Advice – What to Listen For 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…)

Shoot Out The Lights – Loud Versus Live

Shoot Out The Lights

 

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Here’s a thought: if 180 gram records are supposed to be an improvement over the original pressings, why is it that they NEVER sound Big and Bold like this pressing? And I do mean never; I’ve played hundreds of them over the years and have yet to hear this kind of sound on any of them. At this point I would have to conclude that it is simply not possible.

If you have big speakers, a large listening room and like to play your records loud, there is no modern reissue that will ever give you the thrill that a record like this can. (Of course, to fully appreciate the effect it obviously helps if you have a White Hot Stamper copy to play.)

Loud Versus Live

I’ve seen Richard Thompson on a number of occasions over the years, and as loud as my stereo will play, which is pretty darn loud, I could never make his guitar solos 20 dB louder than everything else, because it’s not on the record that way. That’s why live music can’t be duplicated properly in the home: the dynamic contrasts are much too great for the typical listener or his stereo.

Having said that, when you actually do turn this record up, way up, you get the feeling of hearing live music, and that’s not easy to do! Only the best recordings, in my experience, can begin to give you that feeling. We discuss this subject in a number of commentaries under the heading of Turn Up Your Volume.
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How Exactly Is This an Audiophile Record?

 

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Linda Ronstadt – What’s New

Not having played this record in more than a decade, it’s interesting to hear this Mobile Fidelity pressing with much better equipment than was previous available to me. The first thing I noticed was the amazing transparency of the recording, no doubt the reason audiophiles have always liked it.

Next on the list, and a bit of a surprise, is the correct tonality — this record is tonally right on the money, something Mobile Fidelity rarely achieves. This MoFi was mastered by Jack Hunt, not Stan Ricker, which may explain why the top end is more correct than usual.

Third and last is George Massenburg’s approach to this recording, which, to be charitable, is not to my liking. Let’s just say he prefers a certain artificiality to his sound that does little for me.

Of course, not all audiophiles will agree with me about this. Some audiophiles actually like this kind of sound. They like the sound of Graceland. They like the sound of The Well. They like the sound of Patricia Barber’s albums. They like a lot of recordings I don’t like. When I speak highly of a recording or pressing, my prejudices and preferences are spelled out for all to see. There should be little doubt that the sound of this album is not to my taste but for those of you who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you will probably like.

See all of our Linda Ronstadt albums in stock

Living Stereo Tubey Magical Sound from 1958

This copy is WHITE HOT!

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As much as I like Fjeldstad’s Peer Gynt on Decca/London with the LSO, I have to say that Odd Gruner-Hegge (love that first name!) and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra turn in the better of the two performances. To these ears theirs is more lyrical; it flows more naturally both within and between the individual movements.

Joy

The Oslo Phil also gives me more of a sense that they are feeling the joy in the playing of these works; I do not get quite the same feeling from the LSO. As we worked our way through more and more Living Stereo copies, the Oslo Phil.’s enthusiasm and love for the music became recognizably stronger, and, as one would expect, more agreeable and involving.

Our preference for this performance is of course a matter of taste; we cannot be sure you will feel the same. No doubt you have a version of the Fjeldstad on hand for comparison purposes, perhaps the Speakers Corner pressing (which we used to like quite a bit), but any will do. I expect that playing a handful of select movements from the two performances back to back will show this one to be superior. (more…)

Becoming an Expert Listener – Challenging Yourself Can Really Pay Off

Becoming an Expert Listener

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Scientific American joins forces with Better Records (or is it the other way around?) to share a few ideas, which turn out to have much in common. 

For years we’ve been writing commentaries about the sound of specific records we’ve auditioned in order to put them up for sale on the site. By now there are literally hundreds of pages of commentary in which we’ve tried to explain, often in great detail, exactly what we listened for and exactly what we heard when playing these pressings. We’ve tried to be as clear as possible about precisely which qualities separate the better sounding LPs from their competitors — what they do right, and how you can recognize sound that is right .

More Shootout Advice

As we’ve gained a better understanding of records and their playback, we’ve made every effort to share with our readers what we’ve learned. Although the vast majority of these records sold long ago, almost all of the commentary remains available on the site, to act as a resource for the audiophile who owns or might want to consider buying a copy of the record discussed.

Over the years, one thing has continued to bother me (I almost wrote “vex me”) about this hobby and those who pursue it. I’m frankly still shocked at how unskilled most listeners are. How else to explain all the bad sounding 180 gram pressings so many audiophiles embrace?

Add to the above bad half-speeds, bad Japanese pressings, bad Classic Records, bad 45s and all the rest, and you have a lot of bad sounding records that people don’t seem to have noticed sound bad. How can that be? (more…)

Revolutionary Changes in Audio – What Works for Us Can Work for You

Revolutionary Changes in Audio

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This listing, like the stereo itself (mine and yours), is a work in progress. Please check back for the commentary we expect to be adding in the future. 

