Genre – Rock – Art Rock

Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat

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  • You’ll find seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this vintage Janus pressing of Stewart’s 1976 Masterpiece
  • With engineering by Alan Parsons, the top pressings are every bit the Audiophile Demo Discs you remember
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • The sound may be too heavily processed and glossy for some, but we find that on the best copies that sound really works for this music
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A tremendous example of how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and songwriter — and if you’re a fan of either prog or pop and haven’t given Al Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted.”

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Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

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  • This vintage British import boasts a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) side one – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This killer Hot Stamper is far more natural than any other pressing you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • “Certainly a quantum leap from the organic R&B impressionism of the band’s early LPs and the gripping short stories of Making Movies, Love Over Gold is an ambitious, sometimes difficult record that is exhilarating in its successes and, at the very least, fascinating in its indulgences.” – Rolling Stone
  • The sound may be heavily processed, but it works surprisingly well on the best sounding pressings (played at good, loud levels on big dynamic speakers in a large, heavily-treated room, of course)

This modern album (from 1982, which makes it 40 years old, but that’s modern in our world) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies, the highs are slightly grainy and can be harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and really get involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound. What do the best copies have? REAL dynamics for one. And with those dynamics, you need rock solid bass. Otherwise, the loud portions simply become irritating. (more…)

Genesis – Trespass

Hot Stamper Pressings of Genesis Available Now

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  • This early Charisma import pressing was doing practically everything right, with both sides earning incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound here is rich and Tubey Magical, two qualities the CD made from these tapes surely lacks and two qualities which are crucial if this music is to sound the way the band intended
  • Forget the later reissues on the Blue Label – we have yet to hear one that can compete with these good originals
  • Probably for the more serious fan, but Melody Maker found it “…tasteful, subtle and refined.”
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these classic rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you

Take it from us, the guys who play every kind of pressing we can get our hands on, the UK pressings are the only way to go on Trespass. (more…)

David Bowie – Heroes

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  • An excellent vintage UK pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • This reissue is the only way to fly – if you have an original, or any other pressing, you don’t know what you are missing!
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear like no other
  • We’ve discovered a number of titles in which one stamper always wins, and here are some of the others
  • 5 stars: “Repeating the formula of Low’s half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound.”

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10cc / Sheet Music – Their Brilliant Second Album

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  • This original UK import pressing of Sheet Music boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full-bodied, with sound that just jumps out of the speakers, this is a Truly Amazing Demo Disc on the order of Crime of the Century or Dark Side of the Moon
  • If you don’t know 10cc’s music well, this is probably the best place to start – you just might find yourself as big a fan as we are here at Better Records
  • Bassist Graham Gouldman calls it “the definitive 10cc album” and he’s probably right about that (although we love The Original Soundtrack that came out a year later)
  • “Three hit singles spun off the record, and most of the other tracks could have followed suit; it says much for Sheet Music’s staying power that, no matter how many times the album is reissued, it has never lost its power to delight, excite, and set alight a lousy day.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” with an accent on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Sheet Music is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but would be well advised to get to know better.

Sheet Music is, in our opinion, the most consistently well-written and produced 10cc album, with every track performed with heart and recorded with exquisite attention to detail. Each song flows into the next and there is simply not a dull moment to be found. Sheet Music is arguably the best record they ever made, although I’m such a fan, I think they’re all great. (The first five albums anyway.)

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Queen – A Day At the Races

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses


  • This UK copy of the band’s fifth studio album boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of out Shootout Winner
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from practically all other copies we played
  • Forget the domestic pressings – they may be cut at Sterling, but they never sound like these shockingly good British LPs
  • “A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor… its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.”

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David Bowie – Scary Monsters

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  • An original UK import pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy was simply bigger and fuller than most others we played, with plenty of funky energy and three-dimensional studio space
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • 5 stars: “Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters.”
  • If you’re a Bowie fan, this title from 1980 is surely a Must Own

This original RCA pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Supertramp and 1977 Ears – There’s No Going Back

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Reviews and Commentaries for Even in the Quietest Moments

I grew up on this album. The first Supertramp album I ever bought was Crime of the Century on Mobile Fidelity. (Every audiophile bought that one; MoFi sold over a hundred thousand of them. And why not? The sound was killer on the systems of the day. Lots of slam down low, lots of extra top up high, just what the Old School Stereos of the day, like mine, needed.)

