Demo Discs for Recordings that Are Doing It All

Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

More Heart

More Women Who Rock
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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.

Reality Check Parts One and Two

Take the song Love Alive.

The beginning section is chock full of lovely and quite subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that seem to lose their magic on most systems. The autoharp is rich and chimey, and the tabla has some real low end extension. The recorders and flutes that join them are breathy and sweet, while the acoustic guitars heard throughout display all the tubey-magical harmonic richness found on our favorite Hot Stamper recordings, from the Eagles first album to Teaser and the Firecat. These qualities easily get lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the typical audiophile stereo. That’s Part One of the test — the opening. (more…)

Ambrosia’s Debut – An Album that Takes Everything We’ve Got and Then Some

Ambrosia

Commentaries and Letters for Ambrosia’s Debut

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During our most recent Hot Stamper shootout we were reminded of a fact that had slipped our minds: Trying to get this record to sound right is a truly humbling experience. Without a doubt it deserves the title for Most Difficult to Reproduce in the Rock and Pop category. (Yes, we know, there is no such thing, we just made it up.) 

This record will bring any stereo to its knees, including one like ours, which is tuned and tweaked within an inch of its life. Everything has to be working at its absolute best before I would even consider any attempt to play the album. It’s not enough to have the stereo warmed up and cookin’, with everything in the house unplugged. The electricity from the pole needs to be at its best, not that grungy garbage you get in the middle of the day or around dinner time, when all your neighbors have their appliances going. You need that late-at-night, two o’clock in the morning everybody-has-gone-to-bed-and-turned-off-all-their-stuff electricity for this bad boy to work its magic.

I learned an important lesson from a shootout we conducted not long ago, which boils down to this: You can play hard-to-reproduce records all day long if your system is tuned up and working fine. Ours has to be, every day. The shootouts we do require that everything is working properly or we simply couldn’t do them. (more…)

Terry Snyder – Persuasive Percussion – A Knockout Percussion Extravaganza from Command

More Amazing Percussion Recordings We’ve Reviewed

We’ve just created a new section. In it you will find records with exceptional sound and music that we’ve discovered over the years, records that are probably not well known to most audiophiles. You might consider it our version of 1001 Records to Hear Before You Die, except that there are only 120 titles or so, and the common theme is that the right pressings of these titles have truly audiophile sound. Please to enjoy.

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  • Persuasive Percussion makes its Hot Stamper debut with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Explosive energy, but surprisingly the sound is both relaxed and sweet at the same time, never squawky
  • Exceptional extension up high and down low — this is the copy that showed us just how good the album could sound
  • Simply amazing space, ambience and depth – if you have never heard one of these kinds of records, you are really in for a treat with this one
  • “This album was one of the early examples of “hi-fi” back in the late 50’s and early 60’s. How vivid is my memory of the bongos first playing from the left speaker…and then from the right one. And that wonderful sound! I could close my eyes now and relive a moment in time”

(more…)

Eric Rodgers’ Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – How is this title not on the TAS List?

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This copy was so good on side two it almost left me speechless. How is this title not on the TAS List?

Why is it not one of the most sought-after recordings in the RCA canon? Beats the hell out of me.

But wait just one minute. Until a month ago [now years ago] I surely had no idea how good this record could sound, so how can I criticize others for not appreciating a record I had never taken the time to appreciate myself?

Which more than anything else prompts the question — why is no one exploring, discovering and then bringing to light the exceptional qualities of these wonderful vintage recordings (besides your humble writer of course)?

HP has passed on. Who today is fit to carry his mantle into the coming world of audio? Looking around I find very few prospects. None in fact. But then again, I’m not looking very hard. I could care less what any of these people have to say about the sound quality of the records they play. They all seem to like records that don’t sound very good to us, so why put any faith in their reviews for other records?

Reviewer malpractice? We’ve been writing about it for more than 25 years.

