Month: August 2018

Leonard Bernstein – West Side Story (Soundtrack)

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  • Outstanding sound throughout for this Columbia 2-pack* with both sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • The overall sound here is incredibly big, rich, smooth and tonally right on the money (for once!)
  • The biggest selling album of the ’60s – 54 weeks at Number One (!)
  • “The soundtrack of the West Side Story film is deservedly one of the most popular soundtrack recordings of all time, and one of the relatively few to have attained long-term popularity beyond a specialized soundtrack/theatrical musical audience.” – AMG, 5 Stars

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.

NOTE: We have mated an original Six-Eye pressing with a ’70s reissue pressing to give you two amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sides that play with no marks, a tall order for this title! See below for more on our 2-packs. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

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Let It Bleed

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy ROCKS from start to finish; fairly quiet vinyl too! 
  • Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time
  • The acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare proves that Glyn Johns is one of the Greatest Engineers who ever lived
  • Top 100, 5 stars on Allmusic – Jason McNeil of PopMatters wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are, “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.” 

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. (more…)

Crosby, Stills & Nash on Nautilus – THE Most Bloated Bass in Half Speed History

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

An audiophile record dealer (of course; who else?) once raved to me about Crosby Stills and Nash on Nautilus. I said “What are you talking about? That version sucks!” He replied “No, it’s great. Helplessly Hoping sounds amazing.” 

Now one thing I know about the Nautilus is that although it is wonderfully transparent in the midrange, it may very well take the cake for the most bloated, out of control bass in the history of Half Speed mastering. What song on that album has almost no bass, just lovely voices in the midrange? You guessed it. Helplessly Hoping.

The Nautilus got one track right, and ruined the rest. Using that track for comparison will fool you, and when it comes time to play a whole side of the album you will quickly hear what a disaster it is.

A Random Walk Through Heavy Vinyl

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Heavy Vinyl Production And the Unpredictability of Random Processes

Those in the business of producing the highest quality remastered recordings on LP are crashing smack into a problem endemic to the manufacturing of the vinyl record — randomness.

Record producers can control many of the processes (variables) that go into the making of a high quality record. But they cannot control all of them. The word for such a situation, one with random, uncontrollable aspects, is “stochastic.”

Taking the liberty to paraphrase Wikipedia liberally, we would explain it this way.

A stochastic, or random, process, is the counterpart to a deterministic process. Instead of dealing with only one possible way the process might develop over time, in a stochastic or random process there is some indeterminacy described by probability distributions. This means that even if the initial condition or starting point is known, there are many possibilities the process might go to, but some paths may be more probable and others less so.

In other words, although some of the variables can be controlled, there will always be some element of randomness that makes the final result predictable within limits, but not predictable precisely.

(more…)

Laurindo Almeida Virtuoso Guitar Is — Or Can Be — An Awesome Direct to Disc

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Virtuoso Guitar is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Crystal Clear 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc fulfills the promise of both the direct to disc recording medium AND the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. We had a big pile of these pressings to play through. When we came upon this one halfway through our shootout, it was so big, so clear, so dynamic, so energetic, so extended on the top and bottom, we almost could not believe what we were hearing especially compared to the others copies we played.   (more…)

Shelly Manne – Sounds Unheard Of! – Another Analogue Productions Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Remember the ’90s Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizzyiness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records, the phony top that many audiophiles do not seem bothered by to this day. 

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism in the audiophile press discussing the shortcomings of that series of (badly) half-speed mastered LPs — outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?  (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century on MoFi – What to Listen For

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

Listen to the vocals at the end of Dreamer. If they are bright, the bells at the end of the song sound super-extended and harmonically rich. But at what price? The vocals are TOO BRIGHT. Which is more important, good vocals or good bells? There has to be a balance. This is something audiophiles and audiophile labels, who should obviously know better, often have trouble understanding.

We get these MoFis in on a regular basis, and they usually sound as phony and wrong as can be. They’re the perfect example of a hyped-up audiophile record that appeals to people with lifeless stereos, the kind that need amped-up records to get them going.

I’ve been telling people for years that the MoFi was junk, and that they should get rid of their copy and replace it with a tonally correct version, easily done since there is a very good sounding Speakers Corner 180g reissue currently in print which does not suffer from the ridiculously boosted top end and bloated bass that characterizes the typical MoFi COTC pressing. (more…)

Flamenco Fever “Live Direct to Disc”

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides, this is a Direct to Disc Demo Disc like nothing you’ve heard. The sound is breathtakingly real – you are there in the club with the guitarist and these dancers. If you have the power to drive big speakers, the dynamics and bass transients of this copy are going to rock your world, literally.

This is an INCREDIBLY RARE very nice looking M&K Realtime Direct-to-Disc LP that plays about as quietly as they ever do and has truly DEMO DISC sound. 

The sound is breathtakingly real. Years ago I dropped the needle on this record without paying attention to the volume level and when the dancers started pounding the floor, one of my woofers blew out! This record is about as dynamic as they come and has the kind of solid bass that few recordings that I’m aware of can lay claim to.

As an interesting side note, this album was recorded on location. The other M&K Direct to Disc record that I like was also recorded on location. Most of the M&K Direct to Discs were recorded in the showroom of the stereo store that Miller and Kreisel owned, which, like any showroom, was carpeted and draped. This is why almost all their records sound “dead”. This was their intention, of course. They wanted the sound to be “live” in your living room. I prefer to hear the kind of ambience that would be found in a real location, and so I have never been much of a fan of their label.

This record, however, gives you both that Direct Disc immediacy and freedom from distortion, as well as the live ambience of the location — the best of both worlds.

Miles Davis and Gil Evans – Porgy and Bess

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – you will have a very hard time finding a better Porgy and Bess
  • This 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s legendary engineers were back then
  • If you’re looking for a stunningly natural, lifelike large group jazz recording, you can’t do much better than this album 
  • 5 stars: “The musical and social impact of Miles Davis, his collaborative efforts with Gil Evans, and in particular their reinvention of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess are indeed profound… It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence… No collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording…” 

The music is a classic example of the partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans. Those of you who have marveled at the sound of our Hot Stamper copies of Sketches Of Spain are sure to get a lot out of this one. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

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More Electric Ladyland

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  • With 12 pluses out of a possible 12, this is one of the HIGHEST rated copies to EVER hit the site
  • All four sides have insanely good shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and Tubey Magical richness are key to the shootout winners like this one
  • 5 stars in the AMG: “…not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”

Sides one and four are mated back to back on these British pressings. Side four is very difficult to find with top sound, the hardest of the four sides by far, but it gets a Triple Plus (A+++) grade here for the first time in a long time!

We’ve played a lot of copies of this sprawling, psychedelic masterpiece but we’ve practically never heard one that puts it all together better than this one does.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on. (more…)