Genre – Rock – Psych Rock

Cream / Disraeli Gears – Live and Learn

More of the Music of Cream

More of the Music of Eric Clapton

A classic case of Live and Learn

Our shootout quite a while ago for Cream’s classic second album provided proof positive that We Was Wrong when we said:

No reissue we’ve ever played sounded especially good and none likely ever will.

Ah, but some do! We would love to tell you exactly what to look for so that you can go find one yourself, but that’s bad for business as I’m sure you will agree.

We also have to admit to being wrong about this:

If you’re expecting Sunshine of Your Love to rock on record like you remember it rockin’ on the radio back in the day, forget it. When you heard that song your brain added the bass and dynamics that are missing from the record. Either that or you did it through the loudness control on your old receiver. There’s maybe five db of dynamic range on that song and there can never be more than that.

We discovered that there are copies with dynamic vocals on that track.

The vocals are practically the only thing that do get loud, and they only get loud on some of the copies we played.

Likewise, on some copies the drums have much more body and punch than than they do on most.

So, when it comes to bass and dynamics, yes, some copies have some, maybe even more than you remember.

Heavy compression created the sound you heard on the radio, added to the compression that is already baked into the mix and whatever amount was added in mastering.

We Admit It

Yes, as is clear from the above, we was wrong. It’s not the first time and it sure won’t be the last. We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out. Every record gets a chance to show us what it’s made of, regardless of where it was made, who made it or why they made it. (Like anybody cares.)

If we used to like it and now we don’t, that’s what you will read in our commentary. Our obligation is to only one person: you, the listener. (Even better: you, the customer. Buy something already!)

On every shootout we do now, if the notes are more than six months old we toss them out. They mean nothing. Things have changed, radically, and that’s the way it should be. With each passing year you should be hearing more of everything in your favorite LPs. That’s the thrill of this hobby — those silly old records just keep getting better! (I wish someone could figure out how to make digital get better. They’ve had twenty five years and it still leaves me cold. You too I’m guessing.)


Traffic – The Best of Traffic

More Traffic

More of the Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time

For those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found at the bottom of the listing,

  • Best of Traffic finally returns to the site on this original Pink Label Island pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • To find a Pink Label UK pressing that plays this quietly came as quite a shock — the superb sound we expected, but vinyl this quiet from 50 years ago? Amazing
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
  • This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
  • Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”


Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

More Jimi Hendrix

More Rock Classics

  • An Electric Ladyland like you’ve never heard, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides of this UK import copy – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the Track originals – they can’t hold a candle to the Hot Stamper reissues like the one we are offering here
  • Big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound – we played it good and loud and it was rockin’!
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and the Tubey Magical richness of analog are key to the best sound
  • 5 stars: “…not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jimi and his band, this UK import of his 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including “Crosstown Traffic,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on.

Ready to go on a trip? You’ve come to the right place. While the sound is not Demo Quality on every track, the acid-drenched soundscapes created by Jimi and producer Eddie Kramer are certainly going to be exciting to the kind of audiophile who still digs Classic Rock. Unfortunately, most copies are missing a lot of the magic — the space, the tubes, the ambience, the size, the weight.


Cream – Wheels Of Fire

More Cream

  • Cream rocks on these vintage UK import pressings with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides have close to the best condition grade we give out, Mint Minus – there may not be another record on the site with vinyl that quiet!
  • The power and energy of these live sides is off the charts — punchy, open, and spacious with bass and whomp you have never experienced for this music, guaranteed
  • Everything you’d want sonically from a live Cream recording is present on this copy – big-time presence, tons of life, tonal correctness, and loads of Tubey Magic
  • 4 stars: “…[Eric] Clapton is at a peak here, whether he’s tearing off solos on a 17-minute “Spoonful” or goosing “White Room” toward the heights of madness. But it’s the architect of “White Room,” bassist Jack Bruce, who, along with his collaborator Peter Brown, reaches a peak as a songwriter…. [I]n many ways Wheels of Fire is indeed filled with Cream’s very best work,
  • If you’re a fan of Clapton and the band, this RSO UK import from 1968 belongs in your collection.

