Advice – Louder Is Better

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

The Turn Up Your Volume Test – Almost Cut My Hair

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

The only time Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young actually sound like a real rock and roll band is on the track Almost Cut My Hair. According to Stephen Barncard, one of the engineers on Deja Vu, the track was actually recorded live in the studio. Boy, it sure sounds like it. The amount of energy the band generates on this one song exceeds the energy of the entire first album put together. 

The reason this song presents such a tough test is that it has to be mastered properly in order to make you want to turn it up, not just louder, but as loud as your stereo will play. This song is not to be used as background music whilst sipping wine and smoking cigars. It positively cries out to be played at serious volume levels on monstrously large speakers. Nothing else will do justice to the power of the band’s one and only live performance. (more…)

Crack The Sky – Animal Notes – What To Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your Crack the Sky records.

The best vintage rock recordings usually have something going for them that few recordings made after the ’70s do: their choruses get big and loud, yet stay smooth, natural and uncongested. 

We’ve mentioned it in countless listings. So many records have — to one degree or another — harsh, hard, gritty, shrill, congested choruses. When the choruses get loud they become unpleasant, and here at Better Records you lose a lot of points when that happens.

This recording, more specifically this pressing of this recording, has exceptionally big, smooth and natural choruses for many of the songs. Rangers at Midnight comes to mind immediately. Credit our man Shelly Yakus below for really getting the choruses right on this album.

Fun tip: Listen for the Elton John-like piano chords on the first track. Can you name that song? (Hint: it’s on Tumbleweed Connection.)

Engineering

Shelly Yakus and Andy Abrams are credited with engineering the album at the legendary Record Plant in New York. Yakus is the man behind Tom Petty’s best sounding album, Damn the Torpedoes, an album I expect with join our Top 100 with the next updating. We played a copy of the album in 2014 that really blew my mind; the sound was shocking in its size, power and punch; it was dramatically better than any other Petty record I’d ever played up to that time. (Hard Promises, another Yakus effort, can almost get there but not quite, at least not yet, not on the twenty or so copies I’ve played. Who knows, that one-of-a-kind pressing may just be around the corner, waiting to be discovered in our next shootout. We’ll keep you posted.)

The orchestra (yes, of course there’s an orchestra!) was recorded at the fabled 30th Street Studios; no wonder it sounds so good.

Crack the Sky

I freely admit this band is not for everybody. AMG is correct that the album is not exactly sweetness and light. Of course Dark Side of the Moon isn’t exactly a treatise on positive thinking either. It seems to have held up rather well.

If after listening to the album you feel Crack the Sky is not to your liking feel free to send it back for a full refund. We want you to be happy with every Hot Stamper purchase you make. Every one is guaranteed to satisfy or we gladly take it back, no questions asked.

A Big Speaker Record

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended for it to if you play it at moderate levels.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

We Want Mine 
Animal Skins 
Wet Teenager 
Maybe I Can Fool Everybody (Tonight)

Side Two

Virgin… No 
Invaders from Mars 
Play On
Rangers at Midnight 
i. Night Patrol 
ii. Let’s Lift Our Hearts Up

AMG Review

Coming as it did after Crack the Sky’s critically acclaimed first album, the darker, more cynical Animal Notes was something of a shock. The grim lyrics are still expressed with a dash of humor, but on the first four songs, the laughs are through clenched teeth.

“We Want Mine,” the opening cut, is a demand from a third-world native for a share of the world’s wealth, a demand he knows will be ignored. “Animal Skins,” which may be the best track on the album, skewers organized religion with bitter wit, and “Maybe I Can Fool Everybody Tonight” is told from the viewpoint of someone who is sure that his success is undeserved.

CBS Studios

CBS 30th Street Studio, also known as Columbia 30th Street Studio, and nicknamed “The Church”, was an American recording studio operated by Columbia Records from 1949 to 1981 located at 207 East 30th Street, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, New York City.

