Difficult to Reproduce Recordings

Prokofiev / Symphonies No. 1 & 7 – Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

xxxxx

What to listen for on this album? That’s easy: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label the way they did back the day. I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles tend to make about the sound of records, my own judgments included — to the limitations of the equipment, bad setups, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. 

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that are possible today.

Working in unfathomably complicated and unpredictable combination, today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record will be yours to enjoy for as long as you live. (more…)

Can You Imagine Sound this Bad from a TAS List Super Disc? We Can, We Played It.

xxxxx

 

This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it. (more…)

Joe Walsh – So What

xxxxx

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

Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone are the big hits on the album. Bill Szymczyk produced and engineered, and most of the Eagles play on Joe’s third solo album, from 1974.

You’ll hear MASTER TAPE SOUND on side two of this 1974 classic, and side one did very well in our shootout as well. You would need a big stack of copies to beat either one of these Hot Sides. If that’s your thing — it’s obviously ours — we say welcome to the club (ahem) and more power to you!

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make the shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. This side two was a whole different story, earning our top A+++ grade with real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days as you no doubt know.) (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

xxxxx

  • This solo effort boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A hard album to find with sound like this AND quiet surfaces, but here one is@
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an undiscerning record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As far as studio albums go, But Seriously Folks is Joe Walsh’s most insightful and melodic… The album’s introspective outlook glides through rejuvenation (‘Tomorrow,’ ‘Over and Over’), recapturing the simple pleasures of the past (‘Indian Summer’), mid-career indecision, and a melancholy instrumental.”

(more…)

Heart – Little Queen

xxxxx
xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power of your system. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the record that will truly show it off. 

Even though our graphic scale only goes to three pluses, you’ll know the Four Plus sound on this side one the moment you hear it.

You get HUGE meaty guitars, BIG bass, a smooth top end, full-bodied vocals, incredible rock energy and dynamics, loads of richness and incredible transparency.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make. (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A. – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

xxx

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

EXCELLENT SOUND and QUIET VINYL for BOTH SIDES of this ’80s classic from The Boss. Side one, at A+++, was the best we heard in our entire shootout! It’s tough to find great sounding copies of this album — or any Springsteen album for that matter — but this one is a HUGE step up, with the kind of clarity and fullness the typical pressing barely hints at.

We’re not the world’s biggest Springsteen fans here at Better Records (as you may have gathered by now) but when this sound is this good we can certainly get down and rock with The Boss.

So many copies left us cold with a flat, dry sound. If you’re bored by the first chorus of the title song, that’s a bad sign, and that was exactly our experience with most of the pressings that hit the table. When we threw this one on, things changed considerably. Bruce was really screaming, the drums were really pounding, and before we knew it we were really rockin’ out and enjoying the music. 

Side one gives you a very strong bottom end with more PUNCH than we found anywhere else. The top end is open and extended with a silky quality — dramatically better than the gritty, grainy, edgy sound we heard up top on copy after copy. The vocals sound wonderful with plenty of presence and texture, and the soundfield has some actual depth. Many copies we played had a slightly smeary quality, but not this one — the clarity is superb and you can clearly hear transients on just about all the instruments. 

Side two is very good as well but not quite as exceptional. The bottom end has lots of weight and there’s good energy all around, but the vocals could use a little more presence. Our ultimate sides also opened up a bit more, but I think you’ll find this side a step up over whatever you’ve been playing up to now. Drop the needle on Dancing In The Dark for some of the best sound on the side. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

xxx

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

This original Capitol Orange Label LP has TWO SUPERB sides, with side two earning our top grade of A+++ for its White Hot sound! And side one was nearly as good at A++ to A+++. These are the highest grades we are awarding to any copy on the site, folks. It doesn’t get any better. The sound is uncharacteristically smooth, sweet, clear and Tubey Magical, light years from the grungy grit and grain that plagues most copies of Heart Like a Wheel.

Things are different since our last big shootout back in 2009. We learned a lot about the record and have added plenty of new commentary to back it up. If you’re a fan check it out.

Let’s be honest: the average copy of this album is an audio disaster. Those of you who love this album as much as we do are going to be shocked when you hear how wonderful it can sound. We bet you never imagined it could be this good, and we happily back up that bet with a full money back guarantee!

