Genre – Rock – More Pop than Rock x

Analog Vs. Digital Revisited

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The Nightfly & Digital Sound

Do All the Pressings Have to Sound Like CDs?

The average copy of this digitally recorded, mixed and mastered LP sounds just the way you would expect it to: like a CD. It’s anemic, two-dimensional, opaque, thin, bright, harsh, with little extreme top and the kind of bass that’s all “note” with no real weight, solidity or harmonic structure. Sounds like a CD, right? (That’s the way most of my CDs sound, which is why I no longer listen to them except in the car)

But what if I told you that the best copies of The Nightfly can actually sound like a real honest-to-goodness ANALOG recording, with practically none of the nasty shortcomings listed above? You may not believe it, but it’s true.
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Listening in Depth to Carly Simon’s Second Best Album – No Secrets

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For 

The immensely talented engineer ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE worked his audio magic on this album. You may recall that he recorded a number of the greatest sounding rock records of all time, Elton John’s self-titled second album and Tumbleweed Connection, both in 1970, as well as this album and Nilsson Schmilsson in 1972, with Richard Perry producing. 

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Rickie Lee Jones

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Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with plenty of advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of RLJ.

On the best of the Hot Stamper copies it becomes abundantly clear just how well the string bass was recorded — assuming you like the close-miked, maximum-presence quality they were after. You hear all the fingering, the wood of the body resonating; all the stuff you could never hear live unless you were ten feet from the guy. Natural it’s not, but natural is not what most hit records are all about anyway.

Credit — or blame — belongs squarely with LEE HERSCHBERG

There’s no question that he knew exactly what he was doing, he’s the pro’s pro, so let’s give him credit for making the sound of the record really POP. (more…)

Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

Little Queen
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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.
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Gary Wright – The Dream Weaver – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • A Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two (for the classic title track)
  • Big, rich and full-bodied with lovely texture to the synths and relatively little grit – crucially important to the best copies
  • Only the second Triple Plus copy to hit the site since 2015 – pressings with this kind of sound are tougher to come by than you might imagine
  • 4 Stars: “Backed with only drums and a wide assortment of keyboards, Gary Wright crafted instantly recognizable tunes such as the title cut and “Love Is Alive,” which caught on and remain staples of classic rock stations around the U.S. … Dream Weaver hasn’t lost any of its magic over time.”

See more of our Gary Wright albums in stock

Huge, lively and full-bodied with tons of presence, this is exactly the right sound for this music.

Most pressings of this album tend to err in one of two ways: either they get hard and gritty in the upper mids, or they’re smeary and dull. Our best copies get the balance right — plenty of texture on the keyboards and drums, with vocals that still have presence and breathiness — and not too much grit.

Keyboards and More Keyboards

An all-keyboard pop record like this was a rarity at the time. The only other instruments besides drums (and one track with guitar) are keyboards. Every song is layered with multi-tracked clavinets, organs, and Moogs — it was a remarkable feat in 1975 to create an album with nothing but keys. Listen to the title track, the most dynamic song on the record, and you will hear just how well all of those stacked keyboards and synths work together. (Steve Winwood’s Back in the High Life borrowed a page or two from Gary’s solo debut here.) (more…)

Listening in Depth to Aftermath – The First in a String of Must Own Stones Albums

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Listening in Depth

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Lady Jane, Under My Thumb and Mother’s Little Helper are three of the best sounding tracks on side one — all three are lively and solid here. On side two Out of Time and I Am Waiting are especially well recorded.

DAVE HASSINGER rightly deserves the credit for the best sounding early Stones album — this one.

Although some songs sound amazing, not every track is well recorded. We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the consistent quality of the earliest recordings. That said, a strong copy like this one paired with the great music on this album will certainly deliver a lot of pleasure to audiophile Stones fans.

Although some songs sound amazing, not every track is well recorded. We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the consistent quality of the earliest recordings. That said, a strong copy like this one paired with the great music on this album will certainly deliver a lot of pleasure to audiophile Stones fans.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Mothers Little Helper

Superb! On the best copies this track is so transparent you can feel the cool air of the studio.

Stupid Girl

Somewhat dark and compressed as a rule. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Joe Jackson – Balancing Night with Day

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Balancing Night with Day

Listening in Depth

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There are basically four elements that go into the making of Night and Day: vocals; keyboards (mostly the piano); percussion (in the mids and highs) and rhythm (drums and bass).

