Month: February 2022

Art Garfunkel – Generally Grainy, Harsh and Shrill

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is, to some degree, grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule.

Listen to the song ‘Disney Girls’ on side one. If you own the average pressing – odds are your copy is in fact quite average unless you went through a pile of copies and played them in order to find a good one – parts of that song will sound painfully hard and shrill, assuming your playing the record at the kinds of levels we do.

Which is the main reason I’ve never understand what qualified this record to be on the TAS Super Disc list. Now, having heard the best of the best copies sounding so big, rich and tubey, I can certainly say I hear what impressed HP (he likes that sound, as do we). It may indeed be a very well recorded album, but we feel it falls a bit short for our own Rock and Pop Top 100 List. (To be fair, as you know we play a lot of amazing albums around here.)

The Best Songs

The late Harry Pearson knew little about popular music and may have been more impressed by this album than those of us who play pop and rock albums by the boatload.

Most of the pop albums on his Super Disc TAS list are a joke. Only the people who listen almost exclusively to classical or jazz seem to take them seriously, in my experience anyway. (Check out the 12″ pop singles for a good laugh.)


Britten / The Suites for Cello / Rostropovich – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

This solo Cello recording on London from 1970 has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides, with a cello that might not be realistically portrayed, but is certainly portrayed POWERFULLY.

Honestly, we kid you not, the cello occupies all the space between the speakers, which, being about seven feet apart, makes for a cello that’s seven feet wide!

Now if you turn down the volume, you of course get a smaller cello, but the real fun of this recording is to hear the instrument in your room, front and center, with every nuance of its sound reproduced clearly. So we left the volume up.

The cello sound is full, rich and harmonically natural, with only the slightest trace of smear. In other words, it’s correct in every way but its size.

The longer and more intently one listens, the easier it becomes to accept the size of the cello as presented here. It stops being an issue. One finds oneself lost in the music, amazed at the preternatural skill of this man, the most famous and renowned cellist of the late 20th century, a man for whom the work was written no less. (more…)

Kind of Blue on Six-Eye, 360 Black Print, 360 White Print, ’70s Red Label – Which Is the Best?

Reviews and Commentaries for Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

Is the ’50s original always better, is the ’70s reissue always better, is the ’60s 360 pressing always better?

The answer is “no” to all three.

Why? Because no pressing is always better. All pressings are unique and should only be judged on their merits, and you do that by playing them, not by looking at their labels. For us this truth is practically axiomatic. It is in fact the premise of our entire business. Over the course of the 28 years we have been selling records we have never found any compelling evidence to invalidate it.

The day that someone can accurately predict the sound quality of a specific record by looking at the label or cover is a day I do not expect to come, ever.

A Larger Point

But there is a larger point to be made. Let’s assume that the best original Six Eye Columbia pressings can be the best — the most Tubey Magical, the most involving, the most real. You just happen to have a clean pressing, and you absolutely love it.

But is it the best? How could you possibly know that?

Unless you have done a comparison with many copies under controlled conditions, you simply cannot know where on the sonic curve your copy should be placed.

Perhaps you have a mediocre original. Or a mediocre 360 Label copy. Since you haven’t done a massive shootout you simply have no way of knowing just how good sounding the album can be.

If that’s the case, even stipulating that the best early pressings are potentially the best sounding, that lowly ’70s Red Label copy that got tossed back into the record pond could very well have turned out to be the best sounding pressing you ever heard.

But Bad Audiophile Record Collector Thinking prevents the very possibility of such an outcome. A record never auditioned cannot win a shootout, even a simple head to head competition against the copy you already have in your collection. The result? Your Kind of Blue never gets any better. You’re stuck, at what level nobody knows, especially you.

Our advice is to turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, letting your ears, not your eyes, become your one and only trusted guide to the best sounding pressings.

And please consider us a trustworthy second in line, a source for the best sounding titles that you do not have time to shoot out for yourself.

In 1959 Columbia Let Leonard Bernstein Record an Awful Version of Scheherazade

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Our Favorite Performance of Scheherazade

Even worse, they released it!

Bernstein’s performance here is far too slow to be taken seriously. This is a record you can find in the bins for five bucks, and for five bucks it’s worth picking up just to hear how awful it is.

Outstanding Hot Stamper pressings of recordings from 1959, a great year for records, can be found here.

The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


Michael McDonald – One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records

More of the Music of Michael McDonald

Hot Stamper Pressings of Blue Eyed Soul Albums Available Now

Let us not forget that this is also one of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records.

His work here is pure genius. Play this album next to Katy Lied: I think you will find the comparison instructive. If That’s What It Takes and Katy Lied are the pinnacle of achievement for Jeff on the drums.

I’m proud to count Michael McDonald among my favorite recording artists. He made this Desert Island Disc and single-handedly turned the Doobie Brothers into a band I could enjoy and even respect.

