Listening Track by Track

Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This Cypress pressing has AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUND on side one! With a grade of A++ to A+++ it’s the highest rated side of any copy we have to offer this go around — none of our other pressings could touch it on any side.

Why such a high grade? Simple. It’s ALIVE! It’s super transparent with a big, bold bottom end. The drums here are as good as they get — punchy and powerful with lots of WHOMP and the sound of the skins being THWACKED.

The presence and immediacy of this side are STUNNING — play it good and loud and you’ll have a living, breathing Jennifer Warnes right between your speakers. The clarity here is also SUPERB — just listen to all the texture to the strings, one of our favorite tests for resolution and freedom from smear.

The sax on the title track sounds rich and full with clearly audible leading edge transients and just the right amount of bite. This side one was doing pretty much everything we wanted it to and then some. What a record! (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective – The Best Of…

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s close to it, this original pressing has the analog magic in its grooves
  • Big, full-bodied, clear and present, the Tubey Magical richness of the best pressings is a joy to hear on modern highly resolving equipment
  • Kind Woman and I Am A Child are just two of the best sounding songs – listen to all that space around the voices and instruments
  • And the Pysch stuff – On the Way Home, Broken Arrow and Expecting to Fly – is even more three-dimensional
  • 5 stars on Allmusic – this is Must Own Music from one of the most groundbreaking and accomplished groups of the late-’60s (even though they never cracked the Top 40 Album chart)

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Billy Joel / 52nd Street – Listening Track by Track

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We heard some amazing sound coming from the grooves of 52nd Street, but let’s give credit where credit is due — the recording and mastering engineers involved with this album. Jim Boyer and Ted Jensen can both take great pride in the SUPERB work they have done here.

Side One

The first two tracks on side one really tell you everything you need to know about the sound of the side. It’s all about balance.

Big Shot

Big Shot is a big, balls-out rock song that packs a lot of punch. Typically the problem you run into is compression. When you get too much compression, the top end becomes pinched and shrill. You can hear this on Billy Joel’s vocals in the verses and in the guitar solo during the outro. Most copies make those squealing guitar notes rip your head off. The best copies give you a full-bodied Billy Joel; if he doesn’t sound right, what’s the point? Next!

Also, listen to the cymbal crashes throughout the song. They should really sound like cymbals and not like someone making explosion noises through a walkie-talkie. (Believe me, this analogy hurts me too, but they can really sound god-awful on some pressings.) (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

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

This is the best record the Stones ever made (along with Let It Bleed and Beggars Banquet – all three have the potential for outstanding sound — the trick is, as always, finding the right pressing).

The sound is exactly what you want from a Stones album: deep punchy bass and dynamic grungy guitars. This record is to be played loud like it says on the inner sleeve and the surface noise is to be ignored. The louder you play it, the less bothersome the noise will be. This album ROCKS and it was not made to be listened to in a comfy chair with a glass of wine. (more…)

Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This album is all about sound, pure sound itself if you will: the sound of the instruments, their textures, and the textures of the soundscape Eno has created for them.

With the subtle harmonics of Eno’s treated sounds captured onto vinyl intact, the magic of the experience far exceeds just another batch of catchy songs with clever arrangements. It truly becomes an immersive experience; sounds you’ve never heard in quite that way draw you into their world, each sound more interesting than the next.

Only these British originals sound like they are made from fresh master tapes on rich, sweet tubey-magical, super high resolution cutting equipment.



In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

(Which, by the way, is BRILLIANT from the opening guitars of Burning Airlines to the never-ending chirping crickets of The Great Pretender. I mean that literally: on these early British pressings the run-out groove has the sound of the crickets embedded in it so that the crickets chirp until you pick up the arm, much in the same way that Sgt. Pepper has sound in the run-out groove at the end of A Day In The Life.)

Burning Airlines Give You So Much More

Pure Pop for Now People. Listen to all those multi-layered harmonies! They’re sweet as honey, and only the best British copies get them to sound that way. You can make out practically every voice. This is what we mean by Midrange Magic. (more…)

Neil Young – Harvest


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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage pressing of Neil’s undeniable classic is guaranteed to beat any Harvest you’ve ever heard
  • At Mint Minus Minus this is not an especially quiet copy, but keep in mind that it’s practically impossible to find an early pressing with sound this good that will play quieter – it hasn’t happened in years 
  • A Top 100 album and a sublime recording no audiophile should be without
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.” 

