Month: April 2020

Rush – 2112 – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

We just finished our first ever shootout for the classic 2112, and here’s a wonderful copy with two impressive sides! We’ve collected a bunch of these over the years — it took ages to find pressings that delivered the kind of sound our customers expect from a Better Records Hot Stamper. Most Rush records sound godawful, but this one actually has the potential to be amazing — as long as you’ve got the right copy! (more…)

Nirvana – Nevermind – Stretching Back to 2001

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DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND on side two! It’s got the big, uber-punchy, hard rockin’ attitude we demand from a Nevermind Hot Stamper. Side one is no slouch either folks, with A++ sound! Only one other copy had better sound for side one — THIS ONE ROCKS!

Side two on this Nevermind has MASTER TAPE SOUND. We found the most amazing clarity and transparency on this copy. You will find the sound so rich and full-bodied that at times you’d swear it was tube mastered! Check out the presence of the vocals on side one. The WHOMP factor is out of control all over this pressing. 

Now don’t get me wrong: the average copy is still a pretty darn good sounding record. I might even go so far as to say it’s better than practically anything recorded during the entire decade of the ’90s.

But man, when you’ve heard this record at its best, there is NOTHING like it. For the true Rock and Roll Audiophile Connoisseur, the man who will settle for nothing but the very best, we humbly offer this Nevermind Verified Hot Stamper, the ultimate head-banging experience.


This is our old commentary, which obviously now applies to only the best copies.

A PERFECT recording, the best of its kind, ever. The drums are perfect. The bass is perfect. The guitars are perfect. The vocals are perfect. Now how in the world could that be, you ask?!

Allow me to explain. (more…)

Willie Nelson & Family – Honeysuckle Rose

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  • Honeysuckle Rose finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • This surprisingly well recorded live album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to achieve by 1980, but here it is!
  • 4 stars: “The soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose is… a collection of songs by Willie Nelson and his Family band as well as a host of friends… Nelson’s readings of his own tunes like “On the Road Again,” and others are solid, inspired, and rollicking. His versions of tunes written by Kris Kristofferson (“Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”), Rodney Crowell (“Angel Eyes”), and Lee Clayton (“If You Could Touch Her at All”) blow away the studio versions.”

(more…)

The 3 Sounds – Moods – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Blue Note LP has GREAT SOUND. The top end is Right On The Money and the drums sound wonderful — punchy with lots of ambience. The piano is full-bodied and weighty allowing you to really appreciate the percussive qualities of the instrument. The bass is deep but not quite as tight as the very best sounding copies.

Those of you who are familiar with Yamamoto’s playing, especially on albums like Midnight Sugar, should have fun with the second track on side two, Li’l Darlin’. I think this is where Yamamoto “found” a lot of his style. It’s actually even slower than his arrangements of similar material, and I’d be tempted to say it works even better on this album.

Gene Harris, the piano player here, is one of my favorite jazz pianists. I saw him live with Ray Brown a few years back and he was wonderful. Most of his albums are long out of print and very hard to come by, so this is a real find, one that gets a Top Recommendation from Better Records.

John Denver – Poems, Prayers and Promises – Our Shootout Winner from 2017

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This original Orange Label RCA pressing was clearly superior to everything we played – it’s fuller, bigger and clearer than them all. Superb engineering by Ray Hall. The recording is from 1971 but in some ways it sounds as good as if it had been made in 1961, and that’s high praise in these parts.   

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Singer Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for: (more…)

Tom Waits – Small Change

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

This is a wonderful album, considered by many to be Waits’s masterpiece. He’s backed with a real jazz combo here, including Lew Tabackin on sax and the great Shelley Manne on drums. Bones Howe does a great job gettin the kind of beatnik-jazz sound out of these songs that they need. On a copy like this, the presence and clarity are absolutely stunning!

