Genre – Percussion

Vivid and Accurate Timbre for Reeds and Percussion – True Demo Disc Sound

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This is one of the most phenomenal sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Take the best sound you ever heard from the best authentic Mercury classical record (not that Heavy Vinyl BS) and translate it into pop arrangements for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes, bassoons, and what do you have?

Sound that leaps out of the speakers with absolutely dead on tonality.

But what is most shocking of all is how vivid and accurate the timbre of every instrument is.

Yes, it’s multi-miked, and sometimes the engineers play with the channels a bit much (especially at the start of the first track).

That said, if you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real, as if you were standing right in the studio with them. It’s that crazy good.

Which brings up a question: Who but Better Records is finding incredible Demonstration Quality recordings like these nowadays?

Harry Pearson used to. Jim Mitchell did back in the ’80s.

Are the Audiophile Reviewers of today picking up the baton that the giants of the past have dropped at their feet.

I see little evidence of it. In fact I see none.

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Dick Schory – Listen for an Extended Top End on Bang Baaroom and Harp

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

What to listen for you ask? Top end, plain and simple. It’s the RARE copy that really has the incredible extension of the side two we heard recently. The space, the clarity, the harmonic complexity — perhaps one out of ten copies will show you a side two like that.

The highs are so good on this record you can use it as a setup tool. Adjust your VTA, tracking weight and the like for the most natural and clear top end, then check for all the other qualities you want to hear and you may just find yourself operating on a higher plane than before.
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Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular – Our Favorite Record for Cartridge Setup

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Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only — the Bob and Ray Test. 

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: The Song of the Volga Boatman.

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is The Song of the Volga Boatman on Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult record we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last year or two.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection you need to find one.

It will be invaluable in the long run. The copy we have is so good (White Hot, the best we have ever played), and so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

The Bob and Ray Trombone / Trumpet Test

One of the key tests on Bob and Ray that keeps us on the straight and narrow is the duet between the trombone and the trumpet about half way through The Song of the Volga Boatman. I have never heard a small speaker reproduce a trombone properly, and when tweaking the system, when the trombone has more of the heft and solidity of the real instrument, that is a tweak we want to pursue. The trumpet interweaving with it in the right rear corner of the studio tests the transients and high frequency harmonics in the same section. With any change to the stereo, both of those instruments are going to sound better. For a change to be positive they must both sound better. (more…)

Dick Schory – Music To Break Any Mood – Reviewed in 2009

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

This is the successor to Bang Baaroom, and as you can imagine it’s music in the same percussive style, the major difference here being the addition of a giant gong which the producers justifiably take great pride in. This title is also at least 5 times as rare as LSP 1866; I haven’t seen one of these in years! (more…)

Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra – Viva Cugat

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

This crazy Cugat record (is there any other kind?) is a BALL and has absolutely amazing Demo Disc quality sound on side two, better than Super Hot Stamper quality. 

It sounds like Henry Mancini on speed, and the recording quality puts most of Mancini’s records to shame to boot. This is Bachelor Pad music for those who like their Bachelor Pad to be FUN!

Side Two

With A++ to A+++ sound this side is pretty much doing it all. So spacious! And such tremendous low and high frequency extension, the kind that vintage records usually have trouble with. Not this copy. The strings and horns can get slightly aggressive

Make sure you have your VTA set dead right or this record will be a mess. Careful adjustment is critical to reproduce this kind of complex and lively sound. (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky – Our 4+ Shootout Winner from 2019

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

Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound throughout — QUADRUPLE PLUS (A++++) on the first side and Triple Plus (A+++) on the second. Side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found – and this pressing, with Beyond White Hot sound for that side, is guaranteed to be bigger and more lively than you ever imagined (because that’s how we felt about it, hence the fourth plus).

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.

Both sides show up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave side one that fourth plus!

This Angle Melodiya pressing of Bizet’s Carmen, rearranged by Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin for strings and 47 percussion instruments, has two incredible sides. Demo Quality Sound barely begins to do it justice. If you have the system to play it, this copy is a KNOCKOUT.

