Month: August 2023

Listening in Depth to A New World Record – ELO’s Masterpiece

More of the Music of The Electric Light Orchestra

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it will be the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in these incredibly dense mixes, strings included.

But when you find a copy that does, what a THRILL it is. This is the band’s MASTERPIECE in my humble opinion. For audiophiles ELO on LP doesn’t get any better.

Side One


Both sides start off with a uptempo rocker, and this side’s is Tightrope.

Watch your string tone. If it’s shrill or grainy you are going to find yourself in trouble on practically every song on A New World Record — they all have strings and lots of them.

You need richness in the lower mids, harmonic extension up top, and just plain highly resolving sound if the strings are going to sound right in the mix.

Note that sometimes the highs get better on a record as it plays. Check to see if you don’t have more top end by the second track, or even halfway through this one. Happens to us all the time.

Telephone Line

My single favorite ELO song of all time. Full of emotion and beautifully produced. Lynne is the master of this kind of material.

Allmusic raves: “Telephone Line might be the best Lennon-McCartney collaboration that never was, lyrical and soaring in a way that manages to echo elements of Revolver and the Beatles without ever mimicking them.”


Bruce Springsteen – The River

More Bruce Springsteen

More Rock and Pop

  • You’ll find roughly Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides of this copy of Springsteen’s surprisingly well-recorded 1980 release
  • Sides two, three, and four are energetic, clear and full-bodied, with The Boss’ vocals – always the focus for any Springsteen album – front and center where they belong, and side one is not far behind in all those areas
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard or you get your money back – it’s as simple as that
  • 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: “Springsteen rises to his own challenges as a songwriter, penning a set of tunes that are heartfelt and literate but unpretentious while rocking hard, and the E Street Band were never used to better advantage, capturing the taut, swaggering force of their live shows in the studio with superb accuracy… [he] rarely made an album as compelling as this, or one that rewards repeat listening as well.”
  • If you’re a Springsteen fan, this title from 1980 is surely a Must Own
  • This is our pick for Bruce Springsteen’s best sounding album. Roughly 100 other listings for the Best Sounding Album by an Artist or Group can be found here.


Jim Croce – Life and Times

More Jim Croce

More Singer-Songwriter Albums

  • Boasting two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage pressing of Croce’s 4th studio album is doing just about everything right – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness and vocal presence on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “Released at the height of the singer-songwriter era, Life And Times put Jim Croce up there with the best of them. Containing the upbeat top forty songs such as ‘One Less Set Of Footsteps’ and ‘Bad Bad Leroy Brown’ along with such ballads as ‘These Dreams,’ and ‘Alabama Rain.’ High rollicking fun for anyone who likes enjoyable music.”


Was It Even Possible for Harry Pearson to Create a Meaningful Super Disc List?

Hot Stamper Pressings of TAS Super Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

A customer brought up Harry Pearson in a discussion we were having about the best sounding records, which went a little something like this:

“You’re as much a pioneer as Harry Pearson ever was, and your authenticity is unchallengeable…”

Even I wouldn’t go that far! We make plenty of mistakes, and we learn new things about records all the time, so calling us “unchallengable” is way off the mark. However, we are always up for the challenge, and are happy to put our records up against any and all comers.

As far as Harry Pearson, I had this to say about the man:

Very kind of you to say. I think Harry could have been much better at his job if he had modern record cleaning technology, better playback, and a staff of people playing thousands of records every year help him discover the best sounding pressings.

No one can succeed as a one man show in audio. Audio is too complicated. It takes a team of dedicated professionals with expertise in every area of audio and record collecting to do it right.

He never understood stampers and the like because he didn’t have the research staff to get the data he would have needed to find the stamper patterns.

He was stuck at the level of labels, and also not nearly skeptical enough of the idea that “the original is better,” a myth audiophiles cling to to this very day. That, and the superiority of the Heavy Vinyl remaster, which we both know is a crock of sh*t.


