Advice – Turntable Setup

Set-up Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

I once adjusted my anti-skate while playing this very album, at the time dialing it in to a “T”. Over the years I’ve found that the best test for fine anti-skate adjustment is massed strings, and not just at the end of a side but right at the beginning too.

When you have all the rosiny texture, the high-end harmonic extension, the least shrillness and the widest and deepest staging, you are there, assuming that tracking weight, azimuth and VTA are correct as well.

Four variables to mess with is admittedly a bitch, but having the right record to test with is absolutely critical as well. Maybe we should call it five variables.

And if I only had one record to bring to someone’s house in order to evaluate their equipment, this would certainly be a top choice. If you can make this record sound the way it should, your stereo is cookin’. If you are having problems, this record will show them to you in short order. (more…)

10cc – Deceptive Bends – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and another in our series of Demo Discs for Bass.

The remarkable level of transparency found on this copy allows you to pick out each background vocal and follow it throughout the choruses. The bass here is PERFECTION: it’s deep, punchy and POWERFUL. When you get the right pressing of this album, the bass is so good it will make every other rock record you own sound positively anemic.

This is the kind of recording that will have you asking yourself “Why don’t my other rock records sound like this?” (more…)

Mozart / Quintet – Piano + Winds & Trio

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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 chamber music recordings.

This is a handy record for VTA setup as well. Listen for fullness and solidity, especially in the piano, although a rich, full sounding clarinet is a joy here as well. 

Some of the copies lacked the weight and solidity to balance out the qualities of transparency and clarity. The resulting sound is less natural, with the kind of forced detail that CDs do so well, and live music never does. There is a balance to be found.

The right VTA will be critical in this regard. When you have all the space; the clearest, most extended harmonics; AND good weight and richness in the lower registers of the piano, you are where you need to be (keeping in mind that it can always get better if you have the patience and drive to tweak further).  (more…)

Debussy / Clair de Lune / Agoult

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides 
  • These sides are incredibly rich, sweet and full-bodied yet still very clean, clear and spacious; Demo Disc sound throughout!
  • I can’t imagine a more beautiful record, both in terms of the programme and the sound; this record is a wonderful example of what the Decca recording engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson in this case) were able to capture on tape
  • This is the exact same recording as the famous Living Stereo Clair De Lune, LSC-2326, but with a couple of extra tracks included

Transparent and spacious, wide and naturally staged, clean yet rich, with zero coloration, there is nothing here to fault. Nearly Triple Plus all the way. So relaxed and natural you will soon find yourself lost in the music. (more…)

Holst – The Planets – Testing with Mars and Saturn

More Gustav Holst

More The Planets

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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 The Planets.

Mars on the first side and Saturn on the second present serious challenges for any vinyl pressings you may own. Generally speaking, the White Hot copies tend to have a bit more top end extension, and/or more lower end weight. Let’s get to the specifics of the two movements we feel are the best test for The Planets as a whole.

The War Test — Side One

War, the first movement, has the string players “bouncing” their bows upside down to create the effect you hear. It’s not fingers plucking the strings; it’s the wood of the bows bouncing on the strings. The quality of that technique is so obvious and correct sounding on the good copies and so blurry and indistinct on the bad ones that you could almost judge the whole first side by that sound alone. When it’s right it’s really right. 

And of course the players are spread out wider and the soundfield is so much more transparent when these types of sonic qualities are brought out. This bouncing bow test makes it easy to separate the better copies from the also-rans when it comes to smear, resolution, transparency and the like. (more…)

Paganini / Caprices / Ricci

More of the music of Niccolò Paganini

Caprices / Ricci

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This London White Hot Stamper pressing has DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side two! Sound of this calibre is nothing less than SHOCKING. If you like the sound of solo violin — and who doesn’t — you will have a VERY hard time finding a better sounding recording of it than this. That’s assuming you can get your Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) dead on the money, not something every audiophile can manage. If you can, lookout — you are in for a sonic treat.

And when one side of a record sounds this good, what are the chances that the other side will also be as good? Slim is the flip answer, but flip or not, it’s no less true. Although quite good in many respects, side one is clearly a step down. The statistical law of “regression toward the mean” would tell us it almost had to be. Side two is simply an outlier in the world of violin records. I would not expect to hear many that sound as good in my lifetime, or at least in my audio lifetime. (more…)

10cc – Deceptive Bends – A Tough Test for Sibilance

More 10cc

More Deceptive Bends

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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 Deceptive Bends.

On side two the tonal balance is especially critical. Any boost to the top end will cause the vocals on the second track to SPIT LIKE CRAZY. This is a good test for how well your cartridge and arm are doing their jobs. 

Sibilance is a bitch. The best pressings, with the most extension up top and the least amount of aggressive grit and grain mixed in with the music, played using the highest quality properly set up front ends, will keep siblilance to a minimum.

VTA, tracking weight, azimuth and anti-skate adjustments are critical to reducing the spit in your records. (more…)

Grieg / Peer Gynt / Fjeldstad / LSO – Speakers Corner Reviewed / VTA Advice

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Sonic Grade: C+

The Fjeldstad has long been one of our favorite performances of Peer Gynt here at Better Records. 

This record is handy for VTA set-up as well, a subject discussed below in our listing from 2010.

The sound is excellent for a modern reissue*, but in the loudest sections the orchestra can get to be a bit much, taking on a somewhat harsh quality. (The quieter passages are superb: sweet and spacious.)

So I adjusted the VTA a bit to see what would happen, and was surprised to find that even the slightest change in VTA caused the strings to lose practically all their rosiny texture and become unbearably smeared.

This is precisely why it’s a good heavy vinyl recording for setting up your turntable. If you can get the strings to play with reasonably good texture on this record you probably have your VTA set correctly. (more…)

Setup Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

Setup Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

This is a superb Demonstration disc, but it is also an excellent Test disc. The sound of the best copies is rich, full-bodied, incredibly spacious, and exceptionally extended up top. There is a prodigious amount of musical information spread across the soundstage, much of it difficult to reproduce. Musicians are banging on so many different percussive devices (often at the back of the stage, exactly where they should be) that getting each one’s sonic character to clearly come through is a challenge — and when you’ve met it, a thrill.

If you’ve done your homework with VTA, Azimuth, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight, this is the record that will make clear just how much you’ve accomplished.

More of the music of Georges Bizet

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce! You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. And if you have any peaky audiophile wire in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality.

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Turntable Tweaking Advice – Try This at Home, It Worked for Us

Turntable Tweaking Advice

Try This at Home, It Worked for Us

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The Mapleshade website has a piece of audio advice that caught the eye of one our customers, who sent me the excerpt below.  

Like most advice, especially Audio Advice, we find that some of it accords well with our own experience and some of it clearly does not. The relationship of good to bad is hard to determine without making a more careful study, but let’s just say that there is plenty of both and leave it at that. That being the case, we thought it would be of service to our customers to break it down in more detail, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

More Audio Advice

We’ve also added a customer’s letter at the end of the commentary.

Here is the complete quote: (more…)