- With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides and exceptionally quiet vinyl for the most part, this pressing is guaranteed to smoke any copy of the album you’ve heard
- Huge, spacious and detailed, with the Tubey Magic of a fresh tape, this is the way to hear Sgt. Pepper in all its analog glory, not remixed and not remastered
- Most pressings – especially the new ones – have nothing approaching the Tubey Magic, space and energy of this LP
- A Better Records Top 100 – “It’s possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this.”
The sound here is so big and rich, so clear and transparent, that we would be very surprised, shocked even, if you’ve ever imagined that Sgt. Pepper could sound this powerful and REAL.
This vintage-but-far-from-original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- 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 1967
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic 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.
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 bottom end 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.
For Big Production Rock Albums such as this there are some obvious problem areas that are often heard on at least one or two sides of practically any copy of this album.
With so many heavily-produced instruments crammed into the soundfield, if the overall sound is at all veiled, recessed or smeared — problems common to 90+% of the records we play in our shootouts — the mix quickly becomes opaque, forcing the listener to work too hard to separate out the elements of interest. Exhaustion, especially for those who are listening intently, soon follows.
Transparency, clarity and presence are key.
The sides that had sound that jumped out of the speakers, with driving rhythmic energy, worked the best for us. They really brought this complex music to life and allowed us to make sense of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music.
What We’re Listening For on Sgt. Pepper
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Geoff Emerick in this case — would have 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.
The Greatest Rock Record Ever Made?
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), practically every one of which is brilliant and unique. I never fully 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.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help from My Friends
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Fixing a Hole
She’s Leaving Home
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
Within You, Without You
When I’m Sixty-Four
Good Morning, Good Morning
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
A Day in the Life
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.