Our reason for having this kind of commentary on a site ostensibly devoted to the selling of records is simple: the better your stereo sounds, the better our records sound, and, more importantly, the bigger the difference between our records and the copies you already own. Also those LPs recommended by “audiophile” record dealers, which tend to be on Heavy Vinyl, at 45 RPM, half-speed mastered or, even worse, Japanese pressed. We have no interest in any of them. Why? On our system they rarely sound better than second-rate.

More on The Stereo

Better Sound For You

Some of our favorite Sound Improving Devices are pictured to the left as well, products that can make a HUGE difference in the sound of your stereo, all of which are guaranteed to satisfy.

We will be adding new commentaries to this left hand column regularly, so check back to see what new and exciting discoveries we’ve made as we go about doing our Hot Stamper shootouts.

Our VPI Aries (original, not the latest model) with Super Platter / tweaked out VPI Synchronous Drive System (sitting on Stillpoints) / Triplanar Tonearm / Dynavector 17d3 Aurios(which sit on a Townshend Seismic Sink) / EAR 324P (sitting on a Magic Pillow) and the scores of hours we’ve spent setting up and tweaking this beast is at the heart of everything we do around here.

Mix in extensive room treatments, aided in no small measure by three pairs of Hallographs, twenty five years of experience and endless hours of experimentation and you have a system that can separate the winners from the losers like nobody’s business.

Exactly like nobody’s business, because nobody does it in this business but us! (more…)

Turn Up Your Volume – a Favorite Trick for Getting Better Sound

Turn Up Your Volume

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As an experiment, one which we have conducted countless times, we recommend that you try Turning Up Your Volume for the titles we’ve listed here.

We have no doubt that you will be able to recognize and appreciate, even to the point of amazement, the improvements in both the sound and the music we ourselves heard when we turned up our volume.

More Turn Up Your Volume entries – Alphabetically by Artist

More Turn Up Your Volume entries – Newest Arrivals listed first

 

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • A wonderful sounding copy with two superb sides: Triple Plus (A+++) on the second and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound is excellent throughout – super rich and full-bodied yet still clean, clear and open with a massive bottom end
  • This is an album we almost never find and very rarely have on the site — don’t miss this one!
  • Features the early version of Crystal that they later brought with them to Fleetwood Mac

See all of our Buckingham Nicks albums in stock

British Sound from Yanks

Those of you who read our commentary for Commoner’s Crown will recognize this bit, lifted practically whole from the listing. The British Sound? This record has it in spades:

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well controlled bass will have a tough time with this one.

But never fear; it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment.

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc. You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say “fatter” bottom end than the one found on both these sides.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky-sweet and Tubey Magical, THIS IS THE SOUND WE LOVE. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Side three won our shootout, earning a Triple Plus (A+++) grade – Rainy Day, Dream Away; 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) and Moon, Turn the Tides… all sound amazing
  • Side one earned a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grade, with killer sound for those four tracks including Crosstown Traffic and Voodoo Chile
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and Tubey Magical richness are key to the shootout winners
  • 5 stars: “Jimi Hendrix’s third and final album with the original Experience found him taking his funk and psychedelic sounds to the absolute limit. The result was not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”

See all our Jimi Hendrix albums in stock

We’ve played a lot of copies of this sprawling, psychedelic masterpiece but rarely have heard one that puts it all together better than this one does.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on. (more…)

Eagles – Hotel California – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A stunning “Triple Triple” copy that earned our top A+++ grade on both sides
  • Incredible Demo Disc sound — big and bold with super punchy drums and a fully extended top end
  • A Better Records Top 100 pick that’s amazingly powerful on the best copies such as these
  • “Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band” — Allmusic, 5 stars

See all of our Eagles albums in stock

TWO KILLER SIDES — super transparent, super hi-rez, with tons of energy and tubey magic! We just finished a shootout for this title and this bad boy earned Best In Show. This is truly a Demo Disc Quality Classic Rock LP!

The Real Eagles Magic

Both sides have superb, mind-blowing, Demo Disc Quality Sound. Drop the needle on any track on either side to hear what we’re talking about. The highs are silky and delicate, the bottom end is tight and punchy, and the vocals sound AMAZING. The bass is PERFECTION, which really brings out the feel of the song Hotel California. It’s so deep and loping, the effect is practically narcotic.

Life In The Fast Lane is possibly the toughest song on the album to get right — it tends to have that transistory, compressed sound that we’ve come to expect from Bill Szymczyk. On this copy, it REALLY ROCKS — super-punchy with amazing presence and lots of meaty texture to the guitars. It will always sound a bit harsher than ideal on any copy with real presence, texture and energy; that’s just the sound they were going for. It is what it is, which makes it not a good track to judge the first side by.

On side two, one of the better sounding tracks is Try And Love Again. On a White Hot Stamper copy like this one, it’s off the charts. The wonderful clarity and punchy bass here take this song to a whole new level. (more…)