Month: June 2023

Massenet / Le Cid Ballet Music / Fremaux

More of the music of Jules Massenet (1842—1912)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This shockingly well recorded orchestral work on vintage British HMV Greensleeve vinyl boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Big and lively, with an extended top, rosiny texture to the strings, and lower strings that are rich and vibrant in the best tradition of vintage Deccas and RCAs
  • A Demo Disc of real power with huge size and scope – it’s smooth and natural, which means you can really turn it up if you want that front row center seat
  • The best Studio 2 original pressings win the shootouts, but the better Greensleeve reissues like this one will beat everything else, especially the Heavy Vinyl versions on Speakers Corner (not bad) and Klavier (awful)
  • Let’s give credit where credit is due – Stuart Eltham is an immensely talented recording engineer and this is unquestionably some of his finest work
  • This Orchestral Spectacular should be part of any serious Classical Collection –others that belong in that category can be found here
  • For those interested in our reviews for the many others pressings of Le Cid we’ve auditioned, please click here.


Letter of the Week – “A great example of a record where proper mastering makes an ENORMOUS difference”

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin III

One of our good customers had this to say about a Hot Stamper he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Today I opened up a box of records I just bought from you and your staff at Better Records and in it was a copy of Led Zeppelin 3 with an A++ – A+++ side one.

I’ve read so many of your testimonial letters with customers gushing over records they’ve bought from you and having bought quite a few now myself I can understand their enthusiasm.

But WOW! What a record! My head nearly exploded playing side 1!

And what a great example of a record where proper mastering makes an ENORMOUS difference. Thank you!


Robert, thanks for your letter.

Let’s face it: the average copy of Zep III is no great shakes. We would never even bother to try and sell the average copy. Who needs it? Audiophiles want something that sounds good and record collectors can find records like these on ebay all day long.

Audiophiles come to us for the best, the copies that beat the Remastered Heavy Vinyl Con Jobs, the originals, the Half-Speeds, the whatever Audiophile BS pressing may be out there. We take them all on and beat them with ease, even with our lowest priced copies.

And sometimes the record we send you is so good that it almost makes your head explode. It happens more often than you might think. Here are just some of the examples our customers have written us about:

The Hot Stamper pressing you now own will give you joy and pleasure far out of proportion to its cost. And it will last forever if you take good care of it.

As always, we look forward to finding you more Better Records of your favorite music.



Cat Stevens – The World of Cat Stevens

More Cat Stevens

More Folk Rock

  • Cat Stevens 1970 compilation album returns with outstanding sound from start to finish and British Decca vinyl that is about as quiet as we can find it
  • These sides are doing most everything right — the sound is rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, Cat’s vocals are present, and there is plenty of studio space on the recording
  • Everything you want in a Folky Pop Star recording are here
  • Not an easy record to find in audiophile playing condition with top quality sound – it took us years to get this shootout going

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)

Frank Zappa / Fillmore East – June 1971 – The Ultimate Rock Opera

More Frank Zappa

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Frank Zappa

  • This original copy boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • Fairly quiet for this pressing – noisy vinyl is the rule, not the exception
  • The sound is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only these good vintage pressings can show you
  • Most pressings of this album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing
  • If you’re a fan of The Firesign Theater, Zappa, improv comedy and such like, you will love this album

We’re big fans of this album, and Zappa in general, but it’s incredibly difficult to find copies that do justice to the music. The vinyl is typically thrashed, and even the copies in relatively clean condition usually don’t sound good. This one has about the quietest vinyl you could hope for, playing Mint Minus on both sides, and the sound is just about as good as it gets!

So many pressings don’t let you hear INTO the music. This is a live recording with musicians sprinkled all over the stage — three-dimensional transparency is absolutely key to the better pressings, the ones that let you immerse yourself in the spectacle, never losing sight of the individual performances of Zappa and his merry band of obscene nut jobs. This band works blue. It will have you in hysterics if you get into the down and dirty spirit of the show. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, steer clear of this one. It’s raunchy as hell, and the raunchiest bits are the most hilarious.


Red Norvo – We Used to Really Like The Forward Look on UHQR

Audiophile Records with Honest-to-Goodness Top Quality Sound

Hot Stamper Pressings of Live Jazz Recordings Available Now

This is a very old review, probably from 2010 or thereabouts.

