Month: March 2016

10 Recent Commentaries for Your Reading Pleasure

Click on the picture to the left to get the full story.


Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein

What to Listen For


Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.
What makes this an especially good Peter and the Wolf? The timbre of the solo instruments — bassoon, oboe, flute — each of which serves to represent a character in the story. Shockingly lifelike, the tonality is unerringly Right On The Money (ROTM) throughout. That makes this pressing both a superb Demo Disc as well as a top quality Audio Test Disc.

When you hear the bassoon or clarinet or oboe playing their solo parts on this record you should be knocked out by how real those instruments sound. Man, this is analog at its best.

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Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights

Bigger, Taller, Wider, Deeper



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.
One of the qualities we don’t talk about nearly enough on the site is the SIZE of a record’s presentation. Some copies of the album don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. Other copies do. They create a huge soundfield from which the instruments and voices positively jump out of the speakers.

When you hear a copy that can do that, needless to say (to anyone who’s actually bought some of our best Hot Stamper pressings), it’s an entirely different listening experience.

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Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

A Demo Disc for Bass



Another in our series of Demo Discs for Bass.
One of the special qualities this album has is AMAZINGLY well-defined, punchy, deep BASS — the kind you just never hear on most records (or most pressings of this album for that matter).

The bass is typically bloated on most copies of this album, something that is especially true for the MoFi. When you get a copy with note-like, properly balanced bass, the whole album works. Bass is the foundation of the music. When the bass is blubbery and ill-defined, the music itself sounds blurred. It loses its focus.

It’s also very dynamic and punchy. The kick drum sounds exactly right — there’s a room around it, just exactly as you would hear it if you were in the studio with the band!

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Careful Shootouts and Critical Listening




My first note on side one is “HTF” — Hard To Fault. The sound we were hearing was both rich and sweet, with easily recognized, unerringly correct timbres for all seven of the instruments heard in the work. The legendary 1959 Decca Tree microphone setup had worked its magic once again. And, as good as it was, we were surprised to discover that side two was actually even better! The sound was more spacious and more transparent. We asked ourselves, how is this even possible?
Hard to believe but side two had the sound that was TRULY Hard To Fault. This is precisely what careful shootouts and critical listening are all about. If you like Heavy Vinyl, what exactly is your frame of reference? How many good early pressings could you possibly own, and how were they cleaned?

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Perez Prado – Pops and Prado

A Killer Bob Simpson Recording



A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
A wonderful copy with a White Hot Stamper side two – unbelievably Tubey Magical and spacious. Side one was Super Hot and maybe a bit better – the top is extended, and the reverb is positively luscious. This is vintage analog at its best — the magic really comes through on this pressing. Credit for the Demo Disc sound of this one must go to the amazing Bob Simpson, working in glorious Webster Hall.

BOB SIMPSON won the Grammy for engineering Belafonte at Carnegie Hall you may recall.

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“In Defense of the Beginner Audiophile…”
Shootouts Are a Bitch



One of our good customers wrote to tell us of a shootout he conducted a while back. This is his story.

Tom:

In defense of the beginner audiophile: I am a spoiled owner of many of your Hot Stamper LPs. (So please don’t tell anyone where I live!) You endlessly bash us newbies as not being able to tell the difference in sound between two sides of a record. Fair enough – usually we can’t. In our defense, it is very difficult to tell differences between two sides of an album if BOTH sides sound like s__t! Where I come from this is the norm; two crappy sides.

See all of our Neil Young albums in stock



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Neil Young – Harvest

Listening in Depth


Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Harvest.
Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall behind on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliever any whomp for the rockers. Only a select group of copies could hold their own in all of the styles and engage us from start to finish; we’re pleased to present those exceptional pressings as the Hot Stamper copies of Harvest that so many of you have been begging for.

See all of our Neil Young albums in stock


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Willie Nelson – Stardust

What’s the Right Grade for the CBS Half-Speed of Stardust?



