Demo Discs for Dynamics

The group of records you see here are some of the most dynamic we’ve had the good fortune to discover.

Our scientific approach to finding the best sounding records has allowed these exceptional pressings to take their place among the best we’ve know of.

One of the many faults we find with modern Heavy Vinyl pressings is that they tend to be noticeably more compressed than the vintage pressings on this list.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Out of This World Sound at Loud Levels

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

More Prog Rock

  • This UK Island Pink Rim pressing makes the case that ELP’s debut is clearly one of the most POWERFUL rock records ever made
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with big bass and tremendous energy – these are just some of the things we love about Eddie Offord‘s engineering work on this band’s albums
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • “Lucky Man” and “Take A Pebble” on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with such good music and sound, we hope to get another shootout going again soon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This UK Island pink rim import pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (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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Stravinsky / The Firebird – Dorati

More of the music of Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Firebird

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  • One listen to either side of this pressing and you’ll see why this is one of the Top Mercury Titles of All Time
  • The Heavy Vinyl reissues – at 45 or 33, on one disc or four, makes no difference – barely begin to capture the energy and drive Dorati brings to the work
  • “The magic lies in the elaborate orchestration and the excitingly uneven rhythmic writing. Stravinsky changes the orchestration of his themes at each repetition, breaks them down into their constituent parts, pushes their accents across the bar-line, and moves them out of sync with their own accompaniments.”
  • There are about 150 orchestral recordings we’ve awarded the honor of offering the Best Performances with the Highest Quality Sound, and this record certainly deserve a place on that list.

Neither side has peak distortion or Inner Groove Distortion of any kind, which is rare for this exceptionally dynamic title in our experience.

Both sides are so clear, ALIVE, and transparent, with huge hall space extending wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Zero compression.

This pressing boasts rich, sweet strings, especially for a Mercury. Both sides really get quiet in places, a sure sign that all the dynamics of the master tape were protected in the mastering of this copy. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish, this mindblowing recording is guaranteed to rock your world – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The transparency, the clarity, the energy, the power – it’s all here on these very special import pressings
  • Just listen to how clear the clocks are on Time, how breathy the vocals are on Breathe, how textured the synthesizers are and how silky the top end is from the beginning of the album all the way to the powerful finish
  • A Top 100 album (Top Ten actually) and a Rock Demo Disc to rival the most amazing sounding records of all time
  • 5 stars: “…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music… no other record defines [Pink Floyd] quite as well as this one.”

This vintage import pressing has the presence, the richness, the size and the energy you always wanted to hear on Dark Side — AND NOW YOU CAN! (more…)

The Who – Live At Leeds

More of The Who

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • A hard-rockin’ copy – this British Track pressing boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) DEMO DISC sound or close to it on both sides
  • The recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • This is Demo Disc quality sound by any measure, especially on Big Speakers at Loud Levels
  • The vinyl is fairly quiet, but that is rarely a concern when an album has music this loud and powerful
  • Drums so solid, punchy and present they put to shame 99% of the rock records on the planet
  • The sound of the best pressings is raw, real and exceptionally unprocessed
  • Cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the BBC Q magazine, and Rolling Stone. In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • We should have all the papers that come with the album, but please be sure to double check with us, if having all the papers is important to you

Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. “Young Man Blues” on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records! Keith Moon lives on!

The bass is AMAZING on this record. Present vocals and clear guitars in both channels are also key to the best copies.

Most pressings do not get the guitars to jump out of the speakers the way the best can.

Few copies get the highest highs and the lowest lows but this one had it going on from top to bottom.

The seven minute long “Magic Bus” that finishes out the side is The Who at their best. Rock fans will have a hard time finding a better sounding Who pressing than this one, on either side.

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Dave Grusin – Discovered Again!

