, there are better options on this list.
Bottom Line: Unless you are a completist or just want a copy of the album for your collection, save your money and buy the 4AD reissue.
Pixies Doolittle 25th Anniversary Vinyl – US Version – CAD3425
Next up we have the 25th anniversary release of Doolittle. I must say, this is how an anniversary edition should be done. This version was mastered at Abbey Road Studios and pressed by United Record Pressing.
As soon as you see the album you notice right away the different cover art from the original. I can still remember picking this up at the record store and flipping past it twice looking for what I expected to be the original Doolittle album art.
Again, I do not believe these were remastered from the original analog tapes but the pressing is dead flat and the vinyl is quiet. As an added bonus, it is a 3 LP set that includes B sides demos and Peel Sessions. I felt lucky as I have seen a lot of negative comments on the quality control of the United pressing.
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Compared to the ’04 4AD reissue, this remaster is better in every way. From the dynamics and low end to the overall clarity of the instruments and vocals, this is the better sounding release.
Doolittle US Original Vinyl 60856-1
The original US pressing of Doolittle is one of the best sounding version of the album I have come across. This was pressed by Allied Record Company and mastered by Masterdisk and is very hard to find in mint condition as most copies have been played to death.
The sound quality on this pressing is really good, with all the instruments sounding clear and Kim’s bass being very present. The dynamics are also really good on this pressing. It is in line with the UK original but I personally prefer the UK better. It has a more raw edge and energy to it compared to the US pressing. You will not be disappointed with either one though.
The only downside is that it can be hard to find and is quite expensive when you do find a copy.
Pixies Doolittle Original 4AD UK Vinyl Release CAD 905
The original vinyl release of Doolittle is often lauded for its great sound quality, and it’s easy to see why. The album was recorded on 24-track 2″ tape and mixed to ½” stereo reel-to-reel tape (source). This release was pressed on high quality virgin vinyl by MPO and the lacquer was cut by Jack Adams.
As far as packaging, nothing special on the original UK vinyl release of Doolittle. It is a standard issue with printed inner sleeve with lyrics and includes a 12 x 12 booklet.
The original vinyl release of Doolittle is sonically excellent, with great clarity and separation between instruments. It also has a nice warm analog sound that is lacking in many digital reissues. There is no comparison for me when comparing the vinyl to the original CD.
If you are looking for the one of the best sounding versions of Doolittle, the original 4AD UK vinyl release is a great find. However, it can be tough to find a copy in good condition as this album was released over 40 years ago.
Pixies Doolittle – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Remaster – MFSL 1-309
As my top pick it was not a difficult decision for our Pixies Doolittle vinyl shootout. The MoFi pressing simply hit it out of the park on this release.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is well known in the audiophile community for their high quality reissues. This reissue of Doolittle was remastered from the original analog tapes and pressed on high-quality vinyl by JVC. The album was also mastered at half-speed which helps with bringing out more detail while keeping the dynamic range intact.
Released in 2009 using the GAIN 2 Ultra Analog system, this Doolittle vinyl remaster sounds great.
The sound quality of this remaster is simply phenomenal, with incredibly crisp instrument separation. The dynamics are excellent and the overall sound quality is very crisp and clear. You can easily hear all of the details in the instruments, from Kim’s heavy bass to Joe’s drums. I feel that this is a big improvement over the original US pressing, and also compares favorably to the original UK release.
Overall, if you’re looking for one of the highest-quality reissues of Doolittle, this MoFi remaster is definitely worth checking out. Your best bet for finding a pristine copy is on eBay.
Note About Unreviewed Releases
I was only able to review the albums I currently own. I know there are some other great sounding copies of Pixies Doolittle but felt the LPs covered in the review would be the most commonly found and/or best-sounding versions available. That being said, it is always worth doing some research to see if there are any other great reissues or original pressings of Doolittle that may have different sound quality from those I reviewed here.
Bonus: Best CD Version of the Pixies Doolittle Album
There is not a lot of write up needed when comparing the CD release of Doolittle. The Mobile Fidelity (MFSL) Pixies Doolittle SACD release simply smokes the other releases. For me, even when listening to the CD layer, the improved clarity and dynamic range over the original 4AD release is immediately noticeable and really adds to the listening experience. The EQ is slightly laid back presenting a smoother over tone and reduces some of slightly harsh vocals that can be heard on the original 4AD release. Finally the instruments are better defined, making it easier to pinpoint each one in the mix.
Mobile Fidelity also did Surfer Rosa and I notice the difference between their release and the original more on Doolittle. The MFSL Surfer Rosa is more in line with the EQ of the original release.
On the flip side, if you played the original CD so much that it is etched into your memory, you may prefer the original 4AD CD release. It is a good sounding CD , just not as good as the Mobile Fidelity release.
If you can find a copy of the MFSL release, it is definitely worth picking up.
Note: I do not own the The Pixies Doolittle Blu-Ray Pure Audio Disc, although it is on my wish list. I have heard nothing but good things about the quality of the disc. It is an HD-Transfer of the original stereo mix by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab and can be found a lot cheaper than the MoFi SACD. Don’t be like me and wait to long to pick this up while it is still available.
So there you have it, a quick shoot-out of the different CD versions of Pixies classic album Doolittle.
Wrapping Up Our Pixies Doolittle Vinyl Shootout
I hope you enjoyed our quick Pixies Doolittle vinyl shoot-out. Regardless of the pressing you have or get, the album is simply a masterpiece. Turn it up to 11 and enjoy!
Join us for a Pixies Doolittle vinyl shootout to find the best sounding copy of this record. From its raw energy and bold dynamics to its incredible sonic clarity, Pixies Doolittle is a classic album that sounds as good today as it did when it was first released.