Month: February 2020

Which One’s Pink? – And What Do All Those Numbers Mean?

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An erstwhile customer sent us an email a while back asking this question: “What is the FULL stamper matrix for this record… all the way around the dead wax?”

I replied that we never give out stamper numbers for the records we sell. The only way to find out the stampers for our records is to buy them.

He then countered with this bit of information:

Well, ok. I don’t understand the logic, but it’s your show.

Floyd stampers are probably the most uniquely well documented stampers on [a site that no longer exists] that they’re pretty much common knowledge. If I understand your logic, a first pressing may not be a “Hot Stamper” while a 3rd, 4th or 5th might be. Just a function of the stars aligning when that record is pressed. So what’s the diff?

I would think this would be pretty obvious. If we say pressing X is the best, this is information that you cannot get anywhere else, certainly not on the site you sent us a link to. The day that such a site tells you which stampers sound the best is the day that such a site will have any value to those who are not collecting for the sake of collecting, but actually want to find pressings with the best sound to play (more…)

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This Minty EMI Harvest German Import LP takes this album to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL. Both of these White Hot sides have HUGE, room-filling, hi-definition sound with all the Tubey Magic you could ever hope for. The transparency and the clarity are mind-boggling! Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the end.

This copy has all the presence, all the richness, all the size and all the energy we ever hoped to hear on Dark Side. This copy does it ALL and then some. The raging guitar solos (there are three of them) on Money seemed to somehow expand the system itself, making it bigger and more powerful than I have ever heard it. Even our best copies of Blood Sweat and Tears have never managed to create such a huge space with that kind of raw power. This copy broke through all the barriers, taking the system to an entirely new level of sound.

Take the clocks on Time. There are whirring mechanisms that can be heard deep in the soundstage on this copy that I’ve never heard as clearly before. On most copies you can’t even tell they are there. Talk about transparency — I bet you’ve NEVER heard so many chimes so clearly and cleanly, with such little distortion on this track.

One thing that separates the best copies from the merely good ones is super-low-distortion, extended high frequencies. How some copies manage to correctly capture the overtones of all the clocks, while others, often with the same stamper numbers, can barely hint at them, is something no one can explain. But the records do not lie. Believe your own two ears. If you hear it, it’s there. If you don’t, it’s not. (more…)

Van Halen – Van Halen – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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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.

We recently took the time to shoot out a bunch of original pressings of Van Halen’s debut. I’m sure it won’t come as much of a surprise to most of you that the average copy is, well, quite average sounding. Not bad, just mediocre. Not rockin’ all that hard and not all that much fun. You know the kind of record I’m talkin’ about.

Sounds great on the radio, but the record you just picked up at your local Flip Side doesn’t seem to be doing much for you. The problem you find yourself with is the same problem most people have, but they don’t know they have it, because they don’t understand how dramatic the variations in pressings can be.

The problem is simply a mediocre pressing. The world is full of them. We know them well; they’re the kind we wade through in order to get to the good ones. (more…)

Johnny Mathis – Open Fire, Two Guitars

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  • Mathis’ superb 1959 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • The All Tube recording chain at Columbia’s 30th Street studios allowed their engineers to make recordings practically unequaled in the decades since
  • An outrageous claim? Not really, because this very pressing backs up every thing we say
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On this album, Johnny Mathis creates an atmosphere of fireside intimacy by dispensing with his usual orchestral accompaniment so that the purity of his voice entices the listener’s full attention… The enduring popularity of Open Fire, Two Guitars is attributable in part to its hypnotic aura of closeness and confidentiality…”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, a mark makes a mostly light sandpapery sound for 1-2 seconds, then, at the end of track 1, An Open Fire, there are 2 moderate pops.
  • On side two, a mark makes 6 light ticks one-quarter inch from the end of track 1, When I Fall In Love.

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 60 years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is nearly impossible, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard-pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year. These days it’s taking three to five years to bring any of the classic Johnny Mathis albums to market. There are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day, and their owners.

Which is why we are so pleased to present one of Johnny’s most beloved albums, and one that is quite a bit more musically involving than most. If you like Dream With Dean, and who doesn’t?, this Mathis album should be right up your alley.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO GREAT SIDES on this wonderful album — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! Both sides have a wonderful bottom end — check out all the WEIGHT to that rich, meaty bass. Many copies we played had a tendency to sound somewhat dull, but this one has all the extension up top you need. The overall sound is rich, full, sweet and warm. The strings have texture, the voice has lots of breath, and I just don’t think you could find a better sounding copy.