It’s exceptionally difficult to find even decent sounding copies of this album. We’ve played SCORES of original domestic copies, original imports, and all kinds of reissues over the years, and it’s very rare to find a copy that sounds this good on all four sides. (more…)

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love

More Tears For Fears

More Art Rock

  • Boasting two incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this vintage import copy of the band’s Pop Masterpiece is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard, and on this record that is saying a LOT
  • A tough record to find in audiophile playing condition – copies with vinyl this quiet and with no audible marks were neither easy nor cheap to source from overseas
  • The band’s Magnum Opus, a Colossal Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time (Whew!)
  • 4 stars: “Thanks to the duo’s uncompromising stubbornness, expansive creative vision, and Dave Bascombe’s final production, The Seeds of Love has dated better than either of its predecessors and is inarguably Tears for Fears’ masterpiece.”


Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Stillness (with Correct Polarity)

More Sergio Mendes

More Bossa Nova

  • An excellent A&M pressing of this incredibly well-recorded and criminally-overlooked LP with Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them throughout
  • Both sides of this copy are in correct polarity, so no need to worry about switching the polarity, as we must do with many of the copies – just drop the needle and enjoy!
  • The soundfield has a three-dimensional quality that will absolutely blow you away (assuming you have big speakers and like to turn them up good and loud)
  • Wonderfully present and breathy vocals from the lovely ladies in Sergio’s band – they provide most of the audiophile  appeal (and all of the sex appeal), and we know of nothing else like them on record
  • A permanent member of our Top 100 and Demo Disc par excellence
  • 4 stars: “Stillness is a concept album — the title tune opens and closes it in moody stillness — and a transition piece all at once…. Overlooked in its day, Stillness is the great sleeper album of Sergio Mendes’ first A&M period.”
  • This is a Must Own album from 1970, which just happens to be a great year for Rock and Pop Music, maybe the greatest of them all

We figure we’re about due for a thank you note from Mr. Mendes, because we’ve turned a huge number of audiophiles into die-hard fans of this album. It’s easy to see why when you play a copy that sounds like this. All of the qualities we look for on this album are right here.

If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as wonderful, look no further — this is the record for you.

If I had one song to play to show what my stereo can really do, “For What It’s Worth” on a Hot Stamper copy would probably be my choice. I can’t think of any material that sounds better. It’s amazingly spacious and open, yet punchy and full bodied the way only vintage analog recordings ever are. This one being from 1970 fits the bill nicely.

Side two of this album can be one of THE MOST MAGICAL sides of ANY record — when you’ve got a killer copy. I don’t know of any other record like it. It seems to be in a class of its own. It’s an excellent test disc as well. All tweaks and equipment changes and room treatments must pass the Stillness test.

To fail to make this record sound better is to fail completely. The production is so dense, and so difficult to reproduce properly, that only recently have I begun to hear just how good this record can sound. There is still plenty to discover locked in these grooves, and all of us here at Better Records enthusiastically accept the challenge to find all the sounds that Sergio created in the studio, locked away in the 50+ year old vinyl.


Question – Do the “wrong stampers” sometimes win shootouts?

mendestill_depth_1102533608More of the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

Soren has some questions about shootouts and our White Hot Stamper pressing of Stillness. His questions are indented, our answers are not.


Does it ever bug you to realize, maybe one or two years down the road and with (as Tom mentions) better playback/cleaning technology, that stampers which you dismissed in a shootout turn out to win the next one, meaning that you could have let many possible hot stampers go?


We talk about that a bit here:

But being bugged by it does no good. It is a reality that must be accepted.

Because we know how easy it is to be wrong, or, more precisely, to not know everything we would like to know, we never stop doing research and development for the titles we sell.

