The drum sound on the best copies is punchy and HUGE, with prodigious amounts of studio space swirling around Bonham’s kit. There’s real resonance to the toms, not the standard overdamped sound of a studio kit, which gives them a lively, realistic, natural quality that you rarely hear outside of Zep records.
And the cymbals crash and splash just like real cymbals do, which is yet another sound you rarely hear outside of the best Zep pressings. (The best copies of Zep IV have crashing cymbals on Black Dog and Rock and Roll like few records in the history of rock.)
We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how hard this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are all KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. After cleaning and playing a pile of copies we are pleased to report that the best of them are full of The Real Zep Magic. The average LP may not be much of a thrill but our Hot Stampers sure are, with all the energy, dynamics, whomp, and presence (pun only slightly intended) you could hope for.
That is EXACTLY the kind of sound we love here at Better Records.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Led Zeppelin record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording.
Here is a more comprehensive breakdown of what we were listening for when evaluating Presence.
Clarity and Presence
Many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids. Dull, dead sounding pressings can’t begin to communicate the musical values in this excellent recording.
With a real Hot Stamper the sound is totally involving. There is breath in the voices, the picking of the strings on the guitars — these things allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it’s a recording we’re listening to and not living, breathing musicians.
Top End Extension
Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the percussion can’t extend up and away from the other elements. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the mix.
Although this quality is related to the above two, it’s not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really “see” into the mix, it’s much easier to pick out each and every instrument in order to gain more insight into the way the songs were arranged and recorded.
Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies is to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the engineers.
This is an area where Heavy Vinyl fails more often than not. Modern remastered records are just so damn opaque. That sound drives us to distraction when it doesn’t bore us to tears.
No Led Zeppelin record without good bass can qualify as a Hot Stamper. How could it? It’s the rhythmic foundation of the music, and who wants a Zep record that lacks rhythm?
Hey Man, Turn It Up!
Here’s hoping this copy ends up in the hands of someone who will play it good and loud, because that’s the way it was meant to be heard. It’s the only way the mix works, which is a sure sign that that is clearly how the artists intended their music to be heard. Turn up the volume and play the midsection of For Your Life on side one or the entire Nobody’s Fault But Mine on side two to hear Zep really rockin’ out in their prime.
Nobody did it better than these four guys, and we doubt any group like them will come along again. If you have Hot Stampers of their albums, you have some of the best rock and roll records ever made, records that sound the way Zep wanted you to hear them when you play them LOUD.
Achilles Last Stand
For Your Life
Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Candy Store Rock
Hots On For Nowhere
Tea For One