Demo Discs for Tubey Magic

Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo Is Crazy Tubey Magical

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More Grand Wazoo

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish: Triple Plus on side two, nearly that good (A++ to A+++) on side one 
  • DEMO DISC QUALITY – full-bodied, rich, spacious, BIG and PRESENT, with practically zero smear on the horns (nice!
  • The Tubey Magical keyboards found on the title cut are really something to hear, especially on this copy
  • The Grand Wazoo now gets my vote as the best sounding record Zappa ever made (along with Absolutely Free)

Wow – big, present and clear, with lots of lovely studio space, yet full-bodied. These sides about as right as any we’ve ever heard.

As noted above, the Tubey Magical keyboards at the start of The Grand Wazoo are amazing sounding here. How Zappa ever decided to go digital when he managed to record so well in analog (from time to time, let’s be honest) is beyond me.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience. (more…)

Martin Denny’s Quiet Village – Our Shootout Winner from Way Back

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

This Superb sounding Hot Stamper copy of Quiet Village has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Arthur Lyman and others.

But c’mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly enchanting). It’s all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and otherwise) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more this record does not disappoint.

If you’re an audiophile, both the sound and the music are crazy fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1959 All Tube Analog sound can be, this is the record that will do it! (more…)

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

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More 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…)

Contemporary Tube Versus Transistor Tradeoffs

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More Tube Versus Transistor Tradeoffs

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In some ways yes, in some ways no, and we are happy to lay it all out for you based on the critical listening we undertook recently. Here’s how we weighed the tradeoffs in the sound of the originals versus that of the reissues, with VTA advice to follow. 

This superb sounding ORIGINAL Black Label Contemporary pressing of Benny Carter’s swingin’ jazz quartet is the very definition of a top jazz stereo recording from the late ’50s mastered through an all tube chain.

There’s good extension on the top end for an early pressing, with TONS of what you would most expect: Tubey Magic and Richness. If that’s what you’re looking for, this copy has got it!

We prefer the later pressings in most ways, but this record does something that no later pressing we have ever played can do — get Benny’s trumpet to sound uncannily REAL. If you want to demonstrate to your skeptical audiophile friends what no CD (or modern remastered record) can begin to do, play side two of this copy for them. They may be in for quite a shock. (more…)

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…)

David Bowie – Hunky Dory – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • An outstanding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The best sounding tracks are Demo Quality — Oh You Pretty Things is a KNOCKOUT here
  • Relatively quiet vinyl (M- to M–), most copies we find don’t play nearly this well
  • “A touchstone for reinterpreting pop’s traditions into fresh, postmodern pop music.” 5 stars

See all of our David Bowie albums in stock

The sound is rich, spacious and sweet with a HUGE soundstage. Drop the needle on Changes and check out how dynamic it is. Side one is where the most popular material for this album is found (Changes, Life On Mars, Oh! You Pretty Things) so this copy definitely a great way to go on Hunky Dory.

What to Listen For (WTLF) (more…)

Dream With Dean – Watch Out for Hard and Honky Vocals

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

 

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Dream with Dean is great for finding any traces of “honk” in your midrange. Getting Deano’s baritone to sound tubey and rich, to get the sound that Bing Crosby could get just by opening his mouth, is not all that easy on some systems, mine included. Correctly set VTA is critical in this regard, but pretty much everything must be working at its best for Dean to sound as intimate and natural as we know he can on the best pressings.
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Another 30th Street Studio Knockout – This One’s from Tony Bennett

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Columbia 30th Street Studios

Everything that’s good about All Tube Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the 38 other musicians from the session (actually they’re probably sitting).

The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one.

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Neil Young – After The Gold Rush – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A KILLER copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Stunning classic rock sound: rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear
  • One of our favorite classic rock albums for music and sound, arguably Neil’s best
  • Allmusic 5 Stars, A Top 100 title, and a Demo Disc that is guaranteed to knock your socks off
  • “It’s a magnificent, style-setting album which saw the Canadian’s elevation to rock hero. For those who like their emotion raw.”

More Neil Young / More After the Gold Rush

Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy this album, that’s why it’s been a Better Records All Time Top Ten Rock Title right from the start. (more…)

XTC – English Settlement – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Insanely good sound from start to finish, with all four sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • You won’t believe how good this record sounds – on a Big System this is a sonic tour de force, a MONSTER Demo Disc
  • This copy has huge amounts of open studio space and that Tubey Magical, rich, fat, dense British Rock Sound we love
  • Includes the hit Senses Working Overtime – “The textural sound of the album is quite remarkable” — Allmusic, 4 stars

See all of our XTC albums in stock

This is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with huge amounts of open studio space and that Tubey Magical, rich, fat, dense British Rock Sound. That sound isn’t easy to reproduce, but this copy absolutely nails it. Nothing else in our shootout came close to it!

If you have big speakers and the room to play them, this is quite the sonic tour de force. Credit Hugh Padgham, producer and engineer, who’s worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Those bands make the kind of music that make good use of Padgham trademark sound: wall-to-wall, deep, layered, smooth, rich and stuffed to the gills. XTC with Padgham’s help have here produced a real steamroller of an album in English Settlement.

The big hit on this album is one that most audiophiles will probably know: Senses Working Overtime. Even over the radio you can hear how dense the production is. Imagine what it sounds like on an original British pressing with Hot Stampers, played on a modern audiophile rig. Simply put, IT ROCKS. (more…)