We tell people all the time, go play your heavy vinyls and half-speeds that you haven’t played recently. If you’ve made improvements to your system, they will often start to show themselves to be not as good sounding as you remember, and that means you are making progress.

I was actually reaching out to you to inquire whether the super hot Sergio Mendes Stillness that I bought from you a couple of years ago is the version with the phase reversed on side 2?

I ask because I don’t recall a phase issue on this specific title was ever mentioned on your site back when I bought it (i would have remembered, I think) so maybe you only found out recently?

Side 1 on the record sounds better to me than side 2. The matrix on this side 2 ends in “M3”.

Both M2 and M3 are in correct polarity. M3 used to win shootouts by the way. For the longest time, at least ten years, I thought M3 was the ultimate side two.

Having done many, many shootouts since then, along with making many changes to everything involving the cleaning and playing of records, we believe Super Hot (2+) is about the highest grade any M stamper can earn.

The fact that you like an M2 pressing better than the Hot Stamper you bought from us is not a polarity issue. It is most probably a system-dependent issue.

Your stereo is different from ours. Our stereo probably would prefer the M3 we sent you, and your stereo likes the M2 you have. It’s really not much more complicated than that.

Finally concerning this magic Stillness white hot stamper (and don’t worry, I am not going to ask you which one it is because you wouldn’t tell me, and you shouldn’t, because it’s a trade secret that you worked hard for and besides I am probably better off with my own super hot copy where I don’t have to bother about that phase issue on side 2).

But out of curiosity: Has this “magic” stamper/pressing turned out to be great on other Sergio Mendes records also (and thereby defied your previous knowledge and caused you to evaluate your game on those titles also), or was it simply a magical one-off revelation with Stilness?

Part of the reason we were wrong about Stillness is that the best copies broke the rule we tend to use about stampers for A&M albums. In this case, the “wrong” stampers turned out to be the best! The stampers we tend to like for most A&M records, the “right stampers,” are not the ones that currently win shootouts.

But that’s what shootouts are for, so that we take our biases and previous judgments out of the search and just go with what actually does sound the best.

How beautiful actually, that the “wrong” stampers turned out to be the best on this one title. Records are nice that way. You must always keep on your toes. Thank you for taking the time to answer my three questions.

Best regards,


Staying on your toes is indeed the name of the game when it comes to records. With every change to your system, the record you used to like the best could turn out to be second-rate compared to the record you used to think was second-rate but is now first-rate.

This, of course, drives most audiophiles crazy, so they ignore or downplay the possibility.

Being in the shootout business means we have no way to avoid these realities, which is why it is so easy for us to accept them.

The amateurs and professionals alike who review records for audiophiles want there to be clear-cut answers for every album they write about. Uncertainty and trade-offs upset them no end.

We recognized twenty years ago that the empirical pursuit of record knowledge, practiced scientifically, must be fundamentally Incomplete, Imperfect, and Provisional, and that is never going to change no matter how upsetting anyone may find it.

Thanks very much for writing.


The Moody Blues – A Question of Balance

More of The Moody Blues

Reviews and Commentaries for The Moody Blues

  • A very special first UK pressing that boasts two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides
  • Huge and spacious, as well as wonderfully Tubey Magical – to our way of thinking, if this isn’t exactly the way the band wanted to sound in 1970, we can’t imagine what would be
  • This pressing has some of the best Moody Blues sound we’ve ever heard – it’s a truly exceptional recording in their canon
  • Includes the big hit “Question,” one of the all time greats by the band, which sounds fantastic here of course

Achieving just the right balance of “Moody Blues Sound” and transparency is no mean feat. You have to be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need top end extension, a very rare quality on these imports, and finally, good bass definition to keep the bottom end from blurring and bleeding into the midrange. No domestic copy in our experience has ever had these three qualities, and only the best of the British imports (no Dutch, German or Japanese need apply) manages to get all three on the same LP.

