Author: humorem

Dvorak / Symphony No. 9 / Kertesz / Vienna Phil. – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Presenting yet another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering courtesy of the more modern equipment of the ’70s, in this case 1970. (We are of course here referring to the good modern equipment of 40 years ago, not the bad modern mastering equipment of today.) 

Dvorák draws the musical threads together in the last movement, weaving new material with moods and themes from previous movements into a grand finale that resulted in extended cheering from the New York audience at its December 1893 premiere.

The New York critic W. J. Henderson raved: “It is a great symphony and must take its place among the finest works in the form produced since the death of Beethoven.”

This combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on either of these Super Hot sides. And the 1970 British vinyl plays mostly Mint Minus!

Side One

A++ to A+++, just shy of the sound of White Hot shootout winning side. The hall is huge, so wide and deep, spacious and open. The perspective is above all natural. A little more extension up top and this side would have been impossible to beat.

Solid, powerful tympani whacks — listen for them. Sweet woodwinds too. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – Our Four Plus Side Two from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

We award this copy’s side two our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

This FOUR PLUS (A++++) side two boasts insane energy, size and power. Deja Vu is one of our all time favorite albums at Better Records and one that almost never sounds THIS good.

If you play this copy good and loud, and have the kind of full range system that plays loud and clean like live music, we guarantee you will be nothing less than gobsmacked at the size and power of the sound.

Just listen to the guitars during the solos — you can really hear the sound of the pick hitting the strings. The rhythm guitars sound meaty and chunky like the best sounding copies of Zuma and After The Gold Rush. (more…)

Spirit – Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus

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  • A stunning copy of Spirit’s 1970 Trippy Masterpiece – Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Huge, lively and dynamic – this legendary Psych album creates a wall to wall, three dimensional psychedelic world of its own
  • Nature’s Way, Animal Zoo and Mr. Skin all sound amazing on this copy – there’s really not a bad track to be found
  • “Spirit’s crowning moment and one of the era’s great underrated albums … enriched by meaty horn arrangements, imaginative vocal harmonies, and a structured approach to psychedelic studio trickery such as stereo panning and tapes run backward.”

The soundfield is huge and transparent, there’s real richness and body to the instruments, and there’s no edge at all to the vocals. Believe me, it’s the rare copy that has all of these qualities, the only one in our shootout as a matter of fact. (more…)

Sonny Rollins & Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk – Great in Stereo

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Sonny Meets Hawk

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This is a TOP SHELF pressing, one of the most exciting jazz records we’ve heard in some time! We dropped the needle on side one of this RCA stereo pressing and were FLOORED. After evaluating it completely and awarding it our top grade of A+++, we flipped and were blown away to find that side two was every bit as good. And to top it all off, the vinyl plays quietly throughout. 

Think about this — due to the nature of our business we play tons of jazz vinyl every week, multiple pressings of multiple albums. And this record completely knocked us out.

If you’re a fan of classic jazz and superb sound, wouldn’t you like to hear what this one does on your system? (more…)

Sonny Rollins & Coleman Hawkins – Sonny Meets Hawk – Great in Mono

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Sonny Meets Hawk

WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! It is ridiculously tough to find copies of this album with good sound and quiet surfaces, but this pressing is a MONSTER. We’re generally not big fans of Mono recordings, but for this music it is really doing the job. It gives you mindblowing presence to the brass and real weight to the bottom end. 

Side one is KILLER. I don’t know what you could do to this music to make it sound any better than it does here. It’s super transparent with BIG TIME immediacy. The brass is rich and full with lots of breath, and the bass is DEEP and TIGHT. Listen to how silky sweet the top end sounds; the cymbals are Right On The Money.

Side two is excellent as well, but lacks a slight degree of extension up top. The presence and immediacy are EXCELLENT. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Changes – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Side one is solid and warm. Note that the sax and piano are lively and present on track three, one of the better sounding tracks and one we used to test with in our shootout.

On side two of many copies the orchestra sounded dry, and sometimes aggressive when loud, but on this copy the sound stayed smooth and full. Note how breathy Desmond’s sax is.

  • This 360 copy has Super Hot sound on side one – big, solid and warm
  • Super Hot on side two – richer and tubier than most
  • More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York
  • The fourth entry in Brubeck’s time signature series of classic jazz albums 

Fred Plaut, Engineer Extraordinaire

Frederick “Fred” Plaut was a recording engineer and amateur photographer. He was employed by Columbia Records during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, eventually becoming the label’s chief engineer. (more…)

Chabrier / Espana & more / Bernstein – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

The Chabrier side of this 360 label record has SUPER HOT STAMPER sound, which is positively SHOCKING for a Columbia recording. Dry, shrill and lean, most Columbia pressings don’t last ten seconds on our turntable these days — but this one sure did! Played it all the way through as a matter of fact. (We love Espana. Who doesn’t?)

Is it as rich and tubey magical as the best Londons, RCAs and Vanguards from the Golden Age? No, not really — that would be a bit much to expect. It does have some of that sound, and that alone is remarkable considering how few Columbia pressings have any at all. (more…)

Grofe / Grand Canyon Suite / Bernstein

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Minty Columbia Grey label Stereo LP is one of the most amazing copies ever! You will be hard pressed to find a better sounding Grand Canyon suite. Bernstein’s Columbia recordings usually leave much to be desired. This is a notable exception. The normal Columbia shrillness is gone, replaced by sweet and liquid sound. I wish more of his records sounded like this one: I’d be picking them up left and right.

Mendelssohn / Violin Concerto in E Minor / Rybar – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Violin Concerto in E Minor / Rybar

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This Whitehall budget reissue stereo pressing has SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides and a performance by Peter Rybar that can hold its own against any you may have heard.   

This recording easily beats most vintage Shaded Dogs, Mercurys and London records we’ve ever played here at Better Records, and it was released on vinyl by a relatively obscure budget label that most audiophiles have never even heard of and would probably not want to be caught dead with.

Which is a good reason to judge records by playing them, not reading about them, on the net or in magazines. The sound of this record is so wonderful that, had it been a rare Shaded Dog, Merc or London it would have sold for something approaching twice the money we are asking here. In my experience relatively few of those recordings are as good as this one.

Whitehall

The best Whitehall records can be superb but finding them on quiet vinyl is next to impossible. This copy plays Mint Minus Minus which is about as quiet as any we have heard.

Side One

A++ Super Hot Stamper sound, rich and Tubey Magical, smooth and lovely in all respects, with a tonally correct violin that’s neither bright nor edgy. We love the sound here.

Side Two

A++, with an especially rich sounding orchestra. Love those lower strings.

The Hebrides Overture, the coupling work at the end of this side, is not quite as good. We called it A+ to A++. It gets a bit congested when loud.

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues

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  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish making this the best copy to hit the site in years
  • Both sides here are rich, Tubey Magical and present with a huge three-dimensional soundstage and tons of bottom end weight
  • “Silver’s Tokyo-influenced compositions fit right in with the subtle cross-cultural but very American hard bop he’d been doing all along… [his] compositions have a light, airy feel, with plenty of space, and no one used that space better at these sessions than Cook, whose tenor sax lines are simply wonderful, adding a sturdy, reliable brightness.” – All Music, 4 Stars

This Blue Note LP has PHENOMENAL Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout We’ve played quite a few of these over the years, and both sides here are as good as we’ve ever heard. It is an excellent recording, but it’s NOT easy to find a properly-mastered copy. Both sides here are out of this world, with the kind of of space and musicality this music demands! (more…)