Demo Discs for Tubey Magic

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

*******************

  • This UK pressing of Bowie’s pre-Ziggy Folk Rock masterpiece earned outstanding Double (A++) grades for their preternaturally Tubey Magical sound – thanks Ken Scott, you da man!
  • The best tracks on the album are Demonstration Quality – Oh You Pretty Things is a KNOCKOUT here
  • Rich, spacious and sweet, with a HUGE soundstage – drop the needle on Changes and listen to how dynamic it is
  • 5 stars: “On the surface, such a wide range of styles and sounds would make an album incoherent, but Bowie’s improved songwriting and determined sense of style instead made Hunky Dory a touchstone for reinterpreting pop’s traditions into fresh, postmodern pop music.”

The amazing Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century (all Top 100), as well as All Things Must Pass, Truth, Birds of Fire, Son Of Schmilsson, America’s debut and many more is the man responsible for the sound here (he also produced the album, replacing Tony Visconti). It should go without saying that this is one seriously talented guy.

The kind of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness that he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s, not to mention sound that is remarkably spacious and practically free from distortion — qualities that are especially important to us Big Speaker guys who like to play their records good and loud –has rarely been equaled by anyone in the years that’ve followed (even by Ken).

As noted above, many of his best recordings can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums, limited to the titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts. (more…)

Roy Orbison – The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

The depth, the spaciousness, the richness — this one has it all. It seems as though Bill Porter just does not know how to not make an amazing recording, whether for Monument or Living Stereo. Everything the guy touches is GOLD! Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music found here are positively enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’60s All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the album for you. (more…)

Which Album by The Who Has the Best Sound?

whotommy

We Think It’s This One

I don’t know of another Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end. Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic like you will rarely hear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

What do high grades give you for this album? Silky, sweet vocals; huge weight to the bottom end; “you are there” immediacy; BIG drums, off the charts rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

No other Who album has all these things in such abundance.

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

(more…)

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

xxx

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…)

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

xxx

The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits like it. The heavy compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.

Not many Bowie albums from his “classic” period sound good on domestic vinyl, nothing I know of before Diamond Dogs with the exception of this album and the occasional copy of Space Oddity. Strangely enough, from then on practically every one of Bowie’s albums sounds best on domestic vinyl, all the way through to Let’s Dance, after which we more or less check out — don’t know those albums well and don’t plan on finding out more.

Ah but here, here we have some truly prime period Bowie, recorded, mastered and pressed with Top Quality sound!

Side One

Mick Ronson’s guitars are wonderfully clear. The vocals can get a bit hot on the first track (as is often the case), but by track two the sound has settled in and is rich and smooth, just the way we like it. Very present and lively vocals are a strong point.

Side Two

Listen to the big bass, richness and Tubey Magic of the third track — that is some Ken Scott studio wizardry at play.

Note that the second track seems to be where Alice Cooper found his “sound.” More power to him I say. You could get away with ripping off Bowie in 1970; nobody bought this album in the states, which is why it’s so damn rare and expensive.

And the reason there are so many bootlegs. Practically every copy of ebay is a bootleg.  They sound terrible by the way. (more…)

The Best Sounding Jethro Tull Album Is Thick As a Brick

jethrthick_1410_3_1192056381

Thick As A Brick is surely the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever recorded. Allow us to make the case.

  • The better copies are shockingly dynamic. At about the three minute mark the band joins in the fun and really starts rocking.
  • Set your volume for as loud as your system can play that section. The rest of the music, including the very quietest parts, will then play correctly for all of side one. For side two the same volume setting should be fine.
  • The recording can have exceptionally solid, deep punchy bass (just check out Barrie “Barriemore” Barlow’s drumming, especially his kick and floor toms. The guy is on fire).
  • The midrange is usually transparent and the top end sweet and extended on the better pressings.
  • The recording was made in 1972, so there’s still plenty of Tubey Magic to be heard on the acoustic guitars and flutes.
  • The best copies can be as huge, wide and tall as any rock record you’ve ever heard, with sound that comes jumping out of your speakers right into your listening room.
  • Unlike practically any album recorded during the ’80s or later, the overall tonal balance, as well as the timbre of virtually every instrument in the soundfield is exceedingly correct.

That kind of accuracy practically disappeared from records about thirty years ago, which explains why so many of the LPs we offer as Hot Stampers were produced in the ’70s. That’s when many of the highest fidelity recordings were made. In truth this very record is a superlative example of the sound the best producers, engineers, and studios were able to capture on analog tape during that time.
(more…)

Joni Mitchell / Court and Spark – Joni’s Best Sounding Record

xxxxx

  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides!
  • The sound is rich, warm and natural with wonderful transparency, ambience and loads of Tubey Magic
  • One of our very favorite Joni albums here at Better Records, and probably her Best Sounding Album
  • “[A] remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz … the music is smart, smooth, and assured from the first note to the last.” – AMG 5 Stars

Stunning sound for this White Hot Stamper! Court and Spark deserves to be heard with all the clarity, beauty and power that only the best Hot Stamper pressings can convey.

What you hear is the sound of the real tape; every instrument has its own character, because the mastering is correct and the vinyl — against all odds — managed to capture all (or almost all; who can know?) of the resolution that the tape had to offer.

Tubey Magic Is the Key to Court and Spark (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

Folks, for The Best Sound on a Frank Sinatra record it simply does not get any better than Strangers In The Night. It’s a real treat to be in the presence of the Chairman Of The Board, in his prime, working his magic — but only an exceptional copy like this one has the power to put him right in the room with you.

