Month: October 2021

Letter of the Week – “So I say damn you but thank you for steering me in the right direction.”

One of our good customers wrote to tell us about his record collection about 15 years ago. We were still recommending Disc Doctor fluid at the time and it has been a very long while since we sold anything but Walker Record Cleaning Fluid, (which we no longer sell, but we sure as hell think you ought to be using it).

Hi Tom,

Just a note to thank and curse you for opening my ears. On one hand, the
audio enhancements (Aurios, Stillpoints, Talisman and Disc Doctor fluid)
you’ve suggested have greatly improved my stereo system. I also upgraded
my phono cartridge and had the entire front end fine-tuned.

Now, LPs I’d once regarded as mediocre have shown new life and become
much more enjoyable. On the other hand, those I’d once thought sounded
impressive, have revealed themselves to be uninspiring. My entire Steely
Dan collection, for example, has become a major disappointment.

Almost all the half speeds, heavy vinyl and otherwise “audiophile” type
pressings have revealed themselves to be impostors.

What’s an audiophile to do? In my case, all the improvements I’ve made
have resulted in a thinning of the herd, so to speak, but I simply can’t
listen to crappy vinyl anymore. I’ve always maintained that the music
should be the most important thing but, what’s the point of listening to
sub-par pressings when you find yourself becoming easily distracted and
wanting to hear something with some life in the grooves?

So I say damn you but thank you, Tom, for steering me in the right
direction. I’ll have a smaller collection as a result but will
appreciate the sonics of what’s left much more. You are a credit to a
hobby which is, otherwise, drowning in snake oil!

Bob M.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here (more…)

Tony Bennett – For Once In My Life

More Tony Bennett

  • This vintage Columbia 360 label pressing gives Tony the sound he deserves, with Double (A++) grades on both of these early stereo sides
  • Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios
  • We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one.

On this record, like so many others you may have read about on the site, the right amount of Tubey Magic — and by that we mean a very healthy amount — makes all the difference. (more…)

Bill Evans – The Bill Evans Album

More Bill Evans

  • A superb copy of Evans’ 1971 release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • An outstanding later recording for Bill Evans, superior to many of the albums he made around this time – it’s rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, with an especially musical quality, hence the solid grades
  • Balanced, clear and undistorted, this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then, even as late as 1971
  • 4 stars: “Although not as distinctive on the electric keyboard as he was on its acoustic counterpart, Evans sounds inspired by its possibilities and is heard in top creative form throughout the date.”

(more…)

Unsolicited Audio Advice – My Favorite Speaker, Badly Setup

More Commentaries and Advice on Equipment

Here is a picture of someone else’s old Focus speakers, likely very much like our own, but of course we have stands that angle the speakers (an angle that took me months to get dialed in right), and he has his speakers sitting directly on the floor with no spikes underneath them at all, which is a very bad idea!

The speakers are way too close to the back wall and somewhat too close to the side walls too. Lots of other issues but, hey, not my stereo so what difference to me does it make? He clearly has a lot to learn about audio. Which simply means he has lots of work to do, but if you’ve been in this game as long as I have, we both know he will probably never do it. His system as it is stands is probably musical and enjoyable, and for most folks that is enough.

Robert Brook has been experimenting with different aspects of audio lately. His Broken Record blog has lots to say about these issues. I agree with much of what he has written. The Analog Set Up section on his blog is probably a good place to start to see what he has learned by ignoring conventional wisdom and testing every aspect of audio with an open mind. (more…)

Ambrosia – Self-Titled


  • Spectacular Prog Rock sound explodes on this copy of the band’s phenomenally well-recorded debut album, mixed by none other than Alan Parsons – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it on both sides, this copy has the sound we look for on Ambrosia’s Masterpiece
  • Big Whomp Factor here – the bottom end is huge and punchy on this copy, like nothing you’ve heard
  • A Better Records All-Time Favorite & Top 100 Demo Disc: “Its songs skillfully blend strong melodic hooks and smooth vocal harmonies with music of an almost symphonic density.”

Folks, this LP is nothing short of a Sonic Spectacular. For that reason alone it would get a strong recommendation, but the music is so good that the brilliant sound is best seen as a bonus, not the sole reason to own the album.

