Month: March 2023

Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

More Oliver Nelson

  • Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece returns to the site with superb solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • Clean, clear and present with a solid bass foundation, as well as the big stage this big group of musicians needs
  • If all you know is Van Gelder’s original cutting, you will surely have your eyes and ears opened by this wonderful Hot Stamper
  • Allmusic gives it 5 stars (of course) and calls this album “…his triumph as a musician for the aspects of not only defining the sound of an era… but on this recording, assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever.”

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this record will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true.

We tested this very proposition in our recent shootout, as well as in previous ones of course. It is our contention, based on the experience of hearing quite a number of copies over the years, that Rudy did not cut the original record as well as he should have. For those of you who would like to know who did, we proudly offer this copy to make the case.

Three words say it all: Hearing is believing.

(And if you own any modern Heavy Vinyl reissue we would love for you to be able to appreciate all the musical information that you’ve been missing when playing it. I remember the one from the ’90s on Impulse being nothing special, and the Speakers Corner pressing in the 2000s if memory serves was passable at best.)


Herbie Mann and Joao Gilberto – Herbie Mann and Joao Gilberto With Carlos Jobim

More Joao Gilberto

More Bossa Nova

  • This vintage Atlantic stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • It’s big, lively, clear and present, with the kind of Tubey Magical richness we flip out for here at Better Records
  • A difficult record to find with audiophile playing surfaces – we go years without seeing a clean copy in stereo
  • Side two has the best condition grade we give out, Mint Minus – there may not be another record on the site with vinyl that quiet!
  • “The two make an effective team, with Gilberto’s sometimes sentimental, sometimes impressionistic works effectively supported by Mann’s lithe flute solos.”


801 – 801 Live

More Brian Eno

More Live Recordings of Interest

  • 801 Live rocks as hard as ever on this original UK Island copy boasting outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most of what we played, not to mention that LIVE ROCK and ROLL ENERGY that old records have and new records don’t
  • Recorded at Queen Elisabeth Hall in September 1976 – one of only three gigs the group (a side project of Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera) did over a two-month period
  • 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This album marks probably one of the last times that Eno rocked out in such an un-self-consciously fun fashion, but that’s not the only reason to buy it: 801 Live is a cohesive document of an unlikely crew who had fun and took chances. Listeners will never know what else they might have done if their schedules had been less crowded, but this album’s a good reminder.”

801 Live has some of the Biggest, Boldest Sound we have ever heard. It may not be seen as an audiophile album but it should be, if you have the system to play it. The sound is glorious — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets.

It’s clearly a Big Speaker Demo Disc. Play this one as loud as you can. The louder you play it, the better it sounds.

It’s also transparent, with a large, deep soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music and the space of the venue in which it was recorded.

The real kicker is the amount of Energy and Musical Drive that these two sides have going for them.

This is what the Master Tape is really capable of — Mind Bogglingly Good Sound.

Top of the List

801 Live ranks near the top of the list of my All Time Favorite Albums — a Desert Island Disc if ever there was one.

I stumbled across it decades ago and have loved it ever since. (It started when a college buddy played me the wildly original “Tomorrow Never Knows” from the album and asked me to name the tune. Eno’s take is so different from The Beatles version that I confess it took me an embarrassingly long while to catch on.)


Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America

More Paul McCartney

More of The Beatles

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all six sides, these vintage Capitol pressings will be very hard to beat
  • SIX sides of live Wings music, phew! As I’m sure you can imagine, this shootout was quite the undertaking
  • This copy was just BIGGER and RICHER than most others we played – it’s clean, clear and full-bodied with a solid bottom end, tons of energy and lots of space around all of the musicians
  • “… the Beatles mystique was still very much attached to record and artist alike… and it seemed like McCartney represented the part of the group’s legacy that came closest to living up to fans’ expectations. Thus the album ended up selling in numbers, rivaling the likes of Frampton Comes Alive and other mega-hits of the period, and rode the charts for months.”
  • If you’re a McCartney fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have the first album, Unplugged and Band on the Run, and maybe Ram – all Must Own Titles or something close to them


Led Zeppelin – A Classic Records LP that Beats Most Pressings (!)

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Led Zeppelin

Sonic Grade: B

Considering how bad (or at best mediocre) the average copy of the first Zep album sounds, let’s give credit where credit is due and say that Bernie’s remastered version on Heavy Vinyl is darn good (assuming you get a good one, something of course that neither I nor you should assume).

It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Zeppelin titles, most of which we found none too pleasing to the ear.

Our Thinking Circa 2010 

[The last time we played a copy.)

We like the Classic, albeit with reservations. It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissues of the Zeppelin catalog, most of which are not very good and some of which are just awful.

Why is this one good? It’s tonally correct for one thing, and the importance of that cannot be stressed too strongly.

Two, it actually ROCKS, something a majority of pressings we’ve played over the years don’t.

Three, it’s shockingly dynamic. It may actually be more dynamic than any other pressing we have ever played.

