The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

We are calling this White Hot Stamper 2-pack set THE ULTIMATE SGT. PEPPERS EXPERIENCE. These two sides give you EVERYTHING you could ask for from this album. Side one earned the rare Four Plus A++++ grade and side two was a killer A+++; both sides play a very quiet Mint Minus throughout. The sound is so big and rich throughout that we would be very surprised, shocked even, if you’ve ever imagined that Sgt. Pepper could sound this powerful and REAL.

We defy any original to step into the ring with a copy like this. One thing we can tell you: it would not be a fair fight. The cutting equipment to make a record this good did not exist in 1967.

The flipsides of each of the White Hot sides were pretty darn good, each rating A+ or better, but we’ve created this 2-pack set to give someone the kind of Sgt. Peppers that we dream of every time we start this shootout. Could we find a single copy with two sides this stunning? I wouldn’t bet on it!

Side One

A++++, absolutely As Good As It Gets! Huge and lively with the kind of jump-out-of-the-speakers presence we love around here, no other side one in our shootout came close to this one. The vocals are perfection. This is an amazing album, but when it sounds like this it goes to another level entirely.

Side Two

A+++, very nearly as good as side one but nothing short of killer in its own right. Fully extended in both directions, with an incredibly big, spacious soundfield. The bass and drums are Right On The Money, and the vocals are super present and breathy.

What to Listen For

Balance Is Key. The best copies of Pepper manage to combine Tubey Magical richness and fullness with transparency and clarity.

If you have multiple copies to compare, next on the list would be bass weight, top end extension, and of course the overall energy of the copy being played. You will have a very hard time finding two copies of Pepper that sound alike in all these areas.

The Greatest Rock Record Ever Made?

I have the original CD for Sgt. Pepper in my car (which is not very good by the way), and having played it dozens of times over the last few years I am more and more impressed by the music it contains with each play. A more original group of songs simply could not be found in 1967 (the world would have to wait until the White Album came out for an even more original batch), individually brilliant and unique. I never really appreciated this album back in the day, but repeated listenings has shown me the error of my ways. There’s a reason it regularly gets voted the greatest rock album of all time.

Early Pressings

We had the opportunity not long ago to audition a very clean original early pressing of the album and were frankly quite taken aback by how just plain AWFUL it was in every respect. No top end above 8k or so, flabby bass, muddy mids — this was as far from Hot Stamper sound as you could get.

To be fair, we have played exactly one copy on our current system. (Played an early copy or two long ago but on much different equipment, so any judgments we might have made are highly suspect.) Perhaps there are good ones. We have no way of knowing whether there are, and we are certainly not motivated to find out given the price that original Sgt. Pepper’s are fetching these days.

We can tell you this much: no original British pressing of any Beatles album up through Pepper has ever impressed us sonically like these sides did. We’ve played plenty and have yet to hear one that’s not congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and full of tube smear. (The monos suffer from all of these problems and more of course, which is only natural; they’re both made with the Old School cutting equipment of the day.)

If that’s your sound more power to you. It’s definitely not ours. The hotter the stamper, the less congested, crude, distorted, bandwidth-limited and smeary it will be.

Try the CD

If you happen to own an early pressing you like, you really owe it to yourself to hear just how good a Hot Stamper pressing can sound.

If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, perhaps a listen to the new CD would be in order. I will go out on a limb and predict that the new CD is significantly better sounding in most ways than any original pressing you may own, and it’s about $15.

(We would encourage those who find Heavy Vinyl pressings to their liking to do the same. I think the average Sundazed record probably sounds worse than a CD of the same title. We know some of them clearly do; we’ve had the misfortune to play them.)

Overall Sonic Grade:

Side One – A++++ 
Side Two – A+++

Vinyl Grade:

1) Mint Minus 
2) Mint Minus

Cover Grade: 8 out of 10

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help from My Friends
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds 
Getting Better
Fixing a Hole
She’s Leaving Home
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Side Two

Within You, Without You
When I’m Sixty-Four
Lovely Rita 
Good Morning, Good Morning
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
A Day in the Life

AMG Review

With Revolver, the Beatles made the Great Leap Forward, reaching a previously unheard-of level of sophistication and fearless experimentation. Sgt. Pepper, in many ways, refines that breakthrough, as the Beatles consciously synthesized such disparate influences as psychedelia, art-song, classical music, rock & roll, and music hall, often in the course of one song. Not once does the diversity seem forced — the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian ‘When I’m 64’ seems like a logical extension of ‘Within You Without You’ and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of ‘Lovely Rita.’ It’s possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this.