Month: February 2019

Airto / Fingers – Truly a Desert Island Disc

Hot Stamper Percussion Records Available Now

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Fingers is one of our all time favorite records, a Desert Island disc to be sure. I’ve been playing this album for more than thirty years and it just keeps getting better and better. Truthfully it’s the only Airto record I like. I can’t stand Dafos, and most of the other Airto titles leave me cold. I think a lot of the credit for the brilliance of this album has to go to the Fattoruso brothers, who play keyboards, drums, and take part in the large vocal groupings that sing along with Airto. 

At times this record really sounds like what it is: a bunch of guys in a big room beating the hell out of their drums and singing at the the top of their lungs. You gotta give RVG credit for capturing so much of that energy on tape and transferring that energy onto a slab of vinyl. (Of course this assumes that the record in question actually does have the energy of the best copies. It’s also hard to know who or what is to blame when it doesn’t, since even the good stampers sound mediocre most of the time. Bad vinyl, worn out stampers, poor pressing cycle, it could be practically anything.) (more…)

Badfinger – Straight Up

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This relatively quiet WHITE HOT STAMPER Straight Up is KILLER, with a A++ side one and an A+++ side two — you can’t do much better than that! Side two has Master Tape Sound, the kind that we like to call AGAIG — As Good As It Gets. Both sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to compete with. The sound here just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies of the album are supposed to (but rarely) do. For fans of the band — and Power Pop in general — this is the Straight Up you have been waiting for!

Our last shootout was in 2007, not because we don’t like the record or have customers for it; rather it’s the fact that clean copies of the album just aren’t out there in the bins the way they used to be. Two or three a year is all we can find, and that’s with hitting the stores every week.

2007 vs 2010

In 2007 we wrote: “Having played more than half a dozen copies of this record during the shootout I can tell you that the most common problem with Straight Up is grainy, gritty sound. Most copies of this record are painfully aggressive and transistory.” (more…)

Mike Auldridge – Dobro

This is practically the only Bluegrass album we can honestly say we enjoy listening to. The sound is superb, with lots of picked instruments of every description, but what really sets this one apart is that the music is relaxed, not frenetic, drawing you in, not pushing you away. This is a great album, folks, one that belongs in your collection. If you’re a fan of Chet Atkins this is probably a Must Own, and we are big fans of Chet here at Better Records.

Looking for something a bit different? Here’s a wonderful Super Hot Stamper copy of Mike Auldridge’s highly enjoyable Dobro album, giving you wonderfully enjoyable Bluegrass music and sound. We pulled together a bunch of copies from various eras, and this one delighted us with an A++ side one and an almost White Hot A++ to A+++ side two.

We had a lot of fun hearing how good banjos, mandolins, dobros and fiddles can sound when recorded and mastered properly. Anyone who follows the site knows that rock & roll music is our bread and butter, but it’s great fun to hear other styles of music around here sometimes, especially when it sounds like this. (more…)

Anderson / Fiddle-Faddle / Fiedler

This famous Fiedler / Boston Pops recording of Leroy Anderson’s music has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides! I frankly admit to never having taken this title seriously. I imagine few hard core Shaded Dog collectors have ever bothered to play it, which is their loss, not ours. It’s very well recorded, with tons of Golden Age Living Stereo magic. Talk about BIG and RICH, both sides will show you exactly why modern audiophiles drool over these recordings. You simply cannot find this sound anywhere else.

Side One

A++. It’s dynamic and lively, with huge size and scope and lovely transparency (a quality we find virtually non-existent on modern pressings by the way). Bells up top, rich lower strings, tons of Tubey Magic — it’s all here folks.

There is however some smear, heard most clearly on the strings. A++ is about right we think.

Side Two

A++, so transparent, with spaciousness, depth and 3-D that really draws you in and lets you forget you’re listening to a record at all. You will have a very hard time finding a Golden Age classical record that sounds better.

Listen to the horns on the second track — man do they ever sound REAL.

Track three has some pizzicato playing that you can demo your stereo with.

Like side one, a bit of smear holds it back from out top grade. (more…)

Ambrosia – One Eighty

This is smooth, rich ANALOG at its best, easy on the ears as we like to say.

This is clearly the poppier side of Ambrosia, containing as it does two of their highest-charting mainstream hits, Biggest Part of Me (#3) and You’re the Only Woman (#13). I myself of course prefer the proggy first two albums, falling as they do into the broad category of Art Rock where my favorite albums by Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Roxy Music, Supertramp, 10cc, later-period Beatles, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Traffic and so many others from the last forty-plus years can be found.