Hard to say what we would think of this pressing today, what with our unwavering antipathy to Half Speed Mastering, in this case being added to the consistently poor track record of the so-called UHQR.

You are no doubt aware that the Ultra High Quality Record was recently brought back from the dead by Analogue Productions on a pressing whose packaging is quite a bit more impressive than its sound.

Our Old Review

This is a BRAND NEW UNPLAYED Reference 45 RPM Half-Speed Mastered UHQR LP. They only made 1,000 of these, so sealed or unplayed copies are virtually non-existent.

This is actually one of the best sounding Reference Records. It was recorded in the ’50s on location and has very natural sound. Half-Speed Mastered by Jack Hunt even!

I think the exceptionally natural sound found on this record is the result of two factors:

  1. It’s a live recording, meaning not everything can be controlled and the space is real, not engineered. And,
  2. This is early days in the recording history of Keith Johnson. As time went on he thought his engineering skills were improving, but I see little evidence of that in the results of his labors: the records he’s been making since 1957.

His records are as phony and weird as practically every other audiophile label of the day (M&K, Telarc, Chesky), no doubt the result of these audiophile types thinking they knew a lot more about recording music than turned out to be the case.

Play any vintage pressing from the ’50s to see exactly what they failed to accomplish.

We know of at least two releases on Reference Records with “astoundingly” bad sound.

Both figure prominently on our list of the worst kind of Audiophile Bullshit Records.

Further Reading

Toto – Copy Number Three Finally Showed Us the Magic We Were Looking For

More of the Music of Toto

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto

Our first shootout from way back when [2010?] got off to a very rocky start; we were on the verge of giving up after playing two very bad, sub-generation side ones, cut at The Mastering Lab just like all the rest, but so bad even the CD might be better. If you have an awful copy, we feel your pain.

But Copy Number Three showed us the real Toto sound: the kind of sweetness and warmth we had been hoping to hear and fearing might not exist. Sure, Toto IV has killer sound, but that’s no guarantee that the first album would be recorded (or mastered or pressed) as well. In the world of audio — vinyl, equipment, what have you — there are no guarantees. The average 180 gram remastered audiophile pressing should be all the proof you need.

Good intentions don’t count for much in this business, or anywhere else for that matter.

Enough about bad audiophile records.

Copy number three also had jump-out-of-the-speakers presence without being aggressive, gritty or strident, no mean feat for a pop record from this era. Like all the best rock records, the good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound.

Yes, some copies of Toto IV are so rich and sweet you would think they were recorded ten years earlier. The clarity and tremendous dynamics, however, seem a tad more modern, which is a good thing, right?


Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session on the 70s Red Label

More Al Kooper

More Stephen Stills

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Super Session sound this good
  • Engineered by Roy Halee, the man behind one of the best sounding rock records of all time (the self-titled Blood, Sweat and Tears album), the oh-so-analog sound here is especially dynamic and spacious
  • It’s true, the 360 label pressings win our shootouts, but that doesn’t mean the right later label pressings are nearly as good, as is the case with this one
  • For fans of BS&T’s first album (and everybody else), Super Session is a Must Own
  • “Season of the Witch” is crazy good on this vintage Red Label pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is one of those albums that seems to get better with age… This is a super session indeed.”
  • If you’re a fan of any or all of these guys, this vintage pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection


Takemitsu / Ichiyanagi – Percussions in Colors / Yoshihara

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Audiophile Recordings

  • A rare, limited edition Direct to Disc Japanese import pressing of experimental works performed by Sumire Yoshihara, here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • So transparent, dynamic and real, this copy raises the bar for the sound of this kind of unique percussive music on vinyl
  • Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium can be at its best


The Beatles – Looking Back on Our First Abbey Road Shootout

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

This review is a window into our limited understanding of Abbey Road on vinyl in 2007.

Let’s just say we have learned a lot about the album since then, mostly through better playback and cleaning, but also because we’ve played roughly one hundred more pressings since then, having done shootouts for the album by the dozens. These regularly held shootouts are the only thing that has taught us what we think we know. 

Looking back, 2007 was clearly a Milestone Year  for us here at Better Records, although we certainly did not know it at the time.

Later that same year we swore off Heavy Vinyl (prompted by the mediocre sound of the Rhino pressing of Blue) and committed ourselves to doing record shootouts of vintage pressings full time.