This is a Must Own if you like the later Doobies and the kind of highly-polished but heartfelt and intelligent pop records that band excelled at in the ’70s.


Alison Krauss & Union Station – Still Wrong in the Vocal Department

We audiophiles have a soft spot for female vocals. It’s a sound that a high end stereo — practically any high end stereo — reproduces well.

But why do some audiophiles listen to poorly recorded junk like Patricia Barber and Diana Krall? Their recordings are DRENCHED in digital reverb. Who is his right mind likes the sound of digital reverb?

Rickie Lee Jones may not be my favorite female vocal of all time, but at least you can make the case for it as a Well Recorded Vocal Album. It’s worlds better than anything either of the above-mentioned artists have ever done.

The MoFi pressing of Alison Krauss (5276) is a disaster in the vocal department too.

Audiophiles for some reason never seem to notice how bad she sounds on that record. Can’t make sense of it. Any of the good Sergio Mendes records will show you female vocals that are hard to beat. Our best Hot Stampers bring the exquisite vocal harmonies of Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert) and Janis Hansen (and others) right into your living room.

Why bother with trash like this Mobile Fidelity?


This is the record you bothered to take a photo of and post next to your front end? Something is wrong somewhere.


Letter of the Week – “This is the best classical recording I have ever heard.”

See all of our Rimsky-Korsakov albums in stock

More of the music of Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

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

Hey Tom, 

One minute into The Tale of Tsar Saltan I knew this was a winner of the highest order. I was not prepared for the low end whomp factor as you call it.

The tonal balance of this wonderful recording is off the charts. the triangles just seem to float in the mix with a delicate presence that works so beautifully with the rest of the orchestra.

The strings and brass have this immediacy to them that feels like the orchestra is in the room with you.

This is the best classical recording I have ever heard both musically and sonically. So glad I fortunate to own this masterpiece!


Fantastic news, we liked it too. Thanks for your letter.

BTW, don’t try to play any heavy vinyl classical for a while, it might just be too big a shock to your (nervous, not stereo) system!


Ha! I just never realized how much I have been missing or accepting, until I played this album : )


Nobody does. Nobody can know what they are missing until they hear it. This explains every audiophile forum and every idiotic review by Michael Fremer and his uninformed and misinformed colleagues. These people simply don’t know any better because the approach they have taken to finding and auditioning records produces consistently second-rate results.

We explain — for free! — how anyone can find better records here.

If you want to know what you’re missing, there is only one approach that works, and it involves two things that have made the modern world what it is today: empirical findings based on the use of the scientific method.

Any other approach is doomed, not to failure, but to mediocrity.

We are the only record dealers who use the scientific method, and that one fact, more than any other, explains why we can sell the best sounding pressings in the world. We alone are able to show you what you have been missing. Or, put another way, the second- and third-rate sound you have been living with because you didn’t know anything could be better.

We didn’t know much better either until about twenty-odd years ago.

Before that, we had raved about the Speakers Corner pressing of the Tsar Saltan. Its shortcomings are glaringly obvious to us now, but they weren’t back then. We didn’t have the stereo, we didn’t have the cleaning system, and we didn’t have the critical listening skills to be able to recognize its manifold faults.

Then, in the early 2000s, we started doing shootouts.

These “Record Experiments” taught us many important lessons.

The process of playing copy after copy of the same record and cataloging the differences we heard made us better listeners.

We took our critical listening skills and applied them to our stereo in order to get as many colorations and limitations out of it as possible.

Through all this work we came to have a much deeper understanding of The Fundamentals of Record Collecting.

However, without a staff of ten finding, cleaning and playing records for you, you will have a hard duplicating our results.

But you can certainly do a lot better using our approach than any other. It won’t be long before you know more than all the audiophile reviewers and forum posters in the world put together.

You heard the record we sent you soar above all the stuff they’ve been telling you was good, so now you know two things: their approach produced middling-at-best results, and our approach produced the best sounding classical recording you have ever heard. The choice is yours!

That’s the purest expression of the empiricism we champion. Let the best record win.

And ours did!


Further Reading

Ella Fitzgerald / Like Someone In Love – Good in Mono, Better in Stereo

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this MONO original pressing from 1957 (the only way to fly) will be hard to beat
  • Ella’s voice is noticeably breathier, fuller, more relaxed and more musical here than it is on most of the other copies we played
  • An album that is beyond difficult to find with decent surfaces and undamaged inner grooves – most copies we get in are just trashed
  • “Most of the songs are veteran standards, Stan Getz’s warm tenor helps out on four tunes, and her voice was so strong and appealing during this era that all of her recordings from the mid- to late ’50s are enjoyable and easily recommended.”

