Genre – Rock – Punk Rock / New Wave

The Clash – London Calling – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Absolutely stunning sound for all four sides, Triple Plus on one and two, very close on three and four. Huge and open, full and rich, present and energetic — absolutely as good as it gets. An album that almost never makes it on to the site with grades like this.

AUDIOPHILE SOUND FOR THIS PUNK ROCK CLASSIC?! You better believe it, baby! The sound here is absolutely superb for all four sides, earning at or near our top grade.

Dub Style!

What really sets this album apart sonically is The Clash’s use of reggae and dub influences. You can really hear it when you tune in to the bottom end; your average late ’70s punk record isn’t gonna have such rich and meaty bass, that’s for sure. Drop the needle on The Guns Of Brixton (last track on side two) to hear exactly what I’m talking about. On a Hot Stamper copy played at the correct levels (read: quite loud!) the effect is positively HYPNOTIC. (more…)

Talking Heads – Little Creatures – I Ask You: What Album from 1985 Has Better Sound?

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We’re huge fans of Little Creatures here at Better Records and we think when you hear one of our Hot Stamper copies you’ll know exactly what we love about it. Not many records from this era sound as amazingly rich as this one, not in our experience anyway. (As I write this there are four Hot Stamper pressings from 1985 on the site, and one of them is Brothers in Arms, hardly anyone’s idea of audiophile quality sound I venture to say.)

The recording is simply outstanding — punchy, smooth & so ANALOG, with an especially beefy bottom end, the kind a good Big Beat Pop Album record needs. (For a mental reference think Get The Knack or Parallel Lines.)

The best copies boast the kind of tight, punchy, surprisingly deep note-like bass that absolutely makes or breaks the sound on Little Creatures. Without the proper bass foundation this funky beat-crazy Talking Heads album can’t BEGIN to do what it’s trying to do: get your feet tappin’ and your body rockin’ to the music. (more…)

Talking Heads – The Name of this Band is Talking Heads

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  • This superb double album boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides  
  • Excellent sound for one of the best live bands of the era
  • This copy plays bout as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • ” The excitement of this material is palpable, and the muscular band rips into these tunes with more power than the originals in most cases… arguably one of their finest releases.” – All Music

We recently had a big shootout for this live double album and were very impressed with how good some of this material can sound, particularly on the first side which was recorded before the band got huge and started playing bigger venues. A lot of copies we played were too thick and compressed to break through the challenges that live recordings face, but this one really nailed it. (more…)

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

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

PUMP IT UP! This British Import Radar LP has TWO AMAZING SIDES that really convey the energy of this hard rockin’ music. The overall sound is punchy, lively, and dynamic with lots of tight punchy bass. The vocals on both sides are Right On The Money. We don’t find copies like this very often — Hot Stamper pressings are TOUGH to come by.

The Low End Theory

A correct bottom end is absolutely CRITICAL for this album. Like Trust and Armed Forces, there’s a TON of low-end on this record; regrettably, most copies suffer from either a lack of bass or a lack of bass definition. I can’t tell you how much you’re missing when the bass isn’t right on this album. (Or if you have the typical bass-shy audiophile speaker, yuck.) It’s without a doubt THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of the sound on this album. When the bass is right, everything falls into place, and the music comes powerfully to life. When the bass is lacking or ill-defined, the music seems labored; the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs blur together, and the band just doesn’t swing the way it’s supposed to. (more…)

Blondie – Eat To The Beat

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  • Incredible sound for the band’s followup to Parallel Lines with both sides of this 2-pack earning a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it!
  • Turn it up as loud as you want – the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy 
  • The drums and bass of Die Young Stay Pretty are as real sounding as if you were standing five feet from the band
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The British… made Eat to the Beat another chart-topper, with three major hits, including a number one ranking for Atomic and almost the same success for Dreaming 

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album. (more…)

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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

STUNNING! This insanely good pressing earned the rare FOUR PLUS (A++++) grade on side one — it’s OFF THE CHARTS! Side two is incredible as well, earning our standard top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) The sound is incredibly lively, punchy, and powerful; with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have. Relatively quiet for this album, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides.