Much of the review you see below indicates we had a much more limited understanding of Abbey Road than we do now, but we obviously have no problem admitting to it, a subject we discussed in some detail here.

Live and Learn is our motto, and progress in audio is a feature, not a bug, of record collecting at the most advanced levels. (“Advanced” is a code word for having little to no interest in any remastered pressing marketed to the audiophile community. If you want to avoid the worst of them, we are happy to help you do that.)

Our Review from 2007

This Minty Apple British Import pressing has MASTER TAPE SOUND ON SIDE ONE! We just finished a big Abbey Road shootout (1/16/07) and this side one was IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN!

This is the first Hot Stamper Abbey Road we’ve ever listed … and there’s a good reason for that. It’s practically impossible to find a properly mastered copy. For whatever reasons — probably because this recording is so complicated and required so many tracks — Abbey Road is the toughest nut to crack in the Beatles’ catalog.

This copy is actually my personal Ref Copy, which I have had in my collection for many years. Surprisingly, while doing this shootout we discovered that it doesn’t have the ultimate side two, which is the side I really liked on this copy. It still merits an A+ for side two, but it’s interesting that one of the things that we often discover in these shootouts is copies that exceed our expectations and set entirely new standards for albums we’ve been listening to critically for decades.

This copy turned out to have the Ultimate Side One — A+++. No other copy came close; it’s two full grades above the next best pressing.

Frankly, up to now we’ve been afraid to take on Abbey Road. With recent improvements to the stereo, and knowing that I had at least one superb sounding copy, now was the time. Out of all the imports I’ve been collecting over the last dozen years or so, only three or four copies really qualified as having Hot Stampers.

The biggest problem with Abbey Road is aggressive highs. There are so many places on both sides that can sound shrill and unpleasant.  To find copies that remain sweet and smooth throughout the album was exceptionally difficult, but we managed to do it.

Side one is amazingly transparent, with tons of ambience and immediacy to the vocals. There’s no trace of phony EQ or bad mastering whatsoever. It rates an A+++ — As Good As It Gets. As we’ve said for some of our other White Hot Stampers, you’ll feel as though the master tape is threaded up and playing through your stereo.

Side two is wonderful as well, with SUPERB clarity. We only heard one side two that had better sound. This one has a wonderfully punchy bottom end with deep, well-defined bass.

One more thing. This is a BIG SPEAKER RECORDING. If you’re trying to squeeze the nine tracks of Beatles’ voices in the song Because through some little box, you are wasting your time.

This is the final statement from The Beatles. To take away the power of this album by playing it through inadequate equipment makes a mockery of the effort they put into it.

Abbey Road As Seen in 2023

In 2007, we had recently developed a much better cleaning system as well as much improved playback (although we would regularly make dramatic improvements to our stereo for the next 15 years) compared to what we had available to us before then. The Hot Stamper shootouts we had been doing jumped to another level.

After hearing the newly remastered Blue, we asked ourselves why we were selling mediocre records instead of Better Records. Since we didn’t have a good answer, we stopped ordering them and proceeded to sell off our remaining stock.

When 2007 rolled around, I had been seriously involved with the audio hobby for more than 30 years (31 considering that discovering tube equipment was truly a great leap forward). I had been an audiophile record dealer for twenty.

I thought I knew what good sound was.

Clearly I had a lot to learn.

This is, once again, what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the game for those of us who constantly strive to improve the quality of our cleaning and playback.

Diminishing returns in audio is a pernicious, mistaken idea, and an all too common one among our audio brethren.

Further Reading

Kenny Burrell – Weaver of Dreams

More Kenny Burrell

More Recordings on Vintage Columbia Vinyl

  • With two excellent Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this original 6-Eye Stereo pressing of Burrell’s 1961 vocal release will be very hard to beat
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – this pressing was a big step up over most of the other copies we played
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digitally sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • If you have the Classic Records pressing from 1995, you were probably as unimpressed by the sound of it as we were, but not to worry, our Hot Stamper pressing murders that Heavy Vinyl wannabe
  • These are the Top Titles from 1961 we’ve reviewed to date. From an audiophile perspective, depending on your taste in music, most should be worthy of a place in your collection
  • Here is the complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed (which overlaps quite a bit with the group above). Just about any of these, depending on how much you like the artist(s) or music, are worth seeking out

This original 6-Eye Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.