1966 was a very good year indeed for Frank Sinatra — he recorded Live at the Sands with Count Basie that year as well. (more…)

Spirit – A Psych Rock Masterpiece (The First of Two)

xxxxx

  • Incredible sound for this psychedelic masterpiece with both sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Wall to wall, with layered studio depth like you will not believe, the kind of space you hear on an engineering classic like Dark Side of the Moon
  • The first Triple Triple Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in years, and one of the few that’s quiet enough to enjoy
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic, but in our estimation it deserves at least five – it’s simply one of the All Time Greats from the era

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Ode pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, quite a few I would guess, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust

 

  • This incredibly good sounding Triple Plus (A+++) side two will show you just how good Ziggy Stardust can sound in analog (and side two was not far behind at A++) – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • The stage is huge and the amount of Tubey Magic has to be heard to be believed – this is the pinnacle of sound for Glam Rock
  • Until you hear one of these killer British pressings you simply cannot know what you are missing
  • A Rock & Pop Top 100 album, and Ken Scott’s engineering masterpiece
  • “Fleshing out the off-kilter metallic mix with fatter guitars, genuine pop songs, string sections, keyboards, and a cinematic flourish, Ziggy Stardust is a glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style and the logical culmination of glam.”

Drop the needle on any song. We guarantee you have never heard that song sound better. The mastering is superb. There’s really no “mastering” to listen for — all you’re really aware of is the music flowing from the speakers, freed from all the limitations that you’ve had to accept over the years.

Unquestionably, this is the pinnacle of Glam Rock. Every track is superb; not a moment is less than stellar from beginning to end.

Is it Bowie’s Masterpiece?

Absolutely. No other Bowie record ranks higher in my book.

Is it amazingly well recorded?

You better believe it. This is not just Bowie’s masterpiece; it’s Ken Scott’s as well. For BIG, BOLD, wall to wall, floor to ceiling sound, look no further. The best copies are swimming in rich, sweet TUBEY MAGIC. This is a sound we cannot get enough of here at Better Records.

The guitars may not sound “real,” they way they actually would in real life, but they sure sound grungy and GOOD!

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 1972
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) 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 of course the only way to hear all of the above.

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

You don’t need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who’ve experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that’s the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over Tommy.

Ranked strictly in terms of Tubey Magic I would have to put this album on our list of Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time, right up there with, and in no particular order:

  • Sgt. Pepper (1967),
  • Meddle (1971),
  • Dark Side of the Moon (1973),
  • The Eagles (1972),
  • Tommy (1969),
  • Dire Straits (1977, and clearly the outlier in this group),
  • The Doors (1967),
  • Ziggy Stardust (1972),
  • Tumbleweed Connection (1970),
  • A Space in Time (1970), and a handful of others to be named later.

Worth the Price

To say that a superb sounding British pressing is not the kind of record that’s easy to come by these days is to state the obvious. If this record is as meaningful for you as it is for me, I think you will quickly appreciate that it’s worth every penny of its price. All you need do is drop the needle at the start of either side. It won’t be long before all questions are answered and all mysteries revealed.

The emotional power of these songs is communicated so completely through this copy that the experience will be like hearing it for the first time.

This is, I hope it goes without saying, one of the greatest rock records of all time, music that belongs in any collection. I’ve been playing this album for 30 years and I can honestly say I’ve never once tired of it.

What We’re Listening For on Ziggy Stardust

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ken Scott in this case — would have put them.
  • 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Five Years
Soul Love Track Commentary

Just listen to those cymbal crashes! Never heard them sound like that.

Moonage Daydream
Starman
It Ain’t Easy

Side Two

Lady Stardust Track Commentary

The piano is recorded superbly; it’s the perfect balance of power and delicacy, not just on this track but throughout the album.

Star
Hang on to Yourself
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Borrowing heavily from Marc Bolan’s glam rock and the future shock of A Clockwork Orange, David Bowie reached back to the heavy rock of The Man Who Sold the World for The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Constructed as a loose concept album about an androgynous alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust, the story falls apart quickly, yet Bowie’s fractured, paranoid lyrics are evocative of a decadent, decaying future, and the music echoes an apocalyptic, nuclear dread. Fleshing out the off-kilter metallic mix with fatter guitars, genuine pop songs, string sections, keyboards, and a cinematic flourish, Ziggy Stardust is a glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style and the logical culmination of glam. Mick Ronson plays with a maverick flair that invigorates rockers like “Suffragette City,” “Moonage Daydream,” and “Hang Onto Yourself,” while “Lady Stardust,” “Five Years,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” have a grand sense of staged drama previously unheard of in rock & roll. And that self-conscious sense of theater is part of the reason why Ziggy Stardust sounds so foreign. Bowie succeeds not in spite of his pretensions but because of them, and Ziggy Stardust — familiar in structure, but alien in performance — is the first time his vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion.

We Get Letters

From a few years back:

Picked up your SHS of “Ziggy” last week–my daughter is 13 and starting to get into Mick Ronson, and I got this to show her what I think is his best work, not just on guitar, but in essentially creating the overall sound for the “Ziggy Stardust” album. What I didn’t expect was how fantastic this album sounds. I’ve had other copies and they sound like I’m wearing a blanket over my head.

Alongside my HS copy of “Freak Out” (first record I ever bought from you guys, I think), this has to be the most dramatic improvement over a typical recording I’ve ever heard! Records like this justify Better Records in spades–wow!!

Stephen F.