Advice – Louder Is Better

These records sound much better when you play them good and loud.

Al Dimeola – Elegant Gypsy – His Masterpiece

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  • One of the best copies of this phenomenal Fusion Guitar Jazz Classic to ever hit the site, Triple Plus (A+++) throughout 
  • Both sides are incredibly lively, full-bodied, open and present – the sound is HUGE and WEIGHTY and it rocks
  • There is a mark that plays during track one on side one so we’ve discounted this one accordingly
  • 5 stars: “Generally an explosive affair, although it does have a fair amount of variety. A near classic in the fusion vein.”

SHOCKINGLY GOOD SOUND for one of the all-time great guitar albums! We were positively BLOWN AWAY by how lively, dynamic and full-bodied this copy sounds. There’s real texture to all the instruments and the bottom end is tight and punchy beyond belief. They just don’t make records with this kind of Tubey Analog Magic anymore.

If you’ve enjoyed the sonics on one of our Hot Stamper pressings of Return To Forever, Weather Report or Santana, I think you’ll find a lot to like about this record.

This album still holds up today. The All Music Guide gives it five big stars, and on a copy like this one I bet you’ll rate the music just as highly. When you have a pressing with this kind of weight, power, clarity and transparency, you can easily appreciate just how amazing the musicianship is. (more…)

Matthew Sweet – 100% Fun – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Our Zoo label LP MURDERED the Classic heavy vinyl reissue. It’s not even close.  The Classic is a opaque, turgid, muffled piece of sh*t compared to the Zoo vinyl pressing we had on hand to play, and even the CD will kill this embarrassing audiophile reissue. 

This is not the easiest record to reproduce, but if you have a big dynamic system, it will really ROCK.  I happen to think it’s the best thing Matthew Sweet ever did, and you deserve to hear it sound right, which means stick with the thin, good sounding vinyl and not this heavy RTI trash from Classic.

 

 

Audiophile Wire Testing with Jethro Tull and His Friend Aqualung

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… who seems to have a rather nasty bronchial condition…

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Like Heart’s Little Queen album, Aqualung presents us with a Demo Disc / Test Disc that really puts a stereo through its paces, assuming it’s the kind of stereo that’s designed to play an album like Aqualung.

Not many audiophile systems I’ve run across over the years were capable of reproducing the Big Rock Sound this album requires, but perhaps you have one and would like to use the album to test some of your tweaks and components. I used it to show me how bad sounding some of the audiophile wire I was testing really was.

Here’s what I wrote:

A quick note about some wire testing I was doing a while back. My favorite wire testing record at the time (2007)? None other than Aqualung!

Part One

Here’s why: Big Whomp Factor. Take the whomp out of Aqualung and the music simply doesn’t work, at all. To rock you need whomp, and much of Aqualung wants to rock.
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Shoot Out The Lights – Loud Versus Live

Shoot Out The Lights

 

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Here’s a thought: if 180 gram records are supposed to be an improvement over the original pressings, why is it that they NEVER sound Big and Bold like this pressing? And I do mean never; I’ve played hundreds of them over the years and have yet to hear this kind of sound on any of them. At this point I would have to conclude that it is simply not possible.

If you have big speakers, a large listening room and like to play your records loud, there is no modern reissue that will ever give you the thrill that a record like this can. (Of course, to fully appreciate the effect it obviously helps if you have a White Hot Stamper copy to play.)

Loud Versus Live

I’ve seen Richard Thompson on a number of occasions over the years, and as loud as my stereo will play, which is pretty darn loud, I could never make his guitar solos 20 dB louder than everything else, because it’s not on the record that way. That’s why live music can’t be duplicated properly in the home: the dynamic contrasts are much too great for the typical listener or his stereo.

Having said that, when you actually do turn this record up, way up, you get the feeling of hearing live music, and that’s not easy to do! Only the best recordings, in my experience, can begin to give you that feeling. We discuss this subject in a number of commentaries under the heading of Turn Up Your Volume.
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McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece with White Hot Stamper Sound

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The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

What the best sides of this McCartney Classic from 1970 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 import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

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 listed 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.

Looking For The McCartney Magic? Look No Further (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Takin’ Off – A Cisco Record We Like

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Sonic Grade: B-

The sound is very good, with correct tonal balance and plenty of life. I was WAY TOO HARD on this album when it first came in. It’s playing right now and really swinging!

I just learned the secret to getting this one to sound right, and I am happy to share it with you. TURN IT UP!. When you get some volume going, the musicians really come to life on this album. It may sound crazy, but you need to play this one as loud as you would play your average rock record.

Billy Higgins whacks the hell out of his snare on the second track on side one. He really goes to town on that thing. Imagine you are sitting twenty feet from him in a jazz club; it would be plenty loud, right? Now find the equivalent volume setting on your preamp, drop the needle and get ready to FEEL the music, the way you would feel it if you were in that club. 

Robert Pincus and Kevin Gray did a great job on this one. I put it right up there with the very best jazz records on Heavy Vinyl being made today. The first track is a tiny bit lean for my taste, but things get better after that.

Of course, how many copies do you really see of an album like this that aren’t beat to death, or minty but hundreds of dollars? Mighty few in our experience, so this has to be seen as a welcome addition to any audiophile’s jazz collection.

 

 

Sowing The Seeds Of Love for Psych

The Seeds Of Love

 

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This Tears for Fears album is a real desert island disc for me. When you get a big, rich, smooth copy such as this one, the short list of problems with the recording don’t interfere with the music. Like good stereo equipment, a good record lets you forget all that audio stuff and just listen to the music as music.

The Seeds Of Love is the band’s masterpiece, and hearing it this way is nothing short of a THRILL.

The sound of most copies is aggressive, hard, harsh and thin. What do you expect? The album is recorded digitally and direct metal mastered at Masterdisk. Most of us analog types put up with the limitations of the sound because we love the music, some of the most powerfully moving, brilliantly written and orchestrated psychedelic pop of the last thirty years. Imagine if the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper/ Magical Mystery Tour phase kept going in that direction. They very well might have ended up in the neighborhood of Sowing the Seeds of Love. (more…)

Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

Little Queen
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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.
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Some of the Best Live Rock Sound Ever Recorded

Cream Goodbye 

 

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When you get a good side one of Goodbye you’ll have no trouble hearing why we think it’s one of the Best Sounding Live Rock Albums of all time.

Goodbye has the Big Rock Sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. The best pressings, the ones that are full-bodied and smooth, let you crank the levels and reproduce the album good and loud the way live rock music is meant to be heard.

It’s clearly one of BILL HALVERSON‘s Engineering Triumphs, along with Deja Vu and Steve Stills’ first album (now that’s a trio!). Live Rock Music on record just does not sound better than a White Hot Stamper side one of Goodbye. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Aja (Includes Free Cisco Debunking Tool)

Aja

 

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Aja.

Our track commentary for the song Home at Last makes it easy to spot an obvious problem with Cisco’s remastered Aja: This is the toughest song to get right on side two. Nine out of ten copies have grainy, irritating vocals; the deep bass is often missing too. Home at Last is just plain unpleasant as a rule, which is why it’s such a great test track.

Get this one right and it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there on out.
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