This shootout was no small project — we dropped the needle on more than a DOZEN copies.This is the only one to earn better than a Super Hot Stamper grade (A++) on both sides. I’ve been playing this album for years, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on HLAW. On top of that it’s also full-bodied, lively, and super-transparent. The vocals are breathy and full with incredible immediacy. Folks, the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here. (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le – our Shootout Winner from 2008

xxxxx

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

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE HEARD! It’s big and bold, with dramatically less grit and grain than the average copies. This White Hot Ye-Me-Le has MINDBLOWING, YOU ARE THERE IMMEDIACY and MASTER TAPE SOUND on side one. The sound is punchy and lively with wonderful transparency. You can really hear the sound of the room around the musicians! Many of the tracks on this copy are DEMO DISC quality. 

Side one has virtually no strain, EXTENDED highs, and is overall fairly quiet. Listen to track two (a great version of Norweigan Wood)– it doesn’t get any better than that! Track one is so silky and sweet, it may become your favorite song to demonstrate your stereo. It’s certainly one of mine. Even the last track here, which almost never sounds good, is fairly sweet on this pressing. (more…)

For Pete’s Sake, What’s Wrong With Blue? – Thoughts on “The Definitive Vinyl” Version

xxxxx

In 2007 a customer took issue with our summary rejection of the new Blue.

Tom, 

I find it curious you are not carrying the new Joni Mitchell Blue vinyl issue. Even to the point of saying you can do better… for 25 bucks? After clicking on the LP cover and reading the comments from over the years it makes me wonder what your agenda really is. I paid $250 for a wonderful WLP and this Rhino issue smokes it, even as good as it is. I even have a Cd cut from this mastering session off the analog FLAT, not Dolby tapes and this vinyl even beats it…. of course just my opinion.

I have listened on $100,000 systems, all the way down to portable units, solid state and tube and there is no denying this is the definitive vinyl version….. and again for 25.00. What a bargain.

Maybe all you did was look at that Rhino sticker and think back to the Grateful Dead records they did a few years ago (horrible) and just assumed this wasn’t up to Better Records standards.

Thanks for reading. I enjoy your e mails and store….

Tom

Tom,

We don’t review records based on their labels or stickers. And of course we never assume anything about the sound of a record. We talk about this stuff all the time. Here’s a relevant quote:

My approach to reviewing records is pure skepticism: a record sounds good if it sounds good, regardless of how it was made, who made it, or why. I’ve heard lots of expensive so-called audiophile equipment do a pretty poor job of making music over the years, the owners of which had an armful of reasons for why the sound should be truly awe-inspiring. But it just wasn’t. Most fancy gold faceplates are nothing but lipstick on a pig in my opinion.

I heard Blue poorly reproduced at a friend’s house, and this is probably the best explanation for this letter writer’s inability to understand our position on Blue.

And paying $250 for a White Label Demo that apparently doesn’t sound good is the height of audiophile collector foolishness. That money should have gone for better equipment or room treatments or tweaks, something, anything, to make this guy’s stereo and room work better than they do.

Actually this brings up a good point. If I had to choose one record that separates the men from the boys, the stereos that really work from the phony, lifeless audiophile systems you might read about in the magazines or hear at an audio show, Blue would be a darn good choice.

The problem there is that you have to be one serious record collector to have a great copy of Blue. But good pressings are out there, if you can clean and play them properly. This is why we created the Blue Game. It can be done, and we can help you get there, but most of the work has to be done by you.

Naturally we are happy to do the shootouts for you and charge you the pretty penny the winners command, but for those of you who want to find out what’s wrong with the new Blue and don’t want to buy a Hot Stamper from us, there is a third way: Blue, The Game.

The Beatles on Vinyl – An Audiophile Wake Up Call

beatlesdoor

The sound of the best pressings of The Beatles — when cleaned with the Walker Enzyme fluids on the Odyssey machine — are truly revelatory.

So much of what holds their records back is not bad mastering or poor pressing quality or problems with the recording itself. It’s getting the damn vinyl clean. (It’s also helpful to have high quality playback equipment that doesn’t add to the inherent limitations of the recordings.)

Know why you never hear Beatles vinyl playing in stereo stores or audio shows? (Love doesn’t count; give me a break.)

Because they’re TOO DAMN HARD to reproduce. You have to have seriously tweaked, top-quality, correct-sounding equipment — and just the right pressings, natch — to get The Beatles’ music to sound right, and that’s just not the kind of stuff they have at stereo stores and audio shows. (Don’t get me started.)
(more…)