Author: humorem

Letter of the Week – “Talking Old Soldiers is possibly, no IS, the most holographic a vocal and piano recording that I’ve ever heard…”

Can our records possibly be worth these prices?

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

Thank you VERY much for that one. Worth its weight in gold (last checked gold was $58.19 a gram, x 140 grams = $8,146.00) thus an absolute bargain for $750 – and have only listened to side two so far!

My god, Talking Old Soldiers is possibly, no IS, the most holographic a vocal and piano recording that I’ve ever heard, filling the room floor to ceiling and wall to wall with stunning realness right off the fresh master tape. Then into Burn Down The Mission, same thing, holy shxt! Best EVER.

More of those please and I owe you $7396.00. Lol.

All the best,
Mike S.

Mike, thanks so much for writing. As a special one time consideration, please keep the $7396 you owe us.

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

 

Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive

More Freddie Hubbard

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic CTI album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the kind of spacious, low-distortion, dynamic and energetic sound Rudy Van Gelder was getting in the early ’70s – if you think he was better in the sixties, you need to play some of these recordings from the ’70s that show off just how good his work could be
  • Hubbard got together a great group of Funky Jazz players to support him here, with Don Sebesky doing his usual inventive arrangements
  • 4 Stars: “The charts for the brass and woodwinds are colorful; there is a fine supporting cast that includes guitarist George Benson, Keith Jarrett on keyboards, and flutist Hubert Laws; and Hubbard takes several outstanding trumpet solos.”

Rudy was getting one hell of a lively trumpet sound on tape during this period in his career. If you have a good pressing of one of his early ’70s jazz recordings the sound can be positively EXPLOSIVE, with what feels like all the size and power of live music. (more…)

The Doors / Waiting For the Sun

More of The Doors

More Psych Rock

  • The sound is present, lively and tonally correct, with Jim Morrison’s baritone reproduced with the weight, presence, space and depth all but missing from the reissues
  • It’s tough (not to mention expensive) to find these early Gold Label pressings with this kind of sound and reasonably quiet vinyl
  • “Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore were never more lucid… This was a band at its most dexterous, creative, and musically diverse …”
  • If you’re a fan of Jim and his band, this early pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Here is THE BIG SOUND that makes Doors records such a thrill to play. Morrison’s vocals sound just right here — full-bodied, breathy and immediate. The transparency makes it possible to easily pick out Bruce Botnick’s double tracking of Morrison’s leads.

For a thrill just drop the needle on Not To Touch The Earth. Halfway through the song the members have sort of a duel — Robbie Krieger wailing on the guitar in one channel, Ray Manzarek pounding on the keyboards in the other, and John Densmore responding with drum fills behind them. On the average copy, the parts get congested and lose their power, but when you can easily pick out each musician, their part will raise the hair on your arms. It’s absolutely chilling, and it will no doubt remind you why you fell in love with The Doors in the first place. Who else can do this kind of voodoo the way that they do?

Check out the piano on Yes The River Knows on side two (such an underrated song!) or the big snare thwacks on Five To One to hear that Hot Stamper magic. The overall sound is airy, open, and spacious — you can really hear INTO the soundfield on a track like Yes The River Knows. The opaque quality that so many pressings of this album suffer from is nowhere to be found here. Not only that, but you will not believe how hard these sides rock. (more…)

Prokofiev / Love for Three Oranges Suite & Scythian Suite – Dorati

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound is found throughout this original (but not FR-1, those didn’t do as well!) Mercury LP
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • We have a preference for Dorati’s work with the London Symphony Orchestra, and a record like this will show you exactly why we do
  • If you’re a fan of 20th century orchestral showpieces such as these, Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart have here produced a very special record of two of the best
  • We hope you like your sound big and bold, because that is the sound they were obviously going for
  • I have to admit I was never a fan of this album until only a few years ago, when I finally got my hands on a clean copy and heard the powerful sound of the London Symphony come blasting out of my speakers – what a thrill!
  • This record seems to have been dropped from the TAS Super Disc list, which is only fitting since the current crop of nitwits has been watering it down with one crappy title after another since HP passed in 2014
  • If you’re a fan of Prokofiev’s music, this superb All Tube Recording from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

In the heyday of the ’90s, when these records were all the rage, this copy would have sold for as much as $1000 and maybe even more. And the copy that sold for that would have been very unlikely to sound as good as this one, if only for the fact that cleaning technologies have advanced so much over the last twenty years or so (and no, I do not mean ultrasonic cleaning. I mean scrubbing the right fluids and using the right machines to vacuum them off).

