Month: January 2020

John Mayall with Eric Clapton – Blues Breakers

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

DRAMATICALLY SUPERIOR to the typical pressing, the MOFI Gold CD and every other version that I know of. This is it folks! They cut this one right. It sounds the way you always wished it would sound. We’ve been searching for these for years — everyone wants a great copy, but they are TOUGH to come by. 

This copy is guaranteed to be clearly superior to virtually all imports, all domestic pressings, whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl they’re making these days — in short, any version of this music on any format that you’ve ever played. This is it folks. They cut this one right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to know it. Blues Breakers finally sounds the way you always wanted it to sound.

We’ve been searching for copies of Bluesbreakers for years — everyone wants a great copy of this Five Star Classic, the only album John Mayall ever made that we would consider a Must Own. After many, many years of experimentation and dozens of copies purchased we’ve finally discovered the British pressings that deliver the best sound we’ve ever heard for this music.

But they don’t come easy and they sure don’t come cheap, so don’t expect the floodgates to open with White Hot Stamper after White Hot Stamper hitting the site. One was it and it will be a year or two at the very least before we have a big enough stack of copies with which to do a shootout fo find another.

Until then this is a great copy that belongs in your collection, and it’s QUIET. (more…)

Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This album is all about sound, pure sound itself if you will: the sound of the instruments, their textures, and the textures of the soundscape Eno has created for them.

With the subtle harmonics of Eno’s treated sounds captured onto vinyl intact, the magic of the experience far exceeds just another batch of catchy songs with clever arrangements. It truly becomes an immersive experience; sounds you’ve never heard in quite that way draw you into their world, each sound more interesting than the next.

Only these British originals sound like they are made from fresh master tapes on rich, sweet tubey-magical, super high resolution cutting equipment.



In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

(Which, by the way, is BRILLIANT from the opening guitars of Burning Airlines to the never-ending chirping crickets of The Great Pretender. I mean that literally: on these early British pressings the run-out groove has the sound of the crickets embedded in it so that the crickets chirp until you pick up the arm, much in the same way that Sgt. Pepper has sound in the run-out groove at the end of A Day In The Life.)

Burning Airlines Give You So Much More

Pure Pop for Now People. Listen to all those multi-layered harmonies! They’re sweet as honey, and only the best British copies get them to sound that way. You can make out practically every voice. This is what we mean by Midrange Magic. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

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What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label the way they did back the day. I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the limitations of the equipment, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

Gershwin / Con. In F & Rhapsody In Blue / Previn / Kostelanetz

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  • This Columbia Six Eye has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound for the Rhapsody in Blue on side two – reasonably quiet vinyl too, especially for an early stereo LP
  • As would be expected, both sides are exceptionally rich and Tubey Magical, but the clarity, deep bass and powerful, dynamic sound of side two surprised the hell out of us – we’ve never heard the work reproduced with this kind of authority or fidelity
  • The first two movements of the Concerto in F found on side one earned a solid grade of Double Plus (A++) for their full brass and especially clear, solid, present piano, one with practically no trace of vintage analog tube smear
  • Performed with consummate skill and attention to detail – the results are magnificent!

Finally, the sound we’ve been searching for – rich, tubey and real, with nicely textured strings. The piano is solid, rich, high-rez and percussive — there is hardly any Old School smear or hardness to be heard, always important to the proper reproduction of any piano recording, whether the music is jazz, classical or rock. (We talk about smeary, hard pianos on many of our listings for those of you who take the time to read them.) (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Through The Past Darkly – Reviewed in 2010

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

This is a Decca In The Box Blue Label LP with EXCELLENT SOUND! Some of the tracks here sound WONDERFUL, but even more surprisingly, none of them sound bad the way so many Stones compilations often do. Virtually nowhere on this record can you find shrill, thin, edgy, typical compilation Stones sound. Playing songs like ‘She’s a Rainbow’ or ‘Dandelion’ on this album is so refreshing and enjoyable because they really sound the way you want to hear those songs. They have that rich and sweet analog quality that’s usually lost on later and/or digital versions.

The best sounding tracks on side one are track two; track three (silky vocals and deep bass); track five (big sound — a bit bright but ALIVE and tons of fun); and track six.

The best sounding tracks on side two are track two (as good as it gets); track four (the same); and track six, with plenty of cowbell. Side two is characterized by perfect top to bottom tonality and lots of energy.

