Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really?

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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  • This STUNNING copy of Tusk boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR sides
  • The best sounding tracks are killer here – clear, rich, warm, full-bodied, with all the hallmarks of high-production-value analog throughout
  • These vintage pressings have the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 40 year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copy of those tapes)
  • 5 stars: “McVie and Nicks don’t deviate from their established soft rock and folk-rock templates, and all their songs are first-rate… 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.” (more…)

Peter Gabriel / Security

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  • 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.

This is not an easy album to find good sound for. Most copies are thick, opaque, turgid, veiled — pick your favorite adjective for mud, most copies fit the profile. When you find one like this, that has some real space and clarity, it’s amazing how much more sense the music makes.

The best copies have the kind of qualities that are not difficult to recognize:

  • presence, putting PG front and center;
  • dynamics, both micro and macro;
  • energy, allowing the rhythmic elements to bring out the life in the music;
  • transparency, so that we can hear all the way to the back of the studio; and
  • ambience, the air that surrounds all the players and their instruments

And of course we played the album VERY LOUD, as loud as we could. It’s the only way to get the massive drumming to sound right. (more…)

Eric Clapton – Unplugged

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  • The sound of this superb import is rich, full-bodied, lively, and warm, with solid bass and breathy, clear vocals
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unplugged is the concert and album that established the MTV program as a classy, tony showcase for artists eager to redefine themselves via reexamination of their catalogs, which is what Clapton cannily did here.”

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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.”

This is a CLASSIC in the Tears for Fears canon, probably the album most people regard as their best. I myself prefer Seeds of Love, which should take nothing away from Big Chair — both are exceptional productions from the ’80s no matter how you look at them.

SFTBC went to Number One on the charts for a reason. There’s really not a bad song on either side and mostly absolutely brilliant ones. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mirage

  • A STUNNING original Warner Bros. pressing of Mirage, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom
  • Most copies are washed-out, recessed, and lack weight, but this one will show you just how right this music can sound
  • The producing-engineering team of Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut return to provide top quality Rumours-like production
  • The album spent five weeks at Number One, probably on the strength of the amazingly fun single “Hold Me.”

It’s a surprisingly good album if you can find the right copy.

The mids and highs can be really silky and sweet. The whole album has that glossy sound, clearly the influence of Lindsay Buckingham and his production team. The sound of Fleetwood Mac in this period is their doing, and with a phenomenal run of success that’s rarely been seen in pop history, it’s hard to argue with either their approach to the material or the sound. It sounds like they used every track on the multi-track recorder and then some. (more…)

Peter Gabriel – So

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  • This insanely good copy of Gabriel’s breakthrough album boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich – drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • Great songs including Don’t Give Up, Sledgehammer, Big Time, Mercy Street, Red Rain, In Your Eyes and more
  • “Excellent albums followed, but the breathtaking So is the best introduction to a dazzling discography.” — Bruno MacDonald

Here is a copy of So with the Big and Bold Peter Gabriel sound we love. If you want your Art Rock to actually rock (as well as be arty), this is the copy for you.

It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but when it sounds this good you can just forget its shortcomings and marvel at how consistently good the material and the production are. (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Graceland Available Now


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  • A KILLER copy of Paul Simon’s 1986 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Richer, smoother yet still very clear and highly resolving, in precisely the way so few copies are
  • Guaranteed to trounce the well-reviewed but nevertheless AWFUL Heavy Vinyl LP in every way, or your money back and the shipping is on us
  • There’s a delicate, extended top end on this pressing that simply does not exist on the new reissue
  • 5 stars: “An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.”

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What We Think We Know about Peter Gabriel’s Brilliant So Album from 1986

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Hot Stamper Pressings of So Available Now

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Here is a copy of So with the Big and Bold Peter Gabriel sound we love. If you want your Art Rock to actually rock (as well as be arty), this is the copy for you.

It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but when it sounds this good you can just forget its shortcomings and marvel at how consistently good the material and the production are.

No Mean Feat

It’s exceptionally hard to find good sounding copies of this album, as you can read about below. With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin.

We did a shootout years ago that taught us a few things. The most surprising finding? The Brit copy I had in my own collection sucked — how about that! As a rule, I like the Brit pressings best for PG, but that rule got broken after playing all these domestic copies, some of which really sound good, clearly better than the average Brit.

Recording Issues

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s shortcomings. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high-quality mastering doing exactly that.

Mass Produced Plastic Problems

But of course the mastering is only one part of the puzzle. I have multiple copies with the same stampers. Some of them are terrible, some of them are wonderful — you just can’t rely on the numbers to guide you with a piece of mass-produced plastic like this. You have no choice but to play the record to know what it sounds like. (And that’s a good thing. Keeps you honest. There’s no “cheating” when you have nothing to go by but the sound.)

This album sold in the millions. They stamped it out until the metalwork was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Those badly pressed copies are not going to have any high-frequency extension, which leaves them with all the harsh upper mids sticking out of the mix to peel the paint in your living room and make your ears bleed. (more…)

Tears for Fears – The Hurting

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  • This outstanding British pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Classic tracks like Mad World, Pale Shelter, and Change have stood the test of time – they’re played in TFF’s concerts to this day (we saw them not that long ago)
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings – with top quality Hot Stamper sound, this copy is sure to trounce anything you’ve ever heard
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…powerful pieces of music, beautifully executed in an almost minimalist style…an exquisite sonic painting sweeping the listener up in layers of pulsing synthesizers, acoustic guitar arpeggios, and sheets of electronic sound…”

Folks, take it from us, it is not every pressing that can manage to get rid of the digital harshness and congestion that so many copies suffer from, and then go on to open up its soundstage to be as wide, deep and tall a presentation as you will hear on this very copy.

When you have at your disposal a pressing like this one — notably richer, smoother and sweeter than many– the minor shortcomings of the recording will no longer interfere with your enjoyment of this groundbreaking music. (more…)

Jennifer Warnes / Famous Blue Raincoat – Listening in Depth

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Reviews and Commentaries for Famous Blue Raincoat

I’m a huge fan of this music. It’s the only album Jennifer Warnes ever made that I would consider a Must Own record or a Desert Island Disc.

In my humble opinion it’s clearly her MASTERPIECE.

Key Test for Side One

Listen to the snare drum on Bird on a Wire. On most copies it sound thin and bright, not very much like a real snare. Let’s face it: most copies of this record are thin and bright, and that’s just not our sound here at Better Records. If the snare on Bird sounds solid and meaty, at the very least you have a copy that is probably not too bright, and on this album that puts it well ahead of the pack.

While you’re listening for the sound of that snare, notice the amazing drum work of Vinnie Colaiuta, session drummer extraordinaire. The guy’s work on this track — especially with the high hat — is GENIUS.

Key Test for Side Two

Listen to the sound of the piano on Song of Bernadette. If it’s rich and full-bodied with the weight of a real piano, you might just have yourself a winner. At the very least you won’t have to suffer through the anemically thin sound of the average copy.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

First We Take Manhattan

Don’t expect this song to ever be tonally correct. It runs the gamut from bright to too bright to excrutiatingly bright. Steve Hoffman told me that he took out something like 6 DB at 6K, and I’m guessing that that’s the minimum that would need to come out. It’s made to be a hit single, and like so many hit single wannabes, it’s mixed bright. (more…)