(more…)

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

Reviews and Commentaries for Magical Mystery Tour

  • An excellent copy of Magical Mystery Tour with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from beginning to end – exceptionally quiet vinyl too – this copy is guaranteed to blow your mind
  • A stunning pressing with some of the best Beatles sound money can buy – superb work from Ken Scott here
  • Demo Quality Sound for “I Am The Walrus,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Baby You’re A Rich Man” and more
  • You won’t believe how powerful the sound is – it’s big, rich, open and lively beyond any expectations you may have had
  • A longtime Top 100 album and Psych Masterpiece that knocks us out every time we do the shootout

The soft cardboard covers for these German pressings almost always show some seam wear. We will include the best cover we have at the time of your order. Of course, your satisfaction is always guaranteed.

Please ignore the sticker in the image. It’s the best picture we could find. Our records do not come with stickers except under rare circumstances, and not so here.


Drop the needle on “Fool On The Hill” and you’ll see why we get so worked up over top copies that sound as good as this one does. This is a STUNNING recording, but you need a killer Hot Stamper pressing to appreciate just how well recorded the album is.

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Letter of the Week – “…the WHS is huge and clear. It had ALL the positive attributes I heard in the others.”

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Dark Side of the Moon

More Customer Letters for Dark Side of the Moon

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Dear Tom and Fred,

Just a note to say I’ll be keeping the White Hot of DSOTM. Fred, thank you for reaching out to me about it. I really appreciate that.

This is one of those records where I already had a handful of well-regarded pressings. How intriguing that it was such an obscure pressing that won your shootout! [1]

I compared the WHS to my early US pressing (Ken Perry mastered [2]), my MoFi [3], a Japanese “blue triangle” pressing, and of course, the 2016 remaster [4].

Sure, there are tons of sought-after pressings that go for prices even more exorbitant than what I paid you, none of which I’ve heard, so I guess it’s not a proper shootout. But, at least among the ones I have, the WHS bested them all handily. In each of the others I was able to find something that I could appreciate, that on its own compared well to the WHS. This is such a great, and well-recorded, album that any pressing of it is going to have something worthwhile to offer.

The Japanese pressing came closest to the WHS. At the other end of the spectrum the 2016 remaster, noted for its great bass, just sounded clogged and thudding [5].

Compared to each of them, the WHS is huge and clear. It had ALL the positive attributes I heard in the others. Is it 15x better than my next-best copy? Objectively, probably not. But, subjectively, it must be, since I’m keeping it.

Since the hot stamper arrived the day after my Legacy Signature III’s got here, it was one of the first records I played on them. What a great pairing they are! 

This was of course the first mini-shootout I’ve done using the Legacys. What a great window into a record these speakers provide. I switched back to my Bowers and Wilkins 805s and re-ran the shootout, just to see if my impressions would still align. They did, with the hot stamper providing more vividness and a bigger sound than the other pressings did, even on the B&Ws.

But on the bigger speakers the hot stamper stands apart from the others by a wider margin.

Thank you both for all the great records you find, and thank you Tom for the stereo advice. You keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

Aaron

Aaron,

Glad to hear you are a Legacy man now. We love our Legacy Speakers and can’t imagine doing shootouts without them. (The old ones, not the newer models.) The Big Speaker sound, at loud levels, is what allows a record like Dark Side of the Moon to be every bit the immersive experience we know it can be if you have a top quality pressing to play. Now you know it too.

And thanks for doing the shootout so that you know exactly what our best copies of Dark Side are capable of. If you make any improvement to your system, be sure to go back to this Dark Side and hear the change for yourself.

Then play any of these other pressings and note how the gap has widened. That is our experience and we expect you will find the same differences in your listening room as well.

The following notes may be of general interest:

[1} Obscure pressings that sound better than all others are our bread and butter here at Better Records! There are only two sets of stampers for the record you bought that win shootouts, and without those exact stampers you would not have heard the sound you so clearly heard. There is a stamper for the pressing you bought that has the same cover and the same label, made in the same country, but with sound that is pretty subpar. We bought some because we owed it to ourselves and our customers to try every potentially good stamper we knew was out there. We bombed, but we do that a lot and never worry about it. At these prices the winners more than pay for the losers.

This is why it is difficult to take anyone seriously who thinks they know the right pressings of DSOTM. We had to play a dozen or more different ones in order to find the killer copy you now own. Who in his right mind would do such a thing?

