Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

The Doors – Strange Days – Rhino and DCC Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: DCC: B / Rhino: C

It’s not easy for us to find copies of Strange Days that outperform the DCC, but our best Hot Stampers beat it handily. We also put our original copies up against the 180g version from the Doors Box Set and it was an absolute bloodbath. We understand that a well-known reviewer likes the sound of those Doors pressings (along with just about every heavy vinyl reissue that hits his table) but we here at Better Records prefer to set higher standards. We think you deserve better, and at these prices the record better deliver a world of sound that the heavy vinyl pressing only hints at. And it does. (more…)

Prokofiev / Symphonic Suite of Waltzes / Schweiger – Cisco Reviewed

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Symphonic Suite of Waltzes / Gypsy Fantasy / Schweiger

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Sonic Grade: B-

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B-” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back when this record came out, but here it is anyway.  

“Another superb choice from Cisco. These shorter pieces really come to life here. The sound has more hall than the Mozart title they did and every bit the lifelike tonality and transparency.”

[UPDATE: None of Cisco’s records turned out to be transparent in the least, so that’s a big red flag right there. The music is quite good, so if you don’t pay much you won’t get hurt too badly by the mediocre sound.] (more…)

June Christy – Something Cool – Cisco Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C-

This is a decent Cisco LP, which is now long out of print. Audiophiles who love female vocal albums and pass on this one are missing the boat, because finding a better sounding original in clean enough condition to play is practically impossible these days. Of course if you already have a clean original you sure don’t need to waste your money on this LP.    

However…

We went back and played the Cisco version about 6 or 7 years ago and were quite a bit less impressed with the sound than we were when it first came out

Nat King Cole – This Is Nat “King” Cole – Our Shootout Winner from 2017

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

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved (Nelson Riddle among them) are hard to fault.

Here it is – only the second Hot Stamper copy of Nat’s classic 1957 release to ever hit the site, and what a pressing it is! It’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with loads of Tubey Magic. The highs are extended and silky sweet.

Midrange Magic to Die For

This early Capitol mono LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s no doubt missing from the modern reissues. Nat’s voice is sounds so right — not necessarily natural, but correct for the vocal style of the era — you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s really nothing to distract you.

If you’re like me, this copy sounds the way you want it to sound. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Tonally correct, which is one thing you can’t say for most of the Zeps in this series, that’s for sure. Those of you with crappy domestic copies, crappy imported reissues and crappy CDs, which is pretty much all there is of this recording, will not know what you’re missing.

Compare this title to some of the better Classic Zep releases and I expect you will notice that hearing into the midrange is a more difficult proposition on these songs, with reduced ambience and space around the voices and instruments.

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. (more…)

Grieg / Peer Gynt / Fjeldstad / LSO – Speakers Corner Reviewed / VTA Advice

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Sonic Grade: C+

The Fjeldstad has long been one of our favorite performances of Peer Gynt here at Better Records. 

This record is handy for VTA set-up as well, a subject discussed below in our listing from 2010.

The sound is excellent for a modern reissue*, but in the loudest sections the orchestra can get to be a bit much, taking on a somewhat harsh quality. (The quieter passages are superb: sweet and spacious.)

So I adjusted the VTA a bit to see what would happen, and was surprised to find that even the slightest change in VTA caused the strings to lose practically all their rosiny texture and become unbearably smeared.

This is precisely why it’s a good heavy vinyl recording for setting up your turntable. If you can get the strings to play with reasonably good texture on this record you probably have your VTA set correctly. (more…)

Carole King – Tapestry on Classic Records Reviewed in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: B

It’s been quite a while since I played the Classic LP, but I remember it as being fairly good. At the time we wrote:

It’s a little rolled off on the top, but it’s a good rolled off, because brightening it up would make it sound modern and wrong. It’s rich and full of body, especially the piano, the way modern recordings almost never are.

Musically it’s hard to fault as well. What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good a non-hit track like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those on this album because almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play; the quality of the material is that good.

Heavy Vinyl and the Loss of Transparency (more…)

The Who – Tommy – Classic Records Debunked

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic Tommy is bass shy. It could have had amazing bass, like their Who’s Next, but it doesn’t. Why, I have no idea. The overall sound is thin, so thin that we immediately knew there was no point in carrying it (back in the bad old days when we carried Heavy Vinyl).

The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next; the rest of them vary from mediocre to dreadful.

Letter of the Week – Opening My Ears: Steely Dan, Half Speeds, Heavy Vinyl

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hi Tom,

Just a note to thank and curse you for opening my ears. On one hand, the
audio enhancements (Aurios, Stillpoints, Talisman and Disc Doctor fluid)
you’ve suggested have greatly improved my stereo system. I also upgraded
my phono cartridge and had the entire front end fine-tuned.

Now, LPs I’d once regarded as mediocre have shown new life and become
much more enjoyable. On the other hand, those I’d once thought sounded
impressive, have revealed themselves to be uninspiring. My entire Steely
Dan collection, for example, has become a major disappointment. Almost
all the half speeds, heavy vinyl and otherwise “audiophile” type
pressings have revealed themselves to be impostors.

What’s an audiophile to do? In my case, all the improvements I’ve made
have resulted in a thinning of the herd, so to speak, but I simply can’t
listen to crappy vinyl anymore. I’ve always maintained that the music
should be the most important thing but, what’s the point of listening to
sub par pressings when you find yourself becoming easily distracted and
wanting to hear something with some life in the grooves?

So I say damn you but thank you, Tom, for steering me in the right
direction. I’ll have a smaller collection as a result but will
appreciate the sonics of what’s left much more. You are a credit to a
hobby which is, otherwise, drowning in snake oil!

Bob M.
Huntington Beach, CA

See more of our Steely Dan albums in stock


Reviews of Audiophile LPs


Reviews of Heavy Vinyl LPs

Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel – Cisco Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C

This pressing beats the typical Capitol LP, which is an aggressive, grainy piece of crap. Take my word for it: I easily have 30-40 copies of this album, and I can tell you from years of experience that it is extremely difficult to find good sounding pressings of this music. Cisco has done a service to the audiophile community by producing a very enjoyable LP of this, Linda’s masterpiece. It’s music that belongs in your collection. (If you have the bread, check out our Hot Stamper copies, guaranteed to kill any modern pressing — including this one — or your money back.) 

Cisco’s verison is completely free from compression of any kind, and sometimes that works in favor of the overall sound and sometimes it doesn’t. I may have additional commentary discussing these issues down the road, but for now let’s just say you will have a hard time finding a better copy of Heart Like A Wheel on vinyl. And of course, virtually no Capitol pressing is ever going to be as quiet as one of these lovely 180g RTI LPs.