Month: January 2021

Frank Sinatra – I Remember Tommy

More Frank Sinatra

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • This vintage Reprise pressing offers the critical listener incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • We were shocked to hear how good the originals can sound on this album, and just as shocked to hear other copies that can actually beat the best of them
  • The richness of these Tubey Magical Reprise pressings makes them the clear choice for the heavy-on-the-brass sonics (if you have the right stampers)
  • “… there are a handful of gems included on the record, making it worthwhile for dedicated Sinatra aficionados.” – All Music

You’ll find relaxed, rich, natural big band reproduction on this copy, with the trombones and woodwinds sounding especially good. Those of you who have a good selection of recordings from this era will recognize the glorious sound of vintage tubes, a sound that has been lost to the world for decades now, but one that is in full flower on this very record.

Frank is of course in top form and his voice on this album sounds about as good as it does on any recording you can find on our site.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the brass from becoming blary) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all. (more…)

The Mamas and The Papas – The Papas and The Mamas

More of The Mamas and The Papas

xxxxx

  • An outstanding pressing of The Papas and The Mamas with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Both of these sides are cleaner, clearer, more present and more Tubey Magical than many of the other copies we played against it
  • “An often misunderstood album, this album was the final record by the Mamas & the Papas. It has held up incredibly well over time, and sounds better today than when it was released in mid-1968. The centerpiece of the album is “Dream a Little Dream,” which very well may be the finest cover version that the group ever recorded, and in the end, was a very nice way to end the group’s short but incredible career.”

(more…)

Johnny Cash – The Fabulous Johnny Cash

More Johnny Cash

xxxxx

  • An outstanding vintage stereo pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout for Cash’s first Columbia album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are Tubey Magical yet clear, with plenty of performance energy and a lovely musical quality that’s noticeably missing from many of the copies we’ve played over the years (and no doubt the Heavy Vinyl pressing)
  • For a country album from 1958, “Fabulous” is very well recorded, with consistently engaging songs sung from the heart
  • 4 1/2 stars: “What makes it so entertaining are the songs themselves. From ‘Don’t Take Your Guns to Town’ and ‘Frankie’s Man, Johnny’ to ‘Pickin’ Time’ and ‘The Troubadour,’ the album is filled with first-rate songs.”

We had a wealth of different pressings to play — original 6 Eye stereos, one mono (with a crude and unappealing side one but excellent side two), some later Columbias, and even some of the Special Edition brown label editions which appear to be from the ’70s.

This was one of the better copies we heard. It has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Johnny Cash singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 61 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

Talking Heads – Little Creatures

More Talking Heads

xxxxx

  • An outstanding pressing of Little Creatures with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – this one has the BIG BEAT sound we love
  • I ask you, what record from 1985 sounds better than Little Creatures?
  • These sides are rockin’ on tracks like Stay Up Late, Road To Nowhere, And She Was, Creatures of Love and more
  • Surprisingly big, punchy and open sound for this ’85 pop classic – a Top 100 album and longtime Better Records favorite
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ear Candy …a pop album, and an accomplished one, by a band that knew what it was doing.”

We’re huge fans of Little Creatures, and when you hear a copy like this you’ll know exactly why. Not many records from this era sound as amazingly rich as this one, not in our experience anyway.

On the better copies, the sound is punchy, smooth & so ANALOG, with an especially beefy bottom end, the kind a good Big Beat Pop Album record needs. For a good reference think Get The Knack or Parallel Lines.

Tight, punchy, surprisingly deep note-like bass absolutely makes or breaks the sound on Little Creatures. Without the proper bass foundation this funky beat-crazy Talking Heads album can’t BEGIN to do what it’s trying to do: get your feet tappin’ and your body rockin’ to the music.

The better pressings are surprisingly dynamic, with a sweet, often silky top end. The drums are very well recorded throughout — you can really hear the room around that big kit. You will also find that the higher-rez pressings give David Byrne’s vocals the presence and breathy texture they need. The overall sound will be open, spacious, and sweet — even three-dimensional. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “…modern records are “recessed” and “veiled” and “murky”, and the records you sell are “present” and “transparent” and “lively.”

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

Hey Tom, 

I’m always eager to learn from you guys (i.e., The Masters!) on how to improve sound reproduction when listening to records at home. Can you refer me to additional resources on 1) room treatments and 2) having good electricity?

Any assistance you could provide on these subjects would be greatly appreciated!

Jonathan Reeve

Jonathan,

Happy to give you some pointers:

Here is a bit of help from the blog:

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Records – A Step By Step Guide

More of the same:

The Brahms Violin Concerto – Unplug or Suffer the Consequences!

The only room treatments we recommend you buy are these:

Hallographs

We know a lot about room treatments but sharing that knowledge is difficult, it’s too “case by case” to generalize.

