Demo Discs for Recordings that Are Doing It All

Elton John’s and Bernie Taupin’s Co-Masterpiece – Tumbleweed Connection

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this Elton John classic
  • The overall sound here is incredibly big, rich, spacious and dynamic with plenty of presence and bottom end weight
  • An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound
  • 5 stars: “….their most ambitious record to date… A loose concept album about the American West… draws from country and blues in equal measures…”

Superb Music and Sound 

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a Top Ten spot on our Top 100 list. Engineered by Robin Geoffrey Cable at Trident, there is no other Elton John recording that is as big and powerful as Tumbleweed. (more…)

Chabrier Orchestral Music – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The Espana side earned our rare and coveted Four Plus (A++++) Sonic Grade – Wow! Monstrous size and dynamic power thanks to the brilliant Decca engineering of Roy Wallace. Without a doubt the most spectacular sound we’ve ever heard from CS 6438.

This Beyond White Hot Stamper London pressing has some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard. Man, this copy sure has it going on: it’s super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, with all of the weight of the orchestra down low on side one which is very, very hard to come by on this record!

And all that weight and energy down low is what really makes Espana magical. You won’t believe the sound!  (more…)

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album – The Best Male Vocal Recording of the Era

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This album, when heard on the best Hot Stamper pressings, ranks right up at the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Recordings from any era. Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

For a Popular/Jazz Vocal album produced in 1975, or, to be honest, the entire decade of the Seventies, we can think of no other that is its sonic equal.

The soundstage is open and spacious, the piano full-bodied and clear, and the vocals have the clarity and fullness missing from most pressings. It’s incredible to hear these two top-notch musicians interacting and responding to each other in this kind of huge, open and natural space.

The Acoustic

This is a studio recording in a fairly dead acoustic, worlds away from the echo-drenched sound of his Columbia releases, so for practically the first time on record you can really hear the man’s voice, not the echo chamber they used to process it. (more…)

What We Listen For – Timbre, Richness, Tubey Magic and Freedom from Artificiality

More of Our Favorite Contemporary Jazz Recordings

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This Home Audio Exercise entry was inspired by the wonderful qualities of the Contemporary recording you see pictured, qualities brought to our attention while doing a shootout of various pressings of the album in early 2009. 

We addressed a number of issues in our commentary: first and foremost what we were listening for on the album (and what we were hearing). A bit of mono versus stereo (in this case both can be good). This is followed by some Audiophile Equipment bashing.

We highly recommend you make every effort to find yourself a copy of this album and use it to test your own equipment. The right pressing can be both a great Demo Disc and a great Test Disc. (more…)

Edmundo Ros’ New Rhythms of the South – Fun from 1961

New Rhythms of the South

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

It’s unfortunate that Edmundo Ros and his orchestra command so little respect these days from the record buying public. As for audiophiles, it’s doubtful that many even know who he or they is/are. We at Better Records are doing our best to change all that, continuing with this, the second Ros title we’ve managed to find with amazing sound and music since the first one went up in 2013. It’s one of the liveliest, best sounding Phase 4 titles we have heard in quite a while. Stampers simply do not get much hotter than these.

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From the perspective of a level playing field, I cannot think of too many rock records that sound as BIG and DYNAMIC as this very pressing, nor many that are as spacious and clear. As good as the best German pressings of Dark Side of the Moon may be, the White Hot eight hundred dollar killer copies we have from time to time, this recording is every bit as exciting and in most ways more lifelike, with uncannily accurate instrumental timbres. (more…)

Basie’s Farmers Market Barbecue – First Among Equals, or The Best Pablo Ever?

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Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the ’70s and early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best.

Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

The following are some general guidelines as to What to Listen For (WTLF) while you critically evaluate any of the Basie Big Band Pablo recordings (or any other big band recordings for that matter). 

Simply put, we offer here a short list of qualities that we’ve come to appreciate on the best of the Basie Big Band pressings, qualities that we find are often in short supply on lesser LPs (and, as a rule, those that have been remastered onto Heavy Vinyl). (more…)

The Old 80/20 Rule in Action (But It’s Actually More Like 90/10)

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Ambrosia’s first album does exactly what a Test Disc should do. It shows you what’s wrong, and once you’ve fixed it, it shows you that it’s now right.

We audiophiles need records like this. They make us better listeners, and they force us to become better tweakers. You cannot buy equipment that will give you the best sound. You can only tweak the right equipment to get it.

At most 20% of the sound of your stereo is what you bought. At least 80% is what you’ve done with it. Based on my experience I would put the number closer to 90%. (more…)

Identical Stampers + New Vinyl = Very Different Sound?

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The dirty little secret of the audiophile record biz is that record dealers can’t possibly know for certain what the sound quality of any sealed record they sell actually is, audiophile vinyl or otherwise. They turn a blind eye to the fact that some copies are simply not going to measure up to the sound of the review copy that they auditioned and described. (A good reason not to sell sealed records, which we don’t.)

But wait a minute. That’s giving much too much credit to audiophile record dealers. Only a small fraction actually review the records they sell. Most cut and paste a review from the manufacturer and let it go at that. And the few that do write reviews are so far off the mark that they might as well be talking about another pressing entirely.
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Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus – The Brits Really Rock

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  • Triple Triple (A+++) – this shockingly good copy had Shootout Winning sound on BOTH SIDES and plays as quietly as any copy ever will
  • Our monster Tarkus shootout produced exactly one amazing sounding British pressing of this quality, this one, guaranteed to rock your world
  • Eddie Offord’s trademark Tubey Magic, energy, resolution, whomp factor and dynamics are all over this phenomenal recording
  • “More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.” 

This killer copy features some of the more intense prog rock sound to hit our table in quite some time. This is a true Demo Disc LP, one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world. (more…)

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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