Sonic Grade: B to F, depending on the copy

This Hot Stamper CBS Mastersound LP has the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for the half-speed of this title. It KILLED the other two CBS Audiophile Stardusts we played. If you think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that any two records — domestic, import, audiophile, 180 gram, or otherwise — sound the same, then you simply need to do a shootout or two with records like these to be disabused of that notion.

See all of our Willie Nelson albums in stock



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Savoy Brown – Getting To The Point

Awesome Bell Sound Pressing



I am not usually a fan of Bell Sound cuttings but this one seems hard to fault. I would be surprised if the British import pressings are any better; this sounds like the real master tape to me. The original Parrot vinyl is going to be hard to find any quieter.
Some sides of some copies were leaner and drier than we would have liked and we marked them down accordingly. The big, rich, Tubey Magical sound of Classic British Rock is critical to the success of this music, and our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to deliver plenty of that sound.

See all of our Savoy Brown albums in stock


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Stan Getz – Getz Au Go Go 1987 Reissue

Isn’t This Record Supposed to Be Stereo?



As part of our recent shootout for the album we played what turned out to be a later reissue. According to my research it’s most likely from the late ’70s or early ’80s.
As a general rule we make a point to go out of our way to play practically any copy we can get our hands on, in the off chance that a reissue will beat the original. It’s happened plenty of times. Those of you with White Hot Stamper shootout winning copies of some of our favorite titles know what I’m talkin’ about.

See all of our Stan Getz albums in stock

How can common rock records be worth as much as you are charging?

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We freely admit that we paid south of twenty bucks each at local stores for most of the records on our site. We pay what the stores charge, and most rock records are priced from five to twenty bucks.

Unfortunately the cost of the records you see on the site is only a part of the cost of that finished “product.” The reality of our business is that it costs almost as much to find a Carly Simon or Gino Vannelli Hot Stamper that sells for a hundred dollars as it does to find a Neil Young or Yes Hot Stamper that sells for five times that.

With six people on staff, keeping the records playing, the listings going up on the site and the mailers going out to our customers runs about a thousand dollars a day. The cost of the records — the “raw material” of our business — is rarely more than 20% of that.

Someone has to drive to a record store, dig through the bins for hour upon hour, have them all cleaned, file them and then wait anywhere from six months to two years for the pile of copies on the shelf to get big enough to do a proper shootout.

Shootouts are a two man job: one person plays the record and someone else (who rarely has any idea what pressing is on the table) listens for as long as it takes to accurately and fairly critique the first side of every copy. Then we start the whole process over again for side two.

This is a huge commitment of labor, with the amount of time and effort going into a shootout obviously the same for every title regardless of its popularity or eventual value. Naturally we would like to be able to streamline the process and cut costs in order to lower our prices and sell more records. We just don’t think it’s possible. Every record must be carefully evaluated and that process is time-consuming.

No matter how skilled or efficient the musicians may be, from now until the end of time it will take at least an hour to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Shootouts are like that, they simply can’t be rushed. It’s rare to get one done in under an hour, and some can even take two, which limits the number of titles that we can do on any given day.

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25 More Rejects! (Albums with Either Bad Sound or Bad Music)

The criteria for inclusion on this list are simple enough: We played them and we didn’t like either the music or the sound we heard.

Keep in mind that these specific pressings are the ones we found wanting.

 

    Lena & Gabor

Lena & Gabor

Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo
0 0 0

Just Up Today: a White Hot Teaser & The Firecat

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  • STUNNING Demo Quality sound on both sides, and relatively quiet to boot — copies like this are TOUGH to come by
  • This British pressing knocked us out with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one
  • One of the absolute dynamos of the whole Hot Stamper world — a record that will BLOW YOU AWAY
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: “Musically more interesting than ever…”

See all of our Cat Stevens albums in stock

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Templeman, Barncard and Landee Work Their Magic

doobitoulo_wtlf_1438086658

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: Stephen Barncard and Donn Landee. This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it’s the size, space and clarity here that really shocked us. After listening to one smeary, veiled mess after another it was a thrill to hear one rock like this.