Drop the needle on Romeo Is Bleeding for some of the best music on here. When you’ve got the kind of bass definition that this copy offers, the sound for that song can be killer, as it is here. (more…)

The Beach Boys – Surfin’ Safari

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  • The band’s debut album finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A copy like this is a rare audiophile treat – here are The Beach Boys’ marvelous harmonies from 1962, sounding as rich, warm, clear, natural and lively as you could ever hope to hear them 
  • We have to admit we were wrong about the early Beach Boys pressings sounding like the bad Capitol Beatles LPs we know all too well – some of them can sound great, and this mono early pressing is proof!
  • “… afford[s] a glimpse of the group as they sounded when they were a true band in the studio, before most of their parts were played by session musicians.”

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with the band front and center. (It’s a mono pressing of a mono recording so the band had better be in the center or something is definitely amiss.) The highs are extended and sweet. The bass is tight and full-bodied. And this copy has more life and energy than others by a long shot. Very few early Beach Boys records offer the kind of sound you will hear on this pressing, and on both sides no less. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – Golden Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

This is Sarah in her prime – the recordings date from 1954-58. A good overview of her Mercury recordings.

We’ve been fortunate to have a number of excellent sounding Sarah Vaughan records hit our turntable over the course of the last few years, but this is officially our first Sarah Vaughan shootout title to make it to the site.

Most of the reason for this unfortunate fact can be attributed to the lack of clean copies of her prime albums for Mercury sitting in our local record store bins. Her best albums are either missing or scratched. (Plenty of Pablos and Mainstreams, sure, but we have never been all that impressed with either label’s recordings of vocalists.)

This Greatest Hits album apparently stayed in print long enough to produce the supply necessary for one of our shootouts, and the result is we now have some wonderful Sarah Vaughan performances with superb sound to share with our customers. (more…)

Mercury Stereo Sampler Vol. 1 (SRD-1) – Reviewed in 2012

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

This Mercury Sampler has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, or better — who knows if this isn’t as good as it gets? We can’t find enough clean copies to test so we’re sticking with A++ or better just to be safe. Either way, this is the BIG, BOLD classic Mercury sound. Let’s Dance – David Carroll – from Let’s Dance (SR-60001) has the sweet Tubey Magic of the best Living Stereos and the percussion excitement of Bang Baa-room and Harp!

Not every song on side one is a knockout but some of them certainly are, making this a top quality Variety Demo Disc. (more…)

Jerry Jeff Walker – Driftin’ Way of Life

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

This copy, which has a variation of the maroon early Vanguard label, not sure exactly when it was pressed, or where, was the best copy we played in our shootout. So tubey and natural, why don’t more records sound like this? The recording itself is superb, with audiophile quality sound all the way. And the music is just as good, fully deserving the 4 1/2 Stars All Music Guide gave it.

Over the last few years you’ve seen rave reviews for many Vanguard recordings – Joan Baez, The Weavers, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, etc.

You can confidently add Jerry Jeff Walker’s Driftin’ Way of Life to that list. (more…)

Various – Balalaika Favorites – Reviewed in 2010

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

DEMO QUALITY SOUND!

This is the best sounding copy of this record I have ever heard! There aren’t going to be many copies that sound like this one. The originals that I’ve heard definitely don’t, and the worst offenders are the Columbia pressings, the records with stampers like CCFR, CTFR, etc. They usually sound hard and sour and are best avoided.

So exactly what pressing is this, you ask? Well, we’re not telling. We’re going to call this the Mystery Mercury Pressing. Let’s just say that it’s definitely a remastered version.

Now normally remastering has a bad connotation around here. We don’t like it when people remaster most records because they tend to screw them up. Just the opposite is the case here. I believe this copy is the first one to really reflect the beauty of the master tape.

What do you hear on this pressing that you don’t hear on others? It’s very simple: the Balalaikas are delicate and sweet. There’s air all around them. They have the kind of midrange magic that you hear on the best pop guitar records, the Tea For The Tillerman’s and the After The Gold Rush’s of this world. When you hear that sound there’s no mistaking it. It’s what we audiophiles live for. And I wasn’t expecting to hear it on this famous album, because I never did before.

Guaranteed to beat the pants off of the Classic heavy vinyl version of this album (which, like most Classic records, I never liked).