Genre – Vocal – ’60s

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean – Watch Out for Hard and Honky Vocals

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean



Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Dream with Dean is great for finding any traces of “honk” in your midrange. Getting Deano’s baritone to sound tubey and rich, to get the sound that Bing Crosby could get just by opening his mouth, is not all that easy on some systems, mine included. Correctly set VTA is critical in this regard, but pretty much everything must be working at its best for Dean to sound as intimate and natural as we know he can on the best pressings.

Balancing the lower mids with the upper mids is the goal, and it’s not as easy as it sounds. This album is great for testing, and guaranteed to bring practically any high-dollar system at a stereo showroom, a convention, or your very own home to its knees.

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet behind him (featuring Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell!) doing standards. On the best copies, the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this.


Another 30th Street Studio Knockout – This One’s from Tony Bennett


Columbia 30th Street Studios

Everything that’s good about All Tube Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the 38 other musicians from the session (actually they’re probably sitting).

The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one.


I Just Dropped By To Say Hello

More Johnny Hartman


Folks, the later Stereo Impulse pressing of this classic Hartman album we dropped the needle on  recently was so Tubey Magical, RICH yet CLEAR, and above all shockingly natural, it would be hard to imagine a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that could hold a candle to it (outside of the Coltrane-Hartman record from the year before of course).

The Bennett-Evans record we love so much here at Better Records would qualify as a contender, but that album was recorded in 1975. And it doesn’t have half the Tubey Magic this Hartman album from 1963 does.

RVG Knocks Another One Out of the Park

Our hats are off to Rudy Van Gelder once again! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. If only more of them did …


Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • Our Shootout Winning stereo copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – this is As Good As It Gets, folks!
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played – Mint Minus Minus to EX++ – but clearly the best sounding
  • Fitzgerald’s performance on this album won her the Award for Best Vocal Performance, her 7th Grammy (!)
  • “The singer has rarely sounded better than during this period. Fitzgerald sticks mostly to familiar standards and is particularly memorable on “Don’t Be That Way,” “What Am I Here For,” “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” and “I Won’t Dance.”

See all of our Ella Fitzgerald albums in stock

Take it from an Ella fan, you can’t go wrong with this one, assuming you can put up with some light crackle underneath the music. The record itself looks exceptionally clean and well-cared for, but it clearly does not play as quietly as we would have hoped.

The sound is rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of a classic vintage jazz vocal album. You could easily demonstrate your stereo with a record this good! The space is HUGE and the sound so rich.

Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.

Tubey Magic from 1961

This early stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Gilberto & Jobim – Gilberto & Jobim

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics


Gilberto & Jobim – Gilberto & Jobim

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

This Super Hot Stamper side two was one of the best sounding sides we heard in our recent shootout. The original Rainbow Label Capitols can be very good (if you can find a clean one) but oftentimes the mastering has the crude quality we all know so well from our old Beatles and Beach Boys records from the mid-’60s.

Side two is so clear, transparent and distortion-free that there’s no doubt in our minds that the bad sound of most pressings is not the fault of the master tape, but rather the very same bad mastering chain that ruined so many Capitol albums in those days.

More Antonio Carlos Jobim

Side Two

A++ , clear and clean, and so natural sounding. If it were a bit richer it would have been competitive with the best we’ve ever heard.


AMG Rave Review

A year before Stan Getz first met up with Charlie Byrd to launch bossa nova in the United States, Joao Gilberto (with backing by an orchestra led by Antonio Carlos Jobim) recorded a dozen bossa nova performances, including “One Note Samba,” “Meditation,” “Corcovado” and even “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover.” But since this record was not heard domestically until after bossa nova caught on, it had less of an impact than one would expect. The emphasis is on Gilberto’s voice (and his guitar during the instrumental “Um Abraco No Bonfa”) during the very brief renditions, all of which are under two minutes.

Astrud Gilberto – Gilberto With Turrentine

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics


Astrud Gilberto – Gilberto With Turrentine

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

This is a CTI LP with No Bar Code on the fold-open cover. The music and sound on side two are OFF THE CHARTS! If you’re a fan of Sergio Mendes or Jobim you’re likely to really enjoy this music.