[It might have been back in the day, but it’s highly unlikely we would agree with that assessment in 2023. Like this record, we had a lot of R&D ahead of us before we could know just how dynamic this recording could be.]

If you aren’t willing to devote the time and resources necessary to acquire a dozen or more domestic and import copies, and you don’t want to spend the dough for one of our Hot Stamper copies, the Classic is probably your best bet.

We would agree now with almost none of what we had to say about this Classic title when it came out back in the day. We’ve reproduced it below so that you can read it here for yourself.

It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right?

  • Our (Somewhat Mistaken) Commentary from the ’90s


The Lovin’ Spoonful on Sundazed Vinyl

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Lovin’ Spoonful

Hot Stamper Pressings of Sixties Pop Albums Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

Flat as a pancake and dead as a doornail, like practically eveery one of the other Sundazed records we played all those years ago.

Can the CD sound this flat and dead? 

I would bet money that it kills this piece of Heavy Vinyl trash. 

If you own this awful record, buy the CD and find out for yourself if it isn’t better sounding.

Yes, this is yet another Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and another Disastrous Heavy Vinyl release with godawful sound.

Below you will find our reviews of the more than 200 Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years. Feel free to pick your poison.


Laurindo Almeida – Virtuoso Guitar

More Laurindo Almeida

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • An excellent copy of this 45 RPM Direct to Disc recording featuring excellent sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the tubiest, warmest acoustic guitar sound you could ask for from a “modern” record (particularly on side two) – this is the sound of analog done right
  • It has the kind of sound we prefer, with none of the razor sharpness that you get on some direct to disc recordings
  • One of the best Almeida albums we know of and probably the best Crystal Clear title (which we know isn’t saying much)
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with music and sound like this, we hope to be able to do this shootout again soon


John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll

More John Lennon

More of The Beatles

  • A KILLER copy of Rock ‘N’ Roll boasting Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • And if you think the best sounding pressings are imports, you’ve got another thing coming – they’re made from dubs, and they have the dubby sound to prove it
  • These sides are doing almost everything right – rich, full-bodied, present and spacious with plenty of extension on both ends
  • Lennon’s voice sounds JUST RIGHT with lots of texture and startling immediacy – you’re going to have a hard time finding better sounding versions of these songs anywhere else
  • “Rock ‘n’ Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try… Today, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that.” – All Music, 4 Stars
  • If you’re a John Lennon fan, this title from 1975 is surely a Must Own.


Letter of the Week – “I was swept up, and able to relax and enjoy a stupendous album again.”

More of the Music of Michael Jackson

Reviews and Commentaries for Thriller

Dear Tom and Fred,

I surprised myself by buying a White Hot Stamper of Thriller. It’s an album that struck me as a particular challenge to your business model. This is probably the most-pressed record in existence. A hot stamper has to be a needle in a really big haystack. And besides, how much better can they be, really? Isn’t any old copy of Thriller a pretty awesome-sounding record?

And, what’s more, why do I need an expensive copy of an album that I could happily live my entire life without ever hearing again?

But hey, I’ve returned records to you before, and you’ve never once tried to convince me to keep it, or given me any headaches about a return, so why not explore the limits of what your business can provide?

The first time I put it on, I could already tell it was special. It’s not like I was “hearing new details” or something like that. It’s that I was swept up, and able to relax and enjoy a stupendous album again. Listening to this copy of Thriller brought me as much joy as this music used to.

We’ve written about this experience before. If your current copy or some new audiophile pressing doesn’t bring you the joy of the music you remember feeling back in the day, it’s not the music’s fault. It’s the record’s. Or the stereo’s.

Aaron, you have taken your system to new heights. Your ears don’t work the way they used to. While you weren’t looking, the bar somehow, rather mysteriously, reset itself. Now it’s much, much higher.

You’re simply a lot harder to please than you used to be. You have a much better understanding of how high is up, and up is a lot higher than it used to be, whether you like it or not. Good isn’t good enough anymore.

And you will never be able to go back, even if you wanted to. You could no more go back to those days than you could become a child again. [1]

Welcome to my world, post 2007.

That’s why we tout Beatles albums as being critically important for testing and tweaking your system. We know they have the life of The Beatles’ Music in their grooves, giving you the sound you remember falling in love with all those years ago.

If you’re not getting a thrill from your Beatles records, something is very, very wrong — precisely the reason their recorded oeuvre is a true audiophile wake up call.

Aaron continued:

A few weeks later, on the eve of the closing of the return window, I shot it out against the best of my other copies. They range from the copy I grew up with, one of the few records from childhood that I held onto, to a pricy Japanese pressing in great shape (purchased long ago, when I thought Japanese pressing were where it’s at), to some copies I’ve picked up over the years because they looked to be in good shape and they were just five bucks, and a pressing that the forums told me was the “holy grail.” None stacked up to the white hot stamper. In fact, they really weren’t even close. Here’s what I found:

The copy I grew up with is bright and edgy. To think, I spent all those years playing and re-playing a record that was bright and edgy, none the wiser to matrix numbers and pressing variations. Some other lucky kid back then was surely listening to the copy I now own. I wonder if he ever said to himself, “wow, there’s something about this record. It sounds really special.”