Allow me to steal some commentary from a Moody Blues Hot Stamper shootout we did years ago, for the wonderful In Search of the Lost Chord, in which we say that, on the best Hot Stamper pressings, the clarity and resolution come without sacrificing the Tubey Magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous.

We guarantee this copy will take the Moodies’ wonderful music to a level you have never experienced in all your music-loving days.


Workingman’s Dead is Dead as a Doornail on Rhino Records

More of the Music of The Grateful Dead

More Records that Sound Like CDs

Sonic Grade: F

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

The 2003 Rhino reissue on heavy vinyl of Workingman’s Dead is absolutely awful. It sounds like a bad cassette. The CD of the album that I own is superb, which means that the tapes are not the problem, bad mastering and pressing are.

This pressing has what we call ”modern” sound, which is to say it’s clean and tonally correct for the most part, but it’s missing the Tubey Magic the originals and the good reissues both have plenty of.

Is it the worst version of the album ever made? The pressings on the last WB labels are pretty awful, but this awful? Who can say.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino bills their releases as pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl”. However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

The CD versions of most of the LP titles they released early on are far better sounding than the lifeless, flat, pinched, so-called audiophile pressings they did starting around 2000. The mastering engineer for this garbage actually has the nerve to feature his name in the ads for the records. He should be run out of town, not promoted as a keeper of the faith and defender of the virtues of “vinyl”. If this is what vinyl sounds like I’d switch to CD myself.

And the amazing thing is, as bad as these records are, there are people who like them! I’ve read postings on the internet from people who say the sound on these records is just fine, thank you very much. I find this sad.

Their Grateful Dead titles sound worse than the cheapest Super Saver reissue copies I have ever heard. The Yes Album sounds like a cheap cassette, a ghost of the real thing.

More Heavy Vinyl Reviews

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

There are many kinds of audiophile pressings — Half-Speeds, Direct-to-Discs, Heavy Vinyl Remasters, Japanese Pressings, the list of records offered to the audiophile with supposedly superior sound quality is endless. Having been in the audiophile record biz for more than thirty years, it has been our misfortune to have played them by the hundreds,

How did we find so many bad sounding records? The same way we find so many good sounding ones. We included them in our shootouts, comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper Pressings..

When you can hear them that way, up against an actual good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.

Back to 2000

Even as recently as the early 2000s, we were often impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we’d never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty or more years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem impressed by.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate or worse.

When I say worse, I know whereof I speak. Some audiophile records have pissed me off so bad I was motivated to create a special ring of hell for them.


Spirit in ’68 – One of the Most Phenomenal Debuts of All Time

More of the Music of Spirit

Hot Stamper Pressings of Psych Rock Albums Available Now

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on the opening track, Fresh Garbage, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you probably never imagined you’d experience.

It’s positively startling how immediate and lively the sound is here.

This is the band at their best, fired up and ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only SoCal rock band who have innovative ideas about rock music and the performing chops to pull them off, not to mention the studio wizards who managed to get it all down on tape with State-of-the-Art ’60s Rock sound quality.

The venerable jazz arranger Marty Paich was brought in to lend his talents to the project, something I never knew until I glanced at the liner notes during a shootout many years ago. No wonder the arrangements, especially the string arrangements, are so innovative and interesting. I can think of no Psych record outside of The Beatles’ with better strings.

Spirit’s first album checks off a few of our favorite boxes:

The Doors Vs. Spirit

If I had to choose between The Doors’ first album and Spirit’s, say for a nice drive up the coast with the top down, no contest, Spirit would get the nod (not to take anything away from The Doors mind you). I had the album on 8 Track back in high school and played it to death. Doing this shootout, hearing the album sound so good after so many years, was nothing less than a THRILL. (I went right up to Amazon and bought a CD for the car. Might just take a drive up the coast.)

If you like Surrealistic Pillow and Revolver/Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles and early Doors albums, and you don’t know the album well, you are really in for a treat. It’s a classic of its day that still holds up forty-plus years later.

I simply cannot recommend any current album on the site more highly.

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.