Month: August 2018

The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

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More Minute By Minute

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

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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  • 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.

Love In Vain!

This is our favorite test track for side one. The first minute or so clues you into to everything that’s happening in the sound. Listen for the amazing immediacy, transparency and sweetly extended harmonics of the guitar in the left channel. Next, when Watts starts slapping that big fat snare in the right channel, it should sound so real you could reach out and touch it.

If you’re like me, that Tubey magical acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare should be all the evidence you need that Glyn Johns is one of the Five Best Rock Engineers who ever lived. Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Alan Parsons and a few others are right up there with him of course. We audiophiles are very lucky to have had guys like those around when the Stones were at their writing and performing peak. (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.

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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…)

Grateful Dead – American Beauty – An Honest-to-Goodness Hot Stamper MoFi

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND. The transparency and presence in the midrange is OUT OF THIS WORLD. The bass actually sounds in control on this copy, there’s no typical bloated MOFI bass to be found here. This is the best sounding Mobile Fidelity American Beauty we have ever heard. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s hugely better than we expected. 

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…)

Rossini Overtures with Maag and the PCO

More Recordings of the Music of Ottorino Rossini

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The London and Decca original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so thick, dull and veiled? 

This Stereo Treasury pressing of Maag’s 1958 recording is shockingly good in many ways. It sure doesn’t sound like a budget reissue. If anything it sounds more original than the originals we played against it! (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…)