Month: March 2017

Home Audio Exercises – Now 300+ Strong

This section is designed to help you become a better listener.

To that end 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?

Here’s a fun one for Queen’s Jazz album

Rockin’ Out with Fat Bottomed Girls

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

There is a tendency in the recording to be a little “hot” tonally on the vocals and snare. The better copies like this one keep it under control, with the lesser copies getting much too lean and gritty to play loudly. What good is a raver like Fat Bottomed Girls if you can’t turn it up and really rock out with it? (more…)

1958 – A Great Year for Recorded Music (Especially for Nat “King” Cole)

 

  • This early pressing on the rainbow label earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades for its wonderful sound
  • Both sides here are BIG, rich and Tubey Magical, yet clear and not the least bit thick or opaque
  • Turn down the lights and drop the needle to hear a living breathing Nat King Cole singing right in your very own listening room
  • “Highlights include “The Very Thought of You,” “But Beautiful,” “This Is All I Ask,” “For All We Know,” and “The More I See You”.

See all of our Nat King Cole albums in stock

We are HUGE fans of the album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved are hard to fault.

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with loads of Tubey Magic. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy.

Midrange Magic to Die For

This Rainbow Label Capitol LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the DCC reissue (and no doubt any others that will be coming down the pike). As good as some think that pressing is, this one is dramatically more REAL sounding. (more…)

Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

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  • The best copy to hit the site in close to two years, with both sides rating at or near our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Huge, spacious and three-dimensional with plenty of rich Tubey Magic – who knew it could sound this good?
  • 75% of the songs on both sides are absolute Little Feat Classics. What other album can boast such consistently good songwriting?
  • Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Fran Tate (the future Mrs. Billy Payne) contribute the lovely background vocals
  • “If Dixie Chicken represented a pinnacle of Lowell George as a songwriter and band leader, its sequel Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the pinnacle of Little Feat as a group, showcasing each member at their finest.”

See all of our Little Feat albums in stock

It’s getting mighty hard to find clean copies of practically all the pre-Waiting For Columbus titles.

The good news we have to offer this time as opposed to last is that we can now clearly say that Feats Don’t Fail Me Now is the best sounding album of the first four the band recorded. We think the songs are great too; we would hope that goes without saying. Waiting For Columbus — their live masterpiece and inarguably the definitive recording statement by the band — has at least one song from this album on each of its four sides. That ought to tell you something. If only we could find good sounding copies! But enough about that album. Let’s talk about this one. (more…)

The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man – What to Listen For

Mr. Tambourine Man

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Want to hear what the best copies of Mr. Tambourine Man can do? Play Chimes of Freedom, one of the best sounding tracks on side two, if not THE best. Listen to how breathy Jim (later Roger) McGuinn’s vocals are. Byrds records almost never sound like that.

I Knew I’d Want You is another one that sounds amazingly Tubey Magical on the best pressings. (more…)

Never a Dull Moment – Unless You’re Playing the DCC Heavy Vinyl…

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In which case you are in for an unending string of dull moments (see below). 

Never A Dull Moment

We were thrilled when we dropped the needle on side one and heard sound that was AMAZINGLY airy, open, and spacious.

It’s got all the elements necessary to let this music REALLY ROCK — stunning presence; super punchy drums; deep, tight bass; and tons of life and energy. Rod’s voice sounds just right with lots of breath, texture, and ambience. The sound is clean, clear, smooth, and sweet — that’s our sound.

Side two here is nearly as good and dramatically better sounding than most. Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins.

On the same track, the meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the sound of the drums is awesome in every way. Who has a better drum sound than Rod Stewart on his two best albums? (more…)

Ray Brown with The All-Star Big Band, Engineered by Ray Hall

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Ray Brown with The All-Star Big Band

These two sides offer bigger brass, more transparency and more presence than every other side we played save one!

This may become one of your favorite big band albums to demo or test with. Or you can just enjoy the hell out of it if you prefer. So transparent and tonally correct, this is a killer sounding copy. We put this one right up there with the best of the Verve jazz titles we’ve done to date.

This album sounds like a big room full of musicians playing live, which it surely was. The Tubey Magical richness of the 1962 recording is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it.

The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe. (more…)

Traveling Back in Time with Cat Stevens on MoFi


stevensteafomofi

 

to Hear It on Vintage Equipment

Our good customer Roger wrote us a letter years ago about his MoFi TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN, in which he remarked, “Sometimes I wish I kept my old crappy stereo to see if I could now tell what it was that made these audiophile pressings so attractive then.”