[2] As a rule we very much like Ken Perry‘s work for Capitol, but it is doubtful that anyone ever gave him a master tape of DSOTM to work with.

[3] Many, many years ago we did a little shootout for the MoFi, which you can read about here. We should note that the last time we dropped the needle on one we found it way too bright. The Crime of the Century MoFi that I used to sort of like was the same way, way too bright. Our system ten or twenty years ago used to be darker and much more forgiving. Those dark days are gone and they sure won’t be coming back, which simply means that it is the rare MoFi record that we can tolerate anymore. (Here are some of the ones we found the least irritating.)

[4] The Heavy Vinyl pressing that Doug Sax cut may have been made from the real master tape, but it had to go through Kevin Gray’s cutting system, and it’s the rare record that survives that trip. We reviewed his version here, almost twenty years ago now.

[5] We thought it sounded very bright. I didn’t pay much attention to the lower frequencies, the higher ones were just way too boosted.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Making Audio Progress 

The Three / Self-Titled (45 RPM) – Our Four Plus Copy from 2013

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

We had six (yes, six!) of these 45 RPM pressings (and five Inner City’s and a couple of Eastwind 33’s — it was a big shootout), and this side one had the most ENERGY of any of them. This is a quality no one seems to be writing about, other than us of course, but what could possibly be more important? On this record, it took the performances of the players to a level beyond all expectations.

More Four Plus A++++ records.

Folks, you are looking at the BEST SOUNDING RECORD we have ever played here at Better Records, and the good news for you dear reader, whether you’re a true believer, a skeptic, or fall somewhere in between, is that it can be yours. There was a time when a record like this would go directly into my collection. If I wanted to impress someone, audiophile or otherwise, with the You-Are-There illusion that only Big Speakers in a dedicated room playing a LIVE recording can create, this would be the clear choice, possibly the only choice. There is simply nothing like it on vinyl in my experience. (more…)

June Christy – Gone For The Day

More June Christy

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Recordings

  • After many years, Gone For The Day is back on the original Capitol Turquoise Mono pressing, this time with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals, not to mention boatloads of Capitol Tubey Magic- everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • Side two had the most space, the richest brass, the most tonally correct and note-like bass, and virtually no vocal strain – this and more is the kind of sound that wins shootouts
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you have in your collection, or your money back
  • “One of June Christy’s two 1957 Capitol LPs, Gone for the Day boasts Pete Rugolo arrangements and a 12-piece group of mostly West Coast all-stars…includ[ing] trumpeter Don Fagerquist, trombonist Frank Rosolino, altoist Bud Shank, and Bob Cooper on tenor.”

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for.

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does.

(We had a fantastic Something Cool a while back, but that was before we moved the system into our new, larger studio. The sound is better now than it was then, making comparisons all but meaningless.)

Musically this album is right up there with the best female vocal records we have ever played, the creme de la creme, albums on the level of Julie Is Her Name, Clap Hands and Something Cool. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

(more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Minute By Minute

More of The Doobie Brothers

More Michael McDonald

  • An outstanding original Warner Bros. pressing of the band’s Masterpiece, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound
  • An Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production as close to perfect as one could possibly wish for, thanks to Ted Templeman and Donn Landee
  • 4 stars: “…this is where the ‘new’ Doobie Brothers really make their debut, with a richly soulful sound throughout and emphasis on horns and Michael McDonald’s piano… It’s still all pretty compelling even if its appeal couldn’t be more different from the group’s earlier work. The public loved it, buying something like three million copies, and the recording establishment gave Minute by Minute four Grammy Awards, propelling the group to its biggest success ever.”

This is undoubtedly the band’s masterpiece, assuming you’re a Michael McDonald fan, and we very much are fans here at Better Records. We can now definitively say that the quality of the sound matches the quality of the music. What a wonderful sounding pop record. This is Donn Landee at his best — tonally correct, spacious, clear and sweet, with big bass and vocal choruses that can really take off when called upon. With Ted Templeman running the show this is an Audiophile Quality Pop Music Production that’s as close to perfect as one has any right to expect. (more…)

Ellington-Basie / First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

More Duke Ellington

More Count Basie

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this early Columbia 6-Eye pressing will be very hard to beat
  • Reasonably quiet vinyl too, considering its age – how many early ’60s Columbia Stereo pressings survived with audiophile playing surfaces the way this one did?
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1961 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ellington’s elegance and unique voicings meet Basie’s rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.”
  • If you’re a fan of either or both of these jazz giants, this Classic from 1961 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

(more…)