Demo Discs for Tubey Magic

Which Album by The Who Has the Best Sound?

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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

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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…)

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

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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

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

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  • 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

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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)

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  • 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 – Pin-Ups – Forget the Original British Pressings

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

We just finished our biggest-ever shootout for this fun Bowie album and this one was DRAMATICALLY better than most other copies. We played copies from all over the world — England, Germany, France, Canada, and the good ol’ USA — and heard all kinds of bad sound.

So what were the worst copies we heard? Hands down it was the British Originals, believe it or not. They tend to be dull, thick, and lifeless — not a good match for this punky, energetic material. [We have since found some very good sounding Brit originals but, that said, to date they have never won a shootout.]

On the other side, many of the other copies we heard were bright and grainy. It’s very tough to find a copy that strikes a balance, but we finally managed to dig up a handful that did the job. (more…)

Martin Denny – Exotica – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This second label very quiet Liberty Stereo LP has at least Super Hot Stamper EXOTIC SOUND on both sides, with a side two that may be White Hot. It’s hard to know for sure whether side two can get any better than this — it’s pretty darn amazing, some of the most Magically Delicious sound we played in our recent shootout.  

Recorded in 1958, you can imagine there is a healthy amount of Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, although this second label copy seems to be cut a bit more cleanly and correctly than some of the first label Denny records we auditioned. The tonality is dead on the money, a quality that the most tubey recordings rarely exhibit; they can easily get overly lush and appear murky. (more…)

Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

TWO SUPERB TRIPLE PLUS SIDES, with the kind of ’50’s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems as if no one can even remaster a recording like this anymore, if our direct experience with scores of such albums counts as any sort of evidence.

Steve Hoffman is the guy that can get the closest in this regard, but the difference between The Real Thing and even the best of his Remasters is not the slightest bit hard to hear.

A Shocking Finding

We recently noted that the red label Columbia reissues of most of their catalog leave much to be desired. Here is an excerpt from a listing for The Byrds’ Greatest Hits.

One might assume that the later label copies would be the ones that would most likely have been cut with lower distortion equipment, the way the later Kind of Blues are cut so much cleaner than the earlier ones.

On The Byrds’ albums this is almost never the right approach. The Tubey Magic of the earlier pressings is absolutely crucial to the sound of these albums. It is the sine qua non of Classic 60’s Rock sound. Without it you might as well be playing a CD.

It turns out that some copies of Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs on the later red label can actually sound amazingly Tubey Magical, especially on side two. In fact we heard a red label side two that was even more rich than the best 360s.

Since the person listening to the record has no idea what the actual label is of the record being evaluated — which is about as close an approximation of the Scientific Method as we can manage around here — it was very surprising to hear such glorious Tubey Magical Richness and Sweetness come from such an unexpected source.

A good reason not to avoid later pressings and reissues absent any evidence of their inferiority.

And a good reason to judge your records by playing them whenever possible. (more…)