Month: November 2022

Bizet / Symphony in C Major / Ansermet

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

More music conducted by Ernest Ansermet

This London pressing of Ansermet’s 1961 recording has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides. The Symphony in C, which takes up the whole of side one, is BIG and LIVELY, which is just the kind of sound that makes us swoon here at Better Records. Live music IS big and lively, so why shouldn’t the best records be? The bottom end has real power on this copy, the way live music does.

We like our recordings to have as many Live Music qualities as possible, and those qualities really come through on a record such as this when reproduced on the full-range speaker system we use.

It’s precisely this kind of big, rich sound that makes audiophiles prize Decca-London recordings above those of virtually any other label, and here, unlike in so many areas of audio, we are fully in agreement.

The second movement has a sublimely gorgeous oboe part you must hear. The whole side is wonderfully spacious, with real depth. The sound of the 1961 tape must be truly magical. If you don’t know why we revere the Golden Age of Classical Recordings — 1954 to 1969 or so — buy this record. (more…)

Heart – Little Queen

  • An original Portrait pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • “Barracuda” and “Love Alive” are bar none two of Heart’s best songs and they are guaranteed to blow your mind
  • It’s the rare copy that has the powerful dynamics, deep bass, punchy drums and meaty guitars like you get here
  • A Rock and Pop Top 100 album with Demo Disc sound on a very special pressing such as this – it will rock your world
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After acquiring a substantial following with Dreamboat Annie, Heart solidified its niche in the hard rock and arena rock worlds with the equally impressive Little Queen.”

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. “Love Alive” and “Barracuda” on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power your system is capable of. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the pressing that will truly show it off.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make.

We’re huge Heart fans here at Better Records, and we’re not ashamed to say so. These ladies can really rock, and on the right pressing their music can and will sound absolutely amazing. Here’s a copy that will allow you to hear that magic at home — the sound is super punchy with incredible energy and wonderful clarity. You’ll have a very hard time finding another copy that rocks any harder than this one.

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Dire Straits – Self-Titled

More Dire Straits

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this UK pressing of the band’s brilliant debut
  • One of the best sounding rock records ever made, with rich, sweet, smooth mids; prodigious amounts of bass; superb transparency and clarity; and a freedom from hi-fi-ishness and a lack of distortion like very few rock records we have ever heard
  • Rhett Davies knocked this one out of the park – it’s a Top 100 title, a member of the Tubey Magical Top Ten, and our favorite by the band for both sound and music
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Knopfler also shows an inclination toward Dylanesque imagery, which enhances the smoky, low-key atmosphere of the album… the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career.”

Rhett Davies is one of our favorite engineers. He’s the man behind Taking Tiger Mountain, 801 Live and Avalon to name just a few of his most famous recordings, all favorites of ours of course.

The man may be famous for some fairly artificial sounding recordings — Eno’s, Roxy Music’s and The Talking Heads’ albums come to mind — but it’s obvious to us now, if it wasn’t before, that those are entirely artistic choices, not engineering shortcomings.

Rhett Davies, by virtue of the existence of this album alone, has proven that he belongs in the company of the greatest engineers of all time, right up there with the likes of Bill Porter, Ken Scott, Stephen Barncard, Geoff Emerick, Glyn Johns and others we could mention. (more…)

Mapleshade Thinks Female Vocals Are Good for Turntable Setup

Years ago, in a section on their site, Mapleshade recommended a female vocal for turntable setup and mentioned Blue by name.

How much deep punchy bass is there on Blue? Barely a trace in the piano, that’s it. Blue is a good record for testing some sonic qualities, not at all good for testing others.

Our advice: do not limit yourself to a female vocal recording when setting up your turntable.

We use Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular because it is BIG. How big is Blue? How big can it get? How big is it supposed to be? (We asked that very question about a Heart album we liked to test with years ago. As you can imagine, it is an impossible question to answer when one has only a single copy of the album.)

Blue is simply not a good test for size, power, weight or energy.

These things are very important to us — we talk about them in almost every Hot Stamper listing we write — and if you are not the kind of audiophile BS record lover whose collection is full of Sarah McLachlan and Patricia Barber “vinyls,” they should be every bit as important to you as they are to us.

They are what make music fun and exciting. Don’t you want your music to be fun and exciting? We sure do. It’s practically a three word definition for the kinds of records we sell.

For this same reason, female vocals should not be used exclusively when judging turntables either.

Cheap turntables — you know the kind — with no real energy, solidity or weight, can still do a very good job reproducing female vocals.

Not so good on Revolver, Back in Black, 88 Basie Street, Scheherazade or anything else on this list.

But if you have your speakers too far apart like this guy, a good female vocal would be just the thing to show you the error of your ways.

Regarding speakers, Blue is the kind of record they are going to want to play you at an audio store to demonstrate how good their small speakers can sound.

Small speakers may be able to play Blue, but they can’t play the records we love.


The KEF speakers you see pictured to the left retail for $8,999.

Yes, you read that right.

Roughly 2% of my record collection might play just fine on them. Perhaps less than 2%. Either way, I don’t want to find out.

If you are in the market for better speakers, here is some Speaker Advice you might find useful.


FURTHER READING

Robert Brook has some advice for those who would like to learn more about analog setup, and you can find it here.

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Chet Atkins – The Other Chet Atkins

More Chet Atkins

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Chet Atkins

  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — it’s all here
  • Need a refresher course in tubey magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? This record is overflowing with it
  • It seems as though Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. Everything the guy touches is GOLD!

