Advice – What to Listen For – Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars

Grossman & Renbourn on East World Direct to Disc

This is an East World Direct-To-Disc Japanese Import LP.

Lovely acoustic music; the best cuts are the first two tracks on side two. They sound like a classic Vanguard recording from the ’60s. One of the best East World titles.

The record comes complete with the tablature/lyric sheet and extensive liner notes on the recording process. 

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

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  • Outstanding sound throughout with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments, this copy is guaranteed to rock like nothing you have ever heard
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, Tangerine and That’s the Way are just a few of the tracks that have truly Demo Disc sound
  • “On their first two albums, Led Zeppelin unleashed a relentless barrage of heavy blues and rockabilly riffs, but Led Zeppelin III provided the band with the necessary room to grow musically. While there are still a handful of metallic rockers, III is built on a folky, acoustic foundation that gives the music extra depth.”

Drop the needle on Since I’ve Been Loving You and turn it up good and loud. Robert Plant will be right there between your speakers, and your jaw will be on the floor!

Cue up Tangerine on side two for a taste of rich, sweet, Tubey Magical Analog Sound. The acoustic guitars are lush and delicate, the bass is deep and well-defined, and the vocals are completely natural and free from bad mastering or phony EQ. (more…)

Bread – The Best of Bread

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)

Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning copy and the first Triple Triple (A+++) to hit the site in years
  • This killer pressing knocked out everything we could throw at it on both sides
  • With engineering by Alan Parsons, the best pressings are every bit the Audiophile Demo Discs you remember
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “A tremendous example of how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and songwriter — and if you’re a fan of either prog or pop and haven’t given Al Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted.”

Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end. This album can sound really wonderful (what else would you expect from an Alan Parson’s production?), but the typical pressings just can’t bring it to life. This one is a HUGE step up, miles away from the gritty, almost unlistenable copies we hear so often. (more…)

Bread – Manna

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  • Manna finally returns to the site after more than 6 years with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • A superb album, featuring one of the strongest rockers the band ever recorded, “Let Your Love Go”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this is a record that is laid-back and even tempered, which isn’t a bad thing — it results in a fine listen, especially since the group’s songwriting remains at the high standard instituted on that first Bread album.”

(more…)

Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a nice Early Riverside pressing with excellent sound! It’s also a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played this record, I can see hear how they did it.

First of all, the guitar and the drums are tonally right on the money. Mobile Fidelity of course brightened up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and a phony sounding drum kit, with tizzy cymbals. (The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one.)   

The other reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect.

Mobile Fidelity rarely understood what an acoustic guitar was supposed to sound like. They blew it on all the Cat Stevens masterpieces, brightening up the guitar which emphasized the “picking” at the expense of the resonating guitar body and vibrating string harmonics.

What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record. For audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. Riverside cut this record, and they knew how to cut it right.

John Renbourn – So Clear (John Renbourn Sampler, Vol. 2)

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  • An amazing sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second 
  • This wonderful Transatlantic pressing is incredibly clean, clear and open with plenty of energy and space around all of the instruments, just the right sound for this superb guitarist’s music
  • This copy is about as quiet as we can find them – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • A stellar collection showcasing one of the finest fingerstyle players in the world

(more…)

Bread and Elektra on Vinyl – Balancing Richness and Tubey Magic with Transparency, Clarity and Speed

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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 Bread.

Manna has the clear signature of Elektra from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s unmistakably ANALOG, but that double-edged sword cuts both ways. Richness and Tubey Magic (the kind you had in your old ’70s stereo equipment) often comes at the expense of transparency, clarity, speed and transient information (the things your ’70s equipment probably had more trouble with).

We heard a lot of copies that were opaque, smeary and dull up top, so the trick for us (and for those of you doing your own shootouts) is to find a copy with the resolving power and transparency that will cut through the thickness. (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…)

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this White Hot Stamper copy! Folks, it just does not get any better than this. It’s been more than two years (08/08) since last we embarked on a Hot Stamper shootout for this great album. I always knew it could sound good, but I sure never heard it sound like this! (I said that last time around too you may recall. Two years is a long time in audio. If your stereo and room are undergoing regular improvements, as they can and should be, the sound will be noticeably better every year, dramatically better after two.) 

This is some of the best high-production-value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of these songs is similar to that of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and the like. In other words, no effort was spared to make the home listening experience as compelling as possible. (more…)