Heavy Vinyl Winners

John Coltrane – Lush Life – We Review the DCC, OJC, and Original Pressings

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Sonic Grade: B or so (DCC) 
Sonic Grade: C or so (OJC) 

The DCC heavy vinyl pressing is a nice record; I remember liking it back in the day. I’m guessing it’s a bit better than the ’80s OJC, which is, like most OJC pressings, typically thin and hard. Neither one of them can hold a candle to the pressings we offer on the site.

If for some reason we could not find copies of the album that substantially beat the sound of either of these two remastered LPs, we simply would not have anything to offer, since neither of these versions could be considered Hot Stampers. Nice records, sure, but Hot Stampers? Not a chance.

It was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album. By far. (more…)

Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto #2 – Katchen – Speakers Corner Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: Unknown

In the late ’90s we described the sound of this pressing this way:

“Outstanding Rachmaninoff, dark and rich. Highly recommended.”

Since we have not played a copy of the album in over ten years, we have taken down our previous Sonic Grade of B as we have no idea how the record would fare today on our much-improved system.

For all we know it’s been recut, which is another problem with our old reviews of records we used to like: the new version could have very different sound from the one we played (and that’s not even taking into account the pressing variability, which we all know is sometimes huge).

Herbie Hancock – Blow-Up Soundtrack on Heavy Vinyl

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Years ago we wrote the following:

TOP RECOMMENDATION from Better Records. What an amazing discovery! I can’t take credit for it, the credit belongs to Four Men with Beards.

Herbie Hancock manages to get a lot of different jazz artists to play some of the most interesting jazz I’ve ever heard. I have no idea who all is playing but each of the different songs involved different players playing in different groupings: sometimes it’s guitar and organ, sometimes it’s saxophone-led quartet; it pretty much runs the gamut of jazz. And the amazing thing is every track is great. And the sound is great.

If you want a jazz primer that introduces you to the different ways jazz groups are arranged, I can hardly think of a better record.

If you want a great jazz record to demonstrate your stereo, it works on that level too. The sound is that good.

Side 1 has the best music overall; it’s superb from beginning to end. Side 2 is very good as well, but side 1 has the real demo disc quality material in my opinion.

We can’t be sure that we would still feel the same way. My guess is that this is still probably a good record if you can get one for the 25 bucks we used to charge for it.

Mozart’s Wonderful Clarinet Concerto on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca reissue.

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90 when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

One of the best of the Deccas. I raved about this one years ago when it came out. If I had to pick a record to demonstrate how wonderful Decca recordings are, musically and sonically, this would be an easy choice. (more…)

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto – Misty – Reviewed in 2010

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This is a Factory Sealed 33 RPM Three Blind Mice 180g LP which comes highly recommended! This was the first Three Blind Mice recording I ever heard, over 20 years ago. A fellow audiophile who went on to become sort of an audio guru for me (George Louis) played me this record to demonstrate his stereo. It had to be the most dynamic piano recording I had ever heard in my life. 

Yamamoto likes to tinkle the keys very softly, and then really pound them. And the Three Blind Mice engineers were able to capture both the quiet tinkling because of the Japanese vinyl, and the full-on pounding because of the audiophile recording equipment they used. It was an ear-opening experience.

Over the course of the next year or two, I sold off my Fulton Premiers and my Audio Research Electronics, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get Misty to sound like it did at George’s house. I realized that it takes better equipment than those companies ever produced to get the sound of that record right, and that put me on, to quote Cat Stevens, ”the road to find out’.’ (more…)

Ray Charles and Betty Carter – DCC Heavy Vinyl Reviewed & Recommended

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Sonic Grade: B+

Folks, I have to hand it to Steve Hoffman — this is the BEST SOUNDING DCC LP we have played in years.

We’ve been harshin’ on DCC for years now. Whenever we do a shootout for The Eagles or The Doors or Bonnie Raitt or Queen or you name it, the DCC pressing almost always gets a serious drubbing from our listening panel. Not so here. This one took TOP HONORS against the other copies we played and was head and shoulders better sounding in practically every way. [The right vintage pressings beat the DCC in more recent shootouts, but we can still recommend the DCC as a very good sounding pressing.]

Do all the copies of the DCC sound this good? I would bet money right now they don’t. Folks, I’m guessing this is a Hot Stamper. It was pressed just right and all the Hoffman magic is in these grooves. But that’s just a guess, and I could easily be wrong. If you have a few copies at home, shoot them out! What, you don’t have a bunch of these? Me neither, so no shootout will probably ever be done. This album is just too rare and pricey these days.

Bottom line: We know a good record when we hear one, and this is a very good record indeed! Bravo to Steve for a job well done. 

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Mobile Fidelity Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

It’s pretty good. Compressed and veiled, but the tonality is correct. I give it a B. It will beat the vast majority of reissues, which tend to be thin, gritty, and woefully lacking in Tubey Magic. And the vinyl will be quiet, which is something not many of the best pressings can offer. 

But who wants to listen to a B grade record when we you can buy A and A+ pressings from us? (more…)

Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker – Ansermet (Reviewed in the ’90s)

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More music conducted by Ernst Ansermet (1883-1969)

The Nutcracker – Ansermet

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Sonic Grade: B?

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90 when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“Superb! New records just don’t sound any better! This is the complete Nutcracker Ballet as conducted by Ansermet for Decca, a record that sets a standard of performance and sound that is unlikely ever to be equaled, and almost certainly not to be surpassed.”

Peggy Lee – Latin ala Lee!

More Peggy Lee

Latin ala Lee!

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  • Superb sound throughout for Lee’s 1960 release with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or very close to it
  • 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 rhythms are not only authentically Afro-Cuban, but surprisingly strong and rarely watered down. The rest of the arrangements, though breezy and pop-slanted, support Lee’s vocals perfectly. And though her voice isn’t quite as strong as it had been during the ’50s, Lee uses the cracks on her high notes to accentuate the songs.” – Allmusic

This vintage Capitol LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Chabrier / Espana – Argenta – A Speakers Corner Winner

More of the music of Emmanual Chabrier (1841-1894) 

Espana – Argenta 

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Sonic Grade: B

This is a Speakers Corner Decca 180 gram LP reissue of the famous Argenta performance, a recording which can sound positively amazing on the right original London, but only about 2 out of 10 copies actually do. (And where in the world are you going to find 10 clean copies of a record that’s practically 50 years old?)

This pressing gets you most of the way there, on reasonably quiet vinyl, for a lot less money. (more…)