Demo Discs

The Doors – Strange Days

More of The Doors

  • This excellent copy of Strange Days boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • An outstanding-sounding pressing of one of the most difficult-to-find records in the world of Hot Stampers
  • Demo Quality sound for so many classics: “When The Music’s Over,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Love Me Two Times,” and more
  • “… if The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and The Beach Boys had Pet Sounds, then The Doors’ answer was Strange Days. This experimentation can be heard in the very first notes of the title track, as Ray Manzarek’s spacey keyboards set the tone for Morrison’s eerie, distorted warning, ‘Strange days have found us.’ It’s the perfect introduction to a perfectly strange album.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Doors, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 Tubey Analog sound can be, this copy will can do just that.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

More Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is clearly one of their best, and one of their best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity?

How on earth is a speaker system like this one going to reproduce the 22 inch (or more!) kick drum of John Bonham?

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Rimsky-Korsakov / The Tale of Tsar Saltan / Ansermet

More of the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This London Whiteback stereo pressing boasts big, bold, dynamic Tubey Magical Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, a grade that even our most well-cared-for vintage classical titles have trouble playing at
  • No question this is a Demo Disc Quality recording – it’s rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings
  • Here is the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for
  • The Speakers Corner pressing of Ansermet’s famous recording is mediocre, with many faults, all discussed here
  • We would love to be able to find Ansermet’s Scheherazade on London (not Decca!) vinyl, but as you may have read on the blog, the right stampers of that record are almost impossible to find these days, although that has not stopped us from trying

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

This is the kind of record that will make you want to take all your heavy vinyl classical pressings and put them in storage. None of them, I repeat not a single one, can begin to sound the way this record sounds. (Before you put them in storage or on Ebay please play them against this pressing so that you can be confident in you decision to rid yourself of their insufferable mediocrity.)

This London pressing contains a stunningly BEAUTIFUL Tale of the Tsar Saltan Suite. It’s clearly one of the great Demo Disc Quality recordings from the Golden Age (or any age for that matter), with everything that a top Golden Age Orchestral recording should have: all the magic; all the timbral and harmonic subtlety; all the sweetness and warmth; all the Tubey Magical richness.

All that and more. Folks, this is the kind of record that makes you sit up and take notice. Finally, HERE is the kind of sound that can bring an orchestra to life in your very own listening room.

It has the kind of depth and three-dimensional soundstaging that the recordings by Ansermet and the Suisse Romande are famous for. (Unlike some of their recordings — Pictures at an Exhibition comes readily to mind — the tempi here are not too slow. The tempi are in fact just right. We love the sound of Ansermet’s records but when the performance drags it’s hard to enjoy the music. For top quality performances of the work by other conductors — rarely in stock I regret to say — please check the site.)

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Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment

More Rod Stewart

More British Blues Rock

  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this early Mercury pressing of Stewart’s fourth solo album
  • Extremely well-recorded, full of great songs – Rod Stewart was on top of the world when he followed up the brilliant Every Picture Tells A Story with this album in 1972
  • The music comes alive on this vintage domestic pressing (the only ones that have the potential for Hot Stampers in our experience), assuming you have your volume up good and loud
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars in AMG, and simply “… a masterful record … He never got quite this good ever again.”

Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins. The meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the sound of the drums is awesome in every way. Who has a better drum sound than Rod Stewart on his two best albums?

Along with Every Picture Tells A Story this is one of the two Must Own Rod Stewart albums. Practically every song here is a classic, with not a dog in the bunch. Rod Stewart did what few artists have ever managed to do: release his two best albums back to back.

And this Hot Stamper, not to overstate the obvious, is clearly the way to hear it. (more…)

Elton John / Honky Chateau – A Must Own Classic

More Elton John

Reviews and Commentaries for Honky Chateau

  • This vintage UK import pressing boasts superb Tubey Magical British Rock sound, with excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • A monster Demo Disc – the bottom end is huge, the top is open and extended, and the overall tonality rich and balanced
  • An amazing recording and a founding member of our Top 100 – it’s a shame we rarely find them with sound this good and audiophile quality surfaces (DJM see-through vinyl being what it is)
  • 5 stars: “The most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote.”

If you doubt that Elton John was an unusually gifted Pop Music Genius for much of the ’70s, just play this record. These eleven tracks should serve as all the proof you could possibly need. There’s not a dog in the bunch, and most of these songs are positively brilliant. Drop the needle on any track, you simply can’t go wrong.

Honky Chateau has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a prized spot on our Rock and Pop Top 100 List. It’s a shining example of just how good High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s can be.

The amount of effort that went into the recording of Honky Chateau is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

The sides that had sound that jumped out of the speakers, with driving rhythmic energy, worked the best for us. They really brought this music to life and allowed us to make sense of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music.

