- With outstanding grades throughout, this pressing of Michael Jackson’s Masterpiece of Funky Rock Pop will be very hard to beat
- The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
- Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that’s not fair, since every track does
- A Top 100 and 5 Stars on AMG: “This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience.”
This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’80s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of Thriller is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many of our favorites to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.
Sound that came Jumping-out-of-the-speakers coupled with driving rhythmic energy were the hallmarks of the best copies. These qualities really brought this complex music to life, gave it room to breathe, and made it possible for us to enjoy the hell out of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music.
What The Best Sides Of Thriller Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1982
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above.
Once Again, Choruses Are Key
The uniquely analog qualities of richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality are most apparent on Thriller where you most often hear them on a pop record — in the biggest, loudest, densest, most climactic choruses.
We set the playback volume so that the loudest parts of the record are as huge and powerful as they can possibly be without crossing the line into distortion or congestion. On some records, Dark Side of the Moon comes to mind, the guitar solos on “Money” are the loudest thing on the record. On Breakfast in America the sax toward the end of “The Logical Song” is the biggest and loudest sound on the record, louder even than Roger Hodgson’s near-hysterical multi-tracked screaming ‘Who I am’ about three quarters of the way through. Those, however, are clearly exceptions to the rule. Most of the time it’s the final chorus that gets bigger and louder than anything else.
A pop song is usually structured so as to build more and more strength as it works its way through its verses and choruses, past the bridge, coming back around to make one final push, releasing all its energy in the final chorus, the climax of the song. On a good recording — one with real dynamics — that part should be very loud and very powerful.
It’s almost always the toughest test for a pop record, and it’s the main reason we play our records loud. The copies that hold up through the final choruses are the ones that provide the biggest thrills and the most emotionally powerful musical experiences one can have. Our Top 100 is full of the kinds of records that reward listening at loud levels.
We live for that sound here at Better Records. It’s what vintage analog pressings do so brilliantly. They do it so much better than any other medium that there is really no comparison and certainly no substitute. If you’re on this site, you probably already know that.
What We’re Listening For On Thriller
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Bruce Swedien in this case, among others — would have put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Tough Sledding with Thriller
Michael Jackson’s records always make for tough shootouts. His everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to recording make it difficult to translate so much sound to disc, vinyl or otherwise. Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. (Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.)
If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room, as the case may be). Obsessing over every aspect of a record’s reproduction is what we do for a living. This kind of Big Funk/Rock Recording requires us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing the albums themselves as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.
When you love it, it’s not work — it’s fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun, but still fun.
Thanks to constant improvements in our stereo, we’re now getting this album to sound better than it ever has.
Extended highs appeared where none had been before. We were hearing synthesizers buried deep in the mix we’d never heard. All of a sudden, this ’80s pop recording had amazing analog magic. If your system is up to the task, you won’t believe how big and lively this album sounds. Who woulda thunk it?
Good old Bernie Grundman handled the mastering and managed to do a really nice job; unfortunately, most copies of this mass-produced classic don’t have all the magic that he cut into the grooves. The best pressings sure do, though!
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Pop Record
Or is it a Must Own Soul Record?
It’s actually both. Which means:
It’s a Demo Disc Quality recording that should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection. Others in that category can be found here.
And it should also be part of any serious Soul-Blues-R&B Collection. Others in that category can be found here.
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
Baby Be Mine
The Girl Is Mine
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
The Lady in My Life
AMG 5 Star Review
Michael Jackson’s records always make for tough shootouts. His everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to recording make it difficult to translate so much sound to disc. vinyl or otherwise. Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. (Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.)
If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be). Obsessing over every aspect of a record’s reproduction is what we do for a living. This kind of Big Rock Recording requires us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing the albums themselves as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.
When you love it, it’s not work, it’s fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun, but still fun