Good Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl – Really?

Peter Gabriel – So

More Peter Gabriel

xxxxx

  • 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

More Paul Simon

Hot Stamper Pressings of Graceland Available Now


xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)

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

More Peter Gabriel

Hot Stamper Pressings of So Available Now

xxx

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

More Tears for Fears

xxxxx

  • 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

More Jennifer Warnes

More Leonard Cohen

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…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

More Tusk

More Fleetwood Mac

xxxxx

  • This outstanding copy of Tusk boasts solid Double Plus (A+) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best sounding tracks are killer here – clear, rich, warm, full-bodied, with all the hallmarks of high-production-value analog throughout
  • This vintage pressing has 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…)

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

More Stevie Wonder

More Soul, Blues and R&B

xxxxx

  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Wonder naysayed the trends and continues to do what he did best. Solid songwriting, musicianship, and production are evident in the majority of Hotter Than July… It is the portrait of an artist who still had the Midas touch…”

*CONDITION NOTES: On side two, the last 2-3 seconds of Track 5, Happy Birthday, are somewhat crackly.

Most copies lack the presence, energy and bottom end weight to let these funky songs work their magic, but a copy like this will let you appreciate the music without the mediocre sonics of the average pressing getting in the way.

This album was recorded right at the beginning of the digital era (1980) and most pressings won’t let you forget that. So many copies we played were just too sterile to get into — clean and clear bit lacking richness and fullness. We’re huge Stevie Wonder fans around here and we’ve fallen in love with Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life over and over again because of their lush, analog sound on the best pressings. It took a ton of work (and a whole lot of copies) to find a Hotter Than July that we could get excited about. I don’t think there’s a copy out there that can compete with his earlier recordings sonically but at least the Hot Stamper pressings present the music in a way that audiophiles can enjoy. (more…)

Orff – Carmina Burana on Telarc – A Very Old Review

More of the music of Carl Orff

xxxxx

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

xxx

  • 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

xxxxx

  • 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…)