It was considered by some in the music industry to be the best sounding room in its time and others consider it to have been the greatest recording studio in history. A large number of recordings were made there in all genres, including Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959), Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast recording, 1957), Percy Faith’s Theme from A Summer Place (1960), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979).

Recording studio

Having been a church for many years, it had been abandoned and empty for sometime, and in 1949 it was transformed into a recording studio by Columbia Records.

“There was one big room, and no other place in which to record”, wrote John Marks in an article in Stereophile magazine in 2002.

The recording studio had 100 foot high ceilings, a 100 foot floorspace for the recording area, and the control room was on the second floor being only 8 by 14 feet. Later, the control room was moved down to the ground floor.

“It was huge and the room sound was incredible,” recalls Jim Reeves, a sound technician who had worked in it. “I was inspired,” he continues “by the fact that, aside from the artistry, how clean the audio system was.”

Musical artists

Many celebrated musical artists from all genres of music used the 30th Street Studio for some of their most famous recordings.

Bach: The Goldberg Variations, the 1955 debut album of the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould, was recorded in the 30th Street Studio. It was an interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the work launched Gould’s career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. On May 29, 1981, a second version of the Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould was recorded in this studio, and would be the last production by the famous studio.

Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis recorded almost exclusively at the 30th Street Studio during his years under contract to Columbia, including his album Kind of Blue (1959). Other noteworthy jazz musicians having recorded in this place: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck.

In 1964, Bob Dylan and record producer Tom Wilson were experimenting with their own fusion of rock and folk music. The first unsuccessful test involved overdubbing a “Fats Domino early rock & roll thing” over Dylan’s earlier, recording of “House of the Rising Sun”, using non-electric instruments, according to Wilson. This took place in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in December 1964. It was quickly discarded, though Wilson would more famously use the same technique of overdubbing an electric backing track to an existing acoustic recording with Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”.


Check out more of our Hot Stamper pressings made from recordings engineered at the legendary CBS 30th Street Studio

The Band Rock Of Ages – Turn Up Your Volume, Now It Rocks!

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Yet another record that really comes to life when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Most copies of this album do not have a boosted bottom or top, which means that at normal listening levels — depending on how you define that term — they can sound pretty flat. This is one album that needs to be turned up, obviously not to the levels of a live rock concert, but up about as loud as you can until you can get the bass and the highs to come out. We found ourselves adding more and more level in order to get the sound to come to life, and it was playing pretty loud before the sound was right.  

But it’s SO GOOD when it’s loud. Why the hell would you not want to crank it up and ROCK OUT? (more…)

Laurindo Almeida Virtuoso Guitar Is — Or Can Be — An Awesome Direct to Disc

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

Virtuoso Guitar is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Crystal Clear 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. We had a big pile of these pressings to play through. When we came upon this one halfway through our shootout, it was so big, so clear, so dynamic, so energetic, so extended on the top and bottom, we almost could not believe what we were hearing especially compared to the others copies we played.   (more…)

The Pretenders – Get Close

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What to Listen For

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

The best copies have superb extension up top, which allows the grit and edge on the vocals to almost entirely disappear. Some of it is there on the tape for a reason — that’s partly the sound they were going for, this is after all a Bob Clearmountain mix and a Jimmy Iovine production — but bad mastering and pressing adds plenty of grit to the average copy, enough to ruin it in fact.

You can test for that edgy quality on side one very easily using the jangly guitar harmonics and breathy vocals of My Baby. If the harmonic information is clear and extending naturally, in a big space, you are more than likely hearing a top quality copy.

Size Matters

Take it from us, it is the rare pressing that manages to get rid of the harshness and congestion that plague so many copies.

Look for a copy that opens up the soundstage — the wider, deeper and taller the soundstage the better the sound — as long as the tonal balance stays right.