It got me to thinking. Yes, that would be fun, and better yet, it could be done. There are actually plenty of those Old School systems still around. Just look at what many of the forum posters — god bless ’em — are running. They’ve got some awesome ’70s Japanese turntables, some Monster Cable and some vintage tube gear and speakers going all the way back to the ’50s.

With this stuff you could in effect travel back in time, virtually erasing all the audio progress of the last 30 years. Then you could hear your MoFi Tea for the Tillerman sound the way it used to when you could actually stand to be in the same room with it.
(more…)

Live Sound Versus Chesky Sound

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Schubert / The Trout Quintet / Curzon

What I hear on this pressing is sound that is absolutely free from any top end boost, much the way live music is. There’s plenty of tape hiss and air; the highs aren’t rolled off, they’re just not boosted the way they normally are in a recording.

A few years back I had a chance to see a piano trio play locally; they even performed a piece by Schubert. The one thing I noticed immediately during their performance was how smooth and natural the top end was. I was no more than ten feet from the performers in a fairly reverberant room, and yet the sound I heard was the opposite of what passes in some circles for Hi-Fidelity.

More of the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

This is the OPPOSITE of those echo-drenched recordings that some audiophiles seem to like, with microphones placed twenty feet away from the performers so that they are awash in “ambience.” If you know anything about us, you know that this is not our sound.

I have never heard live music sound like that and that should settle the question. It does in my mind anyway. The CHESKY label (just to choose one awful audiophile label to pick on) is a joke and always will be. How anyone buys into that phony sound is beyond me, but any audio show will prove to you that there is no shortage of audiophiles who love the Chesky “sound”, and probably never will be. (more…)

Building a World Class Record Collection…

One Customer’s Story

Dear Tom,

I want to thank you once again…

Quite a few years ago now I contacted you and talked about this concept called “hot stampers”…It ended up both saving me a lot of misdirection and foolishly trying to rebuild my vinyl collection with new vinyl re-releases often called “audiophile”  and “half-speed” issues.

After a few confirmations of what you said I quickly sold all those copies and began building a real world class collection of vinyl “original” hot stamper level records. A good number cam from your business and I also made a hobby of trying to do what you do in finding “hot stampers”.  Fortunately Philadelphia has a reasonable number of used record stores but unfortunately, as you well know, this is a rigorous and costly endeavor…..but it can be rewarding at times and at other times requires that I rely on you.  

So today I’m snowed in here so I fired up the rig and decided to do some small scale shoot outs and find the true great copies from my already culled collection. Put on several Hall and Oates and focused on “She’s Gone”… one was just clearly dynamic, clear and present…..then put on several Dire Straits “Love over Gold” and ended up with 3 killer copies (such a good lp).. I then put on about 5 copies of Phil Collins “Face Value” with “If Leaving Me is Hard”….What a great love song….and narrowed it to 2.

Yes my rig is really awesome for close up intimate listening at any level. It is something I have worked on for decades to become resolving, dynamic, harmonic, dimensional transparent, and involving. I can listen loud and close without distortion.  When I suddenly find that “hot stamper” Phil Collins is in the room where I hear his voice articulate and rich with background singers just as good and the band perfectly balanced to his vocal. 

And it is then I think of your contribution to all of this and want to tell you. So that is what I am doing. I know what three stars means…..I can’t afford many of them as I would assume some wealthy customers can but I really appreciate them and their unfortunate rarity….. and I appreciate all the work you have done to make this possible,

Sincerely,

Ed Z	


 

A Killer Can’t Buy a Thrill (and Some Lessons We Learned)

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Can’t Buy A Thrill

From the moment the needle hit the groove on side one, we were treated to some of the best sound we’ve ever heard for this album.

Both sides have an incredibly tight and punchy bottom end, with the kind of energy and WHOMP that brings this music to life! The soundfield is BIG, WIDE, and OPEN, with a three-dimensional quality that we didn’t hear on other copies. The top end is silky sweet — just listen to the cymbals on Do It Again.

Dirty Work sounds superb here — rich and sweet mids, breathy brass, and lots of texture to the vocals. Often this track sounds dull and dubby, but it’s actually just a case of the mix being smoother than most of the other songs on the album. If this track sounds smooth, and the other songs sound right, the tonality is correct for the whole side, because that’s what the best copies sound like.

Flip the record over and the good times begin all over again. Elliot Randall’s guitar on Reeling In The Years has the meaty texture and uncanny presence to take the song to an entirely new level. Fire In The Hole is exceptionally dynamic with real weight to the piano, and the double tracked vocals on Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sound rich and poppy the way they should.

Combine two sides this good and press them on fairly quiet vinyl and you have yourself an LP that’s practically a FLUKE. (more…)