More Astrud Gilberto

Jimmy Dean – Everybody’s Favorite

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics


Jimmy Dean – Everybody’s Favorite

Here is the kind of Tubey Magical richness records routinely offered in 1963. Don Law produced Everybody’s Favorite down in Nashville so it’s the real deal all right. If you liked our killer Marty Robbins’ Hot Stampers you most likely will get a big kick out of this one too. A forgotten sound? Not at Better Records it isn’t.

If you need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings, we have just the ticket. The records linked HERE are positively dripping with it.

Our first Hot Stamper listing for Jimmy Dean, and it’s an exceptionally good one indeed. The material is of consistently high quality, the superbly talented Jordanaires are here on backup vocals (click on the tab above), with Don Law, one of the greatest country producers of all time (again with the tab) in charge of the whole affair.

If you hear the Tubey Magical sound of the best Marty Robbins recordings, it’s not an accident. If you don’t know that sound, you are missing out!

Side One

Rich, full-bodied, tubey vocals and plenty of sweet, natural reverb in a huge space make this side a Demo Disc for this style of music.

Side Two

Very nearly as good, the Tubey Magic on this side is nearly off the charts. Jimmy is so clear and present and natural and real on the first track it may make you despair at the loss of this kind of recording quality.

Further Reading

Transparency, the other side of the Tubey Magical coin, is key to the better pressings of this album as well as many of our other favorite demo discs.

The entries linked here may help you gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding Hot Stampers.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

Elvis Presley – On Stage February 1970 – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • With an amazing Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one, this original RCA Orange Label should sound far better than any copy you’ve ever played
  • This is Elvis doing songs made famous by others, proving that he can still out-rock and out-soul practically anybody alive
  • With ten million copies sold to date, this album’s appeal has transcended its time and must be considered a true Elvis Classic
  • 4 Stars: “”The Wonder of You” might not have been “That’s All Right” or even “Heartbreak Hotel,” but it was a towering performance by a singer who could, even then, run circles around virtually anyone in the business this side of Roy Orbison.”

See all of our Elvis Presley albums in stock

Of the handful of Elvis albums to ever make it to the site in Hot Stamper form, this one just may be the most fun.

We have a number of Elvis titles coming to the site soon we hope, mostly because we’ve lucked into some good sounding pressings that aren’t from the ’50s and early ’60s. His early albums are rarely in audiophile playing condition, so finding these later pressings with such good sound, so Tubey Magical, rich and smooth despite their reissue labels, has been a bit of a godsend. (more…)

Lou Rawls – Carryin’ On! – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • The first copy to ever hit the site and boy is it a good one! ‘Triple Triple’ (A+++) sound!
  • “The production and arrangements were perfectly tailored to his voice, the songs were good, and Rawls sounded confident, assertive, and soulful.” – All Music

See all of our Lou Rawls albums in stock

Top Quality Soul

What the best sides of this Classic Male Vocal Album have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1966
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the vocals, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does. (more…)

A.C. Jobim – The Composer of ’Desafinado’ Plays – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • Stunning sound throughout with an amazing Triple Plus (A+++) side two backed with a solid Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Both sides here are clean, clear and dynamic yet still full of rich and warm 1963 Tubey Magical Analog
  • About as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • 4 1/2 Stars on All Music — “A dozen songs, each one destined to become a standard — an astounding batting average.”

See all of our Jobim albums in stock

We’re big fans of Jobim here at Better Records, and this pressing was one of the best from our recent shootout. We had a wonderful time listening to a big pile of pressings — the sound (and music) were OUT OF THIS WORLD. We were shocked at just how well recorded this album is.

Phil Ramone

Credit engineer Phil Ramone for correctly capturing the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, flutes, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing. I used to think this recording erred on the bright side, but not the Hot Stamper copies. They are tonally Right On The Money. (When the balance lacks lower midrange the sound gets lean, which causes the strings to seem brighter than they really are, a not uncommon problem with some of the pressings we played.)

Many Distinct Pressings

We’ve played a ton of different versions, including imports, originals, reissues (all stereo), and one lone mono, which was so ridiculously bad sounding we tossed it right out of the competition and into the trade pile. (more…)