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some ticky vinyl. This is about as quiet as we can find them. Like Someone in Love is five times rarer than Clap Hands, and twice as likely to be noisy.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, but what you would really be demonstrating is music that the listener probably hasn’t heard, and that’s the best reason to demonstrate a stereo!

The space is huge and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra — especially on side two — is not brash for once.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Eric Clapton – A Personal Favorite from Way Back in 1970

More of the Music of Eric Clapton

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Eric Clapton

We had a killer pressing a few years back which sounded a whole lot better than I ever thought the album could sound. Man, what a revelation to hear an old favorite sound so amazingly spacious and sweet.

As good as the best Atco pressings can be, the early British pressings simply capture more of the Eric Clapton Magic than they do. Less gritty, richer and sweeter too.

Scroll to the end of this listing for some moderately helpful title-specific advice.

I’ve been playing this album since I bought in 1970, the same year it came out. During my high school years (1970-1972, my rather limited record collection was made up of albums by The Beatles, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills and Nash, America, Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Chicago, James Taylor, Spirit, The Band, Loggins and Messina, Peter Frampton, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Blind Faith, Bread, and no doubt more than a few others that are lost to time.

This was the music of my youth, and although many other artists and styles of music have been added to the playlist in the ensuing decades, Classic Rock still makes up a substantial portion of the music I play and enjoy today. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I just figured this was just a bad recording…”

More of the Music of Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Katy Lied

This week’s letter is from our good friend Roger, who, like us, is a GIANT Steely Dan fan. Apparently he had tried every copy of Katy Lied he could get his hands on and practically had given up on the album — until he decided to shell out the princely sum of Three Hundred Clams ($300, probably not the last piaster he could borrow, but a pretty hefty chunk of dough for a fairly common used LP from 1975) to Better Records, with the hope that we might actually find a way to put him in touch with the real Dr. Wu.

Let’s just say it seems that Roger got his money’s worth — and maybe a little more.

The title of his letter is: 

Katy Lied? Are you sure?

I tried your Hot Stamper Steely Dan Katy Lied. You gotta be kidding me. Are you sure this is the same recording? I remember your saying that this one is your favorite SD record and I could never understand why, at least until I heard this secret recording. Other than the HS copy you basically had a choice between the dull and lifeless bland US pressing, or the Mobile Fidelity version, which has those undescribable phasey, disembodied instruments and voices that sound unmusical to me.

I even tried British and Japanese pressings with no luck. I just figured this was just a bad recording, which made sense in light of all the press about the problems during the recording and mixing sessions, and I don’t think I bothered to listen to it again for at least the past 5 years.

But wow, this is clearly in another league. The voices and instruments are in three dimensions, the bass and dynamics are far far better, the saxes are up-front and breathy. I couldn’t believe how good Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More and Chain Lightning sounded. Even my subwoofer that I roll off at 30Hz got a good workout. It sounds like live music. So how did you sneak your tape recorder into the studio sessions, anyway?

Roger, we’re so happy to know that your love for Katy Lied has finally been requited after all these years. The reason we go on for days about the sound of practically every track on the album is that we love it just as much as you do.

We struggled ourselves from one bad pressing to another. Eventually, with better cleaning fluids, better equipment and tons of pressings at our disposal, we broke through the Bad ABC Pressing Barrier and discovered the copies that had the real Katy Lied Magic.

We Are Heartened

Everything you said was true. We are especially heartened by the fact that you cited Chain Lightning as a high point of the album we sent you. Your copy, earning a grade of A+ for side two, was a couple of steps down from the best — but it still sounds great! You don’t have to buy the Ultimate Copy to get sound that beats the pants off any “audiophile” pressing, any import, any anything, man.

It’s Not About The Money

You and I both know it’s not about the three hundred bucks. It’s about some of the best music these guys ever made. It’s about their ambitious yet problem-plagued recording surviving the record label’s mass-production-on-the-cheap, opting to stamp the sound on a slice of not-particularly-good vinyl. It’s about the search for that rare pressing with the kind of sound that conveys the richness and sophistication of Becker and Fagen’s music, music that I’ve been listening to since 1975 and do not expect to tire of any time soon (so far so good: as of 2013 this is still my favorite Dan album). [Still true as of 2022.]

So what if it took thirty years to finally get hold of a good one? With a little luck we’ll both be listening to this album for another thirty years, and that works out to the very un-princely sum of ten bucks a year.

I wish I could have sneaked a tape recorder into the studio. I sure wouldn’t have gone in for that crazy DBX Noise Reduction system they used. That alone would have saved us all a decade or two of suffering (unless you like the sound of two trash can lids crashing into each other).

Righting Past Wrongs, One Disc at a Time

But we’re doing what we can now to remedy ABC’s past wrongs — digging through piles and piles of crappy copies to find that rare and elusive diamond in the rough. It may look like any other ABC pressing, but take it from our friend Roger here, it sure doesn’t sound like one.