Month: June 2021

The Kinks on Get Back Heavy Vinyl

More of The Kinks

Sonic Grade: F

HALL OF SHAME PRESSINGS, EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM

Some of the worst sound I have ever heard on Heavy Vinyl. The average cassette sounds better than these vinyl pieces of crap. 


More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

There are many kinds of audiophile pressings — Half-Speeds, Direct-to-Discs, Heavy Vinyl Remasters, Japanese Pressings, the list of records offered to the audiophile with supposedly superior sound quality is endless. Having been in the audiophile record biz for more than thirty years, it has been our misfortune to have played them by the hundreds,

In order to help you avoid the worst of the worst, we put a great many of them in a section of their own, which we call:

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List

How did we find so many bad sounding records? The same way we find so many good sounding ones. We included them in our shootouts, comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stampers.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

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The Crusaders / Chain Reaction – MoFi Reviewed

More of the Music of The Crusaders

More Jazz Fusion Records with Hot Stampers

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with relatively good sound. We did a mini-shootout many years ago and this copy apparently killed the competition. 

However…

When you play the MoFi against an actual honest-to-goodness properly mastered and pressed vintage LP – we call them Hot Stampers – the audiophile version of the album reeks of phony top end EQ, compression and sloppy bass.

Of course, what half-speed mastered record doesn’t?


FURTHER READING

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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Classic Records – More of the Same Old Same Old

More Cannonball Adderley

More Miles Davis

Reviews and Commentaries for Somethin’ Else

addersomet_classic

Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP that’s hard to get excited about.

There are certainly some incredible sounding pressings of this album out there, but who has the resources it takes to find them? Most of the original Blue Notes we come across these days turn out to have mediocre sound, and many of them have severely damaged inner grooves. Even the mintiest looking copies often turn out to be too noisy for most audiophiles, Blue Note vinyl being what it is.

This is of course why the hacks at Classic Records did so well for themselves [until they went under] hawking remastered versions of classic albums pressed on new, quieter vinyl.

The problem is that most of their stuff just doesn’t sound all that hot, this album included. We’ve played it; it’s decent, but any Hot Stamper will show you just how much music you are missing.

If you want to hear this album with amazing fidelity but don’t want to spend the time, money and energy collecting, cleaning, and playing mostly mediocre copies until you luck into a good quiet one, a Hot Stamper pressing is the only way to go.


FURTHER READING on Heavy Vinyl

Classic Records – Classical 

Classic Records – Jazz  (more…)

The Moody Blues – Seventh Sojourn

More of The Moody Blues

Reviews and Commentaries for The Moody Blues

  • An outstanding copy with Double Plus (A+++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Seventh Sojourn
  • Great sound isn’t easy to come by for the Moody Blues — it takes a lot of copies to find sound as good as this
  • The Moodies’ biggest success on the American charts – I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock & Roll Band) is the killer hit from the album

This pressing is excellent on both sides. It has lovely vocals — sweet and breathy — so critical to the Moodies sound. It’s also spacious and energetic, two qualities that the average copy simply has very little of. To top it all off, this copy rocks about as much as this album, in our experience, CAN rock. Most pressings are shockingly compressed, recessed and murky.

And the domestic copies are made from dubs; they’re brighter but grainy and transistory as hell. They convey NONE of the Moodies magic.

Moody Blues records have a marked tendency to sound somewhat murky and muddy; that’s obviously the sound these guys were going for because you hear it on every album they released.

Compound their “sound” with bad mastering, bad pressing or bad vinyl — not to mention vinyl that hasn’t been cleaned properly — and you will find yourself trying to wade through an impassable sonic swamp. With anything but a Hot Stamper the result is going to be sound so fat, thick, and opaque that it will confound any attempt you might make to hear into it. (more…)

It’s A Beautiful Day – Self-Titled

More Psych Rock

  • Superb sound from start to finish for this Columbia 360 label pressing with both sides earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • One of our favorite ’60s Psych Rock albums, a true Demo Disc for three-dimensional space, and a Desert Island Disc for musical originality
  • Full and rich, detailed and transparent, this copy is doing absolutely EVERYTHING we could ask it to do
  • 4 stars: “It’s a Beautiful Day remains as a timepiece and evidence of how sophisticated rock & roll had become in the fertile environs of the San Francisco music scene.”

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Maybe the Best Sounding Album Geoff Emerick Ever Recorded

We’ve been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until we found a clean early UK Chrysalis pressing. Now we know just how good this album can sound, and that means ASTOUNDINGLY good. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any Geoff Emerick album that sounds as big and clear as this one. The three dimensional space is really something else on the better UK copies.

There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time such a mind-expanding experience. Recorded a few years earlier, both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well. (more…)

A Frequently Asked Question – What Exactly Are Hot Stamper Pressings?

The easiest and shortest version of the answer would be something like “Hot Stampers are records that sound much better than other pressings of an album.

My good friend Robert Pincus coined the term more thirty years ago. We were both fans of the second Blood, Sweat and Tears album, a record that normally does not sound very good, and when he would find a great sounding copy of an album like B, S &T, he would sell it to me as a Hot Stamper. It was a favorite album and I wanted to hear it sound its best.