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce. You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. Speed, resolving power and freedom from distortion are what this record needs to sound its best. Is your system up to it? There’s only one way to find out.

And if you have any peaky audiophile wire or equipment in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality. (more…)

Dick Schory – The Happy Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Side One – A++. This side is full and rich yet clear. Listen to that crazy banjo on track two; that’s not an easy instrument to get to sound right, but the RCA engineers pull it off. The brass is a bit “hot” at times so we took off one plus. For all we know this is as good as it gets. 

Side Two – A++, not quite as warm as side one, but more lively and really jumpin’. The last track is truly Demo Disc quality. The bottom and top are extended and the sound is rich in the best possible sense of the word. Superb sound and plenty of fun, wacky music!

  • Super Hot on both sides on this rare title – the sound is killer on most tracks
  • Side one is rich and tubey yet clear, our favorite combination
  • Side two has the best sounding track on the album – Demo Disc quality
  • Quiet vinyl, with sound that’s more lively and energetic than most Schory discs

As is usually the case with these vintage Living Stereo pressings, the vinyl may not be dead quiet but it’s certainly quiet enough for any problems to stay hidden well underneath the music.  (more…)

Los Admiradores – Bongos / Flutes / Guitars

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First things first: one of the main bongo players is none other than Ray Barretto himself. You jazz guys out there will know exactly who that is, a man whose reputation for brilliant rhythmic contributions to some of the greatest classic jazz albums of the ’60s is beyond dispute. One listen to Midnight Blue will do the trick. The man had a gift. And he is here joined by two other top players.

And of course the guitarist has to be the incomparable Tony Mottola, the man behind one of our favorite jazz guitar records of all time: Warm, Wild and Wonderful.

Soundfield, Timbre and Dynamics

The spaciousness of the studio is reproduced with uncanny fidelity, with both huge depth and width, but there is another dimension that this record is operating in that Bang, Baa-room and Harp, just to take one example, does not — the instruments here are capable of jumping out of your speakers, seemingly right into your listening room.

The effect is astonishing. I have never heard these instruments sound more real than they do here. The timbre is perfection. The dynamics are startling.

Add to those clearly unattenuated dynamics, high and low frequencies that are also not attenuated, and microphones capable of deadly accuracy, and you have yourself a recording of virtually unparalleled fidelity. We’ve played these kinds of records by the score but I have rarely heard one that can do what this one is doing. (more…)

Arthur Lyman – Taboo: The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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This out-of-this-world WHITE HOT Stamper side two of Taboo blew our minds with its uncanny three-dimensional recreation of space. It’s so transparent and boundless you’ll feel like you are standing right on the stage with these guys and their birds! If you’re an audiophile, both the sound and the music are crazy fun. If you want to demonstrate just how good 1959 All Tube Analog sound can be, this is the record that can do it, maybe better than any other.

Naturally it has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Martin Denny and many others. But c’mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly enchanting). It’s all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and otherwise) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more side two of this copy excelled beyond all of our expectations.

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the sound here is PHENOMENAL. This is vintage analog at its best, so rich and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to “improve” it. If you like the sound of vibes and unusual percussion instruments, you will have a hard time finding a more magical recording of any of them.

The sound here is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)

Arthur Lyman – Bwana A – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

White Hot Stamper sound, with a big stage, Tubey Magic and correct tonality from top to bottom. There’s plenty going on at the extreme top – the rare copy that has it all!

Everywhere else the sound is tonally and timbrally Right On The Money. It’s very lively, with tight, clear bass. Listen to how open the sound is. That sound is just not to be found on popular albums anymore.

This Superb sounding stereo (we don’t bother with mono) copy of Bwana A has a lot in common with the other Bachelor Pad / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Esquivel, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Martin Denny and others too numerous (or obscure) to name.

But c’mon, nobody really buys these records for the music (although the music is thoroughly captivating). It’s all about the Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation, the wacky 3-D sound effects (of real birds and otherwise) and the heavily percussive arrangements. In all of these areas and more this record does not disappoint. (more…)