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album would have no trouble telling after a minute or two that this recording is very special indeed.

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Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

More Fleetwood Mac

Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish, this early pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Magnum Opus will be very hard to beat
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • A Better Records Top 100 title – when you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we’ve long considered Rumours an Audiophile Demo Disc
  • If you own the album on two 45 RPM discs (you know the one), allow us to send you a copy that will beat the pants off that modern mediocrity – this one!
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”
  • If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan, this undeniable classic from 1977 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us. We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Disaster from Classic Records… Zep IV

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

A classic case of Live and Learn

Back in the day I thought the Classic 180 and then 200 gram pressing was the king on this title. In late 2006 I wrote:

“You can hear how much cleaner and more correct the mastering is right away…”

Folks, I must have been out of my mind.

No, that’s not quite fair. I wasn’t out of my mind. I just hadn’t gotten my system to the place where it needed to be to allow the right original pressings to show me how much better they can sound.

Our EAR 324 phono stage and constantly evolving tweaks to both the system and room are entirely responsible for our ability to reproduce this album correctly. If your equipment, cleaning regimen, room treatments and the like are mostly “old school” in any way, getting the album to sound right will be all but impossible. Without the myriad audio advances of the last decade or so you are just plain out of luck with a Nearly Impossible to Reproduce album such as this.

All of the above are courtesy of the phenomenal Revolutions in Audio that have come about over the last twenty years or so. It’s what progress in audio in all about.

The exact same 200 gram review copy now [this was written about ten years ago] sounds every bit as tonally correct as it used to, and fairly clean too, as described above, but where is the magic?

You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, nothing will bring this dead-as-a-doornail Classic LP to life.

Relatively speaking, of course. For twenty eight bucks (when it was in print) could you buy something better? Probably not. (Now it’s $100 to $400 on ebay and at that price you are definitely not getting your money’s worth.)

The average IV is really a piece of junk. And if you don’t have at least $10k in your front end (with phono), forget it. It takes top quality equipment to bring this album to life, and you better be prepared to go through a large number of copies to find a good one.


Brahms / Sonatas Nos. 2 & 3 / Rubinstein and Szeryng – Reviewed in 2010

More Top Quality Violin Recordings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Titles Available Now

3S/ 4S RCA Shaded Dog.

Third in a series of masterpieces for violin and piano.

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

The sound is actually quite decent when you INVERT the ABSOLUTE PHASE. If you cannot or will not do that, this record will not sound good — it’s somewhat hard and bright.

It will never be a Top Shaded Dog but it is a good one with the absolute phase inverted.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

The Eagles – Hotel California

More Eagles

More Joe Walsh

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Hotel Cal you’ve heard
  • If you have any modern remastered pressing of the album, PLEASE order this one so you can hear what you have been missing all these years
  • A Better Records Top 100 pick – here’s a copy that’s transparent, and hi-rez, with all the energy and Tubey Magic that can only be found on these original pressings
  • 5 stars: “Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band… The result was the Eagles’ biggest-selling regular album release, and one of the most successful rock albums ever.”

We are having a devil of a time finding this album in audiophile playing condition these days, which is why you practically never see them on the site anymore, and copies quieter than Mint Minus Minus are rare indeed

We just finished a shootout for this title and this bad boy is truly a Demo Disc Quality Classic Rock LP.

From first note to last, this pressing has superb, mind-blowing, Demo Disc Quality Sound. Drop the needle on any track on either side to hear what we’re talking about. The highs are silky and delicate, the bottom end is tight and punchy, and the vocals sound AMAZING. The bass is PERFECTION, which really brings out the feel of the song “Hotel California.” It’s so deep and loping, the effect is practically narcotic.

“Life In The Fast Lane” is possibly the toughest song on the album to get right — it tends to have that transistory, compressed sound that we’ve come to expect from Bill Szymczyk. On this copy, it REALLY ROCKS — super-punchy with amazing presence and lots of meaty texture to the guitars. It will always sound a bit harsher than ideal on any copy with real presence, texture, and energy; that’s just the sound they were going for. It is what it is, which makes it not a good track to judge the first side by.

On side two, one of the better sounding tracks is “Try And Love Again.” On a superb copy like this one, it’s off the charts. The wonderful clarity and punchy bass here take this song to a whole new level.

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Bad Company – Self-Titled

More Bad Company

More Rock Classics

  • This vintage UK Island pressing of Bad Company’s ’70s classic debut boasts outstanding sound from first note to last
  • Both sides are huge, present, punchy, lively, and solid as a rock – this is some of engineer Ron Nevison’s cleanest work
  • Here you will find none of the glossy artificiality you might hear on so many of the rock records we sell — there’s nothing wrong with that sound, mind you, but this recording captures much more of what the real instruments sound like in the studio
  • A member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100, and a Must Own Classic Rock title from 1974
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Bad Company’s 1974 self-titled release stands as one of the most important and accomplished debut hard rock albums from the ’70s … it was one of the most successful steps in the continuing evolution of rock & roll.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, then Bad Company’s killer debut album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This one’s got what you’re looking for from this kind of Classic Rock album — clarity, punchy bass, big drums, and lots of energy. The guitars sound right: grungy and distorted with loads of tubey richness.

You’re going to want to play this one good and loud to let it REALLY ROCK!

And, if you’re playing it good and loud, you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams. “Ready For Love” sounds great here — shocking clarity, tons of ambience, and silky sweet highs. The overall sound on both sides is lively, full-bodied, and transparent with Tubey Magical guitars and good weight to the bottom end.

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