When you hear a copy sound like this one, relatively rich and sweet, the minor shortcomings of the recording no longer seem to interfere with your enjoyment of the music. Like a properly tweaked stereo, a good record lets you forget all that audio stuff and just listen to the music as music. Here at Better Records we — like our customers — think that’s what it’s all about.

And we know that only the top copies will let you do that, something that not everyone in the audiophile community fully appreciates to this day. We’re doing what we can to change that way of thinking, but progress is, as you may well imagine, slow.

Get Close has long been a personal favorite of mine. Side one starts off with a bang with the song My Baby, one of the best tracks this band ever recorded. Of course at this point it’s hard to call The Pretenders a band as it is pretty much Chrissie Hynde’s show. She continues to mature as a songwriter, and the arrangments and production value are excellent as well, with heavy hitters such as Steve Lillywhite, Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine involved.

The Domestic LP and CD

The domestic LP is pretty awful, and the domestic CD is even worse, practically unlistenable in fact. I have one in my car; only the judicious use of the treble control, steeply downwards, makes the sound even tolerable.

But the album rocks — it’s great driving music.

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The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers – Listening in Depth

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

A QUICK TEST: The best copies have texture and real dynamics in the brass. The bad copies are smeared, grainy and unpleasant when the brass comes in. Toss those bad ones and start shooting out the good ones. Believe me, if you find a good one it will be worth all the work.

And don’t forget to Turn Up Your Volume. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – Listening in Depth

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Tubey Magical Analog – The sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield 
  • When you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we consider Rumours a Better Records Top 100 Demo Disc
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us! We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout.

Demo Disc Sound

This is a rock album — it needs to be played LOUD and it needs to be played on a DYNAMIC system. Case in point: consider how quietly The Chain starts out and how loud it is by the end. Those kinds of macro-dynamics are very rare on a pop recording. Rumours has the kind of dynamics you just don’t hear anymore, which is why the killer copies are a such a THRILL to play on a big dynamic system fitted with a top-notch turntable! (more…)

The Doors’ Strange Days – A True Demo Disc


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  • A stunning Demo Disc quality early pressing of one of the most difficult-to-find records in the world of Classic ’60s Rock
  • You get two incredible sides each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it
  • The sound is HUGE, full-bodied and lively throughout – check out that killer bottom end and the amazing transparency
  • Amazing sound for so many classics: When The Music’s Over, Moonlight Drive, Love Me Two Times and more
  • Nearly impossible to find copies that play anywhere near this quietly, let alone ones that sound like this!

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PHENOMENAL sound for the Doors sophomore classic. You won’t believe how good this copy is — incredibly rich and full yet still clean, clear and dynamic with a big bottom end, driving rock and roll energy and huge amounts of space. Thanks Bruce Botnick, you are da man!

Honestly, we must return or reject 80% of the copies that come through the door, which should go a long way towards explaining why they hit the site with such irregularity. We know what the best stampers are and have for quite a while. What we have a devil of a time doing is finding anyone selling the album who knows how to grade it properly, especially when it comes to the kind of groove damage that’s common to records played on turntables that lack anti-skate adjustment. What good is a record with distortion on vocal peaks, not to mention inner grooves that are borderline unlistenable? (more…)

Roundabout Vs. South Side of the Sky

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Fragile.

This shootout taught us that track one is not as well recorded as the rest of side one. On copy after copy, and there were well over a dozen, it was the other big track on side one, South Side of the Sky, that had consistently better sound. You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are so full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track, and less of all of these qualities on the first.

You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are so full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track, and less of all of these qualities on the first. We play both songs, but we play them in reverse order, knowing that the mind-boggling sound is really going to be on South Side, not so much Roundabout.

This record should give any record you own a run for its money. It’s as BIG and as BOLD a statement about raising the bar for rock recordings as any I know. Without a doubt one of the Best Rock Recordings of all time.

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Here’s How You Know You Have a Hot Stamper of Songs in the Attic

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It’s the side you play through to the end. When the sound is right you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.

Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound — what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive!
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