Hope this helps! (more…)

Orff – Carmina Burana – Thomas

More Orff

xxxxx

This Super Hot Stamper pressing has an amazing side one, with the kind of BIG BOLD sound that a work of this scale demands. It has the energy that’s missing from so many pressings; the life of the music really comes through on this side one, let me tell you.

The right pressings of this recording played on the right stereo take you at least as far as you need to go, to the point at which your suspension of disbelief can take over and let you believe it’s real music, not a recording. (Side two of this copy was not nearly as good I’m sorry to say. Like so many we’ve played it’s dark and recessed.)

Large Scale

The recording itself is as DYNAMIC as they come. Unless your stereo can play very loud, the quiet voices after the intro will not come alive the the way they would in actual performance. If you set the volume properly for those quiet voices, the loud passages are going to be VERY LOUD. But that is precisely the way this music is written. Small speaker owners are never going to be able to reproduce this music with much fidelity. But wait a minute: neither are big speaker owners, truth be told. This kind of large scale work just can’t fit comfortably inside a listening room; it needs a concert hall, and a capacious one at that. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Diamond Dogs and Hunky Dory

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

Hey Tom,   

I want to thank you so much for the Diamond Dogs I received from you. It is in a whole different league to the best I have ever managed to find and it is so satisfying to hear something how I always thought it should sound and at a very reasonable price. This is my favourite Bowie album.

Interestingly I bought a Hunky Dory recently that is out of this world. I know one is not supposed to give away stamper numbers and such (blame my compulsive honesty on my Aspergers!) and you probably know this already but the pressing is German RCA International with E 0014A -2 II and E 0014 B 1 II. It is seriously one of the best records I have and by far the best Bowie.

Thanks again Tom and everyone at Better records!

Cheers,

Peter

Peter, glad to hear you liked our Diamond Dogs! Those are indeed very special pressings.

Best, TP

[We happen to know the German pressing he references above. It can be good but not great. They are not competitive with the copies we sell.] (more…)

Mendelssohn and Prokofiev – Violin Concertos / Heifetz / Munch

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Superb Recordings with Jascha Heifetz Performing

xxxxx

  • This wonderful Living Stereo pressing makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too
  • These performances by Heifetz and the Boston Symphony under the baton of Charles Munch are some of the best we’ve ever heard – Heifetz is on fire with passion for these exciting pieces

No violin concerto recording can be considered to have the real Living Stereo sound if the violin isn’t right, and fortunately this violin is very very right, with the kind of rosiny texture and immediacy that brings the music to life right in your very own listening room.

The Prokofiev concerto is a longtime member of the TAS Super Disc List. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Penguin

xxxxx

  • This early Reprise LP is a huge step up from most – this copy is full-bodied, smooth and musical – classic Fleetwood Mac sound
  • One of my favorite songs on the album is one of Christine McVie’s best from this period, Did You Ever Love Me – on this pressing it’s rich and sweet exactly the way it should be
  • “Fleetwood Mac’s first album made after the departure of Danny Kirwan features the additions of guitarist Bob Weston and singer Dave Walker… This album gave Fleetwood Mac its best U.S. chart showing yet…”

On the best pressings, the sound is positively JUMPING out of the speakers in a way that is completely unexpected. We often talk about the size of the soundfield on a particular pressing, side to side, bottom to top, and even more often about the energy found on one copy relative to another. On side one of this copy, we were surprised by a Penguin that was bigger and more energetic than most of the pressings we heard in our shootout.

This vintage Reprise 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 the Best Sides of Penguin 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 1973
  • 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.

Size and Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.

Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean British original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of top quality pressings of Classic Rock albums.

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

What We’re Listening For on Penguin

  • 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, 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.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Remember Me 
Bright Fire 
Dissatisfied 
(I’m A) Road Runner

Side Two

The Derelict 
Revelation 
Did You Ever Love Me 
Night Watch 
Caught in the Rain

AMG Review

Fleetwood Mac’s first album made after the departure of Danny Kirwan features the additions of guitarist Bob Weston and singer Dave Walker. By now Bob Welch and Christine McVie were the dominant forces in the band, and all traces of blues-rock were gone, replaced by Welch’s hypnotic melodies and McVie’s romantic sentiments married to uptempo pop tunes. This album gave Fleetwood Mac its best U.S. chart showing yet, but the wonder is that this phase in the band’s career wasn’t even more popular.

Frank Sinatra – Adventures Of The Heart

xxxxx

  • This wonderful Columbia Sinatra album finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish on this early 6 Eye Mono LP
  • Sinatra’s voice is fuller, sweeter, breathier, and just plain less artificial here than on every other pressing we played
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, Tubey Magic by the boatload – this All Tube recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Not an easy record to find in audiophile playing condition – it took us about ten years to find enough clean copies to get this shootout going., but this bad boy made all that effort worthwhile

(more…)