Difficult to Reproduce Recordings

Emmylou Harris – Pieces Of The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

More Emmylou Harris

Pieces Of The Sky

xxxxx

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

This album has the real Country Sound, with plenty of top players sitting in on these sessions, musicians who know country music as well as anyone alive. The legendary guitarist for Elvis (and half the stars of Nashville), James Burton, lends a hand on Electric and Dobro. On vocals and guitar Herb Pederson, who still plays locally. (Together with Chris Hillman they put on a great show of old Country and Honky Tonk favorites. If they come to your town check them out.) Ricky Skaggs on fiddle, Billy Payne on piano, Bernie Leadon on banjo — no doubt a good time was had by all in the studio and that spirit of like-minded musicians who love this music comes through in the recording. 

The presence of the vocals here is startling — Emmylou is IN THE ROOM with you, belting out these heartfelt, emotional songs. If her voice here doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will!

Dynamic Vocals!

One quality we heard on this album really took us by surprise. The vocals are shockingly DYNAMIC — it’s almost as if Emmylou’s mic has no limiter on it at all. If there’s any compression on her track it is very very subtle, that’s for sure. (more…)

Airto – Fingers – Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

More Airto

More Fingers

airtofinge_

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

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you won’t hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing it’s as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these. 

With an extended top end the sound is SWEET, not HARSH. Believe us when we tell you, the last thing you want is a harsh sounding pressing of a Rudy Van Gelder recording. (Not unless you have a dull, dull, deadly dull stereo. Those “Old School” stereos are practically the only way one can tolerate some of his early recordings.) (more…)

Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Jethro Tull

Thick As A Brick

xxxxx

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

This A++++ Beyond White Hot Stamper copy of Thick As A Brick has the best side one we have ever heard! This copy is operating at A WHOLE NOTHER LEVEL.

Side one has HUGE, room-filling, hi-definition sound, with levels of Tubey Magic one would simply never expect to hear coming from a run-of-the-mill domestic Reprise pressing such as this. But here they are; there’s no denying the transparency, size and rock and roll energy of this mind-boggling side one. It’s truly a Demo Disc of the highest order.

We cannot avoid awarding freakishly good sound such as this our rule-breaking Four Plus grade, limited to those rarefied pressings that take the sound of familiar records beyond what we’ve heard before. (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875) 

More Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky 

xxxxx

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

This White Hot Stamper copy of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two AMAZING sides back to back, which makes it only the second copy of this quality to ever hit the site, and the first to do so in two years.

Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Blue – Rhino / Warners Reviewed

More Joni Mitchell

More Blue

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B-

In March of 2007 we remarked that we would not be carrying the new 180 gram Rhino pressing of Blue. We noted at the time: 

Since Kevin and Steve are [perhaps erstwhile] friends of mine I won’t belabor its shortcomings. Let’s just say I think you can do better.

The following is an excerpt from our first successful Hot Stamper shootout back in 2007. Blue has only gotten better — dramatically better, if I may be so bold — since then.

The copy of Blue we are offering today is one of the few that sounded good before. Now it sounds really good. It got much quieter after applying some of our new cleaning techniques, and the sound became even warmer, richer, sweeter and more transparent.

Both sides sound wonderful — rich, sweet, and delicate. The warmth, breath, and presence of Joni’s vocals take this copy to a place light years beyond the typical copy, not to mention any reissue. The guitars sound amazing, particularly on side two, and the piano has weight without hardness. There’s tons of energy and lots of ambience, plus real depth to the soundfield — you really hear INTO this copy. Try that with your Rhino LP.

The best pressings (and better playback equipment) have revealed nuances in this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged that allowed us to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings. Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; now it’s just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring Blue to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

More George Harrison

All Things Must Pass

xxxxx

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

To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass. Stunning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all six sides (!).  

It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the nicer boxes we’ve come across for this title. It’s the thicker box which has stood the test of time a little better than the narrower version. Those are usually in pretty poor shape and we should know because we have a bunch of problematical boxes sitting right here. (more…)

Holst, Steinberg and The Planets – A Shootout Years in the Making

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

More Steinberg and The Planets

xxxxx

In July of 2005 we noted on the site that Hot Stampers for this album were discovered, and interested parties should watch the site for killer copies in the coming months. Obviously we didn’t know at the time that the number of coming months would be THIRTY TWO. That’s how long it would be before we could offer our loyal customers truly Hot Stampers, but hey, good things come to those who wait, right?

We had to wait for two things: the revolutionary cleaning techniques that we developed during that time (the heart of which is our $7000 record cleaning machine) which allowed us to get these records to sound better and play quieter, and, secondly, better equipment. (Check out our Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary for the latest in changes to the stereo.) (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Casino Royale

More Burt Bacharach

More Casino Royale

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • A superb original stereo copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl for this album too
  • A record that has its share of problems, but if you’ve got the system for it (huge, heavily tweaked, fast, free from obvious colorations and capable of tremendous resolution), this copy is sure to impress  
  • A TAS List favorite that sounds amazing on a the right early pressing and dramatically better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue that’s we know of
  • “The more recognizable and certainly more straightforward side of Bacharach is here, too, on the Dusty Springfield smash ‘The Look of Love.’ This is one of Bacharach’s best soundtracks…”

The space is big and the sound relatively rich (although the sound does vary quite a bit from track to track). The vocals have notably less hardness than most and the orchestra is not as brash as it can be on so many of the copies we audition. Huge amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies, and critical to The Look of Love. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam – Turning Aggressive Energy into Pure Excitement

More Steely Dan

The Royal Scam

xxxxx

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

We really went overboard with the track commentary for this one. This should make it easy for you to compare what we say about the sound of these songs with what they sound like to you on your system, using the copy you own or, better yet, one of our Hot Stampers. 

If you end up with one of our Hot Stampers, listen carefully for the effects we describe below. This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working in tip-top form to even begin to get this complicated music sounding the way it should — but if you’ve done your homework and gotten your system really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life. (more…)

Derek and the Dominos – Layla

More Eric Clapton and Cream

More Layla

xxxxx

  • With a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides two, three and four, this copy delivers top quality sound for this famously difficult recording – exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • Some of our favorite Clapton songs are here: Bell Bottom Blues, Tell The Truth, Little Wing, Layla and Have You Ever Loved A Woman?
  • One of the most difficult albums to find audiophile sound for, but a lot easier for us now that we know what pressings can actually sound good
  • Clapton’s greatest album: “But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion.”

Outstanding sound for all four sides of this classic album. Unless you plan on playing a very big pile of copies you will be hard-pressed to find a copy with sound like this. (more…)