Advice – What to Listen For – Energy

Linda Ronstadt – Rockin’ Out on Simple Dreams

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More Simple Dreams

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

Clearly this is one of Linda’s best albums, and I would have to say, based on my fairly extensive experience with her recorded output, that it is in fact THE BEST SOUNDING record she ever made. I love Heart Like a Wheel, but it sure doesn’t sound like this, not even on the Triple Plus copies that win our shootouts. 

Kudos once again must go to VAL GARAY, the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. (more…)

Audiophile Wire Testing with Jethro Tull and His Friend Aqualung

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… who seems to have a rather nasty bronchial condition…

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Like Heart’s Little Queen album, Aqualung presents us with a Demo Disc / Test Disc that really puts a stereo through its paces, assuming it’s the kind of stereo that’s designed to play an album like Aqualung.

Not many audiophile systems I’ve run across over the years were capable of reproducing the Big Rock Sound this album requires, but perhaps you have one and would like to use the album to test some of your tweaks and components. I used it to show me how bad sounding some of the audiophile wire I was testing really was.

Here’s what I wrote:

A quick note about some wire testing I was doing a while back. My favorite wire testing record at the time (2007)? None other than Aqualung!

Part One

Here’s why: Big Whomp Factor. Take the whomp out of Aqualung and the music simply doesn’t work, at all. To rock you need whomp, and much of Aqualung wants to rock.
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Elvis Costello Arrayed His Armed Forces and Produced His Single Best Sounding Album

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We consider Armed Forces to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, and a copy like this White Hot Shootout Winner is proof enough to back up our claim. The best copies are extremely transparent and silky sounding, but with unbelievably punchy, rock-solid bass and drums.

The sound of the rhythm section ranks with the best we’ve ever heard. Beyond that, the musical chops of this band at this time rank with the best in the history of rock. Steve, Bruce and Pete rarely get the credit they deserve for being one of the tightest, liveliest backing bands ever to walk into a studio or on to a stage.

The song Oliver’s Army on the first side is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Rock music doesn’t get much livelier than that. Skip on down to Green Shirt for another track that’s as punchy as they come.

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Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

Little Queen
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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.
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Cat Stevens Asks: Light, Medium or Heavy on the Congas?

Teaser and the Firecat

 

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During the shootout for this record a while back we made a very important discovery, a seemingly obvious one but one that nevertheless had eluded us for the past twenty plus years (so how obvious could it have been?). It became clear, for the first time, what accounts for the wide disparity in ENERGY and DRIVE from one copy to the next. We can sum it up for you in one five letter word, and that word is conga.

The congas are what drive the high-energy songs, songs like Tuesday’s Dead and Changes IV. Here is how we stumbled upon their critically important contribution.

We were listening to one of the better copies during a recent shootout. The first track on side one, The Wind, was especially gorgeous; Cat and his acoustic guitar were right there in the room with us. The transparency, tonal neutrality, presence and all the rest were just superb. Then came time to move to the other test track on side one, which is Changes IV, one of the higher energy songs we like to play.

But the energy we expected to hear was nowhere to be found. The powerful rhythmic drive of the best copies of the album just wasn’t happening. The more we listened the more it became clear that the congas were not doing what they normally do. The midbass to lower midrange area of the LP lacked energy, weight and power, and this prevented the song from coming to LIFE the way the truly Hot Stampers can and do.

Big Speakers

For twenty years Tuesday’s Dead has been one of my favorite tracks for demonstrating what The Big Speaker Sound is all about. Now I think I better understand why. Big speakers are the only way to reproduce the physical size and tremendous energy of the congas (and other drums of course) that play such a big part in driving the rhythmic energy of the song.
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Rush – Signals – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Astonishing Triple Triple (A+++) sonic grades clearly make this one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • Huge synths and prodigious bass have both of these sides rockin’ like you will not believe
  • Individual notes aren’t smeared, they have body and attack, and there’s no shortage of energy to the complex playing
  • 4 stars: “Rush didn’t forget how to rock out — “The Analog Kid” and “Digital Man” were some of their most up-tempo compositions in years.”

