Advice – Japanese Pressings

Lee Ritenour – Friendship on JVC Direct Disc

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

This is one of my all time favorite audiophile discs because this is real music worth listening to! The song Woody Creek is wonderful and reason enough to own this excellent album. The guitar of Lee Ritenour and the saxophone of Ernie Watts double up during a substantial portion of this song and the effect is just amazing. 

Special kudos should go to Ernie Watts on sax, who blows some mean lines. But everybody is good on this album, especially the leader, Lee Ritenour. I saw these guys live and they put on a great show. By the way, looking in the dead wax I see this record was cut by none other than Stan Ricker of Mobile Fidelity fame himself!

Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije at 45 RPM – An Audiophile Pressing to Shame Them All

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

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly. 

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

The drum is clearly and precisely located at the back of the stage; even better, it’s as huge and powerful and room-filling as it would have been had you attended the session yourself. That’s our idea of hi-fidelity here at Better Records. (more…)

Stockhausen / Noda – Zyklus & Eclogue on Direct to Disc (Reviewed in 2011)

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

This RCA 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc fulfills the promise of both the direct to disc recording medium AND the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. As with the Virtuoso Guitar record we listed today, the sound is simply SUPERB — open, dynamic and distortion free. This is a real DEMO DISC, no doubt about it.

I’ve known this record had top quality sound for decades; we started way back in 1987 selling these kinds of audiophile pressings and this one was clearly a Top Title even back then. I’m happy to say that, unlike most of the audiophile pressings we used to sell, this title has actually gotten BETTER with time.  (more…)

Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya – Reviewed in 2010

More of our Direct to Disc recordings

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A distinguished member of our Better Records Hall of Fame.

A famous resident of the TAS list, this album mixes beautiful music with lovely, solid piano tone, the best of both worlds for audiophiles. A friend of mine tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing. Good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this.

You will have a hard time finding a better recording of solo piano than this. It’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Disc recordings.

Barbra Streisand – Guilty – Bab’s Best and Most Underrated Album (By Too Many Audiophiles Anyway)

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This ain’t no zombie audiophile BS, the kind of sleep-inducing reverb-drenched trash that passes for “female vocals” in bad audio showrooms around the globe. (Paging Diana Krall.) This is Barbra and The Bee Gees at the peak of their Pop Powers. It just doesn’t get any better.

This is THE BEST ALBUM Babs ever made, and you can take that to the bank. It’s also one of the best sounding, if not THE best sounding of her later Monster Pop Productions. Can’t say for sure as I haven’t played all that many. Her first album is a true Demo Disc as well, but that one’s all about the Tubey Magical ’60s Columbia era, the Golden Age of Natural Sound, a world away from Guilty and its layers and layers of tracks. Having said that, there are multi-tracks and then there are multi-tracks. (more…)

Who’s Next… to Remaster the Album Badly? Our Audiophile LP Overview

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The following was written in the early 2000s.

Who’s Next has been remastered for audiophiles many, many times, more often than not quite badly in our opinion. To be fair we should point out that our opinion has changed quite a few times over the course of the last twenty years.

This then is our story.

MCA MASTERPHILE
Back in the days when I was foolishly in the thrall of half-speed mastered audiophile pressings, I thought that the MCA Masterphile was king. That was probably the mid to late ’80s.

BRITISH TRACK LABEL ORIGINALS
By the early ’90s I had discovered how good the Black Label Original British Track pressings could be and started preferring those. A bit murky but tubey-magical, full and rich, precisely the way a good British rock recording (Faces, Jethro Tull) should be.

JAPANESE AND GERMAN
Of course by then I had played numerous Japanese and German pressings, none of which sounded right to my ears, then or now.

MCA HEAVY VINYL
In 1995 the MCA Heavy Vinyl version came out, mastered by Kevin Gray. I quite liked it at the time but no longer do; it’s brightened up and much of the fine detail of the recording is missing. It’s also notoriously badly pressed, resulting in stitches in the vinyl that are quite audible on practically every copy.
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Steely Dan – Katy Lied – Live and Learn

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And to think I used to swear by this pressing — specifically the 2000 Yen reissue, not the 1500 Yen original — another example of just how Wrongyou can be.

We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out.  (more…)

The Planets Remastered on 2 Japanese 45 RPM LPs – Just Awful

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This Minty looking EMI 45 RPM Japanese Import 2 LP set with the OBI strip and Little Sign Of Play (LSOP) is widely considered one of the great Planets, but it’s not, based on our playing of a copy we had years ago, which means it belongs in our Hall of Shame.

The best copies on British or Dutch EMI vinyl are clearly better than this “audiophile” pressing. What else is new? 

The Wall Sounds Terrible on this Japanese “Audiophile” Pressing

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Sonic Grade: F

Presenting an old member of our Hall of Shame.

This Japanese Import is one of the dullest, muddiest, worst sounding copies of The Wall we have ever played. It is clearly made from a dub tape. 

And somehow this pressing, or one very much like it, ended up as a TAS List Super Disc. I would hope that the copy Harry played sounded a whole lot better than this one.

And the CBS Half-Speed is every bit as bad! Two Hall of Shame titles for the price of one.

Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

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Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

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

Both sides of this original stereo pressing are White Hot – Triple Plus all the way! Breathy, tubey, big and clear, this is the best sound we have ever heard for Whisper Not. Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin. “These fine-tuned arrangements also provide the perfect launching pad for Fitzgerald to place her own stamp on material associated with other singers.”

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Two As Good As It Gets sides back to back. You get superb space and transparency, a three-dimensional soundfield, and full-bodied, immediate vocals. (more…)