According to Wikipedia, when asked in interview by Mojo magazine in 1999 if he shared many fans’ view that Small Change was the crowning moment of his “beatnik-glory-meets-Hollywood-noir period” (i.e. from 1973 to 1980), Waits replied:

Well, gee. I’d say there’s probably more songs off that record that I continued to play on the road, and that endured. Some songs you may write and record but you never sing them again. Others you sing em every night and try and figure out what they mean. “Tom Traubert’s Blues” was certainly one of those songs I continued to sing, and in fact, close my show with. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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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.  

A knockout Top Copy, with a side one so jaw-droppingly amazing that we awarded it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade. The sound is incredibly rich, full-bodied and open with excellent clarity — you will be FLOORED.

Please note that we do not have a graphic for the above chart to indicate the Four Plus grade, since we award it so rarely. Our rating system usually only goes to three pluses, but this side one was so amazing we had to give it a fourth!

This is a superb recording, and on a pressing like this it is true Demo Disc material! Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK you the way this one does. We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least!

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers practically direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drum kits ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically. Micky Waller is brilliant throughout. Kenney Jones, who only plays on the showstopping “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, is clearly out of his mind).

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. If you have the system for it you are going to have a great time playing this one for your friends, audiophiles or otherwise. (more…)

A Frequently Asked Question – Aren’t Hot Stampers just original pressings?

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They certainly can be, but quite often they are not, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to any serious record collector, and definitely not to any member of our listening crew. Reissues come out on top in our record shootouts fairly regularly.   

Yes, most of the time the original will beat the reissue, but most of the time is far from always, and since we have to play a big pile of copies anyway (and always with the person doing the sound grading kept in the dark about the pressing being auditioned), why not evaluate both the originals and the reissues at the same time, and do so strictly on the merits?

But this discussion bypasses an important question: What IS an original? Is a record with a 1A stamper an original and a record with a 1B stamper not an original, or slightly less original? Is every copy on the original label an original, and only the copies with the later labels reissues?

To be honest, attempting to lay down strict rules about what constitutes an original is best understood as a fool’s errand, an audiophile parlor game of little use in the real world of records, and one we never cared to play even when we didn’t know how pointless it would turn out to be.

To be blunt about it, we are not the least bit interested in how original a pressing may or may not be. On this site we are only interested in one thing, the answer to the question: Which copy of the record sounds the best? (Also: In what way? So I guess that’s really two things we are interested in.) The rest of it we leave to our record collecting brethren.

Click on this link to read more about one of the thorniest questions in all of audio: Which have the best sound, Originals vs. Reissues? (more…)

Aerosmith – Aerosmith

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  • A stunning copy of Aerosmith’s debut — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • With plenty of energy, killer rock bass, and clear, present vocals, this pressing has all the key qualities we look for in an Aerosmith record
  • Dream On sounds incredible on this one – worth the price of admission alone
  • “In retrospect, it’s a bit shocking how fully formed the signature Aerosmith sound was on their self-titled 1973 debut… Aerosmith clearly showcases all the attributes of the band that would become the defining American hard rock band of the ’70s… “

KILLER sound for this copy of Aerosmith’s debut album! Mama Kin, a perennial staple of the band’s live performances and arguably the best rocker on the album, sounds fantastic here, huge and open with some serious presence. As you might expect from a debut, the sound here is a bit rougher and rawer than later albums like Toys in the Attic, but that’s not altogether a bad thing for this kind of loose, greasy hard rock! (more…)

Gabor Szabo – More Sorcery – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This is a Minty looking Original Impulse Stereo LP with EXCELLENT sound and quiet vinyl.

This is a live recording that’s got that small jazz club feel. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds runs almost ten minutes and gives everybody involved a chance to stretch out. People is also exceptionally good here.

It’s hard to find a recording Szabo did that isn’t full of Tubey Magic, huge studio space and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres. This album is right up there with the best of his recordings, courtesy of the two top engineers noted below. (more…)