Month: August 2021

Berlioz – Another Dubby Mess from Klavier

Klavier Is a Label Best Avoided by Audiophiles

Actual Audiophile Quality Pressings of Orchestral Music Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

The sound is smeary, thick and opaque because, among other things, the record was mastered by Doug Sax from a copy tape, and not all that well either.

It is yet another murky Audiophile Piece of Trash from the mastering lathe of the formerly brilliant Doug Sax. He used to cut the best sounding records in the world. Then he started working for Analogue Productions and never cut a good record again as far as I know.

On this record, in Doug’s defense it’s only fair to point out that he had only dub tapes to work with, which is neither here nor there as these pressings are not worth the dime’s worth of vinyl used to make them.

Maybe the hearing-challenged Chad Kassem wanted this sound — almost all his remastered titles have the same faults — and simply asked that Doug cut it to sound real good like analog spossed to sound in the mind of this kingpin, which meant smooth, fat, thick and smeary.

Yes, this is exactly what some folks think analog is supposed to sound like.

Just ask whoever mastered the Beatles records in 2014. Somebody boosted the bass and smoothed out the upper midrange, and I don’t think they did that by accident. They actually thought it was good idea.

Harry Moss obviously would not have agreed, but he’s not around anymore to do the job right.

Here is the cover for the real EMI. No idea if the sound is any good, but it has to be better than the awful Klavier, doesn’t it?

Below are some thoughts from a recent classical listing that we hope will shed some light on our longstanding aversion to the sound of these modern remastered records.

Modern Opacity

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’s stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a whole — including those that pass themselves off as the champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear our Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more recognizable, even obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.

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Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell / Easy – Reviewed in 2009

More Marvin Gaye

This Minty looking Tamla LP has AMAZING SOUND on both sides. Some songs sound better than others here but the ones that do sound good, WOW, they are out of this world!

Drop the needle on California Soul on side one to hear some tubey magical and sweet sound.

The best sounding track on side two is How You Gonna Keep It.

Some of the tracks have that slightly pinched Motown vocal EQ but that’s a small price to pay for this kind of sound.

We rate both sides A++ (on the best sounding songs). 

AMG Review

Along with the hit, the best songs here are “This Poor Heart of Mine,” an uptempo number and good workout for the duo, and “Love Woke Me Up This Morning,” an endearing exercise in romanticism.

Edmundo Ros / Latin Hits I Missed

More Exotica

More Imported Pressings on Decca and London

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

and a Record We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

It’s unfortunate that Edmundo Ros and his orchestra command so little respect these days from the general record buying public. As for audiophiles, it’s doubtful that many even know who he or they is/are. We at Better Records are doing our best to change all that, continuing with this, the second Ros title we’ve managed to find with amazing sound and music since the first one went up in 2013.

It’s one of the liveliest, best sounding Phase 4 titles we have heard in quite a while. Stampers simply do not get much hotter than these.  

From the perspective of a level playing field, I cannot think of too many rock records that sound as BIG and DYNAMIC as this very pressing, nor many that are as spacious and clear. As good as the best German pressings of Dark Side of the Moon may be, the White Hot eight hundred dollar killer copies we have from time to time, this recording is every bit as exciting and in most ways more lifelike, with uncannily accurate instrumental timbres. (more…)

The Original Pressings of Beatles Albums Are the Best, Right?

beatles help labelMore of the Music of The Beatles

Records that Sound Better on the Right Reissue (excluding The Beatles)

Nope. We think it’s just another Record Myth.

Back in 2005 we compared the MFSL pressing of Help to a British Parlophone LP and were — mistakenly, as you may have already surmised — impressed by the MoFi. We wrote:

Mobile Fidelity did a GREAT JOB with Help!. Help! is a famously dull sounding record. I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly. Mobile Fidelity restored the highs that are missing from most copies.

The source of the error in our commentary above is in this sentence, see if you can spot it:

I don’t know of a single original pressing that has the top end mastered properly.

Did you figure it out? If you’ve spent much time on our site of course you did.

Original pressing?

Is that the standard?

Why? Who said so? Where is it written?

Cut It Right

The domestic original Capitol pressings are awful and the original British import pressings of Help NEVER have any real top end. The Yellow and Black Parlophone pressings have many wonderful qualities, Tubey Magic for days being one of the most pleasurable, but frequency extension up top is not among them. Neither is tight, articulate bass. The old tube cutting systems just didn’t have what it takes to cut the highs and lows well.