  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing boasts outstanding  sound from first note to last
  • After critically listening to this record good and loud, I have to award the album The Greatest Direct to Disc Recording of All Time
  • The songs, the players, the arrangements, the sound – this is a record that will reward hundreds of plays for decades to come
  • Side one of this copy is OUT of polarity, one of the few we found that way, and not a copy you should be if you can’t switch
  • “Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself.”

We are on record as being big fans of this album. Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, Discovered Again actually contains real music worth listening to. During our all-day shootout, the more we played the record, the more we appreciated it. These are top quality players totally in the groove on this material. When it’s played well, and the sound is as good as it is here, there’s nothing dated about this kind of jazz. Hey, what can we say — it works.

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Lincoln Mayorga – The Missing Linc (Volume II)

More Lincoln Mayorga

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc recording has INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically richer, fuller and more Tubey Magical than any other copy you have heard, with especially punchy drums and rosiny-textured strings
  • The bass on side one extends all the way into WHOMP land for that big bass drum at the end of “Limehouse Blues” – what a sound!
  • The top end is also key to the better pressings – lots of string harmonics and bells and other high frequency stuff gets lost on most copies, but not this one, it’s all here
  • The Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities (and they did the same thing with Volume III two years later)
  • If you’re a Sheffield Labs fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of their best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is definitely not your typical Sheffield pressing. Some of them are aggressive, many of them are dull and lack the spark of live music, some of them have wonky bass or are lacking in the lowest octave — they are prey to every fault that befalls other pressings.

Which shouldn’t be too surprising. Records are records. Pressing variations exist for every album ever made. If you haven’t noticed that yet, start playing multiple copies of the same album while listening carefully and critically.

If your stereo is any good at all, it should not take you long to notice how different one record sounds from another.

Just listen to the texture on the saxophone on “Limehouse Blues” — you can really hear the leading edge transients of the brass that are so important to the sound of those instruments. Track after track, the sound gets surprisingly more open and airy. The harpsichord has such great presence it jumps out of the speakers. Side Two had the best bass ever — extending all the way into WHOMP land.

I was selling audio equipment (Audio Research, Fulton speakers) back in the ’70s and this was a favorite demo disc in our store. The bass drum at the end of track two would shake the foundation with a big speaker like the Fulton J.

Every bit as amazing to me was the string quartet on side 2. You could actually hear the musicians breathing and turning the pages on their music stands, just as if you were actually in their “living presence.”

This is one of the albums that made me realize how good audio in the home could really be. In a way this was the Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities.

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Respighi / Pines of Rome / Reiner – Our Favorite for Performance and Sound

More music conducted by Fritz Reiner

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this Shaded Dog pressing of Reiners’s excellent 1960 recording had the glorious Living Stereo sound we were looking for
  • 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
  • There were only three performances with audiophile quality sound in our shootout, and the Shaded Dog pressings not only had the best performances, but the sound that the team of Mohr/Layton managed to achieve was second to none
  • In other words, Harry was right to put this on his TAS Super Disc list – it really is a super disc
  • If you know anything about these works, you know that have tons of top and bottom end, and it is the rare pressing that can capture both
  • The texture and harmonic overtones of the Living Stereo strings are near perfection – as we listened we became completely immersed in the music on the record, transfixed by the remarkable virtuosity Reiner and the CSO brought to these difficult and demanding works so many years ago
  • There are roughly 150 orchestral recordings that we think offer the discriminating audiophile the best combination of Superior Performances with Top Quality SoundThis record has earned a place on that list.

This shootout has been at least five years in the making, and the case could be made that something like fifteen is closer to the truth. Around 2016 we surveyed the recordings of the work we had on hand — close to a dozen different performances, I think — and found them all wanting, save three: this one (which is still on the TAS List), a Reader’s Digest pressing with Kempe (our second favorite), and a London with Kertesz.

If a particular performance had any distortion or limitation problems in the higher frequencies, it was quickly rejected out of hand. Same with low end whomp and weight. On these works both are crucial.