Our comments for The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann have something to say about these same issues.

Decca Versus London

There’s a reason this record is on the TAS List of Super Discs — if any LP should be called a Super Disc, this one should. (With Phase Four sound you might even call it a Super-Duper-Disc.)

But Harry is, not atypically, rather misinformed about the catalog number and country of manufacture. He exclusively admits the Decca pressing to his list, and that is clearly contrary to our experience in general as well as our findings for this shootout. The best Decca pressing we played rated no better than a B+ for either side. That’s five — count them, five — sonic grades lower than the A Triple Plus sides of our best London copy.

If you are one of those audiophiles who’s been following Harry down the rabbit hole for years, discovering a little site called Better Records may just turn out to be a life-changing event. Here you can find records that live up to the hype, ours and his.

Selling the Hype

Record dealers that sell records based on their reputation — and that means pretty much all of them — are selling the hype.

If they haven’t played the record, they can’t tell you what it sounds like, TAS List or no TAS List.

The catalog number may be right, but finding the sound that lives up to the description can only be done one way: by playing the record.

Most copies of The Fantasy Film World, whether they have a Decca label or a London one (all of the ones we are selling are mastered and pressed by Decca; some get one label and some get the other) leave much to be desired.


Jethro Tull – “Here I was with all these copies at home… went through them all, and yes, yours came out on top.”

More of the Music of Jethro Tull

Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

This week’s testimonial letter comes from our good customer Michel, who was blown away by the Hot Stamper pressing of Aqualung we sent him.

Michel did a shootout of his own, comparing our Hot Stamper with everything he could throw at it. The result? Predictable, from where we stand anyway. If we can’t beat our copy, how can he expect to beat our copy?

Note that a well known audiophile reviewer did his own shootout for the album years ago, in which he failed rather embarrassingly to come up with anything resembling a good answer. We are glad to report that our new customer, Michel, succeeded admirably.

To be fair, Michel had a lot of help.

He had a group of experts with many hard-won years of experience on his side. Audiophile reviewers, without exception, at least to our knowledge, simply have neither the time nor the resources to figure out a title like Aqualung. When you’re a one-man band, Aqualung is not a puzzle you are very likely to solve.

We ourselves didn’t solve it until 2008, by which time I had been in the audiophile record business for more than twenty years. Without a staff to find, clean and help play the large numbers of copies needed to unlock  Aqualung’s secrets, not to mention a stereo that’s designed to be exceptionally hard to please, we would be just as lost as everyone else in the audiophile world, reviewers and forum posters alike.

Michel’s letter:

Thank You, Fred

I’ve got a LOT of listening to do ahead of me. Looking forward to it very much.

Reading on your website… omg… there is so much to read there… has been a real treat. I don’t read the intense notes on the LPs I buy until after I have listened to them, so as to be as objective as possible. It is really interesting to discover that LPs with the same stamper do not always sound the same. This is something I never really understood prior to discovering your company.

My sell pile of other copies, both reg. and fancy ‘audiophile,’ is growing. I don’t care what all the “experts” and youtubers say… if I can feel the music and it connects with me making me want to move my body around, then that is the best pressing.

Some of these titles are epic, like Aqualung for example. So here I was with all these copies at home… went through them all, and yes, yours came out on top.

I tried so hard to make it not so, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.

I am not a ‘high class audiophile’ with a mondo expensive system whose power amps costs more then everything I’ve got, but I’ve got a good set of ears, and I play it loud (no distortion) to expose everything… and I let me ears and my feelings do the selecting. All that gibberish people spout out is endless. I do not feel the need to justify how much I spent on this or that….just listen.

I have very much been enjoying my journey with Better Records, and yes I have spent of bunch of dollars, and yes if I tried to resell them I’d never get it back, but none of that matters…. only the sound is what matters to me…. and apparently to your company as well. Discovering BR has been a real blast!