The middle may be glorious, but the rest of the frequency spectrum is a mess.

Stop the Presses

In 2021 we found an exception to that rule.

And here is the one record we have always preferred on the Yellow and Black label.

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Eagles / Self-Titled – A Top Ten Title

More of the Music of The Eagles

More Top Ten Titles

You will be floored by the huge, rich, Tubey Magical guitars exploding out from your speakers on Take It Easy

One of the Best Sounding Rock Records Ever Made, a member of our Top Ten and without a doubt Glyn Johns’ engineering (and producing) Masterpiece

A Top 100 Tubey Magical Demo Disc that is guaranteed to blow your mind on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does

A Top Ten Title

You may have seen our Top 100 list of the best sounding rock records elsewhere on the site. We picked out a Top Ten from that list and you will not be surprised to learn that this record made the cut. (Top Two or Three is more like it.)

At one time this was my single favorite Demo Disc. A customer who bought one of these one time told me it was the best sounding record he had ever heard in his life. I don’t doubt it for a minute. It’s certainly as good as any rock record I have ever heard, and I’ve heard some awful good ones.

There’s an interesting story behind this album, which I won’t belabor too much here. Suffice it to say, one listen to some of the later reissues or — god forbid — a Heavy Vinyl pressing or Greatest Hits album and you’ll know I speak the truth when I say that the tape used to cut this pressing was not the same one that was used to cut those. It does not exist. It was lost a long time ago. Most copies of this album are mediocre at best, and positively painful to listen to once you’ve heard the real thing, an early pressing cut from the actual master tape.

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Alice Cooper – Killer

More Alice Cooper

  • Cooper’s fourth studio album finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of the “you-are-there-immediacy” of ANALOG that sets the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else you care to name
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Killer, they became one of the world’s top rock bands and concert attractions; it rewarded them as being among the most notorious and misunderstood entertainers, thoroughly despised by grownups.”

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Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

  • This KILLER pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES
  • An album that’s nearly impossible to find with good sound – this UK copy is guaranteed to kill any pressing you’ve ever heard or ever will hear
  • Considered by many the high point of Peter Gabriel’s tenure with the band
  • 5 stars: “In every way, it’s a considerable, lasting achievement and it’s little wonder that Peter Gabriel had to leave the band after this record: they had gone as far as they could go together, and could never top this extraordinary album.”

Stunning sound on all four sides! This album — and Genesis in general — can be difficult to find good sound for. Most copies struggle — or make you struggle — to get the sense of the material and what the band is trying to accomplish, but when you find a killer pressing such as this one, the complexity and theatricality of the music really WORKS.

Bigger and more present, richer and fuller, with more space and transparency, this copy is doing everything we want the album to do.

Certain tracks — particular the more rocking, guitar-heavy material — are often going to get a little hard in the midrange, but on a good copy the issue is much less apparent and doesn’t get in the way of the music. And the more open, spacious keyboard-based and acoustically driven songs which comprise the bulk of the album can sound really wonderful.

Latest Finding

We came across an original British pressing, Porky/Pecko and everything, that was a major letdown sonically. Yes, folks, some pressing that are supposed to be good just aren’t. You got to play them to which is which, and that’s where we come in.

We never assume anything about a record. We play it and find out for a fact how good it sounds. Any other approach will be too error prone to be of any real use, assuming you set high standards for the sound of your records. (more…)

Count Basie – “Crystal clear, musical as hell, huge sound, dynamic… What a record!”

More Count Basie

Labels We Love – Pablo

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

Hey Tom,   

Good Lord, this Basie! Holy smokes!! Crystal clear, musical as hell, huge sound, dynamic …. wowow.

What a record!

I agree completely, it’s a knockout.

This is the only one I like as well, maybe a bit better

Farmers Market Barbecue

Dennis Sands’ engineering is a bit more natural to my taste, bigger space, all the players sound like they are in the same room more.

Both are great though. (more…)

Black, Green, Yellow, Orange – Which Contemporary Label Has the Best Sound?

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

Our Hot Stamper commentary from a long-ago shootout we had done for the wonderful Helen Humes album Songs I Like to Sing discusses the sonic characteristics we find most commonly associated with the various Contemporary labels.

This Contemporary Black Label Original LP has that classic tube-mastered sound — warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the later pressings, with more breath of life. Overall the sound is well-balanced and tonally correct from top to bottom, which is rare for a black label Contemporary, as they are usually dull and bass-heavy.

