Advice – What to Listen For – Bass and Whomp

The Who – Who’s Next – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

TWO AMAZING sides on QUIET vinyl — a stunning A+++ Off the Charts, Hard To Beat, Shootout Winning side two mated to a superb A++ to A+++ side one! This week we sat down for an all day MASSIVE shootout for Who’s Next, a true Glyn Johns Classic and undeniably one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

This Decca Colorband Original pressing BLEW OUR MINDS with phenomenal sound from start to finish — check out the BIG, BOLD, Rock ’em Sock ’em bottom end energy! No other pressing we played had this kind of POWER down below. If you’re ready to really rock out with The Who, this White Hot Stamper is your ticket to ride.

The sound is WONDERFUL from start to finish. There’s no grain to speak of and dramatically less smearing and veiling than most of the copies we played it against. The presence is startling — turn it up good and loud and The Who will be right there thrashing around in your listening room! The bottom end, on both sides, has the kind of weight that’s absolutely essential to this music.

We’re talking BIG ROCK SOUND and quiet vinyl, a rare combination in our experience, our experience of course coming from dozens and dozens of British Tracks and Polydors, German Polydors, Decca originals, MCA reissues, a few imports from other countries (Japan, thin and bright), and last but far from least, The Classic 200 gram pressing. (More about that later.)

Sides One and Two

The best Track copy we found to be ever so slightly better on side one; this Decca had more whomp but the Track had clarity and transparency that was impossible to beat. It was a close call but in the end we had to award this side one the silver, not the gold. It’s a common trade-off with Who’s Next — the copies with the most going on down low often get a little murky in the midrange.

But who are we kidding? Most copies of the album are murky in the midrange, whether they have any low end or not. It’s a murky sounding recording. Some copies clean up the murk — the Japanese pressings we’ve played come to mind — and that just ruins everything. What you want is the most transparency and clarity in the midrange coupled with the most low end weight and energy; it’s a simple as that.

Side two here gives you exactly that, the best of both worlds — all the whomp, all the clarity, and all the ENERGY. Wait until you hear it. When we say it rocks we ain’t kidding. The louder you play it the better it sounds. (more…)

Dave Mason – Alone Together – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Alone Together appears to be criminally underrated as music nowadays, having fallen from favor with the passage of time. It is a surely a MASTERPIECE that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s not a scrap of filler here. The recording by Bruce Botnick (mix by Al Schmitt) is hard to fault as well.

1970 was a great time in music. Tea for the Tillerman, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Moondance, Sweet Baby James, Tumbleweed Connection, After the Goldrush, The Yes Album, McCartney, Elton John, His Band And Street Choir, Deja Vu, Workingman’s Dead, Tarkio, Stillness, Let It Be — need I go on?

Even in such illustrious company — I defy anyone to name ten albums of comparable quality to come out in any year — Alone Together ranks as one of the best releases of the year.

The Sound

We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren. (more…)

Heart – Little Queen

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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.

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power of your system. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the record that will truly show it off. 

Even though our graphic scale only goes to three pluses, you’ll know the Four Plus sound on this side one the moment you hear it.

You get HUGE meaty guitars, BIG bass, a smooth top end, full-bodied vocals, incredible rock energy and dynamics, loads of richness and incredible transparency.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make. (more…)

Dave Mason – Alone Together

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  • This outstanding copy of Mason’s Masterpiece boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Listen to how big and rich the dynamic chorus gets on the first track, Only You Know and I Know – what a thrill to hear it like that
  • A killer Bruce Botnick recording – Tubey Magical Analog, smooth and natural, with the whole production sitting on a rock solid bottom-end foundation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Alone Together represents Dave Mason at his peak… everything comes together perfectly.”

Before I get too far into the story of the sound, I want to say that this album appears to be criminally underrated as music nowadays, having fallen from favor with the passage of time.

It is a surely a masterpiece that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s no filler here. (more…)

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

With Let’s Dance the name of the game is ENERGY, and boy does this copy have it! Both sides have the deep, punchy bass and sweet, extended highs that Bowie’s music needs to come ALIVE. With that big bass and smooth top end this is one record you can turn up GOOD and LOUD without fear of fatique. On a big pair of dynamic speakers you will really get your money’s worth from the best Hot Stamper pressings. 

Compression? No Thank You!

Most copies we came across during our extensive shootout were painfully compressed and thin. Sure, they could convey some of the enormous energy of this recording, but the highs always ended up being brittle and edgy. Subsequently the vocals would lose presence and the whole operation turned smeary. When this happens, tracks like “Modern Love” turn the joy of the music into boredom and even outright misery.