When you have this kind of open, extended top end, the grit, grain and edge just disappear, leaving you with a clear, Tubey Magical sound that’s way beyond anything you have ever heard (or we give you your money back). Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976. Just look at these titles: After The Gold Rush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma. (more…)

The Beatles – Hard Day’s Night – Track by Track

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Play it against your MoFi or Heavy Vinyl pressing and you will quickly see why those LPs bore us to tears. Who in his right mind would want to suffer through a boring Beatles record?

Drop the needle on any song on the first side to see why we went crazy over this one. The emotional quality of the boys’ performances really comes through on this copy. They aren’t just singing — they’re really BELTIN’ it out. Can you imagine what that sounds like on the title track? We didn’t have to imagine it, WE HEARD IT!

It’s (Almost) All About The Midrange

There are two important traits that all the best copies have in common. Tonally they aren’t bright and aggressive (which eliminates 80 percent of the AHDN pressings you find), and they have a wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness that brings out the unique quality of the Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies. (more…)

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This British Island Pink Label John Barleycorn has MASTER TAPE SOUND on THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE EVER HEARD! It’s also the only British copy we played that could hold its own with our best domestics on side one.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that every Pink Label copy is going to sound like this one. We played British copies that didn’t sound nearly as good as our better domestic late label pressings — some of which sounded surprisingly good and will be making it to the site soon.

The thing we liked the best about this copy was the presence of the vocals. This was the only copy that seemed to put a living, breathing Steve Winwood right between our speakers.

Side one is stunning — super rich and so full-bodied. All of the elements really come together here making this a very musical copy. The drums are punchy; the vocals are textured, breathy, and very transparent; and the sax sounds Right On The Money. There’s plenty of deep, well-defined bass allowing the jam in Freedom Rider to REALLY ROCK! We rate side one an A++ — one of the better British side ones we’ve ever heard.

Side two is even better — it’s the new ALL-TIME CHAMP for this album. The voices are sweet and natural with lots of ambience and virtually no strain. The acoustic guitar is Right On The Money in the best tradition of Tea for the Tillerman, both silky and full-bodied. If you love tubey magical analog, you’re going to ABSOLUTELY FLIP when you drop the needle on this copy! This is big, bold Master Tape Sound — we rate side two an A+++, As Good As It Gets. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

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You really get an understanding of just how much of a production genius Jimmy Page was when you listen to a copy of Houses with the kind of resolution and transparency found on our best copies. To take just one example, just listen to how clearly the multi-tracked guitars can be heard in the different layers and areas of the soundstage. On some songs you will have no trouble picking out three, four and even more guitars playing, each with its own unique character.

This clarity allows you to recognize — perhaps for the first time — the special contribution each makes to the finished song.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song

Check out the guitars — the sound should be warm, sweet and delicate. There are some dead quiet passages in this song that are almost always going to have some surface noise. Most copies start out a bit noisy but almost always get quieter as the music goes along.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a great test track for side one. It starts with lovely acoustic guitars before the Monster Zep Rock Chords come crashing in. If both parts of the song sound correct and balanced, you more than likely have a winner. And the bigger the dynamic contrast between the parts the better.

Turn your volume up good and high in order to get the full effect, then stand back and let the boys have at it.

The Crunge (more…)

The Police – Synchronicity – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

WHITE HOT STAMPERS on side two! That gives you amazing sound for Every Breath You Take, King Of Pain, and Wrapped Around Your Finger! It’s been about a while since we last found Hot Stampers for this album, mostly because so many copies just plain suck. The sound on this one is meaty and punchy down low.

More remarkable, it also comes without the phony upper midrange boost on Sting’s vocals that would normally have you reaching to back off the volume. The choruses get LOUD and are so POWERFUL on this copy they make a mockery of most pressings you play.

We call it Master Tape Sound when it’s this good! (more…)