See all of our Rush albums in stock

If you’re a fan of the band, you know what these guys are about — big-time technical prowess, dizzying effects, powerful solos and so forth. Many copies we played didn’t let you hear just how hard these guys are shredding… and then what’s the point? If the musicianship gets lost in the mastering, why bother with this band at all? We were looking for copies that didn’t let us forget who we were listening to. (more…)

Bad Company – Straight Shooter – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • Incredible sound on both sides with each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it – size, clarity, balance, energy; it’s all here
  • If you’re playing this one good and loud you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams
  • This is the right sound for this album – take it from us, it is not easy to find a copy that’s this right
  • “Vocalist and songwriter Paul Rodgers wrote two acoustic-based rock ballads that would live on forever in the annals of great rock history: “Shooting Star” and the Grammy-winning “Feel Like Makin’ Love” 4 stars

See all of our Bad Company albums in stock

The sophomore jinx is nowhere to be found on this album. In fact, you could make a pretty good case that this is actually a better album than their debut. The best pressings of Straight Shooter have ROCK ENERGY that cannot be beat!

What You Want

It’s got exactly what you want from this brand of straight ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound that Bad Company (and Free before them) practically invented. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.) (more…)

Listening in Depth to Chicago Transit Authority

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Listening in Depth

More Chicago Transit Authority

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The average copy of this album is an unmitigated DISASTER. The smeary brass alone is enough to drive anyone from the room. To a list of its faults you can confidently add some or all of the following: 1) blobby, blurry, out of control bass; 2) opaque veiled mids; 3) rolled off highs, or no highs, whichever the case may be, common to virtually every pressing you find 4) plain old distortion; and, last but not least, 5) the kind of compressed, lifeless sound that manages to make this groundbreaking album boring — and that’s not easy to do.

The music ROCKS! It’s the crappy records Columbia pressed that suck.

360 or Red Label

In our most recent shootout we found that both can be good. We tended to prefer sides three and four on Red Labels in general — none of the 360s we played had the same kind of low end weight for I’m A Man.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Introduction
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

A tough one right off the bat. If you have an aggressive sounding copy you’ll know it pretty quick. Grit and grain in the vocal on this track will have you running for the nearest exit. Conversely, you still need presence without smear or the brass won’t have the bite of the real thing, and a Chicago album without good brass is pretty pointless.

They really put their best foot forward with this cut — a true sing-along anthem. (more…)

What Do You Hear on the Best Hot Stamper Pressings of Quadrophenia?

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They just plain ROCKED HARDER than the other copies we played. Yes, they’re bigger. Yes, they have more weight and whomp down low. Yes, they are smoother and more natural up top.

But what really sets them apart is their tremendous energy. The music EXPLODES out of the speakers and comes to life on the best copies of Quadrophenia like few records you have ever heard. When we find that power and energy on a record, all other things being equal, we have a name for them: White Hot Stampers. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fandango

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Warner Brothers remastered Fandango in 2008, so we took some domestic pressings and put them up against their Heavy Vinyl LP. The results were mixed; most of our originals pressings were lackluster, many were noisy, and we just weren’t hearing anything with the sound we thought deserved to be called a Hot Stamper.

We shelved the project for another day. In the interim we kept buying domestic pressings — originals and reissues — in the hopes that something good would come our way.

Fast forward four years. It’s 2015. We drop the needle on a random pressing and finally — finally — hear a copy that rocks like we knew a ZZ Top album should. With that LP as a benchmark we got a shootout up and running and the result is the record you see here.

How did the WB remaster fare once we had some truly Hot Stamper pressings to play it against?

Not well. It’s tonally correct, with a real top and bottom, something that a substantial number of copies cannot claim to be. (more…)