“The U.K. version of this album was a bit odder yet more rewarding than its American counterpart. Apart from the superior sound, the major difference lies in the range of songs…” – AMG (more…)

Toto – IV – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is one of the BEST SIDE TWOS WE’VE EVER HEARD! Africa sounds HUGE on this copy. With a soundfield this BIG and 3-D, it’s easy to see how this copy rated so high. Side one is no slouch either, rating A double plus for having a PUNCHY bottom end, and tons of rock energy. Big speaker sound all the way.

The good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound. Try that with the average copy. When playing mass-produced pop music like this, more level usually means only one thing: bloody eardrums.

With a soundfield this BIG and 3-D, it’s easy to see how this copy rated so high. Side one is no slouch either, rating A double plus for having a PUNCHY bottom end, and tons of rock energy. Big speaker sound all the way.

If more records sounded like this we would be out of business (and the CD would never have been invented). Thankfully we were able to find this TOTO-ly Tubey Magical copy and make it available for our customers who love the album. (I may have been lukewarm on this music before, but now I LOVE it!)

This was our third shootout for Toto and it’s always fun. Great songs, and even the non-super-hot-stampers were full of energy and enjoyble as hell (within reason). It’s obvious why Toto IV was a Platinum Record. What’s not to like? (more…)

Neil Young – Harvest


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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage pressing of Neil’s undeniable classic is guaranteed to beat any Harvest you’ve ever heard
  • At Mint Minus Minus this is not an especially quiet copy, but keep in mind that it’s practically impossible to find an early pressing with sound this good that will play quieter – it hasn’t happened in years 
  • A Top 100 album and a sublime recording no audiophile should be without
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.” 

When you have this kind of open, extended top end, the grit, grain and edge just disappear, leaving you with a clear, Tubey Magical sound that’s way beyond anything you have ever heard (or we give you your money back). Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976. Just look at these titles: After The Gold Rush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma. (more…)

Can You Imagine Sound this Bad from a TAS List Super Disc? We Can, We Played It.

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This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This White Hot Stamper pressing (on BOTH sides!) contains one of my favorite performances of the Classical Symphony, and it also carries the distinction of having the best combination of sonics and performance that we have ever heard on vinyl. (There is a recording by Previn and the LA Phil from 1986 with a performance To Die For; unfortunately it comes with the kind of mid-’80s tear-your-head-off-digital shrillness that makes the CD medium the worn out joke we analog lovers know it to be.) 

The First Symphony happens to be one of my favorite classical works of all time, right up there with The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition. I wouldn’t want to go to a desert island without all three.

This WHS pressing has exceptional transparency and dynamics, allowing the energy and precision of the performance to shine through. Truly a sublime recording that belongs in any music collection, whether you’re a fan of classical music or not.

If I had to choose one piece of classical music that I would never want to live without, it would have to be the Prokofiev’s First Symphony found on this very side one. It’s a work of such joy that I’ve never failed to be uplifted by it — except when the performance is too slow, which it often is.

This is a difficult piece to pull off. Most of the time either the orchestra is not up to the task or the conductor misunderstands the work. Previn has a spritely take on the piece, which is precisely what it needs and, every bit as important, the London Symphony has the chops to bring his vision to life.

What to Listen for

The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label to the extent that they did back the day. I chock it up, as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, to limited equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning (not to mention underdeveloped critical listening skills. Woops, I guess I just mentioned them.).

If you had Old School vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I had an Audio Research D-75a and later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record would not be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing the record on a much more revealing modern system.

Which is the only kind of system that can tell you what’s really on the record. That’s the kind of stereo we need to do our job; you, of course, have the option of hearing it any way you like on your system. Here is what we heard on this copy. (more…)

The Beatles – Hard Day’s Night – Track by Track

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Play it against your MoFi or Heavy Vinyl pressing and you will quickly see why those LPs bore us to tears. Who in his right mind would want to suffer through a boring Beatles record?

Drop the needle on any song on the first side to see why we went crazy over this one. The emotional quality of the boys’ performances really comes through on this copy. They aren’t just singing — they’re really BELTIN’ it out. Can you imagine what that sounds like on the title track? We didn’t have to imagine it, WE HEARD IT!

It’s (Almost) All About The Midrange

There are two important traits that all the best copies have in common. Tonally they aren’t bright and aggressive (which eliminates 80 percent of the AHDN pressings you find), and they have a wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness that brings out the unique quality of the Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies. (more…)