Genre – Rock – Punk Rock / New Wave

The Pretenders on Nautilus Half-Speed – Ouch!

More from The Pretenders

Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing reviewed and found wanting.

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 top quality audiophile sound of the best import pressings comes courtesy of these guys:

Top Producers – Chris Thomas

Top Engineers – Bill Price

Top Engineers – Steve Nye

If you want to know just how good the album can sound, we make it easy to find out. Just order one of our famous Hot Stamper pressings.

Talking Heads – Remain In Light – A Tough Title to Play

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This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be.

It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

As we’ve said before about these kinds of recordings — Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II — they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

What We Think We Know about Elvis Costello’s Groundbreaking Debut from 1977

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

  • This STUNNING copy of Costello’s debut album earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is lively, punchy, and powerful – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • A massive step up sonically from most domestic pressings, early or otherwise, and guaranteed to handily beat the imports as well
  • 5 stars: “A phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.”

Yes, it’s lively and has that driving punk rock bass, but what sets this copy apart from the average pressing is the top end — it’s silky and smooth. As a consequence, the vocals end up being more present and transparent than we’re used to, with almost none of the grit and spit so common to most of the copies anyone is ever likely to come across. (more…)

Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

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  • An outstanding early British pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Rich, spacious and lively, with an open, extended top end – this is the sound you want from Tears for Fears
  • More great songs than practically anything from the ’80s – Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Head Over Heels, just to name a few
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It is not only a commercial triumph, it is an artistic tour de force. And in the loping, percolating “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-’80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic. Songs From the Big Chair is one of the finest statements of the decade.”

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Patti Smith Group – Easter

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  • An excellent sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Smith’s breakthrough from 1978, this is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Easter, produced by Bruce Springsteen associate Jimmy Iovine, was Smith’s most commercial-sounding effort yet and, due to the inclusion of Springsteen’s “Because the Night” (with Smith’s revised lyrics), a Top Ten hit, it became her biggest seller, staying in the charts more than five months and getting into the Top 20 LPs. But Smith hadn’t so much sold out as she had learned to use her poetic gifts within an album rock context.”

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The Clash – Combat Rock

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  • An insanely good sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both the two big jammers are on this killer side one: Should I Stay or Should I Go and Rock the Casbah – you’ve never heard them sound like this!
  • Glyn Johns produced and mixed Combat Rock, so its sonic credentials are certainly in order
  • If you’re a fan of meaty bass, grungy guitars and punchy drums, this is the copy for you
  • …its finest moments — “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “Rock the Casbah,” “Straight to Hell” — illustrate why the Clash were able to reach a larger audience than ever before with the record.”

NOTE: There is a mark on track two that looks serious but in actuality can only be heard a few times very lightly during the second half of the track. For the most part it is completely obscured by the music.

If you can tolerate this one mark you are in for some amazing Clash music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.

Full and natural, energetic and high-res, no other copy came close. A stunning copy, absolutely as good as it gets for this punk classic.

Most of the other copies we played failed in one of two ways: if they weren’t too bright, they were dead as a doornail. But this copy knocked them all out with correct tonal balance and tons of energy. (more…)

Pretenders – Pretenders II

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for The Pretenders’ second album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • With loads of solid, punchy bass and the richest, smoothest vocal reproduction, this pressing simply could not be beat
  • This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough. (more…)

The Cars – Heartbeat City

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  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, or ever will hear
  • If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a killer Hot Stamper of Heartbeat City
  • 5 Stars “… a gleaming pop masterpiece. The producer’s golden touch, the strength of the songs Ric Ocasek wrote, and the stunning vocal performance both he and Benjamin Orr deliver make the album one of the best of the ’80s and something that still sounds perfect many years later.”

 

Roy Thomas Baker is out, Robert John “Mutt” Lange is in, but the sound of The Cars really isn’t all that different from the likes of Shake It Up. On this title the critical listener should be on the lookout for edgy sound and hard vocals; we heard a lot of both in our shootout and took off serious points for each. The better copies tend to have more extended highs, smoother vocals, and a richer, tubier sound, without the all-important punchy rock elements suffering. This may be a New Wave Pop Album full of synths and keyboards, but it still has to rock. (more…)

Talking Heads – Remain In Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

HOT STAMPERS DISCOVERED AT LAST! We’ve been trying to find a great sounding copy of this album forever, and this is the week we finally succeeded. It takes an exceptional pressing to get all the elements correct — the funky bottom end; the processed, multi-tracked vocals; the Brian Eno production weirdness and so on.

This is a brilliant album but a typically problematic record. Most copies get some things right but fail miserably in other areas. There are smeary copies that can’t deliver the punchy bottom you need, grainy copies that make the vocals painful to listen to, and plenty of copies that are just too dark or flat sounding for anyone to enjoy. Note that the first track on both sides will sound the worst. The sound gets better, though, as you get further into the album. (more…)

Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

White Hot Stampers discovered, hot enough to burn down the house! We just finished a HUGE shootout for the last great Talking Heads album and were as pleased as punch to finally hear a few copies of this album that deliver the same kind of magic that we’ve been getting on the better pressings of Little Creatures. Most copies of Speaking In Tongues are too flat, dry and veiled to get worked up about, but this one shows you that excellent sound for this album is indeed possible, albeit very difficult to find.

We’re serious Talking Heads fans here at Better Records, as you may have gathered by now. Not only is their music completely innovative and original, but their recordings are as well. That’s not to say that their records are Demo Discs along the lines of Tea For The Tillerman, Fragile or Abbey Road, but when you find a killer copy of any of their albums you can’t help but notice how much work they put into making them.

We played a ton of copies before we even heard a hint of the magic we were hoping for. Most of them sounded like CDs. When you turned up the volume, sure they got louder, but they didn’t really get any better. That’s a sure sign of a mediocre pressing, and it just kept happening over and over again in the shootout. Just as we were about to throw up our hands and give up, a copy hit the table with enough analog qualities to rope us back in. We added a little extra volume and started to hear the qualities that we needed from this music: rich, full mids; punchy bass; breathy vocals; and above all, ENERGY. On a Hot Stamper copy with the traits listed above, the music becomes involving and vital. If Burning Down The House doesn’t get you moving to the beat, what’s the point? (more…)