A List of Records that Are Usually Noisy

Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2012

More Brewer and Shipley

More Tarkio

xxxxx

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

This White Hot Stamper side one of our beloved Tarkio, Brewer and Shipley’s Folk Rock Masterpiece, is without a doubt the BEST SOUND we have ever heard on any pressing bar none. This side sets a standard that no other copy on any side could touch. True, we awarded a Triple Plus grade to an amazing side two copy, but this side one is still the better of the two. We could easily have called it Four Pluses but chose to go with the simpler A+++ and this explanation.

However you frame it, this side is OFF THE CHARTS in a big way. It’s amazingly rich, yet clear and transparent as any we played — what a combination!

This, like Dark Side and so many other White Hot Stamper records we offer to the discriminating audiophile, is ANALOG at its finest. To our knowledge there hasn’t been a single record mastered in the last thirty years with this kind of sound, and we know whereof we speak: we’ve played them by the hundreds.

A Desert Island Disc for me with wonderfully NATURAL sound. This copy had the ULTIMATE Side One (A+++) and a very competitive Side Two (A++), making it the King of our Shootout. If you love this record as much as you should, this is the copy to own. I would love to keep it for my desert island, but we know there is surely a deserving soul out there who will treasure it as much as I do, and probably play it a lot more often, so if you know the album at all this is your chance at greatness. (And I still haven’t found a desert island I’m all that partial to anyway.)

Not Really One Toke Over the Line

Please don’t assume that this album has much in the way of uptempo country rockers like One Toke Over the Line, Flying Burrito Brothers style. Nothing could be further from the truth. Practically every other song on the album is better, almost all of them are taken at a slower pace, with none of them having the “poppy” arrangement of that carefully calculated Top Forty hit. The rest of the music on the album, the music you probably don’t know, is much better than the music that you do know if what you know is that song. (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Casino Royale

More Burt Bacharach

More Casino Royale

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • A superb original stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl for this album too
  • A record that has its share of problems, but if you’ve got the system for it (huge, heavily tweaked, fast, free from obvious colorations and capable of tremendous resolution), this copy is sure to impress  
  • A TAS List favorite that sounds amazing on a the right early pressing and dramatically better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue that’s we know of
  • “The more recognizable and certainly more straightforward side of Bacharach is here, too, on the Dusty Springfield smash ‘The Look of Love.’ This is one of Bacharach’s best soundtracks…”

The space is big and the sound relatively rich (although the sound does vary quite a bit from track to track). The vocals have notably less hardness than most and the orchestra is not as brash as it can be on so many of the copies we audition. Huge amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies, and critical to The Look of Love. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.

What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

A Super Disc, Or Is It?

It’s beyond difficult to find Hot Stamper pressings of this album — heck, it’s hard to find ANY clean copy these days, let alone one that sounds great. Both sides are cleaner and clearer than most pressings yet still as rich and full as you’d want them to be. You won’t see too many copies of this one hitting the site, so if this music is up your alley and you have the stereo to play a seriously difficult recording such as this, you might want to jump right on it.

Having heard the best sounding pressings I now understand why this has been such a highly regarded long-term resident of the TAS Superdisc List. The best copies are SUPERDISCS… while the average copy of this album is anything but. Who could take such harsh, grainy, thin, veiled, compressed sound seriously? What was Harry Pearson smokin’?

I can honestly and truthfully say that until we discovered the Hot Stampers for this album, I never thought this record deserved the praise Harry heaped upon it. Now I do. I once was blind but now I see, or something like that. And by the way, does his copy sound as good as this one? Let’s face it: the late Harry Pearson was simply not the kind of guy who would sit down with five or ten copies and shoot them out.

When you listen to the average pressing of Casino Royale, you get the feeling that you’re hearing a standard-issue, boxy, lightweight, blary ’60s soundtrack. Perhaps you hear some promise in the recording, but it’s a promise that’s unfulfilled by the record on your turntable. This copy will completely redefine what you know about the sound of this music.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the string arrangements from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all.

What We’re Listening For on Casino Royale

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Phil Ramone in this case — would have put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Casino Royale Theme (Main Theme)
The Look of Love
Money Penny Goes for Broke
Le Chiffre’s Torture of the Mind
Home James, Don’t Spare the Horses
Sir James’ Trip to Find Mata

Side Two

The Look of Love (Instrumental)
Hi There Miss Goodthighs
Little French Boy
Flying Saucer – First Stop Berlin
The Venerable Sir James Bond
Dream On James, You’re Winning
The Big Cowboys and Indians Fight at Casino Royale / Casino Royal Theme (Reprise)

AMG Review

Bacharach excelled at these kinds of musical cut-ups, but thankfully he used liberal doses of humor and melody to keep the proceedings from turning too rarefied or messy. At times, the humor even turns to camp, as it does with the manic hodgepodge of circus themes, gypsy music, and lounge grind on ‘Home James, Don’t Spare the Horses.’ The more recognizable and certainly more straightforward side of Bacharach is here, too, on the Dusty Springfield smash ‘The Look of Love.’ This is one of Bacharach’s best soundtracks and a good buy for seasoned fans.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively. It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

As we’ve said before about these kinds of recordings — Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II — they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .


Further Reading

..along these lines can be found below.

This listing will help you to Get the Most Out of Your Hot Stampers.

This listing will help you to Get Rid of Grit and Grain the Right Way.

Here’s a link with advice for setting up your Table, Arm and Cartridge that can be found in a section containing Audio Advice of all kinds.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in The Four Pillars of Success.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.

Mel Torme With The Marty Paich Dek-tette

More Mel Torme

More With The Marty Paich Dek-tette

xxxxx

  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides here are incredibly rich and smooth with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette is a vocal masterpiece, an extremely satisfying record achieved only by a fusion of an excellent voice, an excellent band, and excellent material.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Bethlehem 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. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

More Jethro Tull

More Aqualung

xxxxx
xxxxx
xxxxx

  • This wonderful copy of Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album earned oustanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides 
  • The sound is excellent from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush – We Loved This Copy So Much in 2005 We Asked $200 for It

More Neil Young

More After the Gold Rush

xxxxx
xxxxx

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

This is the story of how we discovered our very first killer copy of After the Gold Rush. What a thrill it was to finally hear the album sound so amazing, this after hearing so many mediocre copies over the years. It’s records like this that made us eventually put 100% of our resources into finding records that sound like this one — or better!  

This is the way we heard After the Gold Rush in 2005. Embarrassingly, we liked it so much we compared it to the best DCC records we were selling back then, ouch! (more…)

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

More Arlo Guthrie

More Alice’s Restaurant

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • This superb 2-pack boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout for Arlo Guthrie’s classic debut – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These stereo pressings on the early Two Tone label are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but here they are
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

(more…)

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3 / Janis / Dorati

More Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

More Piano Concerto #3 / Janis / Dorati

xxxxx

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

This Super Hot Stamper (or better) original Colorback Mercury pressing is not only the BEST sounding copy we have ever heard, it also boasts the quietest side one we’ve experienced, playing mostly Mint Minus. For a fifty year old Mercury that is QUIET.

Not only is the sound amazing — yes, it’s on the TAS Super Disc list, and for good reason, a copy as good as this one really is a Super Disc — but this copy has another vitally important characteristic that most copies of the record do not: virtually no Inner Groove Distortion

We can’t begin to count the times we have had to return (or toss) a copy of this very record because the piano breakup for the last inch or two of the record was just unbearable. That’s a sound no serious listener could possibly tolerate, yet I would venture to guess that MOST Mercury Piano Concerto recordings suffer from this kind of groove damage. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley – His Best Album By Far

More Robert Palmer

xxxxx

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

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on this British Sunray Island pressing. SSTTA is very hard to find nowadays, but we managed to put together a big enough stack to make a shootout possible, and this copy acquited very well indeed — it was miles ahead of the typical pressing. As is usually the case with these originals, the vinyl is a bit noisier than ideal at Mint Minus Minus.

No doubt this is the best album Robert Palmer ever made. With Lowell George’s unmistakable slide guitar and members of the Meters providing backup, as well as the amazing Bernard Purdie on drums, it’s the only Robert Palmer release that consistently works all the way through as an album. The entire first side is excellent from top to bottom, with the title track being our favorite RP song of all time.  (more…)

Sly and The Family Stone – Stand

More Sly & The Family Stone

More Stand

xxxxx

  • With stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second, this copy will be tough to beat!
  • Tired of the crude, congested, hard, harsh and otherwise unpleasant sound of most pressings? We have the answer
  • Stand, I Want To Take You Higher, Sing A Simple Song, Everyday People, You Can Make It If You Try — what a killer lineup of songs!
  • 5 stars: “Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment.”

Good News

Finally, a White Hot copy of Sly’s classic Stand album from 1969, one of the few times that this album has EVER sounded the way it is supposed to! Man, most copies of this album just plain suck — sonically of course. (more…)

Eagles – Listening in Depth

More Eagles

More Eagles – Eagles

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy or copies of The Eagles amazingly well recorded first album.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more.  

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more. When you drop the needle on Train Leaves Here This Morning, the opener for side two, the immediate impression you will get is “WOW”. The sound is as BIG and BOLD as any outside of the live event. The sweetness and the tubey magical quality of the vocals are virtually without equal. It’s my favorite track on the album and it KILLS on this copy!

A Top Ten Title

You may have seen our Top 100 list of the best sounding rock records elsewhere on the site. If we were to pick out a Top Ten from that list, this record would have made the cut. (more…)