Month: March 2020

It’s a Beautiful Day – Why Has Nobody Noticed that Side One Is Often Summed to Mono? (Besides Us)

itsab

This Super Hot Stamper Red Label pressing gives you most of the 360 Label’s rich, Tubey Magical sound, and that’s saying a lot; most red label pressings of this record are absolute junk. About half of the side ones are in MONO — how about that! Who knew, right?

Just did a search and cannot find a single mention of this fact.

Seems that someone should have noticed it by now (besides us of course).

How critically can music lovers and audiophiles be listening to their records if they don’t notice such a glaringly obvious change in the sound?

Here’s what we had to say about a copy on our site a while back:

Going through our clean 360 label pressings (which aren’t cut quite as loud by the way so watch out when doing your own shootouts), we found one that was better and one that was worse. Others were just too noisy. This red label pressing was BY FAR THE BEST of the red label reissues, with A++ sound on both sides that frankly took us by surprise.

As we so often say, Who knew? Now that we’ve heard red labels that sound this good we are on the hunt! They can be found, and they’re usually not in trashed condition the way the 360s are.

Which is a shame because the music is WONDERFUL. Unlike some of their contemporaries, this band had excellent songwriting and arranging skills. This album is good from first track to last, with plenty of time set aside for those “progressive” excursions that make this such a ’60s Psych Classic.

And a mostly undiscovered audio gem too. The sound is wonderfully spacious and Three Dimensional, with tight bass and real dynamics. Of special interest to audiophiles is the vocal reproduction. La Flamme sings lead with a female doing high harmony, and the best way to describe this sound is MAGICAL.

Add to this lovely sound the added benefit of having a violin as the lead instrument and you have a record unlike any other in your collection. Take the intro to White Bird as just one example: the plucking strings you hear at the opening are not those of an acoustic guitar, but rather the pizzicato playing of a violin. These unique sonic qualities can be found everywhere on the album, making it a real treat for audiophiles and music lovers alike. (more…)

Jerry Garcia (Compliments)

xxxxx

  • STUNNING sound for Jerry’s sophomore solo effort with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “This was an opportunity for Garcia to do something different — to sing, to perform, and to arrange a variety of songs however he wanted. As a result, he surely sounded like he was having the time of his life…” – John Metzger, The Music Box

(more…)

Frank Sinatra – Songs for Swingin’ Lovers – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

xxxxx

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

This is a Minty Capitol Black Label original LP with No Bar Code. They don’t come any better than this! It is amazingly quiet for an old Capitol, with excellent sound throughout.

Many of the Sinatra Capitol Black Label releases do not sound good. They’re full of harmonic distortion, much like The Beatles’ records from that era. This copy is the exception. It’s full of life and clearly made from a good tape.

Sinatra pressings like this one benefit from better mastering, with those occasionally shrill upper mids under control while keeping the rich, warm sound of Sinatra’s voice intact. (Many reissues are flat and compressed, not to mention thin, grainy, and irritating.)  (more…)

Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

xxxxx

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

This Cypress pressing has AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUND on side one! With a grade of A++ to A+++ it’s the highest rated side of any copy we have to offer this go around — none of our other pressings could touch it on any side.

Why such a high grade? Simple. It’s ALIVE! It’s super transparent with a big, bold bottom end. The drums here are as good as they get — punchy and powerful with lots of WHOMP and the sound of the skins being THWACKED.

The presence and immediacy of this side are STUNNING — play it good and loud and you’ll have a living, breathing Jennifer Warnes right between your speakers. The clarity here is also SUPERB — just listen to all the texture to the strings, one of our favorite tests for resolution and freedom from smear.

The sax on the title track sounds rich and full with clearly audible leading edge transients and just the right amount of bite. This side one was doing pretty much everything we wanted it to and then some. What a record! (more…)

Herbie Mann – Live At The Village Gate on Audio Fidelity Heavy Vinyl

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D-

Hall of Shame pressing and another Audio Fidelity / DCC LP debunked.

A murky mess. Hard to imagine you couldn’t find a common domestic pressing that wouldn’t sound better..  (more…)

The Curtis Counce Group – Vol. 2: Counceltation

xxxxx

  • Insanely good sound throughout for this Contemporary Yellow Label pressing with both sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades, just shy of our Shootout Winner 
  • These sides are superb — clean, clear, full-bodied and dynamic with tons of energy
  • Counce is a wonderful bassist and here he’s joined by Jack Sheldon, Harold Land, Carl Perkins and Frank Butler; I think you’ll be very impressed with how good this music from the late ’50s still sounds today
  • “Bassist Curtis Counce led one of the finer West Coast-based groups of the 1950s, a quintet that was greatly underrated… This excellent music falls somewhere between hard bop and cool jazz.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

This vintage Contemporary Yellow Label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings 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.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1957
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Vol 2: Counceltation

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The instruments aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Complete
How Deep Is The Ocean
Too Close For Comfort
Mean To Me

Side Two

Stranger In Paradise
Counceltation
Big Foot

 

Letter of the Week – Countdown to Ecstasy, Katy Lied and John Barleycorn

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

Hey Tom, 

Guys, seriously, all three copies, completely out of control !! Unbelievable difference in sound, outstanding!!!!

Thank you.

Alonso,

It was our pleasure! Now you know what Hot Stampers are all about — the sound you can’t find any other way.

Best, TP


Countdown to Ecstasy


Katy Lied


John Barleycorn Must Die

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Favorite Female Vocal Album of All Time

xxxxx

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

The first “Triple Triple” MONO copy to ever hit the site — A+++ from start to finish. Our knockout mono pressing here was fuller, more natural and more involving than any copy we heard in our shootout. with immediacy to put Ella practically in the room with you, it’s her performance that really comes to life. It’s our single Favorite Female Vocal album here at Better Records, one that gets better with each passing year.

Check out what the lucky owner of this copy had to say about it.

PR Writes

As you probably know, I own superb copies of the stereo. They both fade into pastel in comparison with this mono. (more…)

Muddy Waters – Hard Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

xxxxx

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

This Hot Stamper pressing of Muddy Water’s Five Star 1977 collaboration with Johnny Winter and harmonica great James Cotton has two great sides and quiet vinyl! We dropped the needle on one of these recently and liked the sound, so we picked up a bunch of copies and had a rollickin’ fun shootout. Many of the other copies we played lacked the kind of energy and big bottom end that you get on this pressing, qualities that help kick up this music to the next level.

The highlight, naturally, is the killer version of Mannish Boy that leads of the album. Turn up the volume good and loud and you’ll put yourself front and center at a wild blues club. You won’t get that effect on every copy, but when you have a pressing with lots of presence and life, the sound can be surprisingly natural and realistic. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Out of Our Heads

xxxxx

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

This is the first truly killer copy to ever hit the site, quite possibly the best we’ve ever heard, A+++ on both sides. It’s a problematical recording, but these British sides impressed us with their better balance, more bass, and least amount of grit and edge. With top engineers like Dave Hassinger and Glyn Johns one would hope for better sound, but this, folks, is about as good as it gets as far as we know.

Like the really good Decca version of Aftermath, this record has amazing transparency, rich bass and relatively little distortion compared to other versions we have played. Also, like Aftermath some songs sound much better than others. That’s just the way old Stones record are. Part of this album was recorded in Hollywood and part of it was recorded in Chicago — that may explain some of the variation in the quality.

By the way, stick with stereo on this album; the mono pressings — at least the ones we played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time). (more…)