Big Production Tubey Magical British Rock just does not get much better than Honky Chateau. (more…)

Paganini – Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 / Menuhin

The Music of Paganini Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

  • Two of the truly great virtuoso/romantic violin concertos, boasting superb 1961 EMI Golden Age Analog Sound
  • The complete first Violin Concerto on this vintage LP has killer sound, right up there with our Shootout Winner from the last go around
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most others
  • The best balance of orchestra and soloist we know of for both works, with sound to rival the greatest violin concerto recordings we’ve played

Another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40 years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

This combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on this wonderful copy.

The sound of the best copies is transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

More Sonny Rollins

More Contemporary Jazz Label Recordings

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER throughout this vintage pressing of Rollins’s sophomore Contemporary release
  • Both of these sides are textbook examples of the kind of rich, smooth, effortlessly natural Contemporary Jazz sound that Roy DuNann‘s All Tube Recording Chain was known for in 1958
  • “The last of the classic Sonny Rollins albums prior to his unexpected three-year retirement features the great tenor with pianist Hampton Hawes, guitarist Barney Kessell, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Shelly Manne… Great music.”

This Contemporary Label LP has THE BIG SOUND we love here at Better Records — rich and full-bodied with live-in-your-listening-room immediacy. The bass is deep, rock-solid, and note-like. There’s plenty of clarity and extension up top, bringing Shelly Manne’s fantastic work on the cymbals to life.

This is no Heavy Vinyl slogfest. Just listen to the leading edge transients on Sonny’s sax.

The guitar is warm, rich, and sweet, and just swimming in ambience.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney KesselShelly ManneLeroy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorite players of ours here at Better Records.

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John Coltrane – Soultrane

More John Coltrane

  • This Prestige “stereo” pressing boasts killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • It may say stereo on the cover, but this album is in pure, glorious MONO, with sound that is full-bodied, relaxed, Tubey Magical and tonally correct
  • Here is the palpable jazz energy, the life of the music, that’s sure to be missing from whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl pressing is being stamped out these days
  • There are very few early pressings around without marks or problems in the vinyl – this one has a number of marks that play, but finding copy that sounds this good with quiet surfaces is getting harder every day
  • It’s the nature of the beast and there is simply no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “… a classic of the 20th century jazz canon and an essential point of reference in Coltrane’s own tumultuous career…. this is the album on which Coltrane first emerged as the primary innovator of the jazz world, wielding an astonishing technical virtuosity and a blinding vision of the possibilities of the tenor sax.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


This is a mono recording that has supposedly been reprocessed into stereo. Rudy Van Gelder did the mastering, and my guess is he decided to leave the sound mono and simply not tell anyone. Who can blame him? He engineered it in mono, so why fix what ain’t broke because they printed the cover and the label with the word “stereo” on them in order to generate more sales?

We’re lucky he did. The OJC reissues of this title are awful, and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re churning out these days is probably every bit as bad. Without these excellent ’60s and ’70s reissues, all that we would have available to do our shootouts with would be the originals. At one to three thousand dollars each for clean copies, few of which could ever be found anyway, that makes for a shootout whose costs could simply never be justified.

So our thanks go to Rudy for doing a good job!

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10cc / Sheet Music – Their Brilliant Second Album

More 10cc

More Art Rock

  • This original UK import pressing of Sheet Music boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full-bodied, with sound that just jumps out of the speakers, this is a Truly Amazing Demo Disc on the order of Crime of the Century or Dark Side of the Moon
  • If you don’t know 10cc’s music well, this is probably the best place to start – you just might find yourself as big a fan as we are here at Better Records
  • Bassist Graham Gouldman calls it “the definitive 10cc album” and he’s probably right about that (although we love The Original Soundtrack that came out a year later)
  • “Three hit singles spun off the record, and most of the other tracks could have followed suit; it says much for Sheet Music’s staying power that, no matter how many times the album is reissued, it has never lost its power to delight, excite, and set alight a lousy day.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” with an accent on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Sheet Music is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but would be well advised to get to know better.

Sheet Music is, in our opinion, the most consistently well-written and produced 10cc album, with every track performed with heart and recorded with exquisite attention to detail. Each song flows into the next and there is simply not a dull moment to be found. Sheet Music is arguably the best record they ever made, although I’m such a fan, I think they’re all great. (The first five albums anyway.)

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Elton John / Tumbleweed Connection


  • This early DJM import pressing of Elton John’s 1970 Masterpiece boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades from first note to last
  • The sound here is richer, with much less transistory grain, and more of the All Important Tubey Magic than most other copies we played
  • An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “….[Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s] most ambitious record to date… A loose concept album about the American West… draws from country and blues in equal measures…”
  • If you’re an Elton John fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection
  • We consider this Elton John album a Masterpiece. It’s a recording that should be part of any serious popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

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