Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Audiophile Pressings

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – Good Digital Beats Bad Analog Any Day

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And this is some very bad analog indeed!

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl – Reviewed in 2010

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?”

It reminds me of the turgid muck that Doug Sax was cutting for Analogue Productions back in the ’90s. The CD has to sound better than this. There’s no way could it sound worse.

Update: I managed to track down a copy of the CD and it DOES sound better than this awful record, and by a long shot. It’s not a great sounding CD, but it sure isn’t the disaster this record is.

This is a very bad sounding record, so bad that one minute’s play will have you up and out of your chair trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with your system. But don’t bother. It’s not your stereo, it’s this record.

It has the power to make your perfectly enjoyable speakers sound like someone has wrapped them in four inches of cotton bunting. Presence? Gone! Transients? Who needs ’em! Ambience, Openness, Three-Dimensionality? Uh, will you consider settling for Murk, Bloat and Smear? There’s a Special on them today here at Acoustic Sounds. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues – Volume III – The Best Sounding Copy We’ve Ever Heard

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  • A KILLER copy with DEMO DISC Shootout Winning QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) sound on the second side and Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first
  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for this title
  • It doesn’t get any better than this, with CLARITY and that JUMP OUT OF THE SPEAKERS quality we desire from a Hot Stamper
  • Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright; on this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom and the horns sound especially wonderful

Please note: we award the Four Plus A++++ grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!


What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tamborines, big bass, drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around. That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up!

Just listen to that amazing brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one! (more…)

Organ Music From Westminster

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This is a Very Rare Fulton LP. The piece by Mozart on side one has a true 16 cycle note. Since it has virtually no overtones, the note is more often than not completely undetectable; few stereos in my experience have ever been able to reproduce it. If you have a full-range system, this record will allow you to hear deep bass you may have never heard before.

Let me warn you that these records require extremely transparent, full bandwith, neutral stereo systems to sound their best. Most records are “goosed up” in various ways to play on any stereo, regardless of quality. These are the opposite. From my admittedly prejudiced point of view, tubes are an absolute must for the magic of these live recordings to come through. [Or so I thought in 2006. Now, not so much.]

If your system leans more toward the budget side, these Fulton records will leave you wondering what in the world that Tom Port character was talking about.

And of course organ records require good deep bass, the hardest part of the frequency range to reproduce in the typical living room. With this organ record at least you’ll know what the goal should be.

Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus – We Was Wrong in 2009

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We used to think that:

This German import pressing of Waiting for Columbus is much better sounding than the typical Mastering Lab-mastered copy.

This German pressing is similar to one that came from my own personal collection, accidentally discovered way back in the early ’80s as I recall. It KILLED my domestic original, and got some things right that even my treasured Mobile Fidelity pressing couldn’t. We have been meaning to do a shootout for this album for at least the last five years, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.

This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience. All I can hear is what it does wrong. I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better.

That same laundry list continued to pay big dividends, and right around 2017 or so the best original domestic Mastering Lab copies started to sound much more right to us than the German ones.  The German pressings can be good, but the TML pressings are the only ones we expect to win shootouts from now on.

But who knows? We could find something even better down the road. That’s what shootouts are for. (more…)

The Who – Tommy – Our First Big Shootout Winner from Way Back in 2008

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

This British Track Black Label pressing DEMOLISHED our expectations for this album. I don’t think I’ve ever heard The Who sound this good.

Three out of four sides rate our top grade of A+++, and side three ain’t far behind at A++. What do such high grades give you for this album? Tubey magical guitars, silky vocals with lots of texture, unbelievable weight to the bottom end, “you are there” immediacy, BIG drums sound, OFF THE CHARTS rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

This is only the second $1000 Classic Rock Hot Stamper we’ve ever listed on the site. We know there’s always a rise in trash talk on the vinyl message boards when we throw this kind of record on the site, but we can’t worry about that silly business. Our job is to find you guys the best of the best, and here’s a record that we’re very proud to put at the very top of our top shelf. (more…)

Glenn Miller – The Direct Disc Sound of the Glenn Miller Orchestra

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

One of the all time GREAT Direct to Disc recordings. For sound and music this one is hard to beat. And the vinyl is as quiet as any you will find. 

We went a bit overboard years ago when we wrote, “I don’t think you can find a better sounding big band record on the planet.” Well, we’ve heard plenty of amazing big band albums in the course of our Hot Stamper shootouts for the last five or ten years, albums by the likes of Basie, Zoot Sims, Ellington, Shorty Rogers, Ted Heath and others. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – Worst Version Ever!

More The Rolling Stones

Sticky Fingers

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

This RTI 180g copy (with the zipper cover) is one of a series of five titles Bob Ludwig cut in the ’90s. According to the man, after cutting the record he chanced upon a consumer copy and was shocked to hear how bad it sounded.   

It sounded, according to him, nothing like the record he had cut. Somehow they had botched the pressings and ruined the sound. How this could happen I can’t imagine.

Bob says that’s what they did and we’ll take him at his word, out of respect for one of the all-time great mastering engineers, RL himself. He promptly sold off all his analog mastering equipment and got out of the game.

Can you blame him? According to him they put his name all over a record the sound of which they had ruined. Guess I would stop making records too if that were the case.

By the way, the sound was dismal on every title from that series we played except for Heart’s, which was okay, certainly better than the average pressing out there, but no Hot Stamper by any stretch of the imagination. (For actual Hot Stampers please come to us.)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture, Op. 49 / Kunzel – Telarc Debunked

More Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More 1812 Overture, Op. 49 / Kunzel

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing.

If you want an amazingly dynamic 1812 with huge amounts of deep bass for the firing of the cannon you can’t do much better than this (or its UHQR brother). 

But if you want rich, sweet and tonally correct brass and strings you had best look elsewhere. I’ve never liked the sound of this record and I’m guessing if I heard a copy today I would like it even less. Who thinks live classical music actually sounds like this? (more…)

The Great Jazz Trio – Direct From L.A. – Reviewed in 2014

More of The Great Jazz Trio

Albums with Ron Carter on bass / Tony Williams on drums

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

The album features some excellent jazz with outstanding drum work by Tony Williams (one of our favorite drummers here at Better Records).

If you have a good copy of The Three on Eastwind you will note the strong similarity in sound. The music here, however, is clearly more adventurous.  (more…)

Thoughts on a Direct to Disc Recording – Side One Vs. Side Two

I’ve Got The Music In Me

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In our last shootout this White Hot Stamper tied for the best side two we have ever heard! In the final round it simply came down to the fact that the other copy was a little more clear, this one is a little richer. They were both so amazing we couldn’t decide which we preferred so we gave them both White Hot Stamper grades.

In our experience this rarely happens. Most of the time one side of one of the records in the shootout will show itself to be the clear winner, doing everything (or almost everything; there is no such thing as a perfect record) right. When you play enough copies, eventually you run into the one that shows you how the music wants to be heard, what kind of sound seems to work for it the best. The two side twos we liked were variations, and fairly subtle ones at that, on a theme — a little richer here, a little clearer there, but both SO GOOD!

Side two fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few — very few — direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, most copies of this title were quite good. Few didn’t do most things at least well enough to earn a Hot Stamper grade. This has not been the case with many of the Sheffield pressings we’ve done shootouts for in the past. Often the weaker copies have little going for them. They don’t even sound like Direct Discs! (more…)