Demo Discs for Tonality

Vivid and Accurate Timbre for Reeds and Percussion – True Demo Disc Sound

lightreeds

 

This is one of the most phenomenal sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Take the best sound you ever heard from the best authentic Mercury classical record (not that Heavy Vinyl BS) and translate it into pop arrangements for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes, bassoons, and what do you have?

Sound that leaps out of the speakers with absolutely dead on tonality.

But what is most shocking of all is how vivid and accurate the timbre of every instrument is.

Yes, it’s multi-miked, and sometimes the engineers play with the channels a bit much (especially at the start of the first track).

That said, if you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real, as if you were standing right in the studio with them. It’s that crazy good.

Which brings up a question: Who but Better Records is finding incredible Demonstration Quality recordings like these nowadays?

Harry Pearson used to. Jim Mitchell did back in the ’80s.

Are the Audiophile Reviewers of today picking up the baton that the giants of the past have dropped at their feet.

I see little evidence of it. In fact I see none.

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Ted Heath – Shall We Dance – Absolutely Amazing Sound (and We Love the Music Too)

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One of the best sounding records we have ever played, the Gold Standard for Tubey Magical Big Band. Both sides are huge, rich, weighty and dynamic like few records you have ever heard. Three elements create the magic here: Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson and the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

More Big Band Jazz

Years ago we wrote in another listing “We had a copy of Heath’s Shall We Dance not long ago that had some of the biggest, richest, most powerful sound I have ever heard. Watch for Hot Stampers coming to the site soon.” Well, now they’re here, and this copy fulfills the promise of the album like no copy we have ever played.

DEMO DISC SOUND barely begins to do this one justice. This is Audiophile Quality Big Band sound to beat them all. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the two-channel era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this style of music. He really does “swing in high stereo” on these big band dance tunes. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1957 is our single favorite recording of the work. This copy is a DEMO DISC of the highest order, suitable for permanently destroying the rationale for every audiophile record ever made, simply on the grounds that none of them sound remotely as good as this one does.  

The immediacy and unerringly realistic presentation of the solo instruments — bassoon, oboe, flute, etc. (each of which serves to represent a character in the story) — are so lifelike that I defy anyone to name a recording to challenge our assertion that this is positively As Good As It Gets.

  • Our favorite performance, with wonderful narration by no less than film legend Boris Karloff
  • With WHITE HOT Stamper sound, this copy is a DEMO DISC of the highest order
  • Tubey Magically rich, yet realistic, which is of course an impossibility
  • And it plays Mint Minus – an exceptionally quiet Vanguard pressing

And did I mention that it was made in 1957? You couldn’t even buy it on stereo disc back then! (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein – Reviewed in 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Bernstein and the NY Phil’s performance of Peter and the Wolf from 1961 is one of our favorite recordings of the work here at Better Records, and with better than Super Hot Stamper sound, this copy really brings Prokofiev’s charming musical fable to life.

We had a whole stack of these pressings to play, and this copy came out pretty close to the top. You will have a very hard time finding this piece of music recorded, mastered and pressed with better sound than on this very side one. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein – What to Listen For

More Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

More Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

What makes this an especially good Peter and the Wolf? The timbre of the solo instruments — bassoon, oboe, flute — each of which serves to represent a character in the story. Shockingly lifelike, the tonality is unerringly Right On The Money (ROTM) throughout. That makes this pressing both a superb Demo Disc as well as a top quality Audio Test Disc.    (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi – How Does the Narrator Sound?

More Sergei Prokofiev

More How Does the Narrator Sound?

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate ANY version of Peter and the Wolf.

The narrator for this piece almost always sounds like he’s in a sound booth, of varying sound quality to be sure. (Bernstein’s narration is one of the worst in this respect, sounding more like Aqualung than Lennie.)  (more…)

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album – The Best Male Vocal Recording of the Era

More Bill Evans

More Tony Bennett

 

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This album, when heard on the best Hot Stamper pressings, ranks right up at the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Recordings from any era. Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

For a Popular/Jazz Vocal album produced in 1975, or, to be honest, the entire decade of the Seventies, we can think of no other that is its sonic equal.

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.

