Demo Discs for Energy

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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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…)

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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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…)

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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Loggins & Messina – Sittin’ In

More Loggins & Messina

  • An outstanding copy of L&M’s debut Masterpiece with Double Plus (A++) grades from first note to last
  • The sound is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only the best vintage pressings can show you
  • One of our favorite albums, and with every improvement in the system this one just keeps getting better and better
  • Every track on side one is brilliant, from “Nobody But You,” to “Danny’s Song,” to “Vahevala,” to the ending of the ‘Trilogy’ with “Peace of Mind”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With their infectious blend of country, folk, rock and Caribbean music, L&M started out at the top of their game”
  • 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,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. L&Ms first album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of this remarkable duo, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1971 is clearly one of their best
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We love this album and have been playing it regularly since it came out in 1971. That’s a long time, and the good news is it just keeps getting better and better, like all the best records in your collection should. (more…)

The Three on Inner City – By Far the Best Way to Get All Six Tracks

More Shelly Manne

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A Demo Disc quality pressing of this wonderful recording, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Jazz Piano Trio Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), these 33 RPM pressings are the best way to go. The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

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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Elvis Costello / My Aim Is True

More Elvis Costello

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

  • An outstanding pressing of Costello’s debut LP with Double Plus (A++) grades throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is lively, punchy, and powerful – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • A massive step up sonically from most domestic pressings, early or otherwise, and guaranteed to handily beat the imports as well
  • 5 stars: “A phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.”
  • Our favorite “unprocessed-sounding” rock recording – with virtually none of the glossy artificiality you might hear on most of the rock records we sell
  • There’s nothing wrong with that sound, mind you, but this recording captures much more of what the real instruments sound like in the studio

Yes, it’s lively and has that driving punk rock bass, but what sets this copy apart from the average pressing is the top end — it’s extended, silky and correct. As a consequence, the vocals end up being much more present and natural, with almost none of the grit and spit common to most of the copies anyone is ever likely to come across.

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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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