Advice – Record Collecting for Audiophiles in General

Honky Chateau – A Classic from Elton John

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  • An outstanding copy of this classic album, rating exceptionally good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • Honky Chateau contains some of the most Tubey Magical High-Production-Value rock music ever recorded – thanks Ken Scott!
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ on both sides – but obviously one of the better sounding
  • 5 stars: “The most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote … It’s one of the finest collections of mainstream singer/songwriter pop of the early ’70s.” 

If you doubt that Elton John was a kind of Pop Music Genius for much of the ’70s, just play this record. These eleven tracks should easily serve as all the proof you need. There’s not a dog in the bunch. Drop the needle on any track, you simply can’t go wrong.

We go years between shootouts for Honky Chateau. It’s beyond difficult to find clean British copies of this album with the right stampers, let alone copies that have Hot Stamper sound. Few albums are tougher for us to find with great sound and quiet vinyl. Most of the copies we buy from record dealers in England are noisy and only a fraction of them have the kind of sound that serious audiophiles are going to pay good money for.

Superb Music, Amazing Sound

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a prized spot on our Rock and Pop Top 100 List. It’s a shining example of just how good High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s can be. (more…)

Brahms Violin Concerto – Is the 1s Pressing Always the Best?

More recordings featuring the violin

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This early Shaded Dog pressing of a 1958 recording has surprisingly good Super Hot stamper sound on side two. On the second side the sound opens up and is very sweet, with the violin becoming much more present and clear. The whole of side two is transparent with an extended top. Usually the earliest Living Stereo titles suffer from a lack of top end extension, but not this one.

Maybe the 1S is that way. For some reason audiophiles tend to think that the earliest cuttings are the best, but that’s just another Record Myth in our experience, easily refuted if you’ve played hundreds of these Living Stereo pressings and noted which stampers sound the best and which do not.

The 1S pressings do not win all that many shootouts around here. Of course, to avoid being biased the person listening to the record doesn’t know the stamper numbers, and that may help explain why the 1S loses so often! (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Out of Our Heads – Mono or Stereo?

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On this London LP, even though it says the record is electronically re-processed stereo, the songs we heard on side one were dead mono.

So much for believing what you read on album covers. (more…)

Another Audio Myth Exploded – Large Tulips, Small Tulips – What Do Tulips Have to Do with Anything?

Tchaikovsky / Piano Concerto #1 / Richter / Karajan
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The original Large Tulip early pressings are the best on this record, right?

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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth, as explained in the commentary for our recent Hot Stamper 2-pack. That pair of pressings was all the proof we required to back up our contention that either label can be the best on this classic DG recording. Original is better? Again, not so much. Original can be better fits more with our experience.

To pull off this kind of Mind Boggling sound from start to finish we combined an amazing side one on the Large Tulips label with an amazing side two on the Small Tulips label. And what a finish — side two earned a grade of A+++, being a full step above even our hottest other side two, and we played a lot of copies, more than a dozen in fact. (more…)

Beethoven Kreutzer and Spring Sonatas – Shaded Dogs Vs. Red Seals

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The Shaded Dog original RCA pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

In this listing for one of our Hot Stamper 2-packs we compare the sound of the originals (which tend to be crude, veiled, recessed and a bit smeary) with the reissues, which can be awful or wonderful depending on which side of which copy you are playing.

OUR COMMENTARY

This Red Seal Super Hot stamper Two-Pak may be comprised of reissue pressings, late ones even, but the sound is SUPERB. And with a Two-Pak, you get two great sides (just not on the same records of course). The immediacy of the violin was shockingly good; it was Right There, solidly between the speakers, the kind of sound that left the vast majority of pressings we’ve played of LSC 2377 in the dust. (Including the sound on the “bad” sides, which are mediocre at best.)
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A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers – The More Mistakes the Better, Part One

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I was reading an article on the web recently when I came across an old joke Red Skelton used to tell:

All men make mistakes, but married men find out about them sooner.

Now if you’re like me and you play, think and write (hopefully in that order) about records all day, everything sooner or later relates back to records, even a modestly amusing old joke such as this. Making mistakes is fundamental to learning about records, especially if you, like us, believe that most of the received wisdom handed down to record lovers of all kinds is more likely to be wrong than right.

If you don’t believe that to be true, then it’s high time you really started making mistakes.
 
And the faster you make them, the more you will learn the truths (uncountable in number) about records. (more…)

We Didn’t Know How Good We Had It in the Seventies

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Albums from 1978 in stock

All albums from 1978

Stealin’ Home has long been a Folkie-Pop favorite of mine, mostly on the strength of the consistently smart songwriting, polished production and audiophile sound quality. But really, to be truthful, what I found attractive right from the start was Iain Matthews’s especially clear, sweet tenor — that’s the hook that drew me to the album. Only later would I be pleasantly surprised to find that the recorded sound was wonderful; that the production was equal to the best major label Rock and Pop around (a comparison to The Doobie Brothers would not be a stretch); and, with repeated listening, it was clear that the level of songwriting was high indeed (an a capella rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, which opens side two, can’t help but raise your averages). (more…)

Porky Not So Prime Cut

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British Band, British Pressing… Right?

Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We had an original British pressing in our shootout, unbeknownst to me as it was playing of course. And guess where it finished: dead last. The most thick, congested, crude, distorted, compressed sound of ALL the copies we played. We love the work of Porky, Pecko, et al. in general, but once again this is a case where a British Band recorded in England sounds best on domestic vinyl. (McCartney on Apple is the same way.)

See all of our Badfinger albums in stock

For this music to work all the elements need to be in balance, with correct timbre for the relatively few instruments that make up the arrangements. Opacity, smear or grit instantly destroy the whole point of having a straightforward production, which is to be able to have all the parts laid out cleanly and clearly. Get the production out of the way and just let the music speak for itself.

The truly Hot Stampers remind you of the kind of basic rock and roll record that really knows how to rock. Back in Black comes instantly to mind. Black Dog off Zep IV. This is the sound you want your Straight Up to have. The title of the album is the key to the sound. No fancy packaging, just the band, Straight Up. (more…)

Free Advice: Look Before You Leap

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Free’s Third Album on the Original British Island Pink Label — Wow!

Found one at a local record store a while back. It was the first one I’d ever seen in nice enough condition to buy. Checking the dead wax was a bit of a shock though. Guess where it was mastered. Right here in the good old U S of A. In fact, at one of the worst mastering houses of all time: Bell Sound in New York.

Now what does that tell you about British First Pressings? Are those the ones you’re looking for? Don’t get me wrong; I look for them too. But you had better look before you leap, or you’ll end up with a bad sounding, probably quite expensive pressing. It’s one more reason why we try to play as many records as we can here at Better Records. You can’t rely on anything but the grooves. (If you see Bell Sound in the dead wax, run for cover. You know what the original domestic Let It Be’s sound like? That’s Bell Sound in all its glory.)
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What Kind of Audio Fool Was I?

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Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Viny, 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 progressively more dismal than the next?

The Story Starts with One Man Dog

One Man Dog has long been a favorite James Taylor album. It didn’t catch on too well with the general public when it came out but it caught on just fine with me. I used to play it all the time. As a budding but misguided audiophile back in the early ’70s, I foolishly bought the import pressing at my local record store, The Wherehouse, assuming it would sound better and be pressed on quieter vinyl. The latter may have been true, probably was true, but the former sure wasn’t. Turns out even the average domestic original is far better sounding, but how was I to know?
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