These sides have the kind of energy that few titles can lay claim to. Put this one up against your best Dark Side of the Moon. Unless you bought a High Dollar copy from us, I’d say there’s almost no chance that this album won’t reduce it to vinyl rubble. (We talk about how similar the recordings are below.) (more…)

Milt Jackson / Joe Pass / Ray Brown – The Big 3

More Milt Jackson

More Joe Pass

  • A superb sounding Pablo recording from 1976 – this copy gives you outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or better from start to finish  
  • We found the sound superb, but even better is the fact that with only three instruments – vibes, guitar (Joe Pass) and bass (Ray Brown) – each of the players has plenty of room to stretch out and have fun with the tunes
  • 5 Stars: “The colorful repertoire — ranging from “The Pink Panther” and “Blue Bossa” to “Nuages” and “Come Sunday” — acts as a device for the musicians to construct some brilliant bop-based solos.”

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Better Record’s Record Collecting Axiom Number One

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – The Fundamentals

axiom-definition-screenshot

In an old commentary for a shootout we did for Carole King’s Tapestry album, we took shots at both the CBS Half-Speed Audiophile pressing and the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing, noting that both fell far short of the standard set by the Hot Stamper copies we’d discovered over the years. This finding from many years ago (and scores of others just like it) prompted us to promulgate the following axiom of audiophile record collecting, which we are calling:

Better Records Record Collecting Axiom Number One

The better your stereo gets, the fewer Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered pressings you will choose to play, or own for that matter.

This assumes a fact not in evidence: that audiophiles get rid of their bad sounding records.

It has been my experience that the reverse is actually more often the case. Most audiophiles seem to like to hang on to their audiophile pressings, even the bad sounding ones. Why they do so I cannot for the life of me understand. To me a bad sounding audiophile record is a record that has no business being played and should either be tossed or sold, with any proceeds from the sale applied to the purchase of good records — you know, like the ones on our site.

Click here to read Better Record’s Record Collecting Axiom Number Two.

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Jimmy Smith / Bashin’ – The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith

More Jimmy Smith

More Oliver Nelson

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  • An outstanding copy of this Big Band Jazz classic led by Jimmy Smith with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • If you own only one Jimmy Smith album, make it this one – with Oliver Nelson’s arrangements ferociously blasting away, at good loud levels the first side here has the power to swing like you will not believe
  • 5 stars: “On the first half of the program, Smith was for the first time joined by a big band. Oliver Nelson provided the arrangements, trumpeter Joe Newman and altoist Phil Woods have a solo apiece, and “Walk on the Wild Side” became Smith’s biggest hit up to that point.”

This is tube mastering at its finest. Not many vintage tube-mastered records manage to balance all the sonic elements as correctly as this copy does.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Bob Seger – Stranger In Town

More Bob Seger

  • One of the few Bob Seger recordings capable of audiophile quality sound – this pressing is big, full and Tubey Magical (for 1978) with plenty of rock and roll energy
  • If you own a radio you know Stranger In Town – more than half of it still gets played on the radio to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…it’s as lively as Night Moves, rocking even harder in some places and being equally as introspective in the acoustic numbers. If it doesn’t feel as revelatory as that record, in many ways it does feel like a stronger set of songs.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


Stranger In Town and Night Moves are clearly the two Must Own albums for Bob Seger fans, and with sound this good we would count ourselves among those who find his music interesting and compelling. (“Main Street” on Night Moves is one of the best radio-friendly pop songs ever recorded.)

Both these sides had the energy and rock solid weight we were looking for on this Classic Rock Album from 1978. If you own a radio you know Stranger In Town, because more than half the tracks got plenty of airplay, including:

Hollywood Nights
Still The Same
Old Time Rock & Roll
Feel Like A Number

and that monster power ballad, complete with strings (!):

We’ve Got Tonight

All sounding pretty darn good! (more…)

Bach / Suites For Solo Cello No. 2 & No. 5 / Starker

More of the music of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Hot Stamper Mercury Pressings Available Now

  • With two Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this copy of Starker’s legendary 1963 recording of suites for solo cello will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The original on the early label has the potential for better sound, and we have no problem with anyone that wants to put forth the effort to find a clean copy at a good price
  • All we can say to such a person is “Good luck!”
  • The muddy, murky, veiled and lifeless sound of the modern Heavy Vinyl remaster is nowhere to be found here
  • I would bet money that whatever version is currently available has plenty of shortcomings along those lines, which may be acceptable to the mid-fi crowd but is positively ruinous on the high-fidelity systems that our customers tend to have (or why would they pay these prices?)

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