No two copies will get all of these elements to sound their best. The trick to finding the hotter of the Hot Stamper pressings is to find copies of the album that reproduce these four elements clearly and correctly, in balance, and reveals their placement in a large, three-dimensional studio space.

It may sound easy but I assure you it is not. With this many instruments in the mix it’s a lot to get right.

Vocals

Pop records live and die by the quality of their vocals and Night and Day is no different in that respect. The vocals have to be front and center. Veiling in the midrange costs a fair number of points. They should also be smooth, not thin or edgy. I would rather have slightly veiled vocals relative to thin and edgy ones, but some copies manage to give you full, clear, present vocals, and those are the ones we tend to like the best.

Keyboards

When the sound is thin in the lower midrange and upper bass the piano will lose its weight and solidity. In the denser mixes it can easily get washed out, and nobody wants a washed out piano.

There is no guitar on this record. The piano carries much of the structural energy of the music. You need to be able to hear the piano clearly and hear that it is both full-bodied and percussive. (more…)

If You Can’t Make a Good Record, Why Make Any Record At All?

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Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill

Speakers Corner Debunked

This has to be one of the worst sounding versions ever pressed. You think the average ABC or MCA pressing is opaque, flat and lifeless, not to mention compromised at both ends of the frequency spectrum? You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

As bad as the typical copy of this album is, the Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl is even worse, with not a single redeeming quality to its credit. If this is what passes for an Audiophile Record these days, and it is, it’s just one more nail in the coffin for Heavy Vinyl.

But that’s not the half of it. Go to Acoustic Sounds’ website and read all the positive customer reviews — they love it! Is there any heavy vinyl pressing on the planet that a sizable contingent of audiophiles won’t say something nice about, no matter how bad it sounds? I can’t think of one. (more…)

Today’s Half-Speed Mastered Disaster is Abandoned Luncheonette

Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Those of you who have had the misfortune to play the MoFi LP know that they absolutely ruined this album. They boosted the hell out of the top end, the last thing in the world this recording needed.

Actually, that’s probably not true. People who collect MoFi records probably like the kind of phony sound found on the MoFi of this title.

To the extent that a MoFi collector is not happy with the sound, my guess is he would more than likely place the blame on the recording, not the mastering.

Of course, since such a collector would never lower himself to buy a plain old domestic copy of the record, he would have no way of knowing that it trounces his so-called audiophile pressing. If your stereo likes that MoFi sound in this day and age, you shouldn’t be buying records. You should be buying new equipment. (more…)

Off the Wall Vs. Thriller – Which One Has More Tubey Magic?

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ABSOLUTELY STUNNING SOUND for this White Hot Stamper pressing!

Both sides cannot be beat — both have the BIG M.J. SOUND that jumps from the speakers and fills the room. We’ve never a copy that was so full of ANALOG MAGIC!

The vocals are PERFECTION — breathy, full-bodied, and present. The overall sound is open, transparent, and PUNCHY with rock solid bass. The top end is extended and sweet, with tons of ambience the likes of which I’ve never heard before.

Normally when you have a copy with plenty of presence it’s somewhat sibilant in places. Not so here. For some reason this copy has all the highs, but it’s cut so clean it practically doesn’t spit at all. Even on the song I Can’t Help It, which normally has a problem in that respect. Since that’s my favorite song on this album, and probably my favorite MJ song of all time, hearing it sound so good was a revelation.

Better Sound than Thriller?

Yes. As consistently brilliant as Thriller may be musically — it is the biggest selling album of all time after all — speaking strictly in terms of sonics the sound of the best copies of Off the Wall is substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, and more ANALOG than Thriller.

Thriller is clearly more aggressive and processed-sounding than Off the Wall. The Girl Is Mine or Human Nature from Thriller would fit just fine anywhere on Off the Wall, but could the same be said for Beat It or Thriller? Just thinking about them you can hear the artificiality of the sound of both those songs in your head. Think about the snare that opens Beat It. I’ve never heard a snare sound like that in my life. Practically no instrument on Off the Wall has that kind of overly processed EQ’d sound.

Choruses Are Key (more…)