But the good ones boggle the mind, they practically defy understanding. How did they get that much punchy note-like bass onto a piece of vinyl, not to mention all those silky sweet highs? (more…)

The Allman Brothers – Eat a Peach

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  • One of the best copies of Eat a Peach to ever hit the site – Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on ALL FOUR SIDES!
  • These superb sides have the immediacy that will put these wild and crazy southern rockers right in your living room
  • Includes phenomenal hits Melissa, One Way Out, Blue Sky, Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More and more
  • 5 stars: “The record showcases the Allmans at their peak .. proof of Duane Allman’s immense talents and contribution to the band.”

What do such high grades give you for this album? Unbelievably Tubey Magical guitars, huge whomp factor on the bottom end, incredible dynamics and life, shocking transparency and clarity, and the kind of immediacy that puts these crazy southern rockers right in your very own living room. The overall sound is impressively BIG, BOLD, and POWERFUL! (more…)

Queen – News Of The World – Stomping and Clapping with the Fans

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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 NOTW.

Side one starts out with Queen’s back-to-back anthemic classics, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. Does it get any better for a Queen fan? Hell no! 

The stomps and claps that introduce the former should make you feel like you are in a stadium full of people with a single goal – to rock you. Those stomps and claps need weight and clarity, an unusual combination. One without the other is not going to cut it.

The record needs to be able to reproduce the room everybody is in, while still conveying the tremendous impact and power. Most domestic pressings are severely lacking in these areas. This kind of anemia can be frustrating — you want to rock but the sound won’t let you.

Another quality our best copies excelled in was the sound of Brian May’s guitar during his solo toward the end of the song. Here his tone is very boxy with no real highs or lows, but when that sound is exaggerated by bad mastering, it sounds like there are mattresses sitting in front of his amplifiers. The best copies had extension on the high end, restoring the clarity and complimenting his distinctive technique. (more…)

Love – Love

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

A classic from 1966, a combination of proto-punk and psychedelia featuring My Little Red Book, Hey Joe and more. The first Love album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recording in the Love catalog. Engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick, here is the kind of massive bottom end weight and energy that we like to call WHOMP.

Some of you may not know this music, but it’s a true Must Own Psychedelic Gem from the ’60s, a record no rock collection should be without, along with other groundbreaking albums from the ’60s such as Surrealistic Pillow, The Doors’ debut, the first Spirit album and too many others to list. (more…)

Chuck Mangione – Children of Sanchez

More Chuck Mangione

More Children of Sanchez

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

What’s unusual about this album — shocking really — is how MEATY the bottom end is. I don’t know of a pop jazz recording with beefier, more articulate or weightier bass. The only record I can think of in this genre of jazz with comparable bass is Grover Washington’s Winelight. We played some copies of that album recently and were just knocked out with how well recorded the bass is, just the way we were knocked out with Children of Sanchez from a month or two back. Both of them really set the standard for recording this kind of music. Needless to say we loved the sound. 

Recorded at Kendun and mastered by Robert Ludwig, the audiophile sound should be no surprise.

All four sides are quite good; see if you don’t agree with us that the two Super Hot sides are slightly better than the ones with a half plus lower grade.

The horn sound is also key, not only for the flugelhorn that Chuck plays but for the trombones and French horns that fill out the arrangements. When the various horns are solid and smooth (what’s smoother than a French horn?) yet even the more subtle harmonic signatures of each instrument are clear, you have yourself a Hot Stamper.

The copies that are present, clear, open, transparent and energetic, with a solid rhythmic line driving the music, are a hundred times more enjoyable than the anemic pressings that can be found sitting in most collections practically unplayed (gee, I wonder why?).

This idea that most pressings do a poor job of communicating the music still has not seeped into the consciousness of most audiophiles, but we’re working on changing that, one Hot Stamper at a time. (more…)

The Knack – Get The Knack – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This Monster Power Pop Debut by the Knack is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with the kind of Wall to Wall Big Beat Live Rock Sound that rivals Back in Black and Nevermind — if you’re lucky enough to have a copy that sounds like this one! (If you’re not then it doesn’t.)

Side two here has White Hot Stamper sound, and let me be clear: this is a Rock Demo Disc that is very likely to lay waste to whatever rock demo disc you currently treasure. My Sharona is simply OUT OF THIS WORLD here. You just can’t record drums and bass any better!

And let’s not forget the song Lucinda on this side. It’s got exactly the same incredibly meaty, grungy, ballsy sound that Back in Black does, but it managed to do it in 1979, a year earlier!

Mike Chapman produced this album and he is a recording GENIUS. How much better could it get you ask? The answer is: None more better. (more…)