The vocals have room to breathe, the acoustic guitars are big and up front with extended, correct harmonics, and the bass has more punch and definition than we had any right to expect.

The huge bass on the better copies of this album has to be the handiwork of STEPHEN BARNCARD (American Beauty, Tarkio), although DONN LANDEE (Little Feat, Van Halen), one of the other two engineers here, likes plenty of bass as well.

Back in the day I had no idea this record could sound so punchy in the bass, be this dynamic, yet still have smooth, silky, oh-so-analog vocals.

Some copies have wonky, bloated bass. Others have a bit of a boost at 10k, adding a sparkly unnatural quality to the vocals and cymbals, somewhat like a MoFi pressing.

The best copies have none of those problems. You have never heard ‘Listen To The Music’ sound better. It’s everything a good Ted Templeman produced rock record should be.

The vocals are sweet and natural, not something you would expect on a Doobie’s record, but here they are anyway. I think you will be impressed by the quality of the production. I can’t speak for every track but the ones I played on both sides were consistently excellent.


 

Twenty Audio Exercises that You Can Do at Home

We have created exercises, experiments and tests that you can do at home for fun and profit. We can all agree that the better our stereos sound, the more enjoyable they become. Learning how to get better sound from the equipment and recordings you own doesn’t cost a dime. It simply requires that you improve your critical listening skills.

Those skills develop through practice, by challenging yourself to understand what is really on your records — to figure out, to the best of your ability, what is right and what is wrong on every record you own. Same with your stereo. You can’t fix a problem that you haven’t yet recognized is a problem, right?

To get started please make sure you have read our Introduction to Better Records explaining what we do and how we do it, since we feel our approach can and will work for anyone. Also the link How to Become an Expert Listener should be helpful. That should get you off to a good start.

We have another whole section of commentaries about Audio Issues on the site as well.

Happy listening from all of us at Better Records.


Lena Horne & Gabor Szabo – Lena & Gabor
Now That’s a Good Sounding Drum Kit!
(#hornelenaa_wtlf)
by Buddah Records

The Moody Blues – In Search Of The Lost Chord
Listening in Depth
(#moodyinsea_listen)
by Deram LP

The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know
The Self-Titled First Album & English Rose
(#fleetblack_wtlf)
by Epic LP

Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
Listening in Depth
(#simonbooke_depth)
by Columbia Records

Derek and The Dominos – Layla
Listening in Depth
(#dereklayla_listen)
by Polydor LP

Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall Vs. Thriller
Who’s Got the Tubey Magic?
(#jacksoffth_wtlf)
by Epic LP

Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills
What to Listen For
(#stillsteph_wtlf)
by Atlantic LP

Crosby / Nash – Graham Nash/ David Crosby
Listening in Depth
(#crosbgraha_wtlf)
by Atlantic LP

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street

(#crosb4ways_wtlf)
by Atlantic LP

The Beatles – Let It Be
John’s Really Digging a Pony. Are You?
(#beatlletit_dig_a_pony)
by Apple Records LP

Jellyfish’s Bellybutton
Not a Perfect Recording, a Good One for Testing Though
(#jellybelly_test_2016)
by Charisma

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
Listening in Depth
(#rolliletit_wtlf)
by London LP

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7
Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback
(#prokosym1_emi)
by EMI

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James
Listening in Depth
(#taylosweet_depth)
by Warner Brothers LP

Dick Schory – Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp
Check Your Polarity!
(#schorbangb_LSP1866_2016)
by RCA LP

Badfinger – Straight Up
What to Listen For
(#badfistrai_wtlf)
by Apple Records LP

Christopher Cross – Christopher Cross
What to Listen For
(#crosschris_wtlf)
by Warner Brothers LP

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Are Your Cellists Digging In?
(#beatlmagic_walruscellos)
by German Import LP

Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet
What to Listen For – The Triangle
(#rimsktaleo_6012_wtlf)
by London LP

Queen – The Game
What to Listen For
(#queenthega_wtlf)
by Elektra LP