These artists’ recordings tend to be big, powerful and exceedingly hard to reproduce, which, probably more than anything else, accounts for my becoming a serious stereo enthusiast while still in my teens. (My mother had to co-sign the loan I needed to purchase the currently-state-of-the-art ARC SP3A-1 preamp I coveted. I remember it being $600+ at a time when I was earning roughly $2 an hour. That had to hurt, but I did it. Bought a D-75 amp after I paid it off too.)

The Music

One Eighty (recorded on 1/80, get it?) kicks off with a real rocker: Ready, which is a great name for an opening track and really gets the album off to a high-energy start. Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, Livin’ On My Own. I actually used to demonstrate my system with it: the bass is huge, way up in the mix and really punchy. Additionally there are powerful multi-tracked vocal harmonies in the chorus that are wall-to-wall, surprisingly dynamic, yet sweet (all things considered; this is a modern recording after all).

One Eighty has an excellent mix of rock and softer pop ballads. The last track, Biggest Part Of Me, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, on the radio or elsewhere, is an exceptionally well-produced (designed?) piece of songcraft that will tug at anyone’s heartstrings, anyone who has a heart that is (if I may quote the title of the best song Burt Bacharach ever wrote). On a big audiophile system it should be both powerful and emotional. (more…)

Level 42 – World Machine


  • A Top Copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on side one, where the biggest hits are and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is HUGE — far RICHER, bigger, clearer and more open than other copies we played
  • A Better Records favorite for more than thirty years, the rare ’80s album that holds up today
  • The big hit Something About You ROCKS on this copy – only these British originals let you turn it up and hear it right
  • “World Machine pushes their newfound radio-friendly sound into the forefront, and the result is one of the finest pop albums of the mid-’80s. “Something About You” exemplifies Level 42’s sound at the peak of its success.”

This British Polydor pressing of Level 42’s BEST ALBUM makes a mockery of most of what’s out there — who knew the sound could be this good? Punchy bass, breathy vocals, snappy drums; it’s all here and it reallyl comes JUMPIN’ out of the speakers on this pressing.

What was striking this time around was just how smooth, rich and tubey the sound was on the best copies. It’s been a few years since we last did this shootout and it’s amazing to us how much better this title has gotten in that short span of time.

Of course, the recording very likely got no better at all, but our system, set-up, room, electricity and who-know-what-else sure did. (more…)

TAS List Thoughts on Albeniz – Where on The Super Disc List Is This Amazing Recording?

More of the music of Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

This commentary is from ten or so years ago.

The fact that entries such as Reiner’s Pines of Rome (woops, we sure got that wrong! We happen to love the Reiner Pines of Rome now.) make the cut, and an amazing recording such as this doesn’t, should tell you everything you need to know concerning the value of such an incomplete list. 

This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Records simply do not get any more spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet.

Our Hot Stamper Classical Pressings will be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings tend to fall short in in our experience.

Chet Atkins – The Atkins-Travis Traveling Show

More Chet Atkins

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chet Atkins

Somewhat better than Hot Stamper sound for this Chet Atkins record from 1974, recorded at the legendary (especially for audiophiles who appreciate naturalness) Nashville RCA Studios. There’s plenty of Tubey Magic on both sides of this pressing, just a bit more than ideal in fact, as it can get a little thick at times. But the sound of these two pickers pickin’ away is positively JUMPIN’ out of the speakers, with that live-in-the-studio sound we love here at Better Records. We grade both sides A+ to A++. The sound was essentially the same on both sides, the differences not worth mentioning.

The music is just as fun and entertaining as you would expect from these two Old Pros. (more…)

Adam / Giselle / Fistoulari

Remastered by Philips from a Golden Age Classical Recording by Mercury, originally released in 1961.

This Mercury Golden Import 2 LP set has VERY GOOD sound. The average copy tends to be a bit dark and recessed, but this one is refreshingly free from those problems.

It’s not quite up to Hot Stamper status, but it is a very enjoyable record and worth picking up at the right price.

Sarah Vaughan – After Hours on Emus

More Sarah Vaughan

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this copy of After Hours put the living, breathing Divine One right between our speakers
  • With simple arrangements, featuring Mundell Lowe’s guitar and George Duvivier’s double bass, Vaughan’s soulful voice can take center stage
  • This copy was pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl – it plays as quietly as any copy we have ever heard
  • “…a quiet and intimate affair, with Vaughan more subtle than she sometimes was… some fine jazz singing.”

This early Emus Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Records are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)