The pressing with a sought-after matrix code had phenomenal bass, but the vocals were recessed. I’d so easy to be impressed with those huge drums on Billie Jean, but that alone is not enough to tell you it’s a great pressing. A lot of pressings seem to get that right.

My Japanese pressing was clear and full. But too smooth. The guitars don’t bite. Also, it fatigued me by about halfway through the side. This is energetic music. It might exhaust you, but it doesn’t have to fatigue you. This is an example of where if you don’t have a white hot stamper to compare it to, you’ll just assume your version sounds as good as it can get.


Japanese pressings are almost always made from dubbed tapes. You’re describing the smeary, distorted sound you get from a second-generation tape. Less bite on the guitars, more fatiguing harmonic distortion everywhere else, these records are only playable on modest, unrevealing systems.

After getting my system to a higher level and playing the imports I owned head to head against good domestic LPs, I got rid of my Japanese pressings. That was more than 30 years ago. It was simply no contest. I was actually embarrassed to have them in the house. What a fool I had been.

So, at one end of the spectrum, I have my Ricci hot stamper [shown here] that I could sell for what I paid you for it, and now at the other end of the spectrum I have a hot stamper that you probably paid $5 for, but is a true “needle in the haystack.” I wonder how many $5 copies (now, $20) I’d have to buy on my own to find one that sounds this good, and how many hours that’d take me, and what would I do with all the copies I wouldn’t want to keep? I’ll leave all that hassle to you, and I’ll be keeping this copy of Thriller. The price I paid is worth it to me to again love and enjoy this truly phenomenal album.

This is a common criticism levelled at us by audiophiles on forums. They find our pricing of common records outrageous. They seem to think we buy our records for dollars and sell them for hundreds, with percentage markups typically in the thousands.

There was a time when Thriller in Los Angeles might have been a ten or fifteen dollar record. Those days are long gone. A clean pressing would easily run $40-50 and maybe even more if it were still in the shrink with the stickers. (At Amoeba records, where we used to shop, a so-so record in a clean cover would always be priced higher than a clean record in a ratty cover. We think that speaks volumes about record buyers and record collectors these days.)

We hear there are stores that have records like Thriller for cheap, but we are not able to drive to those stores, many of which are in other states. We willingly pony up the fifty bucks we have to pay because we love the record and so do our customers.

Our hottest stamper copies have the sound you always wished it had, the perfect sound that really only existed in your head back then. Think of all the money and time you had to put into your stereo to get that perfect sound to come out of your speakers.

And no matter how good your equipment, only a top quality pressing could possibly turn that idea into a reality.

Your experience proves that all the money, time and effort you put into your system was justified, many times over. Without all of your work, and our Hot Stamper, Thriller would just be another album you used to like, one you kind of grew out of, one that doesn’t sound the way you remember it sounded, and it would be sitting there on your shelf collecting dust.

The work you did (with some help from us) paid off. Now Thriller is back, and better than ever. What is that worth?

A PS from Aaron

I’m really surprised how much I like it. It’s an even bigger “delta” from the run of the mill copies than most of my hot stampers, even white hot stampers, are.


Summing up, we thank you again for another wonderful letter. We love it when our customers take the time and make the effort to do their own shootouts, especially when we win, which is what happens about 99% of the time.

A few other thoughts, on and off the subject.

Thriller is a tough record to master. Lots of boosted EQ in places, hard to get right. Bernie can take great pride in a job well done.

Some of these things are system dependent. Some records “lock-in” to a system in surprising ways and just really take off.

That’s what Bob and Ray does for my system, it just takes off like crazy.

Recently a good Brothers in Arms did the same thing. I put it in our Top 100, the first time it ever impressed me that way. It sounded as big as a house.

(And the Chris Bellman recut is excellent, about A+, maybe 1.5, about as good as heavy vinyl gets. I would put it in the Top 1%. To say that we are rarely impressed by any album on Heavy Vinyl these days is the understatement of the year.)

Best, TP


Listening in Depth to Graham Nash / David Crosby

More of the Music of David Crosby

More of the Music of Graham Nash

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Graham Nash / David Crosby.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

This album has some of the BEST SOUND Crosby and Nash ever recorded, but you’d never know that listening to the average pressing. You need plenty of deliciously rich Tubey Magic if this music is going to work, and on that count this copy certainly delivers.

Bill Halverson was the engineer for this album, the man behind the first CSN album and many others.

We asked ourselves: Where in the world did all the midrange magic we were hearing on Graham Nash / David Crosby come from?

On a song like Where Will I Be the sound is so unbelievably transparent, open and intimate, it sounds like an outtake from David Crosby’s first album, one of the ten best sounding rock records ever made. How did Bill Halverson learn how to record as well as Stephen Barncard all of a sudden?

[We were very wrong to disparage Bill Halverson’s engineering skills and will be addressing our error soon.]