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that. (more…)

The B-52s Debut

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

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES for this amazingly well-recorded album! We think some of you will bo shocked at just how good the sound can be. And you may or may not be surprised at just how FUN the music is! It’s sure to be a future member of our Rock and Pop Top 100. (UPDATE: It has officially made the list.)

Who knew that good sounding records were still being recorded in 1979? Candy-O comes to mind, but the B-52s’ first album has virtually none of the grit and Roy Thomas Baker heavy-processing of that one, and a lot more tubey magic to boot — when you get a pressing like this of course.

As Good As It Gets!

Both of these sides are superb, with the kind of huge, spacious soundstage and amazingly rich, full-bodied tonality that earned this recording its place in our Top 100. Talk about jumpin’ out of the speakers! Every instrument is clear and present, laid out right there in the listening room. It doesn’t get any better than this!

The Best of ’79

This recording reminded me of a really good Don Landee / Ted Templeman production, the kind you hear on JT or Simple Dreams or the better Doobie Brothers albums. Everything is laid out clearly: there’s a space created for every part of the frequency spectrum from the lowest lows to the highest highs, with nothing crowding or interfering with anything else. The production is professional, clean, clear and REAL sounding everywhere you look.

Chris Blackwell of Island Records produced the album, recorded it in Nassau, with engineering by a fellow named Robert Ash, whose work I was not familiar with. Turns out he’s worked with none other than Rhett Davies and Eno, two individuals we have nothing but the utmost respect for. Ash did a great job on this album. Until we hear something better we would have to say this is the Best Sounding Album of 1979.

Tubey Magic in 1979? Somehow they managed to pull it off! (more…)

The Pretenders – Nautilus Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing Debunked

Completely lifeless. This pressing takes all the rock out of rock and roll. A ridiculous joke played on a far-too-credulous audiophile public.  

The Cars – Here’s the Big Rock Sound We Love

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More We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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The first two Cars albums were both in The Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 at one time, with good reason: they’re superb recordings. The Cars have been in “heavy rotation” on my system since their albums came out in the late ’70s. We started doing shootouts for both right around 2006 or 2007, and they continue to be a regular feature of our Rock Hot Stamper section, not to mention some of the most fun shootouts we do in any given week.  

Before then had you ever read a word in any audiophile or record collecting publication about how amazing the originals can sound? Of course not. Most of the audiophile types writing for the stereo rags wouldn’t know a good record from a hole in the ground.

If anything the typical audiophile probably has one or both of the disastrous Nautilus half-speed mastered versions, and, having played them, would not be inclined to think highly of the sound. We knew better than to waste our time with that muck. Recently Mobile Fidelity has taken upon itself to remaster a selection of the band’s titles with the same flawed half-speed mastering approach. We haven’t played any of them and don’t intend to. We know that sound and we don’t like it.

Our point, other than to bash a record we have never played, is simply this: if you have any of those MoFi versions we would love to send you a copy of the album so that you can hear for yourself what it’s really supposed to sound like.

If you have Big Dynamic Speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a Hot Stamper Cars album. Neil Young albums have the Big Rock sound, and if you’re more of a Classic Rock kind of listener, that’s a good way to go. We’re behind you all the way, just check out the commentary for Zuma linked above.

For a band with thin ties, leather jackets, jangly guitars, synths and monstrously huge floor toms that fly back and forth across the soundstage, Cars albums are going to be the ones for you.



Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Some of the most important advice on our site can be found under the heading of The Four Pillars of Success.

Here you can find more entries in our ongoing Shootout Advice series.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – More 180g Trash from Rhino

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Sonic Grade: D

I’m embarrassed to say we used to like the Rhino Heavy Vinyl version, and in our defense let me tell you why: it was (for the most part) tonally correct, fairly low distortion, and had tight punchy bass.

Boy, was we wrong. Now it sounds positively CRUDE and UNPLEASANT next to the real thing — if by “the real thing” you mean an honest to goodness Hot Stamper copy. The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant. The British pressings are mud. You either have to work very hard to find a good one (which means buying, cleaning and playing lots and lots of them), or you have to luck into a good one by accident.