Even back then we knew there were a lot of different stampers for that record — it sold millions of copies and was Number One for 15 weeks in 1969 — but there was one set of stampers we had discovered that seemed to be head and shoulders better than all the others. Side one was 1AA and side two was IAJ. Nothing we played could beat a copy of the record with those stampers.

More Than Just the Right Stampers

After we’d found more and more 1AA/ IAJ copies — see the picture below of more than 40 laid out on the floor — it became obvious that some copies with the right stampers sounded better than other copies with those same stampers.

We realized that a Hot Stamper not only had to have the right numbers in the dead wax, but it had to have been pressed properly on good vinyl.

All of which meant that you actually had to play each copy of the record in order to know how good it sounded.

There were no shortcuts. There were no rules of thumb. Every copy was unique and there was no way around that painfully inconvenient fact.

Thirty Years Go By

For the next thirty years we were constantly innovating in order to improve our record testing. We went through hundreds of refinements, coming up with better equipment, better tweaks and room treatments, better cleaning technologies and fluids, better testing protocols, better anything and everything that would bring out the best sound in our records. Our one goal was to make the critical evaluation of multiple copies of the same album as accurate as possible. Whatever system our customer might use to play our record – tubes or transistors, big speakers or small, screens or dynamic drivers — our pressing would be so much better in every way that no matter the system, the Hot Stamper he bought from us would have sound that was dramatically superior to anything he had ever heard.

Technology Played a Big Part in Our Success

It was indeed a slow process, and a frustrating one. Lots of technological advancements were needed in order to make our Hot Stamper shootouts repeatable, practical and scalable, and those advancements took decades to come about. When I got started in audio in the ’70s, there were no stand-alone phono stages, or modern cabling and power cords, or vibration controlling platforms for turntables and equipment. No tonearms with extremely delicate adjustments. No modern record cleaning machines and fluids. Not much in the way of innovative room treatments. A lot of things had to change in order for us to reproduce records at the level we needed to, and we pursued every one of them as far as money and time allowed.

Our first official Hot Stamper offering came along in 2004. We had a killer British pressing of Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat which we had awarded our highest grade, the equivalent of A+ (White Hot). Having done the shootout, I wrote up the review myself. At the end I said, “Five hundred dollars is a lot for one record, but having played it head to head against a dozen others, I can tell you that this copy is superior to every copy I have ever heard. It’s absolutely worth every penny of the five hundred bucks we are charging for it. If no one wants to pay that, fine, no problem, I will put the record in my own collection and thrill to its amazing sound for the rest of my life.”

As you can imagine, it sold immediately. That told us that the demand was there. To provide the supply, we eventually ended up needing about eight of us working in concert. It takes a crew of people to find a big batch of vintage LPs of the same title, clean them, do the Hot Stamper shootout, then check the playing surfaces on each side from start to finish, and finally describe the sound of each individual record on the website to the best of our ability.

How to Find Your Own

Yes, we like to tell our customers exactly how to go about finding their own Hot Stampers, how to clean them, how to do shootouts with scientific rigor, and all the rest. But to be brutally honest, if you actually try to do it right, it’s just a crazy amount of work. Virtually no sane person would have the time and energy required to devote to it in order to be successful.

However, since it’s the only proven way to find the best sounding records, to us we think it’s worth it. And that is what you are paying for when you buy a Hot Stamper — all the work that very few audiophiles are willing to put in. (more…)

Bill Evans – Everybody Digs Bill Evans

More of the Music of Bill Evans

More Jazz Piano Recordings

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding — I can’t recall ever hearing one sound better than mediocre — so we are not the least bit worried that this Hot Stamper pressing won’t beat the pants off of the original, any reissue you may have, and of course the (no doubt awful) Analogue Productions 45

These three guys — Sam Jones is on the bass and Philly Joe Jones on the drums — are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one. (more…)

Chopin / 24 Etudes / Vasary – A Demo Disc for Solo Piano on DG

More of the music of Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Recordings with Demo Disc Sound

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  • This stunning album of some of Chopin’s greatest piano pieces has superb sound, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This magnificent sounding (and surprisingly hard to find) pressing is yet another example of a classical “sleeper,” one that can hold its own with practically any solo piano recording you have ever heard
  • As expected, Vasary performs with consummate skill, bringing out nuances in the work that may have escaped others – the results are captivating
  • “… an extraordinarily impassioned work, belying its technical utility.”

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London Orchestral Records from the ’70s and the Problem of Opacity

Decca and London Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

More Records that Are Good for Testing Transparency

The average copy of this 1976 recording has that dry, multi-miked modern sound that the ’70s ushered in for many of the major labels, notably London and RCA. How many Solti records are not ridiculously thick and opaque? One out of ten? If that. We’re extremely wary of records produced in the ’70s; we’ve been burned too many times.

And to tell you the truth we are not all that thrilled with most of what passes for good sound on Mehta‘s London output either. If you have a high-resolution system, these recordings, like those on Classic Heavy Vinyl we constantly criticize, leave a lot to be desired.

Opacity is a real dealbreaker for us. Most of the classical records we play from later eras simply do not have the transparency essential to transporting us from our listening room into the concerto hall.

One thing you can say about live classical music, it is never opaque. Just the opposite. No recording in our experience — our experience being thousands upon thousand of them — can ever be remotely as transparent as live music.

If you have any doubts, next time you come home from the concert hall take a moment to put on a favorite recording of the same music. You may be in for quite a shock.

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