Take Good Care,


What can I add to anything you say? You totally get it.

You know exactly what your money is buying: the feeling you get from this music. You are not buying a collectible, nor an investment, nor anything but the rapture of a purely musical experience, one that you can repeat as often as you like for the rest of your life. What you have now is the beginning of a priceless collection.

Some might argue that the cost of the records you bought is excessive. I often read on forums that paying fifty or a hundred dollars for one record is a ridiculous waste of money. Some audiophiles think that having thirty Heavy Vinyl Jazz pressings that sound “just fine” is a much better use of your money than spending a thousand dollars on one exceptionally good vintage pressing.

We do not hold to that view, for the simple reason that when we play these modern records we feel next to nothing for the music or the musicians. (We feel contempt for those who make such shoddy products; I guess that that might be the strongest feeling aroused by most of the junk vinyl being pressed today.)

Oscar Wilde had a good take on it:

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

 I think that speaks volumes for what some of us, like yourself, are trying to get out of this hobby. Thanks for writing,



Mendelssohn / “The Scottish” Symphony No. 3 / Maag

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

More music conducted by Peter Maag

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy of Mendelssohn’s famed concert overture and orchestral symphony that sounds remotely as good as this vintage Ace of Diamonds pressing
  • A truly superb recording with huge, spacious, dynamic, lively sound – Tubey Magical richness is a big plus too
  • There is a rosiny texture to the strings that no record made in the last 30 years can capture, and if you don’t believe me, we offer this pressing as proof

Audiophiles have known of this record’s sublime sonic qualities for decades. As our stereos get better, so do amazingly powerful recordings such as this one.

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca rich, sweet sound. It’s not for everybody, it’s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles.

The performance here by Peter Maag and London Symphony Orchestra is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound.

If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this vintage Ace of Diamonds reissue should be right up your alley. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which Decca recordings are justly famous.


The Beatles – Revolver

More of The Beatles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

  • Here is the space, energy, presence clarity and massive bottom end you had no idea were even possible on Revolver
  • 14 amazing tracks including Taxman; Eleanor Rigby; Here, There and Everywhere; Yellow Submarine; Good Day Sunshine; Got To Get You Into My Life and Tomorrow Never Knows (!)
  • 5 stars: “Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release.”
  • If you’re a fan of the Fab Four, and even if you’re not, this groundbreaking album from 1966 belongs in your collection

Want to be blown away by Beatles sound you never imagined you would ever be able to experience? Drop the needle on Taxman on this very side one — that’s your ticket to ride, baby! We were knocked out by it and we guarantee you will be too. (more…)

Baskets of Recordings and Facets of Reproduction

More of the Music of Rickie Lee Jones

Reviews and Commentaries for Rickie Lee Jones’ First Album

You need to use a basket of roughly five to ten recordings to test your equipment, tweaks, room, cleaning regimen and the like.

Don’t rely on any given recording to be The Truth. None of them are.

To illustrate this idea, imagine your stereo as a huge diamond. Every recording you play is showing you a different facet of that diamond, corresponding to a different strength or weakness of your system’s reproduction.

Audiophile X will play a record and say it has bad bass. His bass reproduction is excellent when playing other recordings, so record X, which seems to have bad bass, must be at fault.

If you have been in audio for very long, you should easily recognize the conclusion this person has drawn as a case of Mistaken Audiophile Thinking. 

Audiophile Y plays the same record and says it has good bass. Assuming the record has good bass for a moment, what is in fact happening in Audiophile X’s system is that most facets of his bass are good, but some facet of his bass is bad, and this record is showing him some shortcoming in his bass reproduction that his other records are not capable of showing him. 

If Audiophile X makes some changes to his stereo, and the record in question now has better bass, and, importantly, other records still sound as good or better than they used to, then some measure of success will have been achieved, and another step forward will have been taken in that very long and often frustrating journey we are all on.

