Digital – CDs, Digital Recordings, etc.

Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – Ryko Released This Awful Bowie Set in 1989

David Bowie Records with Audiophile Sound

The sound of digital mastering at its worst. Best to give this one a pass if you are looking for high quality sound.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Orff – Carmina Burana on Telarc – A Very Old Review

More of the music of Carl Orff

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This IMMACULATE Telarc Double LP with Virtually No Sign Of Play is one of the greatest audiophile records of all time and Telarc’s greatest recording! No recording gets more realism with this work … depth, dynamics, colors & performance!

Why don’t more of their recordings sound like this? Telarc is not a label I would normally associate with good sound but you have to give them credit here: they knocked this one out the park. They have made good records in the past — this one is proof enough, and some of the Fennel titles are quite good — but most of their catalog leaves much to be desired and is hard to recommend. (more…)

Peter Gabriel – Security

More Peter Gabriel

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  • A stunning copy of Security with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”

Man does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest. Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses. On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – Some of Our Favorite Twisted Melodic Pop

More Tusk

Tusk For Sale

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  • A MONSTER pressing that simply cannot be beat – all four sides (well, almost) earned our highest sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Staggering Demo Disc Quality sound on the more highly produced tracks, of which there are plenty spread across these two discs
  • The power of the bottom end is especially impressive on all the sides (and John McVie kills it on bass as usual)
  • 5 stars: “Because of its ambitions, Tusk failed to replicate the success of its two predecessors … yet it earned a dedicated cult audience of fans of twisted, melodic pop.” Twisted melodic pop? Sign me up!

This copy is absolutely KILLER, with the kind of transparency, space and openness you simply cannot find on most copies. When the soundstage is as wide and three-dimensional as it is here, it’s amazing how much more SENSE the music starts to make.

And the clarity is not the phony “audiophile” kind that’s the result of too much treble. The tonality is correct throughout, and there’s no lack of richness or warmth to the sound. They just don’t get any better. (more…)

Cat Stevens Teaser & Tea on CD – So, How Do They Sound, Anyway?

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This letter from our good customer Gary references the Hot Stampers he bought from us and subsequently played for a CD-only audiophile friend with a megabuck stereo. This is his story, followed by my commentary about the sound of Cat Stevens’ music on disc.

The Cat Stevens Hot Stampers are just amazing. The dynamic range is almost shocking on my rig. It’s like a car with the ability to go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds… It is so cool to turn up the music really loud and still converse with people if you want. The quiet is dead quiet. That is the sign of a good record.

I had a visitor from Chicago with more money in his system than most houses, no vinyl. He is now looking into it. Teaser busted him. I think I might have cried when I heard Father and Son on Tillerman, just beautiful. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Gary, I have a long history of challenging audiophiles who hold that the CDs of those albums do them justice sonically. Prove it I say. The difference between the good LP pressings and the best CDs is NIGHT AND DAY. Anyone playing the CDs of those albums is in the presence of a pale shadow of what’s really on that tape. (more…)

Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

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  • An outstanding early British pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Rich, spacious and lively, with an open, extended top end – this is the sound you want from Tears for Fears
  • More great songs than practically anything from the ’80s – Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Head Over Heels, just to name a few
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It is not only a commercial triumph, it is an artistic tour de force. And in the loping, percolating “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-’80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic. Songs From the Big Chair is one of the finest statements of the decade.”

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Unreleased UHQR Test Pressing

More on the UHQR

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Near Mint UHQR JVC Test Record in a white generic jacket.

The RAREST of the RARE! I’ve never even seen one offered for sale!

For those of you who do not know the complete story, basically the UHQR — the ultra high quality record — was invented by JVC as a test to see how good the ultimate vinyl pressing could sound. It was thicker, had a longer pressing cycle, and other technological improvements, all with the goal of making the ultimate lp.

Mobile Fidelity produced limited editions of eight titles on UHQR, and both Reference and Telarc produced one each.

Apparently tests were done by others as well, because here we have some m&k recordings on UHQR. I believe they are not known to exist — until now. I bought them from m&k myself a few years back, along with some flamenco fevers and a box full of unplayed for dukes. That was a good day for better records!

Anyway, obviously the price you see reflects the collectibility of such a unique pressing, not necessarily the musical or sonic qualities it may possess. If you want to be not just the first but the only person to own such a pressing, this is your opportunity to do so. (more…)

Michael Hedges / Aerial Boundaries – Some of the Most Unnatural Digitally Recorded Sound We Have Ever Heard

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It sounds as if someone went into a big room, sat Michael Hedges on a stool in the middle of it, and then aimed the mics at the walls. Roll tape!

And the best part is that it was nominated for an engineering Grammy!

If you think the average music lover today wouldn’t know good sound if it bit him in the ass, this album is proof that nothing has changed, not since 1984 anyway.

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Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat

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  • A Demo Disc quality pressing of this longtime audiophile favorite, with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, as quiet as we can find them
  • Turn this one up good and loud (which you can do when the sound is right) and you’ll have a living, breathing Jennifer Warnes standing right between your speakers
  • The space, resolution, and clarity here are wonderful – for evidence just look to the rosiny texture on the string arrangement of the Song of Bernadette
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The high point may have been the Warnes-Cohen duet on “Joan of Arc,” but the album was consistently impressive.”

We’re big fans of this album here at Better Records. It’s the only thing Jennifer Warnes ever did that we would consider a Must Own recording or Desert Island Disc. In my humble opinion it’s both.

This copy showed us the Famous Blue Raincoat Magic we know and love. The drums are big and punchy with plenty of WHOMP and the sound of skins being THWACKED. Jennifer’s voice is clear and breathy. If you know the record well you will surely be amazed at just how good this music can sound on a pressing as hot as this one.

With a Shootout Winning side two, these songs are guaranteed to sound dramatically better than you ever imagined they would:

Ain’t No Cure for Love Coming Back to You Song of Bernadette A Singer Must Die Came So Far for Beauty

So well recorded you could demo your system with most of these tracks! (more…)

Steely Dan ‎/ Gold on MCA Audiophile Vinyl – Sounds Like a Good CD to Me

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Clean and clear and tonally correct like a good CD should sound. If this is what you are after, why not just buy the CD? It’s a lot cheaper.

Some songs sound better than others, can’t remember which ones. I auditioned copies of this record more than twenty years ago. Once I got rid of them I never bought another. What would be the point?

No doubt there are still audiophiles extolling the virtues of this record in various threads. One thing you can be sure of: these are people who are not very serious about audio.

Some of the pressings these people like can be found in our Stone Age Audio Record section.

If you have top quality, highly-tweaked modern equipment, a good room, and the myriad other things that make exceptionally good vinyl playback possible these days in a way that was not possible even ten or fifteen years ago, you would have no reason to keep a record of such mediocrity in your collection.

Or say anything nice about it on a site ostensibly devoted to audiophile vinyl.

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