Crisis? What Crisis?, followed in 1975. It was the Supertramp album that sent me over the top. I played that album relentlessly. Before long Art Rock was my thing. Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, Crack the Sky, ELO, Bowie – it’s all I wanted to listen to back then.

A year and a half later EITQM followed in 1977. It too became a staple of my musical diet. Man I played that record till the grooves were worn smooth.

I thought the sound was killer at the time, too. Crisis was a demo disc at my house and this was right up there with it. Now the obvious question is, did I have a good sounding copy, or did my stereo not reveal to me the shortcomings of my LP? Or maybe my ears were not well enough trained to hear what was wrong.

Those of you who have been doing this for a long time know the answer: any or all of the above, probably all, and nobody can know just how much of each.

And there is no way to find out because you are not that person anymore.

Your 1977 Ears… and Mine

Even if you could recreate your old stereo and room, and find your original copy, there’s one thing you can’t do, and that’s listen to it with your 1977 ears. Every time you play a record and listen to it critically, your ears get better at their job. If you do a lot of critical listening your ears should be very good by now. You no doubt listen for things you never listened for before. This is simply the way it works. You don’t really have to try that hard to get better, it happens quite naturally.

So now the half speed sucks when it used to sound good. (Such is the case with practically all audiophile records; the better you get at listening, the worse they tend to sound.)

And now, with your better stereo and better ears, when you drop the needle on some copy you picked up of Even in the Quietest Moments, expecting to hear the glorious sound you remember from your youth, it’s a huge letdown — so grainy, thin, and edgy, with blurry bass.

On top of that the whole sordid mess is stuck somewhere back behind the speakers, like the sound you hear from an old cassette.

It’s not the record you remember, that’s for sure.

The Good News

The good news is that ten years later and more copies than we care to remember we think we’ve got EITQM’s ticket. We now know which stampers have the potential to sound good as well as the ones to avoid. Finding the right stampers (which are not the original ones for those of you who know what the original stampers for A&M records are) has been a positive boon.

Once we figured them out we were in a much better position to hear just how well recorded the album is. Now we know beyond all doubt that this recording — the first without Ken Scott producing and engineering for this iteration of the band — is of the highest quality, in league with the best. Until recently we would never have made such a bold statement. Now it’s nothing less than obvious.

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What to Listen For on English Settlement

Hot Stamper Art Rock Albums Available Now

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For Big Production Rock Albums like English Settlement there are some obvious problem areas that are often heard on at least one or two sides of practically any copy of this four sided album.  

With so many heavily-produced instruments crammed into the soundfield, if the overall sound is at all veiled, recessed or smeared — problems common to 90+% of the records we play in our shootouts — the mix quickly becomes opaque, forcing the listener to work too hard to separate out the elements of musical interest.

Exhaustion, especially on this album, soon follows.

Transparency, clarity and presence are key.

Note that none of the British copies we played was thin and anemic. The domestic copies are made from dubs and can’t begin to compete.

Almost all had plenty of Tubey Magic and bottom end, so thankfully that was almost never a problem.

They did however tend to lack top end extension and transparency, and many were overly compressed. There is plenty of tube compression being used in both the mixing and mastering, but most of the time it is working its magic to keep the bass big, punchy and loud. 

Zeppelin Too

Robert Ludwig used humungous amounts of tube compression on this album, and we’re glad he did. All that massive compression is at least partly responsible for it being one of the Ten Best Sounding Rock Records Ever Made.

The sides that had sound that jumped out of the speakers, with driving rhythmic energy, worked the best for us. They really brought this complex music to life and allowed us to make sense of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music. (more…)

David Bowie – Lodger

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  • A seriously good UK pressing with Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, making this one of the better copies from our most recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most of the other copies we played
  • The sound is big and rich – you will not believe all the space and ambience on these sides
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lodger has an edgier, more minimalistic bent than its two predecessors, which makes it more accessible for rock fans, as well as giving it a more immediate, emotional impact.”
  • If you have Low (1977) and Heroes (1978), this is the album that will complete Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy with Eno and Visconti

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