Flaws in the Diamond

The diamond has many flaws. We find them and fix them by regular tweaking and tuning, both of which have the added benefit of improving one’s critical listening skills.

To help you improve your stereo, room, electricity and the like, we have scores of records that are good for testing a great many aspects of audio reproduction.

Testing with Rickie Lee

Rickie Lee Jones’ first album is what we would call a Bad Test Disc, for the simple reason that it’s too easy to get it to sound good on a mediocre system.

Port’s Rule states: If it isn’t easy for your Test Discs to sound wrong, they are not very good Test Discs.

If you are looking for Tougher Test Discs, we have you covered there, with two dozen ballbusters guaranteed to bring any stereo to its knees. If you like a challenge, and own some of these records, preferably Hot Stamper pressings you bought from us (because we know those have the right sound), we invite you to have at ’em.

Here are some other titles that are good for testing the same qualities we listen for on Rickie Lee’s first album, many with specific advice on What to Listen For.

Further Reading

The Who – Quadrophenia

More of The Who

  • Quadrophenia is back! These early British pressings boast seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides, which guarantees this copy is going to blow your mind
  • If you want to hear this music explode out of the speakers and come to life the way The Who wanted you to hear it, these records will do the trick
  • The sound here is so big, rich, and powerful it will surely make you rethink the recording itself
  • We know about quite a few records that rock this hard
  • We seek them out, and we know how to get them to sound their best
  • 5 stars: “Some of Townshend’s most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it’s a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Who, or Classic Rock in general, this title is clearly a Must Own from 1973

We removed this title from our Top 100 List a while back because it has become too difficult to get hold of clean UK copies. Who’s Next is even more difficult, but for some reason we left that one on the list, go figure. (It is the better album, their Masterpiece, in fact.)

The other Who album that still makes the cut and always will is Tommy. That is one amazing sounding record, when you find a good one on the UK Track label. (Nothing else can touch it, of course, but if you don’t want to pay the big bucks we charge, find one of these for cheap.)

On the best copies, the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there’s wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield.

There’s a POWER to the sound that the average copy only hints at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who often lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to.

Moon’s drums need to blast away like cannons. This is the quintessential Who sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and it’s a sound I’ll never forget.

Most copies don’t have nearly this much Tubey Magic — you aren’t going to believe all the richness, sweetness, and warmth here. The clarity and transparency are superb in their own right, and the impressive dynamic range really allows this copy to communicate the explosive energy of The Who at their peak.

As with any Who album, this is obviously not your typical Audiophile Demo Disc. We don’t imagine you’ll be enjoying this one with wine, cigars, and polite conversation. This one is for turning up loud and rockin’ out — in other words, it’s our kind of record!


Stevie Wonder – Talking Book

More Stevie Wonder

  • This is a Talking Book that sounds the way you always hoped it would, with seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • Richer, warmer, more natural, more relaxed, this is what vintage analog is all about, that smooth sound that never calls attention to itself and lets the music just flow
  • So many great songs: “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Tuesday Heartbreak,” “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” “Superstition,” and many, many more
  • 5 stars: “What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances — altogether the most realistic vision of musical personality ever put to wax…”
  • One customer who loved his Hot Stamper pressing of the album took our critics to task in a letter he wrote to us not long ago
  • If I could recommend one Stevie Wonder album to every audiophile and music lover, it would be Fulfillingness’ First Finale. No record collection should be without it, and Innervisions as well, the two albums which happen to be his best sounding with his best music. (Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life, in that order, would be right behind them.)

Those of you familiar with this record will not be surprised to learn that these shootouts are TOUGH. Very few copies are any better than mediocre, and the Motown vinyl holds many of the better sounding pressings back with excessive noise and grain.

This copy is more dynamic, open and transparent than most pressings by far. There’s ton of space around all of the instruments, the bass is big and punchy and the vocals are present, warm and tonally right on the money. (more…)