Month: December 2018

Santana’s Guitar Solos Soar on Inner Secrets

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More Inner Secrets

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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.

On side two the final guitar solo Santana takes on Well All Right gets LOUDER in the mix than any guitar solo on any rock record with which I am familiar. The sound gets louder after the first chorus, then louder still right before the second solo, and then the solo itself gets even louder until it seems to be as loud as live music. (Operative word: seems.)

Some copies get loud and some do not. Some stereos are dynamic and some are not. If you have the right stereo, set at the right volume, and THIS copy, you will hear something that not one out of one hundred audiophiles (or music lovers) have ever heard on a record — LIVE ROCK SOUND. (more…)

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3 / Janis / Dorati

More Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

More Piano Concerto #3 / Janis / Dorati

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Super Hot Stamper (or better) original Colorback Mercury pressing is not only the BEST sounding copy we have ever heard, it also boasts the quietest side one we’ve experienced, playing mostly Mint Minus. For a fifty year old Mercury that is QUIET.

Not only is the sound amazing — yes, it’s on the TAS Super Disc list, and for good reason, a copy as good as this one really is a Super Disc — but this copy has another vitally important characteristic that most copies of the record do not: virtually no Inner Groove Distortion

We can’t begin to count the times we have had to return (or toss) a copy of this very record because the piano breakup for the last inch or two of the record was just unbearable. That’s a sound no serious listener could possibly tolerate, yet I would venture to guess that MOST Mercury Piano Concerto recordings suffer from this kind of groove damage. (more…)

Lee Ritenour – Rit – on Disastrous Discovery Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Rock or Jazz LP debunked.

We played our very good sounding Nautilus pressing against the 180g Discovery reissue that Doug Sax remastered and it SMOKED it. What a muddy piece of trash that Discovery pressing is. 

AMG Review

Lee Ritenour has long been the perfect studio musician, one who can melt into the background without making any impact. While he possesses impressive technique, Ritenour has mostly played instrumental pop throughout his career, sometimes with a Brazilian flavor. His few jazz efforts have found him essentially imitating Wes Montgomery, but despite that he has been consistently popular since the mid-’70s. After touring with Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’77 in 1973, Ritenour became a very busy studio guitarist in Los Angeles, taking time off for occasional tours with his groups and in the mid-’90s with Bob James in Fourplay. He also recorded many albums as a leader.

 

Cannonball Adderley – Bill Evans – Know What I Mean? – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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More Know What I Mean?

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A distinguished member of the Jazz Hall of Fame

One of our favorite Cannonball Adderley albums here at Better Records, and the sound is killer on this copy. Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since the ’80s when it was first reissued in its current form.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their living, breathing presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth. (more…)

Steeleye Span – Commoners Crown – We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs . The second track on side two, Demon Lover, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is. (more…)

Carly Simon – Boys In The Trees – How Clearly Can You See the Hi-hat

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More Boys In The Trees

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The Hi-hat Listening Test — yet another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Carly’s soulful version of You Belong To Me is what made this album a Must Own back in the day (and still does). During our shootout, as we listened to the song over and over again on copy after copy, it became clear that the best pressings allowed us to easily hear the drummer’s hi-hat within the dense mix of this heavily produced pop song. On most copies it’s buried and all but inaudible.

If the pressing you own is full-bodied and tonally correct, and you can easily pick out the rhythmic contribution of the hi-hat within the mix, you have a copy with the kind of transparency that few we played managed to achieve.

Transparency (and all the other stuff we talk about) can and does make a big difference in your enjoyment of the music. If the average record sounded even close to right nobody would need us to find good sounding copies for them, copies would be in every record bin in town and we would have to find some other records to sell. Copies of this album may be in every bin in town — that’s where we found this one — but the sound sure isn’t.

(And without the very best cleaning technologies, the ones invented only recently as a matter of fact, there is no chance of achieving the kind of transparency our best copies have. We consider it one of the most important Revolutions in Audio of the last twenty years. If you want your records to sound their best, we would love to help you do it.) (more…)

Letter of the Week – Abbey Road, Ziggy Stardust, Purple Rain and Zep 1

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I’ve been meaning to write to thank you for the magic you and your team create. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it is mind blowing to hear the music that comes from even just Hot and Supers. I still haven’t crossed the rubicon into Whites. 

I have been lucky enough to have vintage pressings passed down to me from family. And while I started hearing the difference as soon as I started cleaning those old presses vs. new “remastered” ones, this small sample from your team is incredible!

Abbey at Hot is incredible! Frankly I admired the album, now it’s one of my favorites! I’m not even a huge Beatles guy, haha (Thanks for that!)

Purple Rain at Super knocked out the vintage and remastered copies that I own.

Zep I is terrific (Weirdly on my system, “Good Times” is the least mind blowing, but “Dazed” and all of Side 2 is crazy!)

Perhaps the best sounding so far is “Ziggy,” like you said. I own a pristine vintage press passed down and this copy I got from you blows the sonics of my old press away.

Anyway, thanks again! (more…)

Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair – What to Listen For

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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.   

There is one quality that the best copies always have and that the worst copies always lack: Frequency Extension, especially on the top end. (more…)

The Who – Quadrophenia – What to Listen For

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More Quadrophenia

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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.

On the best copies the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there’s wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield. 

There’s a POWER to the sound that the average copy only hints at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who Sound often lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to.

Moon’s drums need to blast away like cannons. This is the quintessential Who sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. 

Most copies don’t have nearly this much Tubey Magic — you aren’t going to believe all the richness, sweetness, and warmth here. The clarity and transparency are superb in their own right, and the impressive dynamic range really allows this copy to communicate the explosive energy of The Who at their peak.. (more…)

Cat Stevens / Catch Bull At Four

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  • With two shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this early UK pressing is As Good As It Gets!
  • Bigger, more dynamic, more lively, more present and just plain more EXCITING than anything we heard – that’s why it won our shootout  
  • This one can show you the sweeter, tubier Midrange Magic that we is the hallmark of all the best Cat Stevens’ recordings
  • Many of Cat’s best songs are here – Can’t Keep It In, Angelsea, 18th Avenue, Freezing Steel and more
  • “Celebrated and adored for his sanguine lyrics and irresistible hooks, Cat Stevens was one of the rare singer-songwriters capable of composing genuinely optimistic songs that didn’t leave a sappy residue in listeners’ ears.”

The Magic Stampers

As is sometimes the case, there is one and only one set of stamper numbers that consistently wins our Catch Bull At Four shootouts. We stumbled upon an out-of-this-world copy of the right pressing about two years ago, a copy took the recording to a level we had no idea could even be possible. (We were going to give it Four Pluses, and probably should have, but cooler heads prevailed.)

Since then we have had many copies come in, but none that could compete with the Magic Stamper pressings. And the best part of this story is that, no, the best stampers are not 1U, or 2U, or even 3U. In other words they are far from the stampers found on the earliest pressings. That’s one reason it took us so long to discover them, because they are much less commonly found than pressings with the earlier stampers. By the time these later pressings were mastered, pressed and released, the album’s biggest selling days were over. For all we know this cutting may have been done just to keep the record in print, possibly undertaken many years after its initial release. (more…)