The Acoustic

This is a studio recording in a fairly dead acoustic, worlds away from the echo-drenched sound of his Columbia releases, so for practically the first time on record you can really hear the man’s voice, not the echo chamber they used to process it. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’ – Right On the Money Tonality

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To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

See all of our Miles Davis albums in stock

Better than the Originals?

The record combines two Miles Davis albums recorded in 1956: Workin’ and Steamin’. The 1974 remastering here by Brian Gardner is excellent. Since RVG probably would have mastered these tapes himself for the original pressings, I’m going to guess that this album sounds better than any original, for two reasons.
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Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall

 


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • This later black label pressing boasts excellent sound, with a shootout-winning Triple Plus (A+++) side three and excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or close to it for sides one, two and four
  • You’ll hear a very large group of musicians bring their wonderful energy to this music, all backing Harry live on the stage in real time and in ANALOG
  • Harry Pearson made his reputation bringing this kind of amazing recording to the attention of the audiophile public, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude
  • 5 stars: “The granddaddy of all live albums, this double-LP set captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity.”

See all of our Harry Belafonte albums in stock

Harry Pearson brought this record to the attention of audiophiles with his TAS list a long time ago, and rightfully so: it’s an amazing recording.

We happen to love the music too, which makes it one of the most recommendable records we have ever offered. If you can find a better combination of demo disc sound, with music worth the hassle and expense of reproducing it properly, more power to you. We sure can’t.

Because this is a live recording, because it has lots of natural instruments as well as a vocal, because it was recorded in the Golden Age by one of the greatest labels of all time, RCA, by Bob Simpson no less — for this and many other reasons, it has to be considered one of the most amazing recordings in the history of the world.

That said, it is our contention (and the basis of our business model) that the brilliant quality of the recording can only be appreciated if you have the pressing that captured the sound that the engineers recorded. In other words, a Hot Stamper. (more…)

The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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  • Stunning sound throughout with both of these Six Eye Columbia stereo sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing fairly quietly
  • On the right system, this is a All Tube Chain Demo Disc that demonstrates the superiority of both the analog medium and the vintage pressing (not to mention the concept of Hot Stampers) – I cannot recommend a record on the site more highly than this very disc
  • On a copy this good, The Hi-Lo’s will appear as living, breathing (albeit disembodied) persons right in your very own listening room. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades
  • “The Hi-Los weren’t really a jazz unit, but more of a pop band that knew how to incorporate jazz’s harmonic sensibilities. This was among their better albums, complete with catchy title.”

 

An audiophile friend of mine played me this record on his big system in a huge dedicated sound room, and the effect was so glorious I can still remember the feeling it gave me it to this day. Let’s be hones: The Hi-Lo’s are a white-bread vocal group from the ’50s that made a lot of forgettable easy listening albums.

But for one album, and one album only, they hooked up with Marty Paich and his Dek-Tette, which included players like Herb Gellar, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon — top West Cost jazz players all — and recorded this album of standards with jazz accompaniment.

What makes this album exceptional is the recording itself. The voices are uncannily real. When the jazz musicians take their solos the sound of their instruments is as real as if you were in the studio with them. You will have a very hard time finding better sound anywhere, especially considering how beautifully spread out the players are on such a wide and deep soundstage.

Folks, if you’re looking for a Vocal Group album to beat them all, here it is. This album is overflowing with sonic qualities we look for as both audiophiles and music lovers: Tubey Magic, energy, immediacy, richness, breathy vocals — all the stuff that you will never hear on anything but the best vintage analog vinyl pressings. And you can take that to the bank.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1958
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Marty Paich Is an Arranging Genius

The high point here is Then I’ll Be Tired Of You. The sound is so perfectly suited to the song — everything is exactly where you want it to be, and Marty Paich’s arrangement is constantly surprising.

The first track on side one is very reminiscent of Art Pepper Plus Eleven, another Marty Paich arranging job that ranks with the best large jazz ensemble works ever recorded.

What We Listen For on And All The Jazz

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Fascinating Rhythm
Small Fry
Something’s Coming [From West Side Story]
Love Locked Out
The Lady in Red
Agogically

Side Two

Some Minor Changes
Then I’ll Be Tired of You
Mayforth
Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed
Summer Sketch
Of Thee I Sing