No other pieces of music of which we are aware have so much going on up high and down low. This narrowed the field of potential Hot Stampers considerably. Great performances by top conductors could not get over these hurdles — high and low — time and time again.

For these reasons, it took us years to find the right recordings. We knew the Reiner would be hard to beat, but we kept trying record after record hoping that we could find one to wrest the crown away from what is widely considered the greatest recording of the works ever made.

We never did find something better. Our best Shaded Dog ended up winning the shootout. The best RCA pressings were doing everything right. There was plenty of top end, with virtually no harmonic distortion, and when I say plenty, I mean the right amount. Not many engineers managed to get all the highs correctly onto the tape, but Lewis Layton nailed it — in 1960!

So many recordings had screechy strings and horns. When the music would get loud, and both the Pines and the Fountains get very loud indeed, assuming the recording will let it, the sound would become unbearably harsh and unpleasant. This is the opposite of what should happen, and it was obvious that those recordings would not make it past the first round.

All three of the finalists could claim enthusiastic performances with powerful energy and top quality orchestral playing. Still, with the best copies going head to head with each other, Reiner had more of all the qualities we were looking for.

How did the famous 1S/1S pressing fare? No idea. I haven’t seen one in twenty years. It may be better than the White Hot copy we are offering here. I certainly would not make the mistake of saying what it sounds without having played it. If someone has one and wants to send it to me to audition, I would love to give it a spin.

Some recordings we played lacked transparency, as well as the relaxed sense of involvement that eases one’s ability to be tricked into thinking “you (really) are there.”

The famous 1977 Maazel recording for Decca, which was on the TAS List for a long time, suffered from a bad case of multi-miking and the transparency issue mentioned above. What do you expect from 1977?

This is, of course, the knock on the Modern Heavy Vinyl Pressing — where is the transparency? The space? The three-dimensional depth? If your stereo can reproduce these qualities — a big if, since even as recently as twenty years ago mine could not — you should have given up on these opaque and airless frauds years ago.

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The Who – Who Are You

More of The Who

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this vintage UK import – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the Glyn Johns BIG, BOLD sound we demand from this famous producer/engineer
  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike – if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper British pressing is the only way to go
  • The title song sounds great on this superb copy – the dynamic power of the recording comes through loud and clear
  • If you’re a fan of The Who, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this album from 1978 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the 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


Big, tubey and rockin’, this copy has The Who sound we know from Who’s Next so well. Huge and pacious, with lovely three-dimensional depth, the sound has that patented Live in the Studio quality that Johns’ practically trademarked. Breathy vocals and great life and presence to every instrument — this is the way to hear it!

Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper British pressing is the only way to go.

This copy has the Glyn Johns Who Sound we demand from one of the most famous producer/artist collaborations in the history of rock music. (I would argue that Johns’ work with the Stones is even more legendary.)

This is certainly not the equal of the beyond brilliant Who’s Next — what is? It’s an undisputed Masterpiece — but the best songs here are certainly in that league. The title track is one I used to demo my system with twenty years ago and, with a copy like this, would be happy to again.

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Heart – Little Queen

  • An original Portrait pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • “Barracuda” and “Love Alive” are bar none two of Heart’s best songs and they are guaranteed to blow your mind
  • It’s the rare copy that has the powerful dynamics, deep bass, punchy drums and meaty guitars like you get here
  • A Rock and Pop Top 100 album with Demo Disc sound on a very special pressing such as this – it will rock your world
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After acquiring a substantial following with Dreamboat Annie, Heart solidified its niche in the hard rock and arena rock worlds with the equally impressive Little Queen.”

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 your system is capable of. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the pressing that will truly show it off.

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.

We’re huge Heart fans here at Better Records, and we’re not ashamed to say so. These ladies can really rock, and on the right pressing their music can and will sound absolutely amazing. Here’s a copy that will allow you to hear that magic at home — the sound is super punchy with incredible energy and wonderful clarity. You’ll have a very hard time finding another copy that rocks any harder than this one.

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