We won’t buy them locally anymore unless they can be returned. I’ve got a box full of Contemporarys with bloated bass and no top end that I don’t know what to do with.

Like most mediocre-to-bad sounding records around here, they just sit in a box taking up space. All of our time and effort goes into putting good pressings on the site and in the mailings. It’s hard to get motivated to do anything with the leftovers. We paid plenty for them, so we don’t want to give them away, but they don’t sound good, so most of our customers won’t buy them.

What to do, what to do? Ebay I guess, but that’s a long way down the road. It’s too much fun doing listings for good records these days to want to stop now. The average record is just average, and nothing is ever going to change that!

We shot this out against a variety of later pressings. The Black Label copies have a bit of echo added to the vocals and have the attributes listed above — warmth, sweetness, presence, and immediacy. The later pressings offer superior clarity and resolution. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better than the other; it’s really more a matter of taste.

More on the subject of Record Labels.

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Extreme Record Collecting: Confessions of an Analog Vinyl Snob

Writing for Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger recounts his journey though the world of audiophile equipment and his lifelong search for better sounding pressings of his favorite albums.

The first paragraph had me hooked:

Sorry, but this is not going to be one of those analog vs. digital rants that goofball audiophile types like to indulge in at the drop of a hat. In fact I probably should have just called it something like “Why you should never buy new vinyl versions of classic albums.”

Seems pretty clear he knows what he is talking about. Later on he adds this bit:

Nothing trumps empirically comparing a stack of different pressings of the same album in a shootout. This is why you should take what Tom Port of Better Records has to say very seriously. Whether or not you’re willing to pay his Hot Stamper prices, Port probably knows more about records than anyone on Earth and his On The Record blog is one of the very best repositories of hard won empirical evidence relating to audiophile vinyl that’s out there. It might take weeks to read everything, but it’s quite an education.

I couldn’t agree more. The whole story can be found here. I suspect that if you have spent any length of time on this blog, you will get a lot out of it.

I hope to add a few comments of my own down the road, especially in the form of rebuttals to uncharacteristically bad advice such as this:

Michael Fremer’s Analog Planet website is a great resource for finding out about new and upcoming quality vinyl releases. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to vinyl and he’s also produced a handy YouTube guide to AAA mastered new vinyl releases that you should definitely watch.

I guess it makes sense to play nice with the heavy hitters in the audiophile world. Seriously though, Fremer is the last person that anyone should take advice from. He may be one step ahead of the audiophiles who follow him, but that doesn’t mean he can tell a good record from a bad one. I have been reading him off and on (mostly off) for twenty five years and I see no evidence that he has learned much about records in all those years, or improved his critical listening skills in the slightest.

That fact that this list of crap vinyl is still to be found on his site, with neither corrections nor apologies, should tell you that he never had a clue and is not likely to come into possession of one any time soon

I have a section devoted to Reviewer Malpractice which contains a goodly portion of quotes from this so-called expert. Any attempt to correct the positive things Fremer has written for the kind of third-rate records he tends to review would quickly turn into a full time job. I might even have to hire an assistant.

If Fremer recommends a Heavy Vinyl reissue that we have a corresponding Hot Stamper pressing of, there is not a chance in the world that our record won’t beat the pants off his for sound quality. He has opinions, most of which are way off the mark. We have better sounding records, so good they are guaranteed to beat any other copy you have ever heard or you get your money back.

We have to be right, or we wouldn’t still be in business, owing in large part to the fact that we sell records for ten times as much money as the ones he recommends. He has never had to pay a price for getting the sound of record after record wrong.

The only people that suffer for his mistakes are the credulous audiophiles who bought the mediocre-at-best Heavy Vinyl pressings he’s been promoting for years and are now stuck with. They have a collection of junk vinyl he recommended to them and few of them will ever know something better exists because they think they already have the best.

As Richard goes out of his way again and again to make clear in his piece, empirically comparing pressings is the only way to learn anything of real value when it comes to the sound of record pressings. If you own any Heavy Vinyl LP, it would be my honor to send you the vintage pressing that will help you to hear everything that’s wrong with the sound of it.

It’s what we do. That’s why the business is called Better Records. And we’re still here because we actually do sell the best sounding records in the world. You don’t need to believe a single word of what we say about records, ours or anybody else’s. You just need to put one of our Hot Stampers on your turntable and play it.

Hundreds of audiophiles have done just that and they seem to be pretty darn pleased with the records we’ve sent them.

Want to know more about Hot Stampers? Check out our new introductory page.