But I digress. (more…)

Count Basie Big Band – Farmers Market Barbecue

More Count Basie

More Big Band Jazz

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  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from beginning to end on this famous Pablo, one we consider The Best Basie Big Band Record We’ve Ever Played
  • Both sides are exceptionally clear, rich, and full of Tubey Magic, with a solid bottom end and huge amounts of three-dimensional studio space
  • Demo Disc sound – guaranteed to beat the pants off of any Heavy Vinyl pressing, at any speed, of any title
  • Allmusic: “This was an excellent outing by the Count Basie Orchestra during its later years.”

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 mid- to late-’70s through the 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.

And when you hear it sounding as good as it does here, it truly qualifies as a Big As Life DEMO DISC. (more…)

Bennett and Evans – The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album

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  • A wonderful early pressing of this classic collaboration, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to here finish and vinyl that is hard to find any quieter
  • When heard on our best Hot Stamper pressings, the album clearly belongs near the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Records
  • Waltz for Debby is the best thing here. You want to hear the Bennett-Evans Magic? Go right to that track
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the best albums of either’s career… an excellent jazz-pop hybrid in which both musicians were shown off to advantage.”

If you like sophisticated vocal jazz I don’t think you can do much better than this record, especially when it sounds like this. Tony Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

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. (more…)

The Pentangle / Pentangling – Amazingly Natural Recorded Sound

Hot Stamper Pressing of Pentangle Albums

More Reviews of Pentangle Albums

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side one and a superb Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy could not be beat
  • The unprocessed quality found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound
  • The foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, with Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them
  • The best material from Pentangle’s amazing first six albums, with sound that’s full of British Analog Tubey Magic
  • “Pentangling is filled to the brim with some of the finest recordings the British folk movement had to offer…”

This album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.

The unprocessed folky sound found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound. (How many of the ’70s rock albums in our Top 100 have that natural drum sound? Not many when you stop to think about it.)

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. The first track, I’ve Got A Feeling, is lovely as well.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky sweet and Tubey Magical, this is the sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

Doc Evans – Traditional Jazz – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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If you’re a fan of Traditional Jazz, what normally would be referred to nowadays as Dixieland Jazz, you will have a very hard time finding a record that sounds as good as this one. The energy, the size, the dynamic power of every instrument is captured with such fidelity it will put the lie to most of what passes for Modern Good Sounding Jazz.

This is the real Audiophile Label, not just some label that’s making records to appeal to audiophiles, and there is a world of difference between the two.

At first we thought side one of this copy was As Good As It Gets, a real White Hot stamper pressing. It was doing everything we expected it to, and more to be honest.

Then we started to do side two, and surprisingly enough this very copy had a side two with more extension up top, more space and even more clarity and transparency. True, only slightly more, but if you compare the two sides carefully you should have no trouble hearing it. (more…)

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

 

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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), 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.

Two of the best sounding jazz guitar records in the history of the world were made by Barney Kessel for Contemporary: this one, and Music To Listen To Barney Kessel By. (We have a fabulous mono copy on the site as I write this.) I used to have them both in my personal collection. [This was written many years ago when I actually had a personal collection. With 40,000 records in stock I don’t need a collection of my own anymore. Any record I might want to play is in stock, waiting to be shot out.]

Such a wonderful idea for an album. The melodies from Bizet’s Carmen are unforgettable and perfect fodder for jazz improvisation. Don’t think that this is just guitar and rhythm. This is a full band with lots of horns, clarinets of all kinds, bassoons, oboes, flutes, piano, vibes — the variety of sounds to be found on this album is practically unlimited. And with Roy DuNann’s engineering, you will never hear richer, fuller sound with more accurate timbers for all the instruments mentioned above. The guy was a genius. His recordings define High Fidelity for me. I know of none better. (more…)

The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Our Four Plus Mind Blowing Shootout Winner

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This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

Side two here is BEYOND White Hot, earning a sonic grade of A++++! I don’t know that any other copy has earned such a high grade for side two but this one sure did. It blew our minds.

If you have a system with the speed, power and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best sounding classical recording you’ve ever heard. Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record! Side two is where the real action is on this album, and it is presented here with SPECTACULAR AUDIO FIDELITY the likes of which you may have never experienced. (more…)