A List of Records that Are Usually Noisy

Stravinsky / The Firebird Suite / Freccia – Our First Reader’s Digest Offering

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

This is the first time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re starting off with a bang — The Firebird Suite and La Mer are the two pieces on record 7 of the set, and both of them are knockouts. We have a devil of a time finding good recordings of either work, and to find SUPERB better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) for both back to back on one disc is a surprise indeed.

You may remember that recordings from these sets were reissued by Chesky back in the ’90s (with mediocre sound of course, as all their reissues are mediocre at best; we never carried any of them even when we were carrying reissues).

I remember the first time I heard some of the records from this Scheherazade set and was knocked out — here was Tubey Magical RCA Living Stereo sound at a fraction of the price the real RCAs were commanding, a price I could not begin to afford.

The problem — and it’s still a problem, though less so — is the vinyl. These sets were produced cheaply in order to be priced affordably (under $20 for 10 LPs in a box!), and that means the best vinyl was simply not part of the budget. To find pressings that play even Mint Minus Minus is not easy, even today. Back then, before the advent of modern enzyme-based cleaning fluids and expensive record cleaning vacuum machinery, there was no way to get most of the vinyl to play even that well.

As you can imagine we did not have dozens of these sets with which to shootout. We had three, and this copy is clearly the winner of the group by a substantial margin.

Side One – The Firebird Suite

A++ to A+++, better than Super Hot Stamper sound. This side was quite a bit richer and more Tubey Magical than the others we played, with solid body to the brass. We would have called it White Hot but we can imagine it would be possible to find a bit more clarity in the midrange. That said, with this kind of sound the music on this side works brilliantly. A top performance of the suite.

Side Two – La Mer

A++ to A+++, better than Super Hot Stamper sound again! Dynamic and lively sonics with a performance to match. More Tubey Magical richness coupled with transparency and plenty of top end, not something you hear often on vintage recordings.


This record will come in the original inner sleeve from the box set, and should probably be placed in a generic outer sleeve.


Side One

The Firebird Suite (Stravinsky)

Side Two

La Mer (Debussy)


Sibelius / Symphony #2 / Barbarolli

More of the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Symphony #2 / Barbarolli


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

A truly extraordinary recording mastered beautifully but pressed on vinyl that has never been known for its quiesecece (if I can get by with that ten cent word).

The strings are clear and textured, yet rich and full-bodied. The bottom is big and weighty. The horns are tubey and full-bodied and never screech through even the most difficult passages.

My notes mention that it’s rich and tubey but clear and lively; big, with great energy, and lastly, superbly spacious and never harsh or shrill. (It can be a bit dark in places; as you know this is much preferable to the alternative.)

About as close to live music as I think this piece can sound in my listening room. (more…)

Peter Gabriel – Shaking the Tree – Recommended UK Press

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

New British import pressings with EXCELLENT SOUND. 

There is not a track here that wouldn’t KILL the sound of that track found on any of the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressings in a head to head shootout. And if you don’t agree we are more than happy to take this copy back and refund your money. (more…)

Elton John – Madman Across The Water

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

Shockingly good sound, the best sound for any copy that has ever made it to the site. This Madman is guaranteed to blow your mind. It certainly blew ours. 

A ridiculously tough album to find with the right sound and reasonably quiet surfaces — which is why we never have them on the site. (more…)

T.Rex – Electric Warrior

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  • A superb copy of this T.Rex classic with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, coming in right behind our Shootout Winner
  • This early UK pressing is amazing, with the kind of grungy, Tubey Magical guitars that are guaranteed to blow your mind
  • It’s beyond difficult to find quiet copies of this title (same goes for The Slider), let alone those with this kind of sound, so any fan of Mr Bolan should snap this one up and be quick about it
  • 5 stars: “The album that essentially kick-started the U.K. glam rock craze… it’s that sense of playfulness, combined with a raft of irresistible hooks, that keeps Electric Warrior such an infectious, invigorating listen today.”

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Elton John – Empty Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Empty Sky


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

The undiscovered gem in the Elton John catalog! This original British Import demonstrates just how good a recording this is. The sound is excellent and the music is surprisingly good — and weird in a fun way! It certainly bears little relation to the middle-of-the-road pop songs Elton’s been making since the ’80s. These guys were young and figuring out their sound here, and this album takes Elton to some pretty interesting places. A fun debut album that is certainly worth a listen if you’re a fan of the classic albums that were to follow.

We’ve had dozens of these on our shelves for years but struggled to get this shootout done until recently. The main thing holding us back was how noisy most copies are, even the minty looking ones. Anyone who’s played DJM Brit pressings knows those guys had a very hard time pressing quiet vinyl. (more…)

Gilbert & Sullivan – The Best Of… (3 LP Box Set) – Reviewed in 2005

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

This is a Minty RCA Reader’s Digest 3 LP Box set with SUPERB SOUND! These recordings are DEMO DISC QUALITY. 

HP put the Rachmaninoff Box on the TAS List, and when you get a properly mastered one, it belongs there. But this G&S box is every bit as good sonically. This may not be high brow classical music, but it’s music that belongs in any record collection, and especially in an audiophile record collection, because the sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

The Mikado; Pirates; The Gondoliers and Patience are simply stunning. You won’t find more correct vocal and orchestral sound on the planet.

Pinafore is excellent but the sound of the other operattas is so amazing that even this wonderful recording pales in comparison. The only mediocrity here is Iolanthe.

Normally the problem with these sets is that the bad vinyl causes a loss of sound quality — grain, shrillness, a lack of bass; the very same things that you hear on so many massed produced rock records. It’s not bad mastering. It’s bad vinyl. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This one has it ALL going on — all the tubey magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high resolution yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (2011)

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

A++ sound and quiet vinyl on both sides of this 1968 soul classic, an album that received a top Five Star rating from the All Music Guide! We’ve been playing a ton of Aretha Franklin records around here in recent days, but it’s hard to find pressing that separate themselves from the pack to give you audiophile-friendly sound for her recordings, which (naturally) seem to be optimized more for the radio than for your hi-rez audio rig. Every now and then, however, we’ll luck into a copy that delivers some real soul magic in its grooves, and this was one of those copies. Chain Of Fools and Aretha’s great version of Natural Woman sound JUST RIGHT. 

Most of the Aretha records we’ve played tend to be a bit too bright, which brings out a lot of grit, grain and edge. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I can’t imagine that’s the sound the Queen Of Soul was going for. A copy like this gives you smoother, sweeter sound with a more natural tonal balance. It makes the music work so much better — the sound is easier on the ears and not nearly as fatiguing, plus it lets you turn up the volume good and loud without giving yourself a headache! (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark (2012)

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

Two incredible sides — an A+++ side one backed with an A++ to A+++ side two — for one of the best sounding albums Aretha recorded! We’ve done a ton of Aretha shootouts over the years and I’d put this one up with Amazing Grace as her top titles for sound. Everything we wanted from this music, this copy was DOIN’ IT, plain and simple. It’s lively, open, present and natural. The soundfield is big and spacious and the bottom end is killer. Aretha fans, you won’t want to miss out on this one! (more…)