Advice – Record Collecting for Audiophiles in General

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…)

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…)

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).

We Didn’t Know How Good We Had It

Produced in 1978, the best copies are rich, smooth and sweet in the best tradition of ANALOG recording. It would only be a few years until this sound was out of style, replaced by the edgy, hard, digital qualities preferred by synthpop bands like Tears for Fears and Simple Minds. This would turn out to be a bad time for audiophiles (like me) who liked the pop music of the day but not the pop sound of the day. Heavy-handed processing as well as the overuse of synthesizers and drum effects, with the whole of the production slathered in digital reverb, have resulted in most of the albums from the early to mid-’80s being all but impossible to enjoy on a modern high-end system. Believe me, we’ve tried. The albums Squeeze was making in the mid- to late-’80s are personal favorites, but the sound is so impenetrable, so overbearing, that nothing can be done with the vinyl.

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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.

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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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Are All MoFis Created Equal? A Pair of Pink Floyd LPs Proved They Aren’t

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Many if not most audiophiles are still under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, with their strict ’quality control’, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site.

Such is simply not the case, and it’s child’s play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears. With all four the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

The discussion below of a Hot Stamper Pair of Dark Sides may shed light on some of the issues involved.
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Perhaps This Explains Why This Decca Reissue Sounds So Good

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This Decca reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Roy Wallace was the engineer for these sessions from 1955 to 1961 in Geneva’s glorious sounding Victoria Hall.

It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s, 1972 to be exact. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the mediocre-at-best modern mastering of today.)

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these superb sides.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way.
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