Genre – Rock – Big Production Rock

Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

The hottest copy — by far — of Fly Like An Eagle to ever hit the site! We’ve been collecting these for years in hope of finding a knockout pressing, but shootout after shootout stalled. They pressed tons of copies of this album and most of them sound terrible — grainy, dry and flat. We went into this shootout without high expectations this week, but we were BLOWN AWAY by the sound of the best copies. And here’s one that just couldn’t be beat, earning A+++ grades on BOTH SIDES. (more…)

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this White Hot Stamper copy! Folks, it just does not get any better than this. It’s been more than two years (08/08) since last we embarked on a Hot Stamper shootout for this great album. I always knew it could sound good, but I sure never heard it sound like this! (I said that last time around too you may recall. Two years is a long time in audio. If your stereo and room are undergoing regular improvements, as they can and should be, the sound will be noticeably better every year, dramatically better after two.) 

This is some of the best high-production-value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of these songs is similar to that of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and the like. In other words, no effort was spared to make the home listening experience as compelling as possible.

Big Production British Rock & Roll

Just listen to the guitar solo on ‘Let The Sky Fall’. It comes complete with multiple guitar parts, acoustic and electric, with some backwards guitar thrown in for good measure! This kind of dense aural soundscape, presented with so many carefully placed elements from side to side and front to back, truly rewards repeated listening.

No matter how many times you play the album you will hear (and hopefully appreciate) something new in the mix. I’ve been playing ASIT for thirty years and I heard lots of things this time around I never knew were there. This is why we keep improving our systems, right? There is never going to be a time when these nearly forty year old recordings have nothing new to offer. (more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

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

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Queen – A Night at the Opera – Our Shootout Winner from 2017

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

Triple Plus (A+++) on side one and nearly that on side two (A++ to A+++) make this the best copy to ever hit the site. The sound is HUGE with WHOMP like nothing you have ever heard on this album – finally, the code has been cracked.

We noted on the site last time around:

As we are fond of pointing out (although we wish it were not the case), for some reason it’s incredibly tough to find good-sounding Queen albums, which is why you almost never see them on the site. (News of the World and The Game are much easier to find with good sound.)

Most of the copies of this album we played weren’t even worth putting a grade on. We wouldn’t bother trying to sell a record that sounded as bad as those dogs. This copy gets it mostly right and that alone makes it exceptional. For Queen, mostly right is hard to come by.

All that is still true, but here’s the copy that has all of the Queen Magic you heard in your head — and only in your head — while Bohemian Rhapsody was playing on the radio.

Here’s the pressing that finally can let you hear that BIG, BOLD sound in your very own listening room. You can even play it for your audiophile friends now. (more…)

Steely Dan – A Killer Can’t Buy a Thrill (and Some Lessons We Learned)

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From the moment the needle hit the groove on side one, we were treated to some of the best sound we’ve ever heard for this album.

Both sides have an incredibly tight and punchy bottom end, with the kind of energy and WHOMP that brings this music to life! The soundfield is BIG, WIDE, and OPEN, with a three-dimensional quality that we didn’t hear on other copies. The top end is silky sweet — just listen to the cymbals on Do It Again.

Dirty Work sounds superb here — rich and sweet mids, breathy brass, and lots of texture to the vocals. Often this track sounds dull and dubby, but it’s actually just a case of the mix being smoother than most of the other songs on the album. If this track sounds smooth, and the other songs sound right, the tonality is correct for the whole side, because that’s what the best copies sound like.

Flip the record over and the good times begin all over again. Elliot Randall’s guitar on Reeling In The Years has the meaty texture and uncanny presence to take the song to an entirely new level. Fire In The Hole is exceptionally dynamic with real weight to the piano, and the double tracked vocals on Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sound rich and poppy the way they should.

Combine two sides this good and press them on fairly quiet vinyl and you have yourself an LP that’s practically a FLUKE. (more…)

Heart – Little Queen

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power of your system. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the record that will truly show it off. 

Even though our graphic scale only goes to three pluses, you’ll know the Four Plus sound on this side one the moment you hear it.

You get HUGE meaty guitars, BIG bass, a smooth top end, full-bodied vocals, incredible rock energy and dynamics, loads of richness and incredible transparency.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make. (more…)

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This BEYOND White Hot side one (A++++) has nothing less than MASTER TAPE SOUND. Our Four Plus ranking is rare enough, but in this case it has the added benefit of conferring upon this very pressing the status of the BEST SOUNDING STEELY DAN RECORDING we have ever heard.

There is no recording better in the Steely Dan catalog, and I don’t think there’s a copy anywhere that’s any better than this one. (more…)

The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

The first White Hot copy to hit the site in almost TEN YEARS! And it’s a monster, with both sides earning our Top Grade of Triple Plus (A+++). The sound is dramatically bigger, present and livelier than the average pressing. 

Finally, a killer copy of Zenyatta Mondatta worthy of the White Hot Stamper designation! It is brutally difficult to find great copies of this album, which explains why only a handful have gone up since 2006. And given our expanded resources and refined shootout process, not to mention the expertise we’ve gained in the thousands of hours of listening we’ve done since that time, I have to believe that this is one of the best sounding copies we’ve ever found. Police fans, this is the ONE. (more…)

Roxy Music – Roxy Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

The legendary first Roxy Music album returns to the site in tip top White Hot Stamper form, boasting no less than an incredible A+++ White Hot Side Two coupled with a superb A++ Super Hot Side One! Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!

In considering both music and sound, this is arguably the best record the band ever made. Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album has the kind of dynamic, energetic, POWERFUL sound that their other records simply never show us. And we’ve played them by the dozens, so there’s a pretty good chance we will never find copies with the abundant richness and power we found here. (more…)

The Police – Synchronicity – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

WHITE HOT STAMPERS on side two! That gives you amazing sound for Every Breath You Take, King Of Pain, and Wrapped Around Your Finger! It’s been about a while since we last found Hot Stampers for this album, mostly because so many copies just plain suck. The sound on this one is meaty and punchy down low.

More remarkable, it also comes without the phony upper midrange boost on Sting’s vocals that would normally have you reaching to back off the volume. The choruses get LOUD and are so POWERFUL on this copy they make a mockery